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The idea of reflexology is that the entire body is represented on a mini map on the hands, ears and feet. Using this model it is said to treat the entire person and should be regarded as a preventative or general health treatment, rather than a system of diagnosis. Based on traditional Chinese Medicine reflexology has developed into a therapy in it's own right.
Reflexology is a gentle and relaxing therapy using compression and massage techniques on the feet. By working on certain reflex points, blockages can be released, restoring the free flow of energy to the whole body. Tensions are eased, toxins eliminated and circulation improved, inducing relaxation and balance to the body's own self healing systems.
What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a natural, holistic therapy that uses touch to activate the body’s own healing powers. The therapy is based on the discovery that points on the feet or hands correspond to organs, systems and structures in the rest of the body. There are over 7,200 nerve endings on each foot. These nerve endings connect to nerve pathways that lead to each and every organ, gland, and part of the body. This corresponding relationship is known as a “reflex”. By stimulating reflex points on the feet we can, therefore, produce a beneficial response and correct imbalances in other parts of the body.
This natural therapy uses only human therapeutic touch and interaction to bring about well-being. It seeks to work with the body’s natural healing efforts. Many scientific experiments have demonstrated just how beneficial human touch can be (1).
A Short History
Reflexology has a long history that is depicted in texts and illustrations from the early Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Russians and Egyptians. Reflexology today has grown from the work carried out by Dr William Fitzgerald, an ear nose and throat specialist, who developed the ‘zone theory’. He discovered that by applying pressure to a part of the body in a particular zone he could operate on a corresponding part of the body without anaesthetic. Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist, who used the zone theory in her work with patients, further developed his findings.
The Zone Theory
Reflexologists specify that there are ten zones that run the length of the body from head to toe, five on each side of the body ending in each foot and running down the arms to the tips of the fingers. All the organs and parts of the body lie along one or more of these zones.
These zones can be considered as a channel for life’s energy (Chi or Qi in oriental medicine) and by applying pressure say to the kidney reflex, this will release vital energy that may be blocked elsewhere in that zone, i.e. the eyes. Exactly how this physical mechanism works is not fully understood, but there is little doubt that reflexology does work.
What does a treatment involve?
The therapist will start a full consultation to determine your reasons for seeking treatment, medical history, lifestyle, diet and emotional state. You will then be made comfortable on the treatment couch, without shoes and socks. A relaxing massage introduces the treatment before the reflexes on the feet are massaged and worked.
By working reflex points, blockages can be released and a free flow of energy restored to the whole body. Tensions are eased, toxins eliminated and circulation improved, inducing relaxation and balance to the body's own healing mechanism. The whole treatment should be a totally relaxing experience that lasts approximately 60 minutes.
Most people experience no adverse affects after a treatment and often report feeling lighter and very relaxed. Sometimes things come up and emotions might rise to the surface but this is a positive sign. We often repress a lot of our emotions and if it comes up during a treatment it means we are finally letting go hence why people feel lighter and more relaxed.
Aftercare advice would be to tune into yourself, be a quiet as you can and notice how you are feeling. Avoid loud noise and strenuous activity if at all possible and try to avoid television and computers and take some time to be alone and maybe take a walk in nature. Also drink plenty of water to flush out any toxins that have come to the surface. If you need to eat after a treatment try a light, nutritious meal.
A course of three to six treatments is usually recommended depending on the individual and their needs however, no -one is under any obligation and it is the clients choice as to how many they have. A maintenance programme can be discussed between the therapist and client if appropriate.
(1) Montague Ashley, Touching: The human significance of the skin, Harper Collins, London 1986
(2) Pitman Vicki, Reflexology A practical approach, Nelson Thornes, 1997
What are the Benefits of Reflexology?
It could be said that reflexology benefits health from the ground upwards, helping to normalize body functions. A session relieves the 'stress' that can reduce your capacity for optimum health. It is a safe effective way to better health and is also a preventative health care system.
Reflexology can help:
Reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression
Cleanse the body of toxins
Relieve headaches and eye strain
Relieve sinus conditions, asthma and respiratory complaints
Balance hormones, PMS and other menstrual problems
Aid digestive complaints, IBS, constipation etc
Relieve joint and muscle pain, including arthritic pain
Alleviate urinary conditionsReflexology Chart - soles of feet.
Normalise blood pressure
Balance all the body’s systems
Improve emotional imbalances
Boost low energy levels
Heal the body faster after surgery
Improve sleep patterns
Aid mental alertness
Is it ok to have reflexology when you are pregnant?
Yes, with an experienced reflexologist it is excellent for pregnant women however, it is advised in the second and third trimesters only. Studies have been carried out showing how the treatment can reduce blood pressure, help break down and expel protein in the urine, help with the vast hormonal and emotional changes and reduce labour time by half. It has also been shown to be extremely effective for pain relief, sleep, nausea and backache as well as strengthening the pelvic ligaments. (1)
Can I have reflexology if I have cancer?
Yes, reflexology has been shown to be effective for people with cancer and to help to greatly reduce the side-effects that often accompany cancer treatment for example, nausea, pain, stress and anxiety have all reduced when reflexology techniques are applied.(2)
(1) Retrieve School of Reflexology workbook