How can reflexology nourish your soul?
This modality is based on the premise that the condition of various organs and parts of the body is ‘reflected’ in corresponding areas of the feet. Reflexology treatment is the practice of applying pressure to defined zones of the feet with the aim of triggering an innate healing response and improving the wellbeing of key organs and other body parts. A reflexologist may also stimulate or massage specific areas on the hands, as well as the ears, but the majority of reflexology practice focuses on the feet.
The oldest record showing people having their hands and feet attended to is believed to come from the ancient Egyptian tomb of Ankmahor, estimated to be more than 4,000 years old. Huang Di Nei Jing (whose title can be translated The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), the definitive text on traditional Chinese medicine, describes a connection between the feet and the flow of qi (vital life energy) through the rest of the body.
Near the end of the 19th century, Sir Henry Head, an English neurologist, observed a connection between sensitivity in particular areas of the skin and disorders of corresponding organs. Several years later, a surgeon in the US named William Fitzgerald identified 10 longitudinal ‘zones’ of the body which could be stimulated in key locations with the aim of bringing pain relief. Dr Fitzgerald’s ‘zone theory’ was the basis of experimental work by physiotherapist Eunice Ingham, who systematically mapped the relationship between areas of the feet and disorders of the body. Published in 1938, her book (titled Stories the Feet Can Tell) became the basis for the Ingham School of Reflexology -- one of the most widely practised forms of this modality today.
Benefits of reflexology
There are anecdotal reports of foot reflexology treatment having beneficial effects for a variety of health conditions. As both a non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive modality, it has been proven to reduce dependency on opioids for pain relief. Reflexology has also been compared to back massage therapy for improving sleep quality in people undergoing dialysis, with results indicating reflexology may be more effective than back massage in this context.
There is evidence to suggest reflexology may be beneficial in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and the results of one study indicate it may help reduce both mental and physiological symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome.
Research suggests reflexology may be associated with an immediate reduction in anxiety and pain level experienced by cancer patients. There is evidence to suggest that reflexology may reduce anxiety in people who have had coronary bypass surgery. Studies suggest that reflexology may be associated with a shorter duration of labour, as well as a decrease in the intensity of labour pain.
Reflexology may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Back pain
- Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
- Detoxing and cleansing
- Energy and vitality
- Foot, heel and ankle issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Irritability and restlessness
- Jaw, teeth and gum issues
- Memory and cognitive function
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Neck pain
- Nervous system and neurological conditions
- Pain relief
- PMT/PMS and menstrual issues
- Pregnancy, birth and antenatal support
- Shoulder and elbow issues
- Sinusitis and sinus issues
- Stress and tension
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from a reflexology session
To begin, your reflexologist will ask you about your medical history, and any specific symptoms that might be causing you concern. Reflexology is not intended to diagnose illnesses, and it is not a treatment for health issues of the feet, such as ingrown toenails or corns, which should be addressed by a podiatrist.
You will need to remove your shoes and socks, and you will usually be invited to lie down on a massage table. The practitioner might help you relax by gently washing your feet, then begin massaging and stimulating various points on your feet with their thumbs and fingertips. Your reflexologist will work through all the key areas of your feet to promote whole-body wellness and energy balance, and they may also massage reflexology points on your hands and ears.
Sometimes, stimulating a reflex point may cause you discomfort or even slight pain in your foot or in a corresponding area of your body, and some people may also feel very emotional or slightly dizzy. These feelings pass quickly and are usually taken to mean the treatment is working as the flow of energy in your body returns to a state of equilibrium. It is much more common to feel deeply relaxed and relieved of stress after your reflexology session.
Reflexology treatment is not recommended if you have gout, any foot injuries such as fractures, or vascular problems with your lower extremities. It should also be avoided if you may have a clotting issue such as thrombosis. Although reflexology is widely regarded as being safe during pregnancy, as a precaution it may be wise to avoid during the first trimester due to a possible increased risk of miscarriage.
Although reflexology may be a valuable addition to treatment for various conditions, it is not intended as a substitute for conventional medicine. As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing reflexology. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, speak to your reflexologist, who will be happy to address these and explore the option of adjusting the treatment to your individual requirements.