What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a powerful healing practice based on the premise that your entire body is mirrored on the feet, hands and ears through a system of reflexes. Using special techniques, the reflexologist stimulates these reflexes prompting a healing response in every organ, gland and body system. This is just a definition - there is so much more to be experienced in a session!
Foot therapy had an early representation on pictographs found on tombs in ancient Egypt. The practice of foot manipulation therapy and later referred to as ‘Pressure Therapy’ spread through ancient Asia and gradually moved West. Further development of the therapeutic science of foot therapy has been attributed to William Fitzgerald, M.D. and Joe Shelby Riley, M.D. in the 1920’s. It continued evolving and was greatly expanded and termed reflexology by Eunice Ingham during the late ’30’s who has written several books and popularized mapping and therapeutic techniques still used widely in reflexology schools and among professional reflexologists.
Within the health field today, reflexology is increasingly being defined as ‘Complementary Alternative Medicine’ (CAM) as more traditional doctors find benefits – physical, mental and emotional – among a wide range of patients.
What conditions can Reflexology help?
- Plantar fasciitis
- Foot, ankle and leg problems including soreness, swelling, restless leg
- The effects of stress and nervous tension
- Digestive upset (constipation and/or diarrhea)
- Poor circulation
- Sinus pressure and allergy symptoms
- Autoimmune symptoms
- Hormonal imbalances
- Anxiety and Depression
- Stiff, aching and painful joints and muscles
- Headaches (including migraines)
- Inflammation related problems (including arthritis, asthma, injuries)
- Recovery following injury or surgery
- Undiagnosed pain
- Trauma healing (ADD LINK)
How Does Reflexology Work?
Note: Here we emphasize the feet, although reflexology effectively works on the. hands and ears as well.
Some theories on how reflexology works come from Western medicine and some from Eastern medicine. Western views include theories related to the physical body (bones, organs, tissues, cells, etc.) and their functions. Eastern views relate to energy or ‘chi’, the body’s vital energy force. All have been shown to be valid within a large number of people with a wide range of problems.
Direct pressure on specific reflexes interrupts sensory transmission which short-circuits and confuses the nervous system so pain is not perceived by the brain in the same way. Also, the stimulation of points on the feet stimulates the release of endorphins from the pituitary gland (in the brain) which is the body’s natural pain killer.
Improving foot and leg health:
Along with appropriate medical care, reflexology can be very effective (separate these words) in easing common foot pain and disorders such as bunions, neuroma, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, etc. because it helps to open up joint space as well as stretching fascia (connective tissue) that may be tight and causing pain and inflammation on the bottom of the foot.
The alternating pressure used in reflexology stimulates not only the nerves, but also the skin and underlying cellular tissue increasing the blood flow resulting in more oxygen to the cells. Also stimulated is the circulation of neurochemicals and hormones secreted from the glands. Note: There are many causes for circulatory problems and a medical specialist should be consulted to diagnose and monitor this potentially serious condition.
An increase in circulation removes waste as well as brings nutrients to cells. Deposits of waste or ‘crystals’ consisting of lactic, pyruvic, uric acid and calcium form at nerve endings in the feet. The gentle pressure of reflexology can crush them and send them through the circulation for elimination.
Supporting the immune system
General circulation is improved by reflexology which in turn will stimulate the transport of important nutrients through the lymphatic system, vital to your immune function (your body’s defense against infection and disease).
Reducing the effects of stress and enhancing relaxation
Stress compromises the complex balance of hormones in the body. ‘The Stress Response’ is named for the flood of (stress) hormones as well as muscle contraction and nervous tension that occurs when the brain perceives a threat of some type (a stressor). These hormones are secreted by your sympathetic nervous system to help you survive the difficulty.
But when stress is sustained fora long time which commonly happens with most stressors, the body can no longer maintain a natural balance. The stress also suppresses the "good" hormones. Then we no longer have the defenses needed to ward off harmful bacteria, viruses and antagonists of all kinds. A compromised immune system can result in frequency of colds or flu, infections, allergies, asthma and inflammatory conditions of all kinds. Over time, as inflammation spreads, much more serious problems can occur including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancer among others.
Reflexology activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which restores balance to your sympathetic nervous system. Activating this part of your nervous system is called the Relaxation Response. When this response is activated, muscle contraction, blood pressure, heart rate and nervous tension go down.. Your sleep can improve and your body’s ability to repair itself is enhanced.
Energy travels along pathways throughout the body. Often, through everyday stress, energy blocks occur and over time can result in pain and/or disease. This can occur in any organ or gland along the pathway. Reflexology can help to unblock these pathways. There is a lightness and a clarity when energy is freed.
Releasing emotional/mental pressure
Touch is essential for human beings. A good reflexologist is attuned to your specific needs regarding pressure and techniques to maximize relaxation. With relaxation, you experience a decrease in muscle tension, mental activity, restlessness and anxiety. For difficult, and stuck emotions, therapy from a qualified professional may be helpful. Reflexology is particularly effective during/after extreme or prolonged emotional stress and trauma including grief, depression, anger and anxiety, especially when accompanied by psychotherapy or spiritual counseling.
The nerve endings (synapses) of your feet are interconnected with other nerves throughout the body. If there is an imbalance someplace in the body, it interrupts the bio-electrical energy to other areas causing congestion and eventually disease. Restoring the affected areas brings relief throughout the nervous system.
Through light and attuned pressure along with other of connective tissue of the feet, an electric current is generated in the tissue which is directly connected to all other connective tissue in the body. So a reflex and the connective tissue pressed in one area could affect a healing response elsewhere in the body. Actually, it has been reported that this transmission is faster than the communication through nerve pathways.
Note: This theory of how reflexology works is gaining more recognition from researchers who want to shed light on why reflexology is so effective.
Note: A reflexologist cannot diagnose or prescribe. Reflexology complements medical care and is not a replacement for it. You should seek medical help if you have an urgent or acute problem.