Reflexology is one of my favourite “hands-on” therapies. Compared to massage, not too many people know about it or how it works. Those who know a
little can be understandably skeptical because let`s face it, pushing certain parts of your foot and expecting a response elsewhere sounds a little dubious unless you are already into holistic therapies in which case you probably don`t need this blog! I practice Reflexology in Cork City Centre, and because this is such a healing therapy in my own experience, I`ve decided to write a little intro to answer some common questions and give an overall idea of the experience.
What is it all about?
Reflexology is a therapy that uses the feet and hands to treat the organs and systems of the body. It was developed in the mid to late twentieth century by Eunice Ingham as a natural follow on from the work of Dr William Fitzgerald and Dr Joe Shelby Riley. Dr Fitzgerald discovered that by pushing certain points on the body, sensation in other parts of the body was deadened. It was a kind of natural anaesthetic. He divided the body into longitudinal zones and called the pressure application within these zones, “zone therapy”. Dr Riley trained with Fitzgerald and further divided the feet and hands into longitudinal zones. Eunice Ingham worked with Dr Riley and developed the theory even further concluding that alternating pressure applied to the feet and hands could stimulate healing and not just an anaesthetic effect. This was when Reflexology, as we know it today, was born. If you like, you can read more on the Wikipedia entry on the subject.
Reflexology works off the principle that applying pressure to certain points or reflexes in the feet will unblock the energy in that corresponding organ or system allowing the body to heal naturally. These blockages are felt as grainy or crunchy areas or sometimes they are hardened and thickened areas of the feet. Unblocking allows the energy/chi or life force energy to flow freely through the body encouraging self-healing.
Does Reflexology Work? Is It Scientifically Proven?
Many studies have been done to review the benefits of reflexology with remarkable findings. A review by Kunz and Kunz (2008) took 168 research studies from around the world and summarised the results. These were some of the findings to name but a few:
- Increase in blood flow to kidneys and intestines
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced anxiety
- 37 studies showed a positive outcome in pain reduction
Positive changes occurred in kidney function for dialysis patients
A trial was also conducted on epileptics in which the control group took antiepileptic drugs alone and the other group took the drugs and did reflexology consistently over 18 months. There was a significant decrease in the frequency of seizures in the group who did reflexology compared to the group who took the drugs alone.
However, because Reflexology is SELF-healing (one of the things that attracts me to it the most) I always stress that everybody is different and essentially the healing that occurs will be at the body`s own pace and in the body`s own time
What Does It Work on?
Reflexology really is good for all conditions as it is unblocking of the energy that is focused on, however, it can be very detoxifying so if a client is on a lot of medication or has a few different conditions I will be cautious and do a very light treatment. Reflexology is great for the nervous system and helps the body to come out of the fight or flight response so it is a great body therapy for Post Traumatic Stress where massage can sometimes be triggering. It is fantastic for any kind of stress. It helps with migraines, inflammatory conditions, I.B.S, Crohn’s, and fibromyalgia to name a few. Sometimes after a session, the client will temporarily feel the symptoms of their condition come to the surface. This is referred to as a healing crisis and is actually a good thing, these symptoms will pass and the client will feel better again. Some common reactions clients have told me of include buried emotions coming to surface, tiredness, headache and cold and flu-like symptoms. Sometimes people just get the good stuff straight away! Increased energy, relaxation, elevated mood, a good nights sleep and overall feelings of wellbeing.
Benefits and effects of Reflexology
I will do a short consultation first with clients in order to get a history of health and any medications and allergies. I will see if there is a specific intention the client has such as a certain ailment that they want to work on. If this is the case I will pay extra attention to the corresponding reflexes. In a full session, the client has a footbath first to soften and clean the feet (plus it feels amazing!) Then the client gets up onto the couch, they can have the back of the couch up or lie fully down. Then i will start to work the reflexes on the feet using a firm pressure which can be increased or decreased depending on the client. Talc is used at this stage to achieve a firm pressure. When all the reflexes are worked I apply oil, rework any reflexes that need it and finish with a relaxing foot massage.
One More Thing!
Clients sometimes feel very conscious of their feet. If you are considering reflexology but have feet hang-ups. Let me tell you — your Reflexologist will have seen it all! We look at feet as telling a story and it will take a lot more than some bendy toes or hobbit feet to put us off! Our feet are our whole foundation, they carry us and that in itself is a thing of beauty. So don’t worry about that. Give it a try, you won’t regret it=