What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a natural healing therapy that dates back to ancient Egypt, India and China. It is a powerful yet gentle treatment that works your entire body through reflexes in your feet and hands.
By applying the right pressure and technique to the feet and hands (similar to a massage) we can influence the body's circulation of energy and in turn affect function of the organs.
Reflexology is great for treating a variety of different ailments, both acute and chronic and is suitable for men, women and children of all ages.
Conditions that can benefit from reflexology include anxiety, depression, trauma, insomnia, cancer, autoimmune conditions, digestive disorders, headaches, migraines, hypertension, fatigue, addiction, infertility, lymphatic flow, skin disorders, jet lag, hormonal imbalances such as PMS, menopause and many more!
Why is it important?
A persons health is their most valuable asset and it is now recognised that up to 85% of all illnesses are caused by stress (US Center of Disease Control), making this one of the biggest epidemics of our time. Now more than ever people are searching for natural techniques such as reflexology that can help release this stress and tension and improve the quality of their life.
Why is reflexology so popular?
It feels great!
Reflexology is gaining popularity because, well… it feels incredible!
Imagine feeling stressed, exhausted and looking for relief. The moment pressure is applied to your feet you can feel your worries simply melt away. By lowering the stress hormones and increasing the flow of endorphins your mind will start to settle and enable you to bring your attention back into your body. This will help you to feel calm, centred and grounded.
The therapeutic effects of reflexology are increasingly recognised and the therapy is gaining momentum around the world. It is now being offered in hospitals, GP clinics and schools.
In 2018 reflexology was voted the #1 preferred complimentary therapy in a survey conducted in the UK and Ireland.
It is both natural and gentle
Reflexology is a natural, holistic and non-invasive therapy. This means that it can be used alongside conventional medicine.
A reflexologist only uses the power of therapeutic touch to bring about results. Nonetheless many of my clients find that the method has positive and long-lasting effects on their health and well-being.
Another benefit of the treatment is that it doesn’t require you to remove any clothing. You will simply be required to remove your shoes and socks. This makes reflexology an ideal therapy for people who may be experiencing post traumatic stress or are feeling a little vulnerable and would prefer to remain fully clothed during a healing treatment.
What to expect during your first reflexology treatment?
Your first reflexology session will take about an hour, sometimes a little longer if you prefer.
We will talk about the things that are currently presenting in your life that you need support with, whether it’s physical or emotional.
I will ask you to fill out a consultation form so I can have a clear picture of your health both past and present and I will use this information to create a personalised treatment to ensure the best results.
During the treatment you will lie fully clothed on a massage table with a warm blanket and I will use music to calm the brain waves. I also use essential oils in the foot cream, tailored specifically to your health needs.
Many clients fall asleep during their treatment or experience a deep level of relaxation. If you have an extremely busy mind it may take a little longer for the body to relax, but after about half an hour your nervous system will start to calm down and you will no longer be in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
What to expect after a reflexology treatment?
Reflexology affects everybody differently. Some clients feel rejuvenated and super relaxed after their session whilst other clients can feel groggy.
Reflexology is great for reducing mental chatter and anxiety. So in the days after your treatment you may find your general mood is a lot more positive.
However some people can also experience headaches, changes in bowel movements or sleep patterns. I know that some of these do not sound particularly pleasant, but these side effects are a sign that a shift has taken place in your body and a healing process is underway.
It’s also important to know that for some people these reactions might not appear immediately and may take up to 3 or 4 days. So be kind and gentle to yourself after your treatment. For the week following your session your body may still be adjusting to these changes.
It’s important to drink lots of water to flush out toxins, eat cleansing foods and get lots of rest until your body is back in balance.
Potential outcomes to expect from your session:
Relaxation of the whole body (to encourage self-healing).
Better nerve function and a calming of the mind.
Less tension in your muscles and joints.
Breaking down of toxins and energy blockages in the body.
Improved circulation and efficiency of the digestive system.
Strengthening of the immune system.
Rebalancing of your hormones and the endocrine system.
How many treatments will I need?
This depends on many factors including the type of condition and your financial situation.
If the condition is chronic then starting with weekly or fortnightly sessions works best. With a chronic condition it may take a few weeks before you will see noticeable changes as the condition has been present for a longer period of time.
For an acute condition, you may find relief after only a couple of sessions and you won’t necessarily require regular or ongoing treatments.
For general health and well-being one session per month is recommended to help boost the immune system, bring harmony to your lymphatic system and balance the endocrine and nervous systems.
Unfortunately we live in a very stressful society and so many people are feeling the effects of this on their physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s important to invest in your health, so you can feel good and live life to its fullest!
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OR INTERESTED IN KNOWING MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY AND SCIENCE OF REFLEXOLOGY? THEN READ ON!
The science of reflexology
The science of reflexology deals with the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands that correspond to all the organs, glands and structures in the body. It is a technique that has been designed to apply specific pressure to certain areas in the feet, which correspond to different parts the body.
For example if someone is experiencing a headache I would apply massage and pressure to the large toe as it represents the head and brain.
The image below demonstrates in detail how the body is mapped out on the feet.
The ancient history of reflexology
The exact origin of reflexology is unclear but the history dates back to many parts of the globe. This includes China, Egypt, India, Europe, North America, Japan and Russia!
All of these cultures tell stories of healing the body through the feet and hands.
The ancient Chinese used many specific points on the feet to initiate healing and local Chinese village doctors still perform a type of reflexology known as Rwu-Shu which is a combination of thumb-sliding and pressure techniques that use the knuckles and sometimes small wooden sticks.
The Egyptians can trace their history of reflexology back to 2500BC where illustrations from papyrus (ancient paper) depict medical practitioners treating their patients through their hands and feet.
In modern times, the Cherokee tribes in North America treat the whole body through the feet and this is a practice that has been passed down through many generations.
In India, the feet symbolise ‘the unity of the universe and the ultimate one’. Pressure techniques are applied to the feet as part of their system of Ayurvedic medicine.
A more modern history of reflexology
Fast forward to the late 1800’s and an English neurologist named Sir Henry Head conducted pioneering work into the sensory nervous system. Head conclusively proved that a neurological relationship existed between the skin and the internal organs of the body.
Dr William Fitzgerald took it to another level in the early 1900’s. He published a book on ‘Zone Therapy’ after he discovered many areas on the hands and feet that brought about pain relief.
Fitzgerald noted that the parts of the body that had such reflex relationships lay within certain “longitudinal zones”. He demonstrated that the human body can be divided into ten longitudinal zones (or energy channels) that run from the brain to the feet and that by working on a zone in the foot you were actually working the full body corresponding to that zone. Fitzgerald had laid the foundations of what would later become modern reflexology.
In the early 1930’s Eunice Ingham gave birth to reflexology as its modern modality. Ingham was a Physical Therapist who had been fascinated by the concept of Zone Therapy discussed by Fitzgerald. She built upon the ideas of Zone Therapy and started developing her own foot reflex theory. Through her work as a Physical Therapist she had the opportunity to treat hundreds of patients and was able to determine that the reflexes on the feet were an exact mirror image of organs of the body.
And voila, modern reflexology was born!
How does reflexology work?
This is where it gets really interesting!
There is no definite, scientific answer that explains how reflexology works but there are several theories that have been proposed.
Of course, if we put science to one side for a second, it’s important to acknowledge that the simple act of giving yourself an hour to relax and unwind during a reflexology session is beneficial in itself. It can help a person to feel better about themselves, boost their self-esteem and become more aware of their health and lifestyle choices.
The “nervous system” theory
One theory suggests that reflexology works by stimulating the nervous system.
This theory dates back to the work of Sir Henry Head who showed through his research that a neurological relationship exists between the skin and the internal organs. So applying stimulus to the skin sends a calming message from the peripheral nerves to the central nervous system.
Each foot has over 7,000 nerve endings so it’s no surprise that reflexology has such a profound effect on the rest of the body, as it stimulates both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The “energy” theory
Another theory is based on the science that the free flow of natural energy is vital to health.
Stress and tension cause blockages in the energy pathways and these result in disorders and disease.
In Chinese medicine or acupuncture the free flow of energy is called ‘Qi’ (pronounced “chi”) and methods are used to clear the Qi blockages in the body.
Some theorists suggest that reflexology is closely related to acupuncture since reflexologists work on a number of acupuncture points during a treatment. However reflexologists and acupuncturists don’t define the same meridian lines or energy channels.
The “gate control” theory
The so-called ‘gate control’ theory was discovered in 1965.
According to this theory, pain signals are not free to reach the brain as soon as they are generated at the injured tissues or sites. They need to overcome certain ‘neurological gates’ at the spinal cord level and these gates determine whether the pain signals are allowed to reach the brain or not.
In other words, pain is perceived only when the gates give way to the pain signals and it is less intense or not perceived at all when the gate closes and does not allow the signal to pass.
This theory explains why people start rubbing a painful area for relief. When the sensory input reaches the spinal cord it stimulates inhibitory inter-neurons, which act as a ‘closing of the gates’ and help to suppress the pain signals.
There are several small scientific studies that show reflexology reduces pain and in some instances can be just as effective as pain relief medication.
So there you have it!… A brief guide to What is Reflexology?
Hopefully you now have a better idea of what reflexology is and are convinced of the benefits this brilliant therapy can offer!
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