Next month brings us World Reflexology Week, something I look forward to every year to promote the fantastic benefits of reflexology. Whether you've had a long day at the office or a long walk with the kids, a foot rub can work wonders for tired and aching feet, but did you know that reflexology includes techniques that could benefit your well-being too?
Based on the ancient wisdom of the Chinese, reflexology is a healing system that aims to balance the whole body and its systems. It was brought to the West by Eunice Ingham, known as the Mother of Reflexology, who developed zone therapy and the foot maps we see today.
Balancing via Microsystems
The theory is that the whole foot represents a 'microsystem' of your body. Reflexology maps like those developed by Eunice divide your feet into different zones. By applying pressure to specific parts of the feet, you can send healing messages to the corresponding part of the body.
There are many theories about how reflexology works, and we have yet to prove which is true. In reality, it's probably a combination of all of them. Coming from the traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) angle, one theory is that it releases blocked energy or 'qi' in a similar manner to acupuncture. Another belief is that it works by accessing the nervous system, which sends messages to the brain and body to reduce tension. Dien Chan Zone (the art of facial reflexology I use in my practice) believes in a mix of both of these things. Beatrice Moricoli and Vittorio Bergagnini brought the method with a solid TCM background from the East to the West with the idea of accessing the nervous system and reflex points under the facial muscles.
In any case, touch releases endorphins in the brain that help you feel relaxed, which could be enough to reduce tension and pain in the body and mind.
Finding what works for you
Some reflexologists just work with the feet and hands, but I like to include facial reflexology too. I often find it's the client's preference and feelings about feet that help their decision on which treatment is for them. Some people have ticklish feet, for example, and prefer facial reflexology. For others, it might be the health issue that decides. I might recommend facial reflexology for sleep issues, foot reflexology for digestive problems, or a combination to help with deep relaxation.
Reflexology cannot diagnose or claim to cure any disease, but there's plenty of positive research and studies out there. Twenty-seven studies have shown a positive outcome for a reduction in pain. And using EEG measurements, researchers have shown that blood pressure and anxiety levels have decreased due to receiving a reflexology treatment.
Over the years, I have seen dramatic results with my clients too. I have seen clients sleep better, manage their pain, stress and anxiety levels. I have helped women regulate periods, get pregnant after years of trying to conceive and support women through pregnancy. Many pregnant clients find it helps with back pain, and towards the end of pregnancy, research shows that it can shorten the first stage of labour and reduce the need for pain relief.
Sit back and relax
When you visit a qualified reflexologist, they will take a detailed medical history and examine the feet for areas of sensitivity, colour, texture etc., as an indication of your current health.
I like to start with some relaxing massage techniques and then work through the body systematically from head to toes. Painful areas can indicate an active problem, whereas deposits (which feel a bit gritty or tender) can take longer to form, indicating a more chronic issue. For example, if you are hunched over a desk all day, you may find your shoulder reflexes are uncomfortable, but the reflexologist will work the area and should be able to bring relief to the source of the problem.
And it's not just the physical body that heals with reflexology. Too often, we forget that an individual is not simply a list of past and present physical problems but a human being with a mixture of past and present emotional issues too. By taking the emotions into account and fully embracing their whole (holistic) being, we create body and mind wellness for the individual.
Try it for yourself
If you'd like to give this a go for yourself, here is a video from The Association of Reflexologists (AoR) on using hand reflexology for stress and tension.
To find a reflexologist near you, visit the AoR website https://www.aor.org.uk/custom/far-search/
Or to work with me, book online at www.waterlilytherapies.co.uk/book-online/