Reflexology (sometimes called zone therapy) is a therapy in which the nerve endings primarily in the feet are stimulated by specific massage techniques to effect changes in another part of the body and thereby create health and help overcome disease.
Although there is scriptural evidence to suggest that reflexology was being practised as far back as ancient Egypt, the science of reflexology used today was founded by Dr William Fitzgerald, an American ear nose and throat surgeon. He noticed that pressure on specific areas of the body produced a anaesthetising effect on a related area. Developing his theory, he divided the body into ten equal zones which ended in the feet and hands.
In the 1930’s a massage therapist called Eunice Ingham refined Dr Fitzgerald’s zones and developed what is now known as ‘reflexology’. She observed that congestion or tension in any part of the foot mirrored congestion or tension in a related part of the body. Therefore, treating the areas of the feet could have a relaxing and healing effect on different organs and tissues inside the body.
How does it work?: The body is divided into different zones represented by a point in the foot or hand. Nerve endings are imbedded in the feet and hands that then travel to the spinal cord and to various parts of the body. Stimulating these nerve endings thereby helps promote relaxation, improve circulation, stimulate vital organs in the body and encourage the body’s natural healing processes. Unlike conventional medicine, reflexology works on the underlying problems within the body and works through the body’s nervous system. Sometimes lactic acid can be felt in the foot in the form of little crystals. This is a sediment due to poor eating or lack of exercise and can be crushed and reabsorbed into the body thereby allowing the lymph system to eliminate the waste product.
What does treatment involve?: Reflexology treatments can take up to an hour or more and usually about six weekly sessions are recommended for optimum results. A trained reflexologist will, like other professionals in complementary healthcare, take a detailed case history on your first visit. You will be asked to remove your shoes and socks and sit on a treatment couch or special reclining chair. The general appearance of your foot will be examined as any sores or corns cannot receive pressure.
The treatment involves light, but firm, compression massage to the soles and uppers of your feet possibly using talc but never oil. As the reflex points are very small the reflexologist has to be very precise. It is possible that there will be quite a dramatic reaction to the first treatment in various forms such as increased bowel movements, cold type symptoms or skin problems. This is a very healthy sign which tells you that the treatment has encouraged the release of harmful toxins from the body. During treatment some areas of the foot may feel a little tender and these will correlate with the problem areas in the body. Some reflexologists will show you how to treat a certain disorder at home by showing you the exact areas to press.
Refloxology should not be used if the patient is pregnant, has diabetes or a heart problem, but if you do receive treatment, you will find that reflexology is typically a very pleasant, relaxing and rejuvenating therapy. Don’t worry if you have ticklish feet, the treatment is very precise and quite firm.
What can it help?: Reflexology can treat nearly all health problems. Although all reflex areas will be massaged, the therapist will pay specific attention to the actual problem area. So, for migraines, strokes, multiple sclerosis, etc. pressure will be applied to the reflex point in the foot or hand that relates to the head and the connecting areas. In this way the reflexologist will treat all disorders according to where in the body they occur, for example, neck, back and hip problems, sciatica and arthritis will be treated in the musculoskeletal area and angina, high blood pressure and any circulatory problems will be treated in the heart reflex area and so on.
Reflexology will not fix problems such as broken bones or hernias but if used regularly it will enhance any other treatments you are receiving by keeping the circulation stimulated and the lymph system active. You should also experience feelings of vitality and well-being after reflexology treatment which encourages the healing process throughout the body.