The Art & Science of Reflexology

Reflexology requires skills based on scientific foundations

Reflexology is a gentle art, a fascinating ancient science and an extremely effective form of therapeutic foot massage that has carved an impressive niche in the field of complementary medicine. It is both a science and an art, a science because it is based on physiological and neurological study and an art because much depends on how skilfully the therapists apply their knowledge.

The feet are a microcosm of the body. All the organs, glands and body parts are represented in similar arrangement on the feet. Reflexology works on the premise that all organs in the body have reflexes in the feet and by stimulating these reflexes we are stimulating the body to heal itself. Reflexology maps the feet, including the toes, as a mirror concept of our body organs.

Pressure is applied to the reflex areas using specific thumb and finger techniques. This causes physiological changes to take place in the body as the body’s own healing potential is stimulated. As a general understanding, the science of Reflexology states that where there is sensitivity in a reflex area that would be an indication of stress or weakness in the corresponding organ or body part.

Reflexology restores balance in the body by inducing relaxation

The goal of Reflexology is to trigger the return of homeostasis in the body, a state of equilibrium or balance. The most important step towards achieving this is to reduce tension and induce relaxation. Relaxation is the first step to normalisation and when the body is relaxed healing is possible.

Reflexology is a holistic treatment incorporating body, mind and spirit.

As a holistic therapy, Reflexology aims to treat the body as a whole and endeavours to get to the root cause of disease and treat this, not the symptom. For best result, the participation of the patient is required as ultimately the Reflexologist is not responsible for the patient’s health. In all holistic therapies, emphasis is placed on taking responsibility for one’s own state of health.

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the causes of disease”, Thomas Edison.

The General Principles of Reflexology

Reflexology facilitates the body to maintain good health

Correctly applied Reflexology pressure techniques allow subtle changes to take place in the body that facilitate internal balance. Reflexology works to maintain health and balance in much the same way as regular exercise would in maintaining a firm, toned body. Patients should therefore continue with a maintenance programme of Reflexology treatments once they have achieved a desired level of health.

Reflexology facilitates a state of relaxation

Reflexology works towards the normalisation of body functions, easing tense muscles, inducing the endocrine glands to function normally and hastening the elimination of toxins. Reflexology brings about a state of relaxation and tension release in the body that promotes improved circulation, increased levels of organ functioning and a more effective distribution of nutrients.

Reflexology encourages lifestyle changes

Reflexology is not a “quick-fix” technique. Similar to a previously overweight person needing to maintain a regime of healthy nutrition and regular exercise, so too should a Reflexology patient adopt lifestyle changes that will support continued good health once their body is in balance and functioning properly. A Reflexologist should assist in this process by passing on their knowledge about issues such as stress reduction and relaxation, and the value of sound nutrition practices and a balanced lifestyle.

Reflexology facilitates the achievement of health, harmony and equilibrium

When the body is functioning optimally, it is in a state of homeostasis or balance. The goal of Reflexology is to assist the body to return to this state of balance by facilitating the elimination of toxins and the decongestion of blockages. Reflexologists do not claim to heal the body or cure disease. Reflexology, as a treatment and holistic healing approach, can only assist the body to perform its functions naturally.

The Specific Principles of Reflexology

Reflexology revitalises the energy flow through the body

Energy flows throughout the body by way of electrical impulses generated by the nerves or through chemical messengers such as hormones or endorphins. A body that is out of balance or diseased has congestions in the flow of energy to the vital organs and systems. Reflexology is a method of unblocking these congestions and allowing the vital energy to once again flow in an unimpeded manner enabling the body to heal itself.

Reflexology is an antidote to stress

A stress reaction is a primitive response to a threatening or dangerous situation. When a person experiences stress, certain hormonal and chemical defence mechanisms occur in the body. In today’s modern age, these mechanisms do not have quite the same outlet as in the case of a primitive man where running, fighting and aggressive defence reactions were a means of survival. Today if a person experiences prolonged stress, this will eventually result in the depletion of essential vitamins and minerals from the system and exhaustion sets in. Reflexology helps to alleviate stress by inducing deep relaxation, easing stiff, tense muscles and unblocking congestion in the nerves and blood vessels. Blood can once again circulate freely, oxygen and nutrients are transported more efficiently to all organs and systems, while toxins can be more readily removed.

Reflexology facilitates a more optimal functioning of the neural pathways

When neural pathways are impaired, the body’s nerve function is impeded and this impacts negatively on a person’s reactions and cognitive processes. A subsidiary effect of the revitalisation of the energy flow throughout the body is that the nerve function is “jump-started” and neural messages are delivered more rapidly and efficiently to all parts of the body, thus allowing a more optimal level of functioning.

Reflexology improves circulation of blood and oxygen through the body

Body tissues depend on adequate blood supply to function properly as oxygen and nutrients are transported to the cells while toxins are removed. Chronic stress and tension are inclined to tighten up the cardiovascular system and restrict blood flow. This results in a sluggish circulation and high or low blood pressure. Reflexology encourages oxygen and blood to move through the body. In addition, the lymphatic system, dealing with the absorption of fats, the distribution of excess fluids and elimination of harmful substances, is also encouraged to work more efficiently.

Reflexology encourages the endocrine system to function properly

A further subsidiary effect of the revitalisation of the energy flow throughout the body by the stimulation of reflex points is that the endocrine system is encouraged to function more efficiently. The endocrine system is an intricate network of glands which secrete hormones. These function slowly, but steadily and influence all facets of growth, development and sexual function. They also exert a powerful influence on thoughts, emotions and personality, and the malfunction of any of the seven principle endocrine glands can result in the disruption of hormone secretion and imbalances in the body.

Reflexology eases pain and helps the body to relax

Stimulation of the reflexes not only encourages the brain to release pain-killing endorphins, but also results in an overload of sensory information. This eases the pain and helps the body to relax.

Reflexology breaks down crystal deposits and helps to remove toxins

An excess of acidity in the bloodstream may result in the settling of grainy deposits in the nerve endings of a body organ. These are considered to be calcium deposits which develop into acid crystals and can impede normal blood circulation. Feet are at the end point of circulation in the body and are often the prime targets for these crystal deposits. They settle beneath the skin surface, cause congestion, impede circulation and cause toxins to stagnate in the feet. Reflexology stimulation results in the breakdown of the crystals and the removal of toxins through improved circulation. This also eases pain and swelling in the feet and legs.

Reflexology assists with the general condition of patients with terminal diseases

Reflexologists cannot claim to cure diseases or heal the body. However, given the right conditions, the body has tremendous potential to heal itself or regulate the harmonious functioning of its systems in such a way that it can function optimally. Reflexology may not be capable of removing the cause of terminal diseases such as cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis, but it may assist in improving the patient’s general condition by stimulating the circulatory system, respiratory and elimination systems and by promoting relaxation and pain management. Reflexology can therefore contribute significantly to a better quality of life for terminally ill patients.

A Reflexology Treatment

A Reflexology treatment should be an extremely pleasurable experience

Many people may feel somewhat apprehensive at the prospect of their first Reflexology treatment, so it is the Reflexologist’s responsibility to ensure that the client is made to feel welcome and comfortable. Relaxation is after all of prime importance in the healing process. Some people may be embarrassed about the state of their feet, however feet are a Reflexologist’s domain and they are used to seeing them in all shapes, sizes and conditions. Remember that the feet represent the body and encompass a wealth of information about one’s health.

A detailed medical history should be recorded during the first Reflexology treatment

During the first treatment, the Reflexologist will begin by taking a thorough medical history. All problems must be noted, not only those troubling the client at the time. In order to ascertain a complete health picture, a good Reflexologist may ask numerous questions concerning for example the functioning of the client’s body systems, their energy and stress levels, mental alertness, diet, exercise patterns and hereditary tendencies. They may also observe the client’s skin, hair and nail conditions. To fully understand the client’s complaints and assess their progress, it is advisable to record a detailed case history after each treatment. A typical case history sheet should include the client’s personal details, complaints, previous treatments tried, medical history, observations and treatment reactions, both good and bad.

The Reflexologist applies pressure to the reflex areas using specific thumb and finger techniques

The client must be seated comfortably with their head and neck well supported. The Reflexologist will start by disinfecting the feet before commencing with a full treatment sequence working through all the reflexes. The primary tool used is the human hand as the Reflexologist applies pressure to the reflex areas using specific thumb and finger techniques. The treatment must always be gentle, but firmly within the client’s comfort range. Sore reflex points may indicate areas of congestion and the Reflexologist may vary the amount of pressure applied. The sensations range from the feeling of something sharp is being pressed into the foot, to a dull ache, discomfort, tightness or just firm pressure. Sensitivity varies from person to person and also from treatment to treatment. As the treatment progresses, the tenderness should diminish as balance is restored in the problem areas. One body part is completed totally before moving on and both feet are treated alternatively in a smooth and even way. No matter what the sensations are like, Reflexology is always effective and should leave the client feeling light, tingly and very pampered.

Reactions to a Reflexology treatment can differ

People differ and so do reactions to a Reflexology treatment. On a whole, reactions immediately after a treatment are pleasant, leaving the clients relaxed, energised and rejuvenated. Reflexology activates the body’s own healing power and some form of a “bad” reaction is inevitable as the body rids itself of toxins. This is referred to as a “healing crisis” and is a cleansing process. The response of toxins being released can manifest itself as increased darker and stronger-smelling urination, flatulence and more frequent bowel movements, aggravated skin conditions, increased mucous secretions, disrupted sleep patterns, dizziness, nausea, tiredness and headaches. The clients may also become emotional and could have an overwhelming desire to weep. Well-established disorders will obviously take longer to eradicate than those present for a short time. Even if one session appears to have corrected the problem, a course of treatments is recommended for all conditions to totally balance the body and prevent a recurrence of any disorder.

Reflexologists do not diagnose, prescribe or treat specific diseases

Reflexologists do not practice medicine. That is the realm of orthodox licenced physicians. Reflexologists never diagnose diseases, prescribe or adjust medication. They do not treat specific diseases, although by bringing the body back to a state of balance, Reflexology helps to eliminate problems caused by disease. Tender reflexes indicate which parts of the body are congested. It is important to be aware that this “diagnosis” merely indicates which parts of the body are congested, not specific named disorders.

Reflexology Case Studies

Fatigue – A heavy workload resulted in a number of stress-related problems

A 27 year old physician found increasing fatigue made her long working hours difficult to cope with. She felt lethargic, tired and generally under the weather. An increase of 3 kg’s in weight, frequent sore throats, spots on the upper chest, forehead, nose and around the mouth, plus headaches accompanied the fatigue. Her sight had deteriorated over the past three years. She wore contact lenses occasionally, however could not tolerate them for long. She was sensitive to smoke, suffered sinus problems and flatulence. Sore breasts and candida appeared prior to her period. She was prone to mood swings, tension, and found her concentration poor. Her hands and feet were often cold and purple.

Following her first treatment she was in a bad mood for three days, had headaches and was tired. Thereafter her concentration improved, she felt more relaxed, lost 2 kg’s, her throat, colic, flatulence, bowel movements and sinus problems all improved. By the third treatment her energy levels were “brilliant” and she had lost another 1 kg. Her mood had improved tremendously, she felt calm and relaxed and could cope with her workload.

Psoriasis – A special diet could not cure a patient’s psoriasis

A 23 year old man developed a problem with psoriasis when he was only four years old. It now covered his chest, stomach, back, behind his ears, forehead, knees, elbows and inner thighs. Two years previously it had been so severe that he went on a special diet. This helped, but he soon had to give up the diet because he lost too much weight. He had a poor appetite, was bloated after eating, had a stiff neck, had painful shoulder blades especially after waking up in the morning and his ears always felt full and waxy. His eyes were weak, sensitive and painful when he moved from light to dark, twitching and losing focus when reading. He also suffered from extreme fluctuations in mood, headaches and had a tendency to lethargy.

The second treatment saw him very tired, depressed, out of breath and little improvement in symptoms. By the third treatment, however, the psoriasis had visibly improved, as had his appetite and energy level. Although his eyes were still sensitive, the headaches were milder and he generally felt calmer and happier. By the fifth treatment all the symptoms had improved. He had a four month break and thereafter fourteen regular treatments by which time his skin was almost perfect, he had gained weight, was revitalised and had no pains or aches at all.

Insomnia – A keen tennis player sustained severe sports injuries

For ten years prior to seeking Reflexology treatments, a 58 year old man had suffered from disrupted sleep patterns; waking up every night and reading for a few hours in an attempt to tire his brain. Although his energy levels were good, he was apt to doze off around lunchtime and in the evenings. A tennis injury seven years before had resulted in a frozen shoulder for which he was receiving medication. Osteopathic help could not solve the problem. Neck pressure caused terrible headaches over the eye area. Another sports injury resulted in torn ligaments and stiffness when walking down stairs. He had a fungal infection in a nail for seven to eight years for which I had also been taking medication, however the side-effects caused diarrhoea so he discontinued. His eye was deteriorating and he had watering eyes and ringing in his ears. He worried a lot, was fussy and had difficulty in forming lasting relationships with other people.

By the second Reflexology treatment he was far more relaxed. The noise in his ears had ceased, night time sleep patterns had improved, he was dozing off less often, his shoulder and neck were fine, no more headaches, his eyes had stopped watering, knees had improved and he was a lot less worried. By the fifth treatment he was sleeping peacefully right through the night. His knees were fine, even when he played in a tennis tournament. He felt completely relaxed and fully revitalised.

M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) – Six months absence from work

Up to two years prior to his first Reflexology treatment, this 39 year old man had enjoyed good health. He suddenly began to feel very ill and experienced panic attacks and fainting spells. His white blood cell count was high and he had not been well since. Nine months previously he had begun to experience giddiness when tilting his head. He was prescribed stabilising tablets that only aggravated the situation. He felt more peculiar every day, but another blood test revealed that his white blood cell count had however returned to normal. He had great difficulty getting out of bed and experienced almost continual weakness and exhaustion. Due to these symptoms he had been off work for six months. His chest, bladder and stomach were weak and he often suffered from pins and needles in his left hand. Following numerous tests and a brain scan, he was diagnosed as having Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.).

After the first Reflexology treatment he felt tired and light-headed, but by the third treatment he felt much more optimistic and cheerful. He no longer felt that he needed to sleep during the day. His health went up and down, but after twenty treatments he was sufficiently recovered to return to work. Although he still suffered some aches and pains, his concentration, memory and energy levels had improved. The main problem symptoms had been eliminated and he felt that he was once again able to cope with life.

Reflexology & Infertility

Reflexology has helped many couples with infertility

Infertility is simply defined as the inability to conceive a child after one year of trying. In the developed world this phenomenon is on the increase and now affects one in every six couples with the male partner being responsible for more than half of the cases.

Infertility often has profound psychological effects. As couples become more anxious to conceive, emotions such as frustration, depression, anger and desperation can ironically increase sexual dysfunction. Modern reproductive technologies, such as IVF, can offer hope where treatment is available and affordable, however these solutions are limited and many couples have to accept that they may never be able to have children.

Some researchers are blaming electromagnetic waves from household appliances and telecommunications equipment, heavy smoking and liquor consumption, chemicals found in food, household products, plastics in our food packaging and the environment. In 1994 concern was expressed after a study revealed that men who ate organically grown food might be nearly twice as fertile as those who do not. Even the animal kingdom is showing evidence of concern as industrial pollution is causing many of our sea animals around the world to show indication of sex changes and damage to the reproductive organs.

In its simplicity, Reflexology has helped many couples with infertility. For some the science of Reflexology is potentially too simple to accept, however when supplementing Reflexology with Chinese Philosophy and understanding the correlation between the meridians, the body’s organs, lifestyle chooses and the impact all of these have on the functions of our hormones, it makes perfect sense.