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Alternative & Holistic Therapies

Reflexology

"Reflexology improves blood flow and increases supplies of oxygen and nutrients to areas of the body, resulting in better health.” Bill Gottlieb, Alternative Cures: The Most Effective Natural Home Remedies for 160 Health Problems

History of Reflexology

Reflexology, (also known as zone therapy), is a non-invasive, simple therapy aimed at helping to relax the body and promote a balanced flow of physical and emotional energy. The history of reflexology goes all the way back to China more than 5000 years ago. In much more recent times, The Zone Theory, developed by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, M.D., was the precursor to modern reflexology. Fitzgerald called his work Zone Analgesia where gentle pressure was applied to pressure points throughout the body which corresponded to the areas where pain was experienced. He discovered that not only did applied pressure relieve pain, it most often also cured the underlying cause.

During the early 1930s Eunice D. Ingham, a physical therapist who had worked closely with Zone Therapy, developed her own foot reflex theory. After treating hundreds of patients, she concluded that reflex points on the feet mirrored the exact patterns and placement of the body’s internal organs. She published her first book The Stories Feet Can Tell in 1938, and modern reflexology was born.

How Reflexology Works

One of the theories underlying reflexology is that its designated pressure points interact with the central nervous system. This idea is based on the research of Sir Charles Sherrington and Sir Henry Head in the 1890s. The two neurologists discovered a neurological relationship between the skin and the internal organs and also noticed that the whole system could be adjusted by an external stimulus. This is believed to be one of the reasons why the application of pressure to feet and hands, ears or scalp can send calming electrical messages from the peripheral nerves located at these points, to the central nervous system. This process increases intake of oxygen and improves the flow of blood throughout the body as well as promoting maximum functioning of all the internal organs. It also positively affects the body’s immune, endocrine and neuropeptide systems. 

An alternative theory is known as the gate control theory or the neuromatrix theory. This is based on the notion that pain is a completely subjective experience created by your brain. According to this theory, although the brain responds to the physical experience of pain it can also create pain in response to cognitive or emotional factors. This means that your mood and stress levels can induce and effect experiences of pain. Reflexology can counteract this by reducing stress levels and elevating mood.

Mildred Carter and Tammy Weber, authors of One Touch Healing, describe how you can feel the effects of reflexology yourself with this simple experiment.

“The press of a finger on a certain “button” (nerve ending) on the body may result in an odd tingling sensation in a quite different area, and you will know that the reflex button is connecting with the remote part. Hold it for a few seconds; if it is sensitive, press it several times. You now have proof that the healing pressure on a reflex is getting through to the source of the trouble.”

Functions of Reflexology

Reflexology is used to treat a wide range of ailments including:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Quitting smoking
  • Pain management
  • Stress reduction
  • Curing migraines
  • Helping arthritis
  • Improving circulation
  • Removing toxins from the body
  • Aiding digestive processes
  • Balancing hormones
  • Stimulating creativity
  • Promoting energy
  • Focusing concentration

A Typical Reflexology Session

Reflexology sessions can take place in a professional treatment room or in the comfort of your own home. Your first session with a reflexologist will usually take around an hour and fifteen minutes. Subsequent sessions usually last for about an hour, or less for the elderly, children, or people with severe health problems. Before the session is started the practitioner will discuss your complete medical history. The reflexologist will then use her hands to apply a gentle pressure to the various reflex points on your feet. She will apply a unique application for each individual client depending on their needs. The session will end with a foot massage to promote drainage of the lymph glands. A course of further treatment may be recommended depending on the client’s needs.

 

How to find a Reflexology Practitioner

You will need to find a reflexology practitioner who has been certified and has the required experience. Here are some resources to help you:

Professional Reflexologists by State

Reflexology Groups and Organizations

Reflexology Association of America

375 North Stephanie Street
Suite 1411
Henderson, NV 89014

Precautions

  • Reflexology should be avoided for up to one hour after meals.
  • After a reflexology session, drink a glass of water.
  • If you suffer from diabetes, heart conditions or kidney problems these areas should not be concentrated on for more than ten minutes.
  • Consult a medical doctor before having reflexology if you suffer from high blood pressure or epilepsy.

FAQs

Who can have reflexology sessions?

Anyone, whatever age, can benefit from reflexology including the elderly, children and people suffering from chronic illnesses.

Is reflexology safe during pregnancy?

Reflexology should not be used during the first trimester of pregnancy (weeks 1-12). After this time, pregnant women may use reflexology. If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you consult your obstetrician before using reflexology.

Are there different types of session for different clients?

Usually a reflexologist will apply lighter pressure and conduct shorter sessions for children, the elderly, the sick and ailing and pregnant women.

Can reflexology be painful?

Reflexology should never be painful. Its aim is to relax and relieve pains and tension.

Can reflexology worsen a condition?

Reflexology is a gentle, non-invasive therapy that relaxes the whole body and promotes total wellness. On rare occasions, due to the release of toxins, it may result in symptoms such as headaches, perspiration and mild nausea. These symptoms are temporary and not serious.  

How can I become a reflexologist?

Certification for practicing reflexology varies from country to country and state to state. The best way to find out about how to become a reflexologist is to contact your closest branch of the Reflexology Association. The amount of classroom time, individual study and examinations may also vary.

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