Many people have heard of reflexology, and some may have tried the treatment – however I occasionally get asked the questions – what exactly is it and how does it work? I’ve finally had the chance to put my answers into writing so I hope this post can help a few people out.
Massaging the feet like so many other therapies is an ancient treatment dating back 2500 years. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict hand and foot treatments and traditional Chinese medicine has always used specific pressure points (including those on the feet) through the practice of different therapies such as acupuncture.
Reflexology as we know it is a holistic therapy designed to treat the whole body through working on reflexes in the feet. The definition used by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (via the Federation of Holistic Therapists’ website) states that:
“Reflexology deals with the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which are believed to correspond to parts of the body. It is a unique method, using the thumb and fingers, usually performed on the feet but in some cases also on the hands and ears. A practitioner will work the reflex areas, which may help to relieve stress and tension.”
Reflexology was brought to the UK by Doreen Bailey in the 1960s. Doreen brought us the Ingham method but there are now many schools of reflexology training. It has become one of the most well known holistic treatments with significant positive anecdotal evidence to support claimed benefits. An increase in scientific studies into the efficacy of reflexology has meant a slight increase in endorsement by the medical profession in some areas – but there is still a long way to go.
Why choose reflexology?
Many people seek reflexology treatment for conditions such as IBS, joint pain, premenstrual syndrome, stress, depression, anxiety, headaches and infertility.
The NHS employ complementary therapists who use reflexology in palliative care where they can help treat pain related to cancer, and help patients to cope better with side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Reflexology is widely acknowledged as a treatment which is excellent for relaxation.
What to expect from a treatment
A qualified reflexologist will go through a consultation with their client before they begin a treatment. The consultation will concentrate on the client’s medical history, their lifestyle and wellbeing and any contraindications to receiving the treatment. The treatment will only be carried out if the reflexologist is satisfied that it can be performed safely.
The reflexologist will spend around an hour working on specific reflexes on the feet that represent different areas of the body. For some this can feel like a very intricate foot massage and can include both light and deeper pressure. Many people will relax during their treatment – sometimes even enough to doze off! This is a fantastic compliment to the reflexologist as it shows that the client has totally relaxed.
Reflexology should never be used as a diagnostic tool but it can give an inkling into areas of the body that are out of balance. During the treatment the reflexologist may find areas on the feet that indicate a blockage of energy in the corresponding area of the body. More time may be spent on these reflexes to help release the blockage (and therefore any stress or tension it has been causing the client) and stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities. Many people describe how relaxed or energised they feel during or after a treatment. However it is also possible to feel emotional, tired and/or light-headed as the body starts to naturally rebalance itself.
For these reasons it is extremely important to keep hydrated after a treatment and to put your feet up! I always recommend focusing on some peaceful time after a treatment to encourage the body and mind to adjust.
Why I think it’s amazing…..
For me reflexology is the treatment that made me want to practice complementary therapy. After three months in an extremely stressful job situation I was bought a treatment as a present – to help me relax. The pure ability of reflexology to decrease my stress levels won me over. Little did I realise that this treatment would have such a profound and positive impact on my life!
But that’s just me – and reflexology will have a different effect on everyone. What it is guaranteed to give you is the time and space to switch off and let your cares drift away. For this reason alone it truly is a treatment that nourishes mind, body and soul.