Reflexology had its first footprint on pictographs found on tombs in ancient Egypt. The practice of foot manipulation therapy and later referred to as ‘Pressure Therapy’ spread through ancient Asia and gradually moved West.
Modern reflexology has been attributed to William Fitzgerald, M.D. and Joe Shelby Riley, M.D. in the 1920’s. It continued evolving and was greatly expanded by Eunice Ingham during the late ’30’s who has written several books and popularized mapping and therapeutic techniques still used widely in reflexology schools and among professional reflexologists.
Some of the common conditions that can benefit from Reflexology:
- Digestive upset (constipation and/or diarrhea)
- Lack of circulation
- Toxins in the body
- Hormonal imbalances
- Anxiety and Depression
- Stiff, aching and painful joints and muscles
- Headaches (including migraines)
- The effects of stress
- Nervous tension
- Inflammation related problems (including arthritis, asthma, diabetes, injuries, heart disease, cancer)
- Recovery following injury or surgery
- Pain in any area of the body including back pain
- Foot, ankle and leg problems including soreness, swelling, restless leg
- Sinus pressure
- Allergy symptoms
- Immune system problems
How does Reflexology work?
The following are theories on how reflexology works. Some theories are from ‘Western’ medicine and some from ‘Eastern’ medicine. Western views include all theories that relate to the physical body (bones, organs, tissues, cells, etc.) and their functions. Eastern views relate to energy or ‘chi’, the body’s vital energy force. All have been shown to be valid within a large number of people with a wide range of problems and issues.
Direct pressure on specific reflexes interrupts sensory transmission which short-circuits and confuses the nervous system so pain is not perceived by the brain in the same way. Also, the stimulation of points on the feet stimulates the release of endorphins from the pituitary gland (in the brain) which is the body’s natural pain killer.
Foot and leg problems:
Along with appropriate medical care, reflexology can be very effective in easing common foot pain and disorders such as bunions, neuroma, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, etc., because it helps to open up joint space as well as stretching fascia (connective tissue) that may be tight and causing pain and inflammation on the bottom of the foot.
The alternating pressure used in reflexology stimulates not only the nerves, but also the skin and underlying cellular tissue increasing the blood flow resulting in more oxygen to the cells. Also stimulated is the circulation of neurochemicals and hormones secreted from the glands.
Note: There are many causes for circulatory problems and a medical specialist should be consulted to diagnose and monitor this potentially serious condition.
An increase in circulation removes waste as well as brings nutrients to cells. Deposits of waste or ‘crystals’ consisting of lactic, pyruvic, uric acid and calcium form at nerve endings in the feet. The gentle pressure of reflexology can crush them and send them through the circulation for elimination.
General circulation is improved by reflexology which in turn will stimulate the transport of important nutrients through the lymphatic system, vital to your immune function (your body’s defense against infection and disease).
Reducing the effects of stress
Stress in many forms compromises the complex and important balance of hormones in the body. ‘The Stress Response’ is named largely for the flood of (stress) hormones as well as muscle contraction and nervous tension that occurs when the brain perceives a threat of some type (a stressor). These hormones are secreted by your sympathetic nervous system to basically help you get through the difficulty. However, when stress is sustained for long periods of time which is common with most stressors, the body can no longer maintain a natural balance. ‘Good’ hormones are also suppressed. Here is where the trouble begins. It is important to know that hormones powerfully affect and influence the entire body.
Without addressing the source of stress and tending to ourselves through proper rest and relaxation, exercise, emotional balance, lifestyle adjustments, dietary changes, etc., immune problems are likely to arise.
This means that we no longer have the defenses needed to ward off harmful bacteria, viruses and antagonists of all kinds. This is a complex and far-reaching problem. A compromised immune system can result in frequency of colds or flu, infections, allergies, asthma and inflammatory conditions of all kinds. Over time, as inflammation spreads, much more serious problems can occur including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancer.
Seattle Foot Reflexology activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the calming and restoring balance to the sympathetic nervous system mentioned above. The effect of activating this part of your nervous system is aptly called ‘The Relaxation Response’. With this system activated, muscle contraction, blood pressure, heart rate and nervous tension are reduced. Sleep improves and the body’s ability to repair itself is enhanced.
Also, this system triggers the brain to release ‘good’ hormones that relax and soothe the mind and provide some means for understanding and tending to the source of stress. It is now scientifically proven that Relaxation aids healing.
Energy travels along pathways throughout the body. Often, through everyday stress, energy blocks occur and over time can result in pain and/or disease. This can occur in any organ or gland along the pathway. Reflexology can help to unblock these pathways. There is lightness and clarity when energy is freed. Then healing can occur more naturally.
Emotional / Mental release
Touch is essential for human beings. A good reflexologist is attuned to the client’s specific needs regarding pressure and techniques to maximize relaxation. With relaxation, there is a decrease in muscle tension, mental activity, restlessness and anxiety. Sometimes, in a confused emotional state, reflexology will help emotions ‘surface’ and the client feels more in touch with what is happening. Hormones released by the brain during reflexology can ‘take the edge off’ and provide a feeling of well-being. For difficult emotions, therapy from a qualified professional may be helpful. Reflexology is particularly effective during/after extreme or prolonged emotional stress including grief, depression, anger and anxiety.
The nerve endings (synapses) of the feet are interconnected with other nerves throughout the body. If there is an imbalance someplace in the body, it interrupts the bio-electrical energy to other areas causing congestion and eventually disease. Restoring the affected areas brings relief throughout the system.
What are the guiding principles in reflexology?
Reflexologists practice following the principles listed below.
- Reflexologists do not heal clients; the body repairs itself. The reflexologist acknowledges that he or she is a participant in the session, rather than "the healer." As with other healing arts, it is important for the practitioner to center and ground themselves and then "get out of the way." This is an acknowledgement that reflexology is offered to help bring the person back into balance so that the body can nurture and repair itself. A reflexologist believes that the purpose of this work is to help the client's body come into alignment with its own energy and ability to heal.
- Humans consist of a physical and emotional body, with a mind and spirit that are all interdependent. The reflexologist takes into account all aspects of the client's being: body, emotion, mind, and spirit. A relaxed body can induce calm emotions, a serene mind, and an integrated spirit.
- The body responds to touch, which can facilitate healing on all levels. Frequently, clients will think they have to "focus" or "concentrate" to feel the benefits. While being quiet will frequently induce a deeper feeling in the novice, the client needs to have no special skills or habits for reflexology to work. Reflexologists maintain that as long as the practitioner has knowledge, stays centered, and allows the flow of energy to occur, the client will respond positively.
- Practitioners and clients may feel energy move. A reflexologist may feel the energy move from a point of pressure on feet, hands or ears throughout body. For example, when working on the spleen and gall bladder points, the practitioner can access the points at the same time and feel a flow of energy. Due to the power of these two points, the client may also feel the flow.