What is reflexology?
Reflexology is a form of complementary therapy which, through the massage of the feet, aims to promote wellness in other areas of the body.
Reflexology is the application of appropriate pressure to specific points and areas on the feet, hands, or ears. When pressure is applied to these areas and points it stimulates the movement of energy along the nerve channels, and helps to restore homeostasis (balance) in the whole body. That pressing has a beneficial effect on the organs and person's general health. For example, reflexology holds that a specific spot in the arch of the foot corresponds to the bladder point. When a reflexology practitioner uses thumbs or fingers to apply appropriate pressure to this area, it affects bladder functioning.
Modern reflexology is based on the principle that the foot has ‘reflex’ points that correspond to the various structures and organs throughout the body. For example, on the left foot, the tip of the big toe corresponds to the brain’s left hemisphere.
Although reflexology is not used to diagnose or cure health disorders, millions of people around the world use it to complement other treatments when addressing conditions like anxiety, asthma, cancer treatment, cardiovascular issues,diabetes,headaches kidney function, PMS, and sinusitis and overall stress relief. It also works well as a complement to other modalities and treatments.
Reflexology is growing increasingly popular across Europe and Asia as both a complement to other treatments and as a preventive measure. One example is Denmark, where various municipalities and companies have employed reflexologists since the early '90s.
According to several studies, this practice in Denmark has resulted in reduced sick leave and absenteeism (and significant economic savings for the employers). Employees have consistently reported complete or partial improvement in conditions where they sought reflexologists' help and even relief for additional problems related to stress. In one municipal district, almost one-third of the employees reported greater satisfaction with their jobs after completing six sessions with a reflexologist.
General cautions for reflexology
Reflexologists do not diagnose, prescribe or treat specific conditions. Treatment for foot problems such as corns, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails is not in the scope of practice of a reflexologist and should be treated by a doctor or podiatrist.
Reflexology is a complementary therapy in that it works alongside other medical and therapeutic techniques. Always be guided by your doctor or specialist. Be very wary of any reflexologist who advises you to abandon your conventional treatment.
Do not stop any medical treatments on the advice of your reflexologist
You might also be interested in:
Does reflexology relate to other therapies?
Acupuncture and acupressure: Reflexology is similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that it works with the body's vital energy through the stimulation of points on the body. However, acupuncture/acupressure points do not always coincide with the reflex points used in reflexology.
What is the difference between reflexology and massage?
Reflexology, although it's often combined with massage, is technically not a form of massage. It's a separate practice that applies pressure to reflex zones on your feet, hands or outer ears to affect your entire body.
What's a reflex zone? Simply, it's an area connected to other parts of your body. You have reflex zones on your feet, hands and ears. The basic theory underlying applying pressure to reflex zones is that the pressure affects the nerves, which then carry signals to other parts of your body. Reported benefits include relaxation and improved lymphatic drainage and blood circulation. These benefits help relieve the effects of stress, which in turn helps your body find balance to heal itself.
How does that differ from massage?
Many of the benefits are the same.
However, massage is the systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, using specific techniques (for example, tapping, kneading, stroking, and friction) to relax the muscles. While applying pressure to reflex zones aren’t attempts to manipulate soft tissue. Also, reflexologists who aren't also massage therapist are limited to touching your feet, hands and ears.
Some people confuse reflexology with massage. While both massage and reflexology use touch, the approaches are very different.
Reflexology focuses on reflex maps of points and areas of the body in the feet, hands, and ears using unique micro movement techniques such as thumb or finger walking and hook and backup to create a response throughout the body.
In short, massage therapists work "from the outside in," manipulating specific muscle groups or fascia to release tension. Reflexology practitioners see themselves as working "from the inside out" -- stimulating the nervous system to release tension.
Another difference between massage and reflexology is that a client will stay fully clothed for a reflexology session except for removing footwear, whereas clients remove clothing for a massage session.
Massage therapist or reflexologist?
Although some massage therapists have a basic working knowledge of reflex zones and use it in their massage practice, foot or hand massage isn't necessarily using reflex zones. Many styles of massage include foot or hand massage techniques not related to reflex zones.
Reflexologists specialize. A reflexologist may also be a massage therapist, but some reflexologists are not. At Vanina Inner Beauty you will find a Reflexologist and also a Massage Therapist. A session from a reflexologist typically lasts from 30 to 60 minutes, and you only need to remove your shoes and socks for foot reflex work.
Who do you want to see? It depends on what you're looking for. Do you specifically want reflex zone work or do you just want a little reflex zone work mixed in with an overall massage? Both options are perfectly valid.
What does it involve?
A reflexology session begins with the practitioner conducting a brief health history, health issues, lifestyle and diet, checking for reasons why reflexology might not be the best choice of therapy for you.
The practitioner explains how reflexology works and what happens during a session. The reflexologist also informs you that reflexology does not treat specific illness and is not a substitute for medical treatment. You may be asked to sign a consent form.
Remember that it is okay and even expected, for you to ask questions. You should feel comfortable communicating with the reflexologist. If the practitioner is not forthcoming with information, or is dismissive of questions or concerns, this could be a "red flag," and you have every right to terminate the appointment.
The practitioner may wash your feet and soak them in warm water, then position them at his or her chest level.
The practitioner will begin by assessing your feet for open wounds, rashes, sores, plantar warts or bunions and will ask you about any foot or leg pain that could hinder treatment.
They will then apply painless pressure to your feet using their thumb and forefinger to identify which areas of your body aren't functioning properly. Reflexology is not meant to hurt, but should be felt.
Generally a session lasts between 30-60 minutes on the soles of your feet, unless you are very ticklish, in which case they can massage your hands. You can rest or talk during the session at your discretion. If you fall asleep during the session, you will still receive the benefits of the treatment. Feedback during the session is encouraged, and of course, you can request that the session stop at any time.
What can it help with?
If you have been injured or are lacking energy, reflexology can help to restore balance and coax your body into healing itself.
'It can boost a sluggish circulation and is useful for treating stress, anxiety, back pain, migraine, poor digestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), respiratory problems, asthma, headache, bladder problems, menopausal symptoms and period pain.
My clients comment that being able to zone out for an hour enjoying a relaxing massage has a positive psychological impact on their wellbeing, while pregnant women find that reflexology relieves the pressure on their legs and feet.'
How does a typical session start?
The practitioner may choose to work only on the feet, or the hands, or the ears, depending on your specific health issues. Some problems respond better to work on the feet, others to work on the hands; yet others respond better to the reinforcement of work on all three - hands, ear and feet. In some situations, for example a patient in the hospital may have IV's and multiple tubes and wires, so a reflexology session may be limited to the feet by necessity.
If the reflexologist chooses to work on your feet, you will lie or sit down, remaining fully clothed except for your shoes and socks.
What is the focus of the session?
Regardless of your health condition(s) (for example, migraine, nausea, sciatica, etc.), the reflexologist focuses on the entire pattern of the reflexology therapy, starting at the toes and working down the foot.
Having a specific condition in mind allows the reflexologist to carefully feel and work the area corresponding to the presenting problem. However reflexologist will work all areas of the foot with gentle pressure, because, according to reflexology theories, this allows the nerve pathways and congestion to release and promotes the relaxation response for the entire body.
For example, if you are suffering from migraines, the migraine points on the toes will be carefully, mindfully worked, assessing congestion or tension in the foot. But the reflexologist will still work the entire pattern on your foot in order to address the whole body.
Throughout, the reflexologist will stay present, grounded, and in a calm and centered state of awareness.
What is a reflexology treatment?
A complete reflexology therapy session uses many different techniques and includes all of the points on both feet (and perhaps the hands and ears). The session generally starts at the fingers or toes, and works down to the heel of the hand or foot, then works the areas on the sides and top.
By working all of the points, the reflexologist addresses internal organs and glands as well as muscle groups, bones, nerve ganglions (solar plexus, brachial plexus) and nerves (sciatic) during a session.
If reflexologists find congestion or tightness during the session, they will apply pressure to work on bringing the body back into balance. If the practitioner finds an area of pain, the area is worked until harmony is brought to the area or point. To "release pain" is not the model: the goal is rather to bring the whole body into balance, and then the pain will subside. The reflexologist stimulates the nervous system to do the work; it is not the therapist who "fixes" it.
The reflexologist can return to that area or spot at the end of the session, confirming the pain has released.
What will I experience during the session?
Experiences with reflexology sessions vary from a general sense of relaxation and rest to a conscious awareness internally of the area of the body where the practitioner is working through the foot, hand or ear.
Many people experience a "lightness" or tingling in the body, as well as feelings of warmth, a sense of "opening," or "energy moving" from the practitioner's pressure to the specific body area or organ. There is often a physical perception of energy flowing through every organ, valve, gland, or muscle, as well as a sense of communication between each body system.
Other reactions during the session range from physical to emotional and may include:
· Perspiration of hands or feet
· Sensation of being cold or chilled
· Feeling light-headed
· Sighing deeply
· Need of talking all the time.
· Overwhelming desire to sleep
· Disappearance of all pain and discomfort
· Loose, relaxed muscles
· Feeling like all organs are hanging freely, not stressed and connected
· Rarely, contraction of muscle groups (pain)
It bears repeating: Reflexologists do not diagnose
Reflexologists do not diagnose or tell you about any congestion or tension they observe on the foot, hand, or ear during a session that may suggest abnormalities.
One of the theories of reflexology is that the body will nurture and repair itself once released from stress. If the body is extremely stressed, the reflexologist may refer you to a medical team or another treatment, if appropriate, but at no time will he or she give medical advice or diagnosis.
What happens at the end of the session?
Most reflexologists have some type of calm, peaceful way of closing the session that involves stroking the hand or foot and holding the limb in some manner. The important aspect is for you to feel comforted and nurtured, and to feel that you have had time for yourself during the session.
Now that the session is complete, you should not feel rushed. Gently bring yourself back into the present moment, and orient yourself. As you feel comfortable, gather yourself and your belongings to leave.
The practitioner may recommend that you drink water, rest if necessary, and pay attention to your body in the next few hours. If any questions or concerns arise, you should be able to call the practitioner.
Various reactions may occur following a reflexology session. These, too, are subtle, and are often not recognized by many people as a result of the reflexology therapy. Many of the reactions are positive signs that the session is part of a healing process; other symptoms are indicative of the body's attempts to return to a state of balance and harmony. Symptoms usually last for 24-48 hours.
Reactions may include:
· Increased energy
· Enhanced sleep
· Relief from pain
· More mobile joints
· Tiredness (some clients find that they need more sleep in order for the body to rest and repair)
· Skin rashes, pimples, or spots (due to elimination of toxins)
· Kidney stones passed with ease
· Frequent bowel movements, diarrhea (cleansing, elimination of toxins)
· Increased mucus (nasal discharge, vaginal discharge)
· Flu-like symptoms
· Emotional or psychological release (crying)
How many sessions are needed?
The number of sessions varies and is determined by the client's health and reasons for seeking reflexology. But in general, results from reflexology are often subtle and are cumulative. Thus, you are more likely to see greater benefits from regular sessions (for example, once a week for six weeks) than if you had a session once every six months.
'Some reflexologists use five or six sessions to treat specific health conditions and you do not have to undress.'
If you are dealing with a specific illness or condition, you may need to have more frequent sessions. A general recommendation might be to begin with a session every week for 6-8 weeks, followed by a "tune-up" every four weeks.
Things to remember
· Reflexology is massage of the feet that aims to promote wellness in other areas of the body.
· Modern reflexology is based on the principle that the foot has ‘reflex’ points that correspond to the various structures and organs throughout the body.
· Always consult your doctor if you have a medical condition.