As we advance in the industry of health and wellness we are open to a world of knowledge as to what our bodies’ need. Simple things such as eating properly, walking instead of driving down the road, waking up for a breath of fresh morning air, can make a significant difference in our health. So many have now gone into the idea of therapy; and no I’m not talking about mental therapy but examples such as aroma therapy, massage therapy, cupping therapy, acupuncture and reflexology just to name a few.
So today we’ll focus on reflexology, which is a type of massage that involves applying different amounts of pressure to the feet, hands, and ears, based on a theory that these parts are connected to certain organs and body systems. It is believed that by applying pressure to these parts offers a range of health benefits.
*In Chinese medicine it rests on the ancient Chinese belief in qi (pronounced “chee”), or “vital energy.” In this belief, qi flows through each person. When a person feels stressed, their body blocks qi, which can cause an imbalance in the body that leads to illness. So the therapy aims to keep qi flowing through the body, keeping it balanced and disease free. Maps of the different body pressure points are used to determine where they should apply pressure. They believe touch sends energy flowing through a person’s body until it reaches the area in need of healing.
*In the late 1890s, British scientists found that nerves connect the skin and internal organs, and they found that the body’s entire nervous system tends to adjust to outside factors, including touch, which may help to calm the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and other benefits just like any form of massage.
*The brain creates pain as a subjective experience as believed by some. So the brain reacts to physical pain but can also create pain in response to emotional or mental distress. So to reduce pain through calming touch, may help to improve someone’s mood and reduce stress.
*Another belief is the Zone theory, where the body contains 10 vertical zones, each containing different body parts and corresponds to specific fingers and toes. Hence touching the fingers and toes allows access to every body part in a particular zone.
Benefits of reflexology:
Though limited there is evidence that reflexology may help to:
- reduce stress and anxiety
- reduce pain
- lift mood
- improve general well-being
Some have reported that reflexology helped:
- boost their immune system
- fight cancer
- get over colds and bacterial infections
- clear up sinus issues
- recover from back problems
- correct hormonal imbalances
- boost fertility
- improve digestion
- ease arthritis pain
- treat nerve problems and numbness from cancer drugs (peripheral neuropathy)
Reflexology can be seen as a complementary therapy to help reduce symptoms and improve someone’s quality of life, much like massage. Example if the massaged area is the feet, for some people that will provide even more relief of stress or discomfort.
Here’s a look at what the research says about using reflexology to manage pain and anxiety:
In a 2011 study funded by the National Cancer Institute, experts studied how reflexology treatments affected 240 women with advanced breast cancer. All women were undergoing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, for their cancer.
The study found that reflexology helped to reduce some of their symptoms, including shortness of breath. The participants also reported an improved quality of life. But it didn’t have any effect on pain.
Experts have also looked at the effects of reflexology on pain in women experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In one older study, researchers looked at the effects of ear, hand, and foot reflexology on 35 women who previously reported having of PMS symptoms.
They found that those who received two months of reflexology treatment reported significantly fewer PMS symptoms than the women who did not. However, keep in mind that this study was very small and done decades ago.
Larger, long-term studies are needed to fully understand whether reflexology helps to reduce pain.
In one small study from 2000, researchers looked at the effects of one 30-minute foot reflexology treatment on people being treated for breast or lung cancer. Those who received a reflexology treatment reported lower levels of anxiety than those who received no reflexology treatment.
In a 2014 study that was slightly larger, researchers gave people undergoing heart surgery a 20-minute foot reflexology treatment once a day for four days.
They found that those who received the reflexology treatment reported significantly lower levels of anxiety than those who didn’t. Touch by another human being is a relaxing, caring, anxiety-reducing action for most people.
Reflexology is very safe, even for people living with serious health conditions. It’s noninvasive and comfortable to receive but we would advise that you talk to your doctor first if you have any of the following health issues:
- circulatory problems in the feet
- blood clots or inflammation of your leg veins
- foot ulcers
- fungal infections, like athlete’s foot
- open wounds on your hands or feet
- thyroid problems
- a low platelet count or other blood problems, which can make you bruise and bleed more easily
- And if you’re pregnant, make sure to tell your reflexologist before your session, as some pressure points in the hands and feet may induce contractions. If you’re trying to use reflexology to induce labor, only do so with your doctor’s approval. There is a risk of premature delivery, and babies are healthiest if born at 40 weeks of gestation.
So all in all reflexology may not be a scientifically proven medical treatment for disease, but studies suggest it’s a helpful complementary treatment, especially for stress and anxiety.
Ensure that should you be interested you look for a properly trained reflexologist who has registered with a reputable certifying organization.