by Simon Duncan
Executive Officer, United Kingdom Association of Reflexologists
A reflex is a point on the body which, when stimulated, will have an effect on another part of the body. The classic one is the knee jerk reflex. If you tap the knee, the reflex action is the spasm of the thigh muscles which makes the knee jerk.
Reflexology is based on the concept that every part of the body is connected by energy pathways which end in reflex areas on the feet, the hands and the head. Reflexology is the practice of working over these reflexes in a precise and systematic way. By applying controlled pressure, the body is encouraged to achieve its own natural state of wholeness and good health. Working on the feet is especially beneficial in clearing and balancing the body.
The concept of stimulating the body’s own healing energies by using pressure points on the feet is not new. It has appeared in many different cultures around the world and throughout history. Earliest traces have been found over 5,000 years ago in China, Japan, Egypt and among Indian tribes in the Americas. It spread to Europe in the Dark Ages and forms of “pressure point” therapy were used in the Middle Ages by both peasants and the aristocracy.
The therapy was rediscovered in the late 1890’s by a Dr. William Fitzgerald and introduced into the United States, arriving in Britain, as “reflexology”, in the 1960’s.
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of reflexology make it particularly helpful for all stress-related conditions, even when there is no clinical evidence of disease. By inducing a state of relaxation, tension is eased, circulation improved and toxins released and eliminated from the body. And as the body’s energies flow there is a renewed sense of health and well being on all levels. Reflexology can benefit, and be enjoyed by, everyone.
For clients suffering from stress-related illnesses, anxiety attacks, confidence issues or where they may be mentally or emotionally challenged, reflexology can prove to be a life-altering therapy. Self-esteem and confidence can be enhanced significantly, with recipients reporting an ability to deal with difficult situations more ably. They can feel stronger and more in control, with communication improving for some. This often leads to the ability to articulate ideas and express emotions and feelings more readily than previously possible. There may be a general improvement in being able to feel as well as assess and fulfill needs.
A treatment usually lasts between half an hour and an hour and, if possible, the client should rest for a while afterwards. Occasionally there is a temporary reaction as the body rids itself of released toxins. This will not last long and should be seen as part of the healing process. If there is a reaction, it is wise to eat lightly and drink plenty of fluids.
As reflexology works so well with other forms of treatment, many doctors are finding that referring patients to reflexologists actually saves patients money. Some participants are able to reduce or stop medication in co-operation with their medical practitioner. People prescribed drugs or other medical treatment report that reflexology reduces or eliminates side effects, and so enhances the benefits of orthodox medicine. Before and after surgery, reflexology can stimulate healing so that patients can leave the hospital sooner and experience fewer complications. Studies have suggested that patients undergoing a course of reflexology prior to a surgical operation are less likely to suffer from secondary infections as a result of the surgery.
Reflexology is rapidly becoming one of the most popular complementary therapies available today. There are a number of reasons for this: reflexology is simple, safe and very effective; the patient does not need to undress and the therapist uses only his or her hands to give a treatment. Although a therapy in its own right, it works well with other forms of medicine, both orthodox and complementary.
Until recently there has been little research into the benefits of complementary medicine, and, in one way, clinical research seems inappropriate for holistic therapies, which aim to improve the total well-being of the individual, rather than cure illnesses. However, there have been a number of controlled research projects over the past few years which provide evidence that reflexology has an effect on the human body and can help to improve various conditions and general health. Positive research findings also validate reflexology in the eyes of the general public and the medical profession and so increase public demand. As such, there is an upsurge in interest for the development of appropriate controlled research projects, with a long term view to integrating reflexology with the medical profession to provide healthcare at a more holistic level.