An Ancient Heritage
Reflexology is an ancient art. Some people mistakenly refer to it as a form of 'foot massage', but that would belie the true power and transformational ability that lies in the true 'art' of this foot acupressure technique. Many times, the difference between a foot massage and acupressure is misunderstood, but in its most basic form, a massage is executed in a general 'sweeping' of the muscular structures beneath the surface of the skin. A massage therapist may correct me here, as they will know more about their own art than I do, but as far as I know, massage is not administered for any clinical benefit or purpose beyond that of working on the muscular-skeletal level.
In contrast, Reflexology is a form of acupressure, rather than massage, and it is a technique that applies direct and specific pressure on precise 'points' within the foot. The purpose of doing so is to access the points in the feet which correspond to particular parts that are mirrored from the feet to all other areas within the body.
The mechanisms of how this works are still beyond our understanding, but there are studies which verify the health results of reflexology.
Whilst we may not understand the bio-mechanical, or bio-chemical principles that underpin this therapy fully, we recognise that it has a profound effect upon our biology, by working through a more subtle system, that we might refer to as an 'energy system'.
Traditionally techniques varying on our modern reflexology were practiced in areas as diverse as India, China, Egypt and Thailand. They are connected to different spiritual and health practices in the Ayurvedic tradition and the Traditional Chinese Medicine System. There are images from a 6th Dynasty Egyptian Wall Painting that depicts both hands and feet being treated in their form of reflexology.
A Modern Practice Reflexology is a popular treatment that many people are using today to support an alternative or complementary approach to health and well-being!
Many people are looking for alternative options in areas as diverse as pain relief, ongoing chronic conditions, infertility, endocrinology, muscular issues, and for general health of mind, body and spirit.
For our feet do not only carry us as we move throughout or day, but they mirror to us what is going on at a deeper level of our body.
Evolving out of Zone therapy, the reflexology that is practiced in the West recognises that there are different zonal areas of the body reflected in the feet, and that within those zones there sits special 'areas' or 'reflex points' which are connected to the organs of the body.
On top of this, 6 of the 14 meridians that travel throughout the whole body (they are actually one complete circuit that is labelled and divided into 14 parts to help with functional identity), terminate in the feet, with others terminating on the hands; using appropriate techniques, these acupressure points can support the harmonious flow of energy throughout the entire body and help to bring a more balanced state of mind, emotional and physical well-being.
Rebalancing the disease process In its most basic form, disease is an imbalance within the body that is expressed through one or more organs or functions. The body is very good at self-repair! It is often working to bring any imbalance found within the body back to its most optimal state - a state that is referred to as 'homeostasis'! When the body is in homeostasis, it means that it is working in harmony...that all the separate 'parts' are doing their different jobs. This state of balance means that every 'part' of the body is working optimally - with no one part or function being overworked, or underworked; whilst simultaneously, the "hole" is collectively running optimally and efficiently. This smooth interaction of different 'parts' is the ideal state - and is when we feel most healthy and happy!
Unfortunately, life often throws many situations and conditions at us, which means that this is often not the state that we find our mind, body or emotions in! These imbalances can be felt in many ways - but we know within ourself that we are not 'quite right'.
If left unattended to, this disruption in the complete 'flow' of our 'whole self' - our mind-body-emotion - can become further stressed and imbalanced, and we may find ourselves more severely compromised.
Reflexology does not diagnose any conditions, but it does 'pick up' the energy disruption within the body, which you will experience directly through your own feet during a treatment. It is the communication between client and reflexologist that is of importance here, as they will work together to identify any 'blocks' to the free flow of energy within the areas of the feet. The reflexologist will then apply different techniques to enable the energetic pathways within the foot to become established.
What is a Reflexology Treatment Like? An initial reflexology treatment will include a medical consultation, where your medical history and current presenting issues will be discussed. After this, and after confirming that there are no contraindications for a treatment to go ahead, the reflexologist will prepare the feet. Sometimes applying substances to assist the acupressure - oil, or talcs, or even wax-based product. The feet are always 'primed' by gentle acupressure techniques before the deeper work begins.
Different reflexologists do tend to work on different levels. Some may apply a 'light touch', whilst others may apply a deep acupressure to the feet. Sometime the reflexologist will use 'tools' - wooden or metal - to assert further pressure at specific points.
The treatment will not hurt or damage your feet, but you will become aware of different sensations that you experience through the process of the session. Some of the sensations are described as 'bubbly', or a feeling of 'popping' under the surface of the skin. Other times, you may feel a 'reflex' as a sharp or dull ache under the specific pressure point. You should always give feedback to your therapist, and let them know what you feel and where. If it is too sensitive, let your reflexologist know, so that they can adjust their pressure or their technique to suit you.
Reflexology is a treatment that relies on the skill and knowledge of the practitioner, but it also relies on the active participation of the client. The 'feelings' within the feet are the feedback loop that is one of the most important aspects of the treatment. This means that the client is equally important to the therapist.
Building Resilience Reflexology is a means to build greater resilience, in that it builds up the energetic pathways and promotes a free-flow of energetic and biological and chemical processes within the body. As these avenues of communication open up within the body, it can function better. The reflexes can be used to help focus attention on the 'weakest' points in a persons overall body and will assist in rebalancing and bringing strength and resilience to those parts. This resilience and strength is due to the persons own ability to restore and heal. The reflexologist is not adding anything to the body, or using any external elements. The healing changes are the body response to appropriate healing touch.
When reflexology is utilised regularly, it can support the body's ability to 'get into flow'...
This will support better emotional, biological and mental processes.
Deborah can provide an all round therapeutic approach to your reflexology sessions.
Integration of naturopathic principles, Bach Flower Remedies or Crystal Moon Essences can be included in a whole health approach.
Emotional Freedom Techniques and other energy techniques can also be utilised if appropriate.
Reflexology for Thyroid Dysfunction
A review of the concept, evidence and current practice of reflexology by Embong et al. (Published online 2015 Sep 28. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2015.08.008) states:
"Reflexology is basically a study of how one part of the human body relates to another part of the body. Reflexology practitioners rely on the reflexes map of the feet and hands to all the internal organs and other human body parts. They believe that by applying the appropriate pressure and massage certain spots on the feet and hands, all other body parts could be energized and rejuvenated. This review aimed to revisit the concept of reflexology and examine its effectiveness, practices, and the training for reflexology practitioners."
They go on to say that "Reflexology has been chosen by most people to treat their body health problems because it offers high level of safety and effectiveness. It also offers natural treatment without consuming drugs and it is easy to use."
One of the important areas that the study believes that reflexology addresses is in stress reduction. The review states: "Stress contributes up to 80% for the development of any illness. Other 20% of stress will influence other conditions...Reflexology is one of the ways to interrupt the pattern of repetitive stress that people usually have according to their lifestyle."
The conclusion of this comparative study said that "Reflexology practitioners and the professional association have advocated that reflexology is effective for general well-being maintenance and treatment of chronic diseases such as strokes, musculoskeletal disorders, and stress. Due to its soothing massage and non-drug complementary nature, reflexology is widely accepted by general public." Whilst also recognising that further studies are required to provide further robust evidence for the mechanism of reflexology, it recognises the anecdotal evidence and improved health benefits found in small trials for certain ailments.
For me personally, when I began to suffer with the symptoms of Hashimotos over twenty years ago, I gained little improvement from the medication I was then prescribed (levothyroxine).
It was through attending a weekly reflexology session with a beautiful reflexologist in Brighton (Laura Hauthal Slee) that I truly began to regain some sense of myself, and was able to function better as a result. I continued to see Laura, until I moved away from Brighton in 1998 to live in the Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
It was here that I then trained as a reflexologist and have been practicing since.
Providing my own reflexology treatments and working to support others on their own health journeys. I owe a great deal of my own healing journey to reflexology - as it opened up the possibility of 'other avenues' for me, that I could pursue beyond the medication I was receiving from the Doctor.
If you are experiencing Thyroid Symptoms and would like to try out reflexology, do contact me.
I practice on the outskirts of the Forest of Dean, but am also creating an online reflexology training for those who would like to utilise reflexology for their own symptom management (from home), or for those therapists who would like to better understand about the thyroid in their own practice.