What’s the deal? Reflexology
Reflexologists start from the bottom up, aiming to heal the body by massaging parts of the foot.
‘Reflexologists believe that there are points on the soles of your feet that connect to internal organs, glands and systems in the rest of the body or energy pathways,’ says Tracey Smith from the Association of Reflexologists. ‘Manipulating areas on the foot help corresponding areas of the body to regain natural balance. For example, if you apply pressure in the middle of the big toe, you’ll ease stress in your pituitary gland,’ says Smith. Reflexology is also used on the hands and face.
How does it work?
‘Some experts believe pressure on the feet sends signals through the body, which releases chemicals, such as endorphins, reducing stress and pain,’ says Smith. ‘Another theory is that received pressure on your feet triggers increased blood supply through the nervous system, which helps ease tension and inflammation.’
Reflexology may also eliminate toxins that are a result of adrenaline over-production, which helps keep diseases at bay, says Ann Gillanders, author of Reflexology For Women’s Health. ‘But, the most widely held belief is that your body is flowing with energy, or chi, through 23 pathways and by manipulating points in the feet, hands, or face, you free blocked-up energy in corresponding areas,’ says Smith. Using a reflexology map, practitioners can see what specific part of the foot correlates to different areas in your body.
What can it help with?
Reflexology can help with arthritis, headaches and migraines, PMS, fertility issues and even ease the stress of chemotherapy. Research at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, found more than half of women with fertility problems became pregnant after reflexology treatment. ‘Ovary and uterus reflexes can be helped by manipulating the sides of the heel and can correct the imbalances which can hamper pregnancy,’ says Hall. ‘Or a therapist may massage your big toe and ankle to calm your endocrine and reproductive system, helping relieve PMS.’
Reflexology has also been found to be as effective as painkillers for osteoarthritis, according to research from the University of Portsmouth. People felt about 40% less pain and could stand for longer than those not receiving treatment.
I’m game! What happens in a session?
A full medical history is taken first. You’ll be asked to either lie on a bed or sit in a reclining chair for your treatment. Your therapist will apply medium pressure with the thumb to assess where there might be a sign of imbalance. ‘We manipulate areas of the foot to help free up energy and ease pain,’ says Smith. You may feel a little sore after a session and some catch a cold due to the body releasing toxins, but most leave relaxed and calm. ‘Sometimes you can feel the effects after one treatment,’ says Smith.
Interested? Reflexology is available on the NHS to cancer patients only. The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council provides a voluntary UK register of therapists, and most sessions cost £30-£55. Or check out the British Reflexology Association.