What is Reflexology?
Every part of the body has a reflex point on the feet. The right foot represents the right side of the body and the left foot, the left side. The feet have many nerve endings and it is felt that this is why reflexology works. The nerves are stimulated at the reflex points with specific thumb and finger techniques. The nerve relays this stimulus through the nervous system up the spinal column to the corresponding affected area of the body.
Where there is inhibited functioning or disease, congestion will be found in the form of grainy crystal deposits. These deposits are caused by excess acidity in the bloodstream which increases calcium deposits at the nerve endings. They may feel tender, sensitive or positively painful and/or they may feel hard, tight or lumpy.
The feet are a prime target for these deposits because of the abundance of nerve endings present here; the fact that the feet are usually restricted in shoes preventing the natural movement of the foot and the normal nerve and blood supply to the feet; and the feet are at the end point of circulation so blood has to be circulated back up against the force of gravity. Congestion will impede this function and toxins will tend to stagnate in the feet. These grainy crystal deposits can be broken down by Reflexology and the residue removed by the blood circulation and the lymphatic system. Once this has been achieved, the corresponding body parts will be stimulated and the body will be in a much better position to be able to heal itself.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that ch'i (energy) circulates along twelve meridian pathways within the body. The six meridians which penetrate the major organs of the body are found in the feet - specifically the toes. Reflexology helps to clear the blockage along the medians and encourages the ch'i to flow unimpeded.
As a holistic therapy, Reflexology aims to treat the body as a whole and endeavours to get to the root cause of disease and treat this, not the symptom. However, most disease/ailments have taken time to manifest and will therefore take time to eradicate.
One of the most important benefits of Reflexology is its efficiency in reducing stress. Approximately 70% of disorders can be related to stress and nerve tension. Stress is difficult to avoid. It is an integral part of modern life, affecting not only the high-powered business executives but also young children, women, men and the elderly.
Reflexology helps to alleviate the effects of stress by inducing deep relaxation, thereby allowing the nervous system to function normally and the body to seek its own homeostasis.
Reflexology also helps with the sedation of pain. The body produces its own painkillers known as endorphins, which are five to ten times more powerful than morphine. Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and can inhibit the transmission of pain signals through the spinal cord.
Pain signals travel along the nerve pathways to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, beginning a complicated reflex action. From the spinal cord, the impulse is relayed to the thalamus, where the sensations of heat, cold, pain and touch are recognised. The thalamus forwards the impulse along to the cerebral cortex where the intensity and location of the pain is recognised. The brain then sends signals back through the spinal cord to release endorphins.
However, according to the 'gate control theory', the nervous system can only respond to a limited amount of sensory information at one time. When the system becomes overloaded it short-circuits or closes a gate, reducing the amount of sensory information available for processing. The application of Reflexology encourages the brain to produce more endorphins while the pressure also acts to confuse the body with too many sensations to respond to, forcing the body to close the 'pain gates'. This interrupts the pain cycle, eases pain and helps the body to relax.
This ability to ease pain also makes Reflexology ideal for terminally ill patients. Although Reflexology may not be capable of removing the cause of disease, it does make the patient more comfortable and the pain more bearable. It can significantly improve the patient's general condition, stimulate the respiratory system and help the patient to achieve better control over their bladder and bowel, hence improving quality of life.
Reflexology has proved itself to be effective, but because no two people are the same, what may be of great benefit for one person, may not have the same results for another. Because a Reflexology treatment reaches the receiver on several levels - physical, mental and spiritual, it can only be of benefit.
Reflexologists do not isolate a disease and treat it symptomatically, nor do they work specifically on a problem organ or system, but on the whole person with the object of inducing a state of balance and harmony. Treating the whole body allows not only the symptoms of a problem to be treated, but also the cause.