A Reflexologist cannot heal or treat a specific condition. What Reflexology can do, is help to relax the body, thereby decreasing pain, improving circulation and assist with elimination. In so doing the body becomes better equipped in the healing process and improves its ability to cope with most health conditions.
Here are a few case studies relating to how Reflexology has helped to achieve homeostatsis and aid relief in certain health conditions.
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADD and ADHD respectively, are neurobehavioral disorders. Signs of ADHD include hyperactivity and chronic inattention or short attention spans. Reflexology connects with the peripheral nervous system and encourages the body to relax. This in turn calms anxious behavior such as fidgeting, impulsive actions and excessive talking. Reflexology also aids in eliminating the side effects of medication - insomnia, appetite suppression, depression, headaches and stomach aches. In May 2012 Dr Jesus Manzanares of Spain presented a study that he did with a group of 42 children. It showed that those who received stimulation specifically to the reflexes of the brain and eyes during Reflexology treatments improved in their mathematical and reading speed skills. Furthermore, the ADHD scale rating which rates a child as having ADHD if they obtain a score of 18 or more was reduced from 20 to 14 in these children. Similar results were produced in a small study conducted by a South African Therapeutic Reflexologist, Charne De Klerk in 2010 on the effectiveness of Reflexology in ADD children. The research was based on 11 children between the ages of 7 – 11 yrs. They were given 10 treatments each and their attention span & self confidence levels were recorded before & after treatments. Those on medication continued to take it during the study. The results showed that 10 of the 11 children (91%) had improved self confidence and 6 of the 11 (55%) showed improvement in their school work and their attention span during homework.
Reflexology is deeply calming and relaxing, giving a greater sense of wellbeing and emotional balance to a cancer patient. Reflexology also promotes pain management. Those on Chemotherapy may also notice symptoms such as sleeplessness; nausea, vomiting and constipation are eased and relieved with Reflexology. In a controlled study with 87 cancer patients, Hodgson (2000) found 100% improvement in the reflexology group in quality of life categories including appearance, appetite, breathing, communication (with doctors, family, nurses), concentration, constipation/diarrhea, fear of future, isolation, mobility, mood, nausea, pain, sleep/tiredness. The placebo group reported 67.6% improvement in these categories. (*1)
Various factors influence high cholesterol and may include genetics, diet, lifestyle, ethnic group, age & sex. Certain diseases such as liver disease, diabetes, underactive thyroid, kidney disease & hypertension also cause high levels of cholesterol. Disturbances by any of these factors can lead to the body’s inability to metabolise fat correctly and results in poor cholesterol homeostasis. Reflexology treatments help the liver expel fatty lipids and toxic waste and assist the metabolism of fat with stimulation to the stomach and small intestine reflexes. The risk of plaque formation in the arteries is also reduced by improving circulation with reflexology.
Depression is a state of low mood that can affect anyone, although some people are more prone to it. It causes the person to feel empty, despondent, unhappy and fatigued. The causes are numerous and vary from emotional distress such as loss of a loved one, to depressed tendencies in the family or side effects from certain drugs. A depressed state can also often result from health disorders such as a stroke, cancer, Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. Hormonal imbalances from for example postpartum depression or thyroid & parathyroid disorders can also cause depression. The liver meridian passes through the brains frontal lobes, thus an imbalance in this meridian from foods, liquids and medications containing toxins that put stress on the liver may cause severe depression. Reflexology is very helpful in soothing a troubled mind, inducing a sense of calm and relaxation, improving sleeplessness and brings body systems back into homeostasis. A reflexologist would concentrate on reflexes of the endocrine system, such as the pituitary or master gland, thymus, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands. Attention to the liver reflex and meridians are also given to aid detoxification and the solar plexus and diaphragm reflexes for deep relaxation. Reflexology can also help the release of “feel good” endorphins within the body to naturally relieve stress and depression.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the blood sugar levels are abnormally high because the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not fully utilize insulin. Health problems associated with diabetes may include slow healing of cuts and wounds, frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision, fatigue and weakness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and recurring urinary tract or vaginal yeast infections. Reflexology assists in poor circulation and neuropathy (a tingling, numbness, coldness, pain or loss of sensation due to nerve damage). By working on the endocrine system, particularly the pancreas, insulin producing cells are encouraged to work more efficiently. The processing functions of the liver are also affected by increased blood sugar levels. By improving circulation with Reflexology, the liver is enabled to remove these toxins easier. Reflexology is also great for symptom management; the areas concentrated on would vary depending on the individuals needs but examples would be the digestive system to reduce nausea and pain or the urinary system to help with excessive urination. Insulin levels can increase during a Reflexology treatment, making the required subsequent dosage less. For this reason patients with diabetes are made aware of the importance of checking blood sugar levels after a treatment.
High blood pressure is defined as having intermittent or persistent elevated blood pressure. Readings greater than or equal to 140/90mm Hg is considered HBP. Having HBP increases risks for heart attack, angina, stroke, kidney failure, peripheral artery disease and death. Hypertension has been called the “silent killer” because it usually produces no symptoms by itself. Reference is made to subtle signs occasionally observed such as shortness of breath after mild exercise, headaches or dizziness, swelling of the ankles during the daytime, excessive sweating, anxiety and occasional nosebleeds. For someone with hypertension, a reflexologist would work on specific reflexes related to the condition, which would encourage the body’s natural self-healing powers such as the diaphragm to promote relaxation in the chest cavity and better breathing, the solar plexus which also encourages deep relaxation, the kidney and thyroid for their role in regulating blood pressure, the pituitary gland since it secretes hormones that help control blood pressure, and the adrenals which work at normalising the circulatory system. Reflexes of organs that may eventually become affected such as the heart, brain and eyes may also be targeted. In 2013 I conducted a small case study on the effects of Reflexology on hypertension and its symptoms. During the study seven people with high blood pressure were used. Overall there was a decrease in blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure seemed to decrease more than diastolic blood pressure after Reflexology treatments; however diastolic blood pressure did stabilize after Reflexology treatments with less erratic fluctuations measured after treatments than before. Blood pressure symptoms such as dizziness, swelling around the ankles and feet, muscle cramps in the legs, fatigue and headaches also improved with Reflexology. I concluded that Reflexology has a beneficial influence on patients suffering from hypertension, both in terms of objectively recorded blood pressure readings, and subjectively reported blood pressure symptoms. Including reflexology sessions into one’s regular routine can not only complement conventional medical treatment, but can also serve as an efficient preventative healthcare tool.
If a couple are planning a pregnancy, both parents should ideally have reflexology treatments on a regular basis. The stimulation of the reflex areas on the feet encourages the reproductive and hormonal system to function more effectively, regulating menstrual periods, and stimulating egg production. It also helps to ensure stronger, healthier sperm and reduces stress and anxiety in both the man and women. Emotions also play a big role during infertility, which affect the hormonal system. Reflexology takes a holistic approach to infertility, treating both the mind and the body, naturally bringing it back into balance so that it can heal itself and become healthy in preparation for a pregnancy. In 1990 a study was reported on how reflexology can assist in infertility. 61 women under the age of 35 were used to research this subject which was conducted by the Danish Reflexologist Association Research Committee. Treatments were given over a seven to eight month period. Initially treatments were done twice per week in the first month and thereafter two treatments were administered each month before ovulation. Nine women (15 percent) became pregnant within six months after starting the treatment. Of two-thirds of the women who had menstruation problems, 77 percent experienced an improvement—with the majority seeing complete alleviation of their problems. Three-quarters of all the women reported improvements in other ailments, such as muscle tensions, indigestion and poor circulation. This study showed that Reflexology brings the body back into homeostasis, thereby assisting it to obtain improved health, balanced hormones and prepares the womb for pregnancy. (*2) Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause many physiological alternations in the expectant mom’s body. Reflexology can help to support these alternations and ease symptoms associated with pregnancy. For example nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, hemorrhoids, urinary tract problems, oedema, back ache, anxiety, apprehension, insomnia and muscular fatigue may be eased by increasing circulation, improving elimination and providing relaxation. Reflexology encourages the body to work more efficiently and ensures that it is in the best possible state to deal with the birth. The unborn baby will also thrive and become calmer during these treatments. Continued treatment after the birth will encourage a speedy recovery and assist in relaxing the new mom.
Migraines occur when the blood vessels in the brain dilate and spasm, activating pain receptors. The dilation of the blood vessels may be triggered by certain food sensitivities such as sugar, wheat, tea, coffee or yeast. Other factors such as stress, insomnia, changes in the weather, bright light, hormonal imbalances, liver problems or environmental chemicals can also be the cause of a migraine. During a reflexology treatment special attention would be given to the reflexes of the cervical spine, neck and brain to ease tension. It is important to concentrate on the liver reflex and liver meridians since toxins from chemicals, fats; food additives and alcohol affect the health and vitality of the liver and can be the cause of migraines. Care is also given to the gall bladder points to relieve the effects of nausea during a migraine. The reflexologist would offer lifestyle and supplement recommendations that could assist someone that suffers with migraine headaches.
The sinuses, eyes and nose are usually affected in sinusitis. However a reflexologist also gives attention to the lungs, spleen and kidney reflexes. The reason for this is that the energy or “chi” in these organs is usually low during times of inflammation and congestion. The lungs are usually weak from invading allergens and the spleen responds to foreign antibodies by protecting the immune system. The kidneys take strain from long term use of allergy pills, antihistamines and cortisone. I have had clients who have found relief after having a reflexology treatment, for example I treated a lady on a Friday morning and she sent me an e-mail the following Monday saying “I could not believe that by Friday late afternoon, there was an improvement in my blocked sinuses!“ However it should be understood that allergies that cause sinusitis may take longer to eliminate because allergies are the result of a systemic condition that has probably been ongoing for many years. The focus is on balancing the whole body to reduce toxicity, thereby assisting it to improve immunity against allergens.
The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck and secretes hormones that govern many functions of the body, such as metabolism, body temperature and hormones. Thyroid disorders typically occur when this gland releases too many or too few hormones, leading to either an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Hyperthyroidism can be caused by illnesses such as Graves’s disease or a viral infection of the thyroid gland. It can lead to irritability and anxiety, menstrual irregularities and infertility, irritated eyes or difficulty seeing, muscle weakness, intolerance to heat and increased sweating, diarrhea or frequent bowel movements and fatigue. Hypothyroidism is often caused by Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing symptoms of weight gain, fatigue and sluggishness, menstrual irregularities, depression, dry skin and hair, and constipation. Thyroid disorders can also occur because of thyroid nodules, which are growths on the gland. With Reflexology the whole body is treated, but specifically circulation is improved which assists a sluggish metabolic system. Reflexology also encourages the release of “feel good” endorphins which reduces depression. The client will also feel relaxed and less anxious. A Reflexologist will concentrate on working the reflex’s of the thyroid and spleen / pancreas & liver meridians which traverse through the thyroid gland as well as the colon reflex in the case of constipation or diarrhea and ovaries or testes for infertility.
Although mention is made to specific reflexes or meridians in these conditions, the whole body is always treated during a reflexology treatment. In other words the whole of both feet are worked and treated. The reflexologist does however direct her intention to these specific points during the treatment. By treating the whole body it is brought back into balance and is able to heal itself naturally.
1. Reference cancer patients
Taking charge of your health and wellbeing, http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/reflexology/what-does-research-say-about-refloxology, accessed 19Sep14.
2. Reference infertility
Flocco Bill Dir., American Academy of Reflexology, http://www.reflexologyresearch.net/ReflexologyInfertilityResearch.shtml, accessed 17Aug14.