Reflexology is a very gentle and rhythmic foot massage. The rationale behind reflexology is that the whole body is reflected in the feet, with various parts of the feet corresponding to particular parts of the body. Practitioners say that massaging these points, or reflexes, helps to relieve imbalances in different parts of the body, renew energy flow and thereby enhance well-being.
A reflexologist aims to help the body heal itself by applying firm but controlled pressure to the feet, using specific finger and thumb techniques, to relieve stress and tension, improve blood supply and promote the unblocking of nerve impulses. Many people find that reflexology helps to reduce stress, and relieve anxiety and tension by inducing a deep feeling of relaxation and well-being so can be especially helpful for insomnia/poor sleep. Recent evidence, though limited, suggests that reflexology can reduce fatigue and improve mood and quality of life.
During your first visit, the practitioner will ask you about your medical history, symptoms, allergies and any medicines you are taking before giving you a treatment. Reflexology can be given any time except when you have just undertaken chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. It is best to wait until your body has begun to recover.
During a reflexology session you will lie down or be seated comfortably and will need to remove shoes and socks. Once your feet have been cleansed, the treatment starts with a gentle relaxation sequence. Occasionally you may feel some tenderness where the therapist is applying pressure to your feet, however, this is temporary. The reflexology will be gentle and soothing. You may feel tired afterwards. To maximise the benefits of these sessions try to rest afterwards and drink a glass or two of water.
There is some evidence which suggests that practices similar to reflexology were used by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Indians. Modern reflexology is based on the concept of ten energy zones within the body. This energy division was proposed in the late 19th century by an American Dr William Fitzgerald, an ear nose and throat specialist. While working in hospitals in Paris, Vienna and London. Fitzgerald discovered that he could relieve pain in one part of a patient's body by applying pressure to another. Eunice Ingham, a nurse/physiotherapist, refined and revised this concept in the 1930s. She developed a map of the body s organs and glands on the feet and changed the name to reflexology .
Safety/Precautions: You should always inform your reflexologist about any medication you are taking as this may affect your reflexology treatment. Equally, you are also advised to tell your doctor that you are receiving reflexology.
It is important to choose a qualified reflexologist who has undertaken all the necessary training, is a member of a recognised professional body which represents their therapy and that they have public liability insurance. Reflexology isn't harmful, but some practitioners will not treat patients with certain medical conditions. As stated above, it would be best to wait until your body has begun to recover if you have just undertaken chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery.
There is growing but not yet conclusive research evidence that reflexology can help reduce pain and anxiety associated with cancer and its treatments. Two small trials showed that cancer patients receiving reflexology reported lower pain and anxiety than cancer patients that didn't receive reflexology, although these results were short-lasting. A small study giving reflexology to nursing home residents following completion of cancer treatments resulted in significant declines in salivary cortisol (stress level indicator) and pain and improvements in mood.
Some clinics are able to offer an initial package of up to eight free or low cost sessions. If, after these sessions, the clinic is unable to offer you more, they should be able to refer you to individual therapists or centres that offer this service.
This therapy, or information about it, is available from: