Reflexology: a “Hands On” Practice
While the practice of Reflexology has been around in various names and forms throughout history, some of the facts regarding its modern day use and effectiveness may surprise you. You’re reading this because you’re intuitive enough to understand that there are natural therapies that can enhance your health, and bold enough to pursue research to that end. Whether you are pursuing pain relief, help with insomnia or you’re just trying to boost your immune system…. we’ve got some answers for you.
Let’s start with a fundamental definition of Reflexology. Reflexology is defined as a non-invasive complementary practice involving the use of alternating pressure applied to the reflexes within the reflex maps of the body located on the feet, hands and outer ears. Reflexology therapists believe that these areas called, “reflexes” that have a specific correlation to the major organs and functions of the human body. Combined, there are thousands of nerve proprioceptors and pathways in the feet, hands, and ears. Your reflexologist will touch every one of them! That touch (not to be confused with a massage) will send an impulse from those nerve endings, through the central nervous system, to your brain and signal your body to relax. This deep relaxation allows your tight or tense areas (physically and emotionally) to loosen, your blood and lymphatic fluids to circulate and flow more freely through those previously, congested areas and that is what helps your body to balance itself.
This is the navigation system that a credentialed professional uses to send their focused intentions of healing energy throughout your body by way of touch.
What does this all mean for you? Well, there are studies (some of the more noteworthy later in this text) by major Universities and Research Centers that suggest that recipients of Reflexology are successfully improving their health and wellbeing in areas like:
- Stress and a myriad of related physical problems
- Lack of sleep
- Pain reduction
- Boosting immune system to better ward off colds, and flu, etc.
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrome and PM Dysphoric Disorder
- Multiple Sclerosis
Historical Perspective: Complimentary Therapy to Allopathic Medicine
The actual origin of Reflexology is not a settled issue. There is some information that suggests that the Chinese and Egyptian and European cultures may have developed this art form in an archetypal parallel. At any rate, this is a discipline that has evolved over thousands of years to its present state.
Interestingly, modern Reflexology was introduced to the United States through William H. Fitzgerald, MD (1872-1942) and Edwin Bowers, MD who co-authored a book based on what they termed Zone Therapy. Their research includes evidence that pain could be relieved with a numbing effect by applying pressure in the longitudinal zones extending from one end of the body to the other.
Dr. Fitzgerald taught Zone Therapy to Dr. Joe Shelby Riley and his wife, Elizabeth who studied and used the treatment often, publishing twelve volumes of work on the subject. Wintering in Florida during the 1930s, the Riley’s worked with physio-therapist, Eunice Ingham (1889-1974) who went on to make two major contributions to Reflexology. She discovered that alternating pressure (rather than constant pressure) would allow the body to balance it (rather than numb areas). Eunice then, lectured and taught Reflexology to non-medical people everywhere so they could help their families and friends without drugs. Ms. Ingham went on to write four books about, Stories the Feet Can Tell - which happens to be the title of her first book.
Many nurses today have followed in the footsteps, no pun intended, of Eunice Ingham. They see the application of her teachings as enhancing the “Patient Touch” nursing mandate. More and more doctors are recognizing the value of integrating reflexology into their practice through their professional referrals of patients having foot pain (especially plantar fasciitis and neuronal), fibromyalgia, irritable bowel issues, neck and back pain, emotional issues, stress and anxiety and other chronic condition for which they can only offer drugs.
And so from its introduction, Reflexology has been a natural compliment to Western Medicine.
Here’s just a sample of some recent, notable research:
- Funded by two research grants of several million dollars each by the National Cancer Institute, Michigan State University researchers are finding women in the late stages of breast cancer are better able to cope when Reflexology is administered. Michigan State also offers a course in Reflexology through their College of Nursing.
- University Hospital, Barcelona, Spain: Dr. Jesus Manzanares has conducted a study on Reflexology with patients with high blood pressure. His published results suggest that lowered blood pressure resulted in 50% of the patients.
- BJOG, an international Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology - Clinical experience suggests that reflexology may have beneficial effects on the symptoms occurring in menopausal women.
Treatment Session: Relaxation/Restoration
With your shoes off and your eyes closed, you will recline in a zero-gravity chair or on a table while the aroma of lavender scented candles fills the softly lit room. As you recline and settle comfortably, the soothing sounds of a guitar playing softly in the background adds to your tranquil feeling. The reflexologist begins to gently, and sometimes firmly, working the reflex points of your feet. Fairly soon, you begin to feel all the worries of the world slip away and the peace you have been longing for gradually takes hold. As the hour-long session ends, you rise, feeling deeply relaxed and trouble free, wondering aloud, “I can’t remember the last time I felt this good!”
Credentials and Regulating Bodies
The laws for practicing Reflexology are different in each state. Four states (North Dakota, Tennesee, Washington and New Hampshire) mandate the licensing of Reflexology practitioners; 25 states exempt Reflexology from their massage practice acts. To find out what the requirements are to practice Reflexology in your state, check with the Reflexology Association of America (RAA).
There are several institutions that are striving to set standards for the Reflexology discipline.
The RAA and its individual state affiliate associations require their memberships to have attended a school that provided them with a minimum of 200+ hours of curriculum specifically designed for foot, hand and/or ear Reflexology only and all professional members of these groups meet or exceed the RAA’s and their affiliate’s education criteria.
Many reflexologists pursue national board certification through the American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) which is an independent, not-for-profit, national Reflexology testing board, not affiliated with any school, instructor, business or association. The ARCB requires the same minimum standards for Reflexology that the previously mentioned groups do, with an additional, continuing education study requirement. The ARCB also designates their members as National Board Certified Reflexologist (NBCR).
Some Reflexology schools choose to follow the rigorous guidelines established by the American Commission for Accreditation of Reflexology Education and Training (ACARET) which claims to “set the educational standards for the profession of Reflexology” in the US. For a list of ACARET approved educators, find them at http://www.acaret.org/accredited_educators/.
Reflexology sessions are on average $65 to $80 per hour. The style (feet, face or hand) may influence the cost.