Berkshire Life - - Front Page - WORDS: Julie Lu­cas

So much more than a foot mas­sage

Septem­ber marks World Re­flex­ol­ogy Week, so is it time we started look­ing down to feel a lit­tle more up?

Leonardo da Vinci said the hu­man foot is a mas­ter­piece of engi­neer­ing and a work of art. Look­ing down at my feet, I am not sure I would de­scribe them quite as a work of art, but through re­flex­ol­ogy our feet can tell us a lot about our body.

Re­flex­ol­ogy is a non-in­va­sive com­ple­men­tary ther­apy based on the the­ory that dif­fer­ent points on the feet, hands and even ears cor­re­spond with dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the body. We have over 7,000 nerve end­ings in our feet, so it’s not sur­pris­ing that when we tread on some­thing it can hurt. Re­flex­ol­o­gists fol­low a foot map and be­lieve that work­ing these dif­fer­ent points aids re­lax­ation and im­proves well­be­ing.

Its ori­gins are un­known. What is known is that it was used in an­cient Chi­nese medicine and a form of foot ther­apy was used by the Egyp­tians. It reimerged in 1915 when an ar­ti­cle – ‘To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe’ – was pub­lished on the work of Dr Wil­liam Fitzger­ald, and to­day is very much in de­mand.

‘It is very re­lax­ing par­tic­u­larly when so many peo­ple suf­fer from stress,’ ex­plains Ni­cola Hall, chair­man of the Bri­tish Re­flex­ol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion. ‘It’s ex­cel­lent for stress re­lated con­di­tions. It can al­le­vi­ate mi­graines, back aches and hor­monal prob­lems. Clients that come reg­u­larly for main­te­nance find they get very few symp­toms of the menopause.’

Re­flex­ol­o­gists can­not di­ag­nose

spe­cific con­di­tions, but will pick up ar­eas of the body that are ‘out of bal­ance’ by feel­ing the dif­fer­ent re­flex points. This can man­i­fest in dif­fer­ent ways, some­times as pain, sharp­ness or stiff­ness. ‘It gen­er­ally re­lates to some­thing the per­son al­ready knows,’ Ni­cola says. ‘Most peo­ple that turn to re­flex­ol­ogy have al­ready had a med­i­cal di­ag­no­sis be­fore they start. It’s of­ten very good for pain re­lief and help­ing to re­duce in­flam­ma­tion. Those with arthritic con­di­tions may find their joints are a bit more mo­bile af­ter treat­ment and not so painful,’ adds Ni­cola, who has prac­tised for over 40 years. She cred­its the rise in re­flex­ol­ogy with peo­ple be­ing more aware of their health. ‘If peo­ple have had good re­sults they come at in­ter­vals to main­tain their health.’ Of course there could be a placebo ef­fect, but in a 2013 study re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Portsmouth found that peo­ple felt nearly 40 per cent less pain when they used re­flex­ol­ogy as a method of pain re­lief.

Tracey Smith of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­flex­ol­o­gists be­lieves peo­ple are drawn to the holis­tic ther­apy as un­like mas­sage it in­volves lit­tle re­moval of cloth­ing – all you need to do is re­move your socks. It is also face to face so con­ver­sa­tion can eas­ily take place. ‘This can be re­lax­ing and also re­leas­ing, it can be amaz­ing what prob­lems or his­tory can be talked about dur­ing a ses­sion if the client wants to,’ she says. For those who can’t bear their feet be­ing touched, in the past few years fa­cial re­flex­ol­ogy has be­come more pop­u­lar. ‘The face is thought to be par­tic­u­larly use­ful be­cause the nerves are so close to the brain,’ Tracey ex­plains.

Dawn For­tune turned to re­flex­ol­ogy as an al­ter­na­tive when her baby was breach and was told that she would have to have him turned or face a cae­sarean. Af­ter a few ses­sions her baby had turned and she was able to give birth nat­u­rally. She was sold on the ther­apy and de­cided to train as a prac­ti­tioner her­self treat­ing clients from as young as two years.

‘It has achieved amaz­ing things over the years. Peo­ple that can’t sleep are now sleep­ing, pe­ri­ods have re­turned to a pain free cy­cle, peo­ple suf­fer­ing from stress and anx­i­ety learn to re­lax,’ she says.

‘If there is a med­i­cal con­di­tion you need to go to your doc­tor, but re­flex­ol­ogy is be­ing used now quite a lot by the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion for pal­lia­tive care and those with can­cer – it’s a good way of help­ing clients through these stress­ful times where you need to re­lax and heal.’

An Egyp­tian hi­ero­glyphic panel show­ing a form of foot ther­apy

Re­flex­ol­ogy can solve many ail­ments in the body

ABOVE: With thou­sands of nerve end­ings, the foot is a com­plex part of the body

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