Updated 25 August 2016

Reflexology: footsteps to health

It feels wonderful to have a reflexologist take your feet in her hands and work her magic. But it’s not only about feeling relaxed – reflexology can also promote healing.

It feels wonderful to have a reflexologist take your feet in her hands and work her magic. But it’s not only about feeling relaxed – reflexology can also relieve pain and promote healing.

Your brain and spinal cord, you may be surprised to know, lie stretched beneath your big toe, your small intestine is curled under the arch of your foot and your ear is cosily cupped below your little toe.

Having someone massage your feet is undoubtedly wonderful – and how much better if all the rubbing and pressing leads to healing and pain relief.

That’s exactly what reflexologists say they can achieve by pressing on the right spots on the soles of your feet to activate the energy pathways (they call them meridians) between the feet and troubled organs.

The reflexes on your feet are a kind of map of the rest of your body, they say. Take a look at the map of a foot below: you’ll see each of the important organs marked on the sole. This is why massaging your big toe will banish a headache and rubbing the tips of your toes will relieve sinus trouble.

Reflexologists the way to go

But not just anyone can rub your feet and achieve these results – reflexologists are trained to know where and how to massage and apply pressure to your feet to help your body heal itself.

Touch is the first language parents and babies use to communicate and it’s no wonder reflexology can also be a safe way to stroke away a baby’s pain or prevent painful conditions. Think of ailments such as colic, teething, asthma, mumps and eczema – there’s a reflex for each of them.

Stress can easily get out of hand in children as well as adults and may result in existing illnesses becoming worse or new ones developing. It’s even claimed 80% of modern disease is stress-related, including asthma, skin problems, tummy and intestinal trouble and all sorts of allergies.

Reflexologists say their treatment allows the body to relax and its systems to achieve a balance. You therefore sleep better, feel less tired and irritable and aren’t as susceptible to headaches. To relieve stress, the hollow beneath the ball of the foot can be massaged. That spot represents the solar plexus, the place where nerves come together.

When it comes to depression, it’s essential to fix chemical or hormonal imbalance by ensuring an even energy flow throughout the body. Massaging the solar plexus reflex in the hollow of the foot and the big toes (which are linked to the brain) can help.

Did you know you can relieve pain by encouraging your body to secrete more endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and stimulants?

This is great news for anyone who suffers from chronic back pain (especially lower back pain), headaches (especially migraine and tension headaches) and many other kinds of pain. Massaging the spinal reflex situated on the inside of the foot can relieve back pain.

Emotional relief is key

Reflexology can also help control cancer patients’ pain. Anyone, irrespective of how healthy or sick they are, will feel better after being touched by someone who listens and shows empathy.

Reflexologists are taught to develop these skills and simple emotional release goes a long way to relieve the anxiety and depression of the seriously ill.

There are many research findings that show reflexology works as a supplementary and alternative treatment – but of course a great deal depends on the personality and skill of the reflexologist concerned.

The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa will help you find a suitable person in your area. This hands-on approach may be just what you need to sort out those niggly aches and pains.

(Written by Erika Kruger and Marian de Jager. This an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the YOU Pulse magazine.)

- (Health24, updated November 2012)

Read more:

The reflexology treatment
DIY reflexology

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