2006 January


I have been asked to provide some information on holistic therapies.

Holistic therapists treat the person as a whole; mind, body and spirit. They appreciate the link between the three and the effect that an imbalance in one area e.g., the body can have on the others i.e. mind and spirit and vice versa. This month: REFLEXOLOGY

Thanks to Barbara Townson MICHT for information on the subject.

The history of reflexology:

Foot therapy has been practised since ancient times by peoples from as far apart as the Native American Indians to the Egyptians, Indians and Chinese. Skills have been passed down from generation to generation. Details first began to appear in print in 1582, when a book on the subject of ‘Zone Therapy’ indicated a form of reflex technique practised in central Europe. Modern reflexology has its roots in the work of Dr William Fitzgerald, a medical practitioner in the United States in the early 1900s. He discovered that pressure on one part of the body resulted in numbness in another part - a reflex. He spent many years researching this discovery and finally mapped out ten longitudinal zones on the body. His work was taken up by others including Mrs. Eunice Ingham a physiotherapist. In 1938 she published two books, now combined, which have become one of the most popular reflexology books.

How does it work?

By placing pressure on specific points on the feet, reflexologists claim to stimulate natural healing powers in associated parts of the body. The belief is that the feet and hands mirror or ‘reflect’ the body. The big toe, for example, reflects the head and brain and a reflexologist would work on this to relieve a headache. It is thought that crystalline accumulations of waste products, possibly uric acid and calcium, collect around the reflex points. The more tender the points to the touch, the greater the ‘imbalance’ in the body. The reflexologist tries to breakdown these deposits to free the energy flow along the zones and stimulate the circulation to flush way toxins The combination of massage, pressure and pinching over all parts of the feet, and in some cases the hands, can produce deep relaxation. For this reason if nothing else, reflexology is one of the most popular complimentary therapies, it is found in NHS cancer centres, pain clinics and special care baby units.

What can you expect?

You will need to remove your shoes and socks. You will be sat in a reclining chair with your feet raised. The room will be tranquil and an essential oil burner may be lit. The practitioner first asks you about your health and lifestyle, your feet are examined. The feet may be given a dusting of powder, the reflex points are then massaged, areas of tenderness observed and worked on. Following the treatment you will be relaxed but may notice a worsening of symptoms for a short period, believed to indicate the body removing toxins from the system, this should be followed by a feeling of well-being and increased energy levels.

Is there any proof it works
Ask anyone who has been for a treatment!

There are few proper scientific studies of reflexology. In one US trial published in 1993, reflexology reduced pre-menstrual symptoms by 41 per cent in 35 women . A 1999 Danish trial found 81 per cent of 220 patients with migraine or tension headache reported that reflexology either helped or cured symptoms. Reflexologists are not trained to diagnose or treat specific medical conditions, they are trained to assess imbalances in the client as a whole.

For more information contact a trained therapist who is a member of the Association of Reflexologists. To find out more about the topic and to search for a practitioner in your area visit the web site of the Association of Reflexologists at

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