Reflexology - top feet treats

Sarah-Belle Murphy
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Foot therapies do far more than help you relax. They unblock energy flows, reduce headaches or simply prevent feet ageing.

Rammed into high fashion shoes, exposed to the elements in flimsy flip-flops and danced on for hours on end on the weekends, our feet bear the brunt of our lifestyle and get little thanks for it. Which is a bit of an oversight, considering the nerve endings to all our internal organs are scattered around on our soles. Kick off your heels and give your feet a treat that will benefit the rest of your body too.

Acupuncture

It may sound as much fun as walking over hot coals but an acupuncture session is an effective way to restore a sense of wellbeing. Acupuncture literally means "needle piercing". But before you run for the hills, rest assured it's not at all painful. The needles are hair-thin and are gently inserted into the skin at specific locations known as acupoints. The therapy originated in China more than 2000 years ago and is one of the most commonly practised procedures in the world, so it's certainly no fandangle gimmick of the modern world. While it's not easy to explain, the basic idea is that your body is made up of two opposing and inseparable forces — yin and yang. Yin is our cold or passive side and yang is our hot and excitable streak. The constant friction between the opposing qualities causes blockages in the energy flowing within us, which in turn can lead to ailing health. By targeting some of the 2000 points that connect these meridians (energy pathways) in our body, the blocks are obliterated and balance restored.

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Countless studies have documented the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment, but explaining how it works within a Western medical framework is more of a challenge. The general consensus is that is stimulates the nervous system, which boosts the activity of pain-killing endorphins and builds up the immune system to regulate blood pressure, blood flow and body temperature.

Reflexology

If you cannot face the prospect of needles, opt instead for the less intimidating art of reflexology. Like acupuncture, reflexology goes back thousands of years and is used around the globe. It is based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet that correspond with every part of the body — in effect, our feet reflect our whole being. Don't dismiss this foot-pummelling as a wishy-washy massage; pressure and stretching is applied with precision to the nerve endings in the muscles and soft tissue, which generates signals throughout the nervous system.

The experience of reflexology will vary between individuals but it shouldn't be painful, though it's not uncommon to feel a little discomfort as the practitioner works over more tender areas. As well as being able to improve the state of frayed nerves, regular sessions should tackle general aches and pains, aid digestion and improve sleep patterns, while bolder claims (yet to have the solid evidence to back them up) are that conditions such as asthma, chest pain, heart disease and migraines can also benefit. A session will last on average about 30 minutes, with no need to remove anything other than your socks and shoes — so it's perfect for squeezing into your lunch hour.

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Deluxe pedicure

If it's a more aesthetic course of action you'd like to focus on, skip the regular pedicure and go for something a little more extensive. Sometimes a lick of paint isn't enough to disguise the daily abuse your feet receive. The majority of spas and salons today offer a deluxe or "paraffin" treatment. Far more than a flash name, these pedicures specialise in anti-ageing. The essential skin buffing, cuticle trimming, filing and perfecting are of course included but your skin is also slathered in rejuvenating concoctions. Your feet may not usually feature high on your list of wrinkle concerns, but given Australia's high UV levels, combined with open-toed shoes, extra care is needed — and don't forget your SPF protection either!

Go on, put your best foot forward and sort yourself out with a treatment that will not only help you unwind but will revive, invigorate and even refine your feet.


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