September 19-25, 2011 is World Reflexology week, where therapists around the world all celebrate the benefits of good health using reflexology. Reflexologist Emma Gierschick shares her wisdom with Health & Wellbeing.
The feet often get little attention unless there is a problem, they start to ache, become blistered, or develop a deformity such as a bunion, claw toe or heel spur. But the feet are actually one of the most important parts of the body, containing a quarter of all the bones in the body, with each foot comprising of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 50 muscles, tendons or ligaments. The feet work as a shock absorber, are responsible for helping propel us forward, and provide a solid foundation enabling us to stand our ground. A structural flaw or malfunction in any one part of the foot can result in the development of problems elsewhere in the body.
We know how relaxing it feels to have the feet massaged at the end of a long day, but did you realise that by walking barefoot along the beach, along a cobblestone path or even across wet grass there will be a therapeutic effect on the internal organs of the body. This is due to nerve endings or reflexes in the soles of the feet being stimulated at the same time. This is an ancient form of natural healing known as reflexology.
Reflexology is a very simple and safe form of holistic healing. It is based on the premise that various reflex points on the feet, hands and ears represent all the organs, systems, limbs and glands in the body. By stimulating those points with a variety of specialised finger, thumb and knuckle techniques it is believed there will be a direct effect upon the corresponding organ. Reflexology can be likened to a tune up of a car, or an internal body massage it is incredibly relaxing and extremely effective.
Evidence of the feet being worked for therapeutic benefits was first noted in ancient Egypt back in 2500BC, when a pictograph was found on the wall of a physician's tomb. It is also believed that Native American Indians and primitive tribes in Africa traditionally placed significant importance on caring for their feet, believing that if the feet were healthy, the body, mind and spirit would also be in balance.
At the turn of the 19th century reflexology started being recognised in its present form, after ear, nose and throat specialist Dr William Fitzgerald and physiotherapist Eunice Ingham began to experiment by applying pressure to various parts of the feet and hands and recording the effects. The first modern day chart of reflexology was produced shortly afterwards.
According to the principles of reflexology; the left foot represents all the organs, limbs, and glands on the left side of the body while the right foot represents all the organs etc on the right side.
The toes represent the head including the teeth, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, brain while the ball of the foot represents the chest and breast area including the heart and lungs.
The arch of the foot represents all the internal organs of digestion such as the stomach, liver, gall bladder, spleen, while the lower half of the arch represents the intestines and bladder.
The skeletal system is represented on the extremities of the foot, with the spine located along the bony ridge on the inside of the foot running from the top of the big toe to the heel, and the shoulders, arms and hips being located on the outer aspect. The neck is represented at the base of the big toe.
Reflexologists believe that by working on the various regions of the foot, there will be a direct effect on the corresponding organ, limb or body part. In trained hands, imbalances will usually show up as congestion, and may feel like 'crystals' or grit under the skin, while the client may also feel some mild discomfort as the area is being worked on. These areas would usually receive additional attention during a treatment.
Many qualified reflexologists are also trained to read and interpret marks on the feet which can often indicate possible long term health imbalances, emotional issues, injuries or even past surgeries.
The shape, length and placement of toes, the presence of calluses, blotches or deep creases can all be successfully interpreted. For example, horizontal lines crossing the Achilles tendon could indicate possible tightness in the lower back muscles or menstrual cramps, horizontal lines across the lower arch of the foot could indicate a possible sluggish digestive system and bunions could indicate possible neck or shoulder problems.
Knowledge of interpreting these marks can give a therapist valuable insight into the unspoken health of a client and aid the focus of a session. However, it is important to note that practitioners do not diagnose, prescribe or treat specific conditions.
Instead they work all the systems and areas of the body by working through the feet, hands or ears so that the clients own body can take from the treatment what it needs, to activate its own healing ability and bring itself back into balance. In the event where a client has a pre existing or ongoing condition, the practitioner would simply focus more attention on certain reflexes to assist the healing.
Reflexology is often used by many as a preventative or maintenance programme and is suitable for people of all ages, backgrounds and health or fitness levels from babies to the elderly. It is very beneficial for helping with back, neck and muscular/skeletal problems, digestive disorders, reproductive, hormonal or fertility issues, chest or lung conditions and obviously stress.
Reflexology is essentially a standalone therapy. Practitioners are required to train to a Diploma level, under the 2007 Government Health Training package HLT07. Sessions usually last for around one hour with many private health funds offering rebates for the treatment on production of a recognised receipt including the provider number of the qualified practitioner.
Do it yourself tips for work or home
- Invest in a cheap roller to place under the desk, and roll the bare feet over it while working, alternatively use a rolling pin or bottle under the soles of the feet at night to help relieve the tension that has built up during the day.
- Massage the ears or pull on the ear lobes to relieve tension in the back, neck and head, as the spine is represented in the grisly part of the ear and the head reflex is represented on the lobe this definitely puts another slant on ear piercing!
- Run the thumb across the palm of the hand to work on the diaphragm reflex the large muscle located at the bottom of the rib cage, a common site for holding stress and tension. This is a commonly done subconsciously to relax the body.
- Finally twist the foot with both hands, like a cloth is being wrung out to help relieve tension held in the spine reflex, and then massage the base of the big toe to assist with neck strain or tension.
Emma Gierschick is a serving Director on the International Council of Reflexology board and past National President and Honorary Life Member of the Reflexology Association of Australia . She has worked as a senior lecturer for more than 12 years and presented on national and local TV and radio and at conferences and seminars around Australia and overseas. Emma is published in many national and international journals, magazines and other publications.