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Reflexology is the application of pressure to areas on the feet (or the hands). Reflexology is generally relaxing and may help alleviate stress.
The theory behind reflexology is that areas of the foot correspond to organs and systems of the body. Pressure applied to the foot is believed to bring relaxation and healing to the corresponding area of the body.
Reflexologists use foot charts to guide them as they apply pressure to specific areas. Reflexology is sometimes combined with other hands-on therapies and may be offered by chiropractors and physical therapists, among others.
Several studies indicate that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as stress and anxiety, and enhance relaxation and sleep. Given that reflexology is also low risk, it can be a reasonable option if you're seeking relaxation and stress relief.
Improves blood circulation:
Due to a sedentary lifestyle, many people don’t use their feet muscles properly, thus impeding good blood flow. Also, tight, pointed shoes–especially high heels–hinder circulation. Ten minutes of foot massage daily helps in transporting oxygen to the body’s cells, which is essential for overall health.
Helps in relaxation:
After a tiring and stressful day, a foot massage is a soothing and relaxing way to relax, particularly after a long day of standing and walking around, as the feet tend to swell up. Massage and reflexology of 5 to 10 minutes before going to bed can improve feelings of general well-being.
Promotes better sleep:
The best time to do foot massage is before going to bed. A soothing and relaxing foot massage improves the blood circulation. This helps in getting a peaceful sleep.
Relieves body pains:
This is the best part of reflexology. If done carefully, it treats pains and aches such as headaches, migraines, neck pain, lower and upper backaches.
Improves mood and fights depression:
Foot massage and reflexology helps in fighting depression. Certain points on the feet are helpful in alleviating depression symptoms. Massaging these points or applying pressure to them for a few minutes 2 or 3 times a day can help relieve symptoms of depression.
Makes feet healthier:
One easy way to help keep your feet healthy and free from foot problems is a regular foot massage. It helps stimulate the muscles around your feet, lessens stiffness and even reduces pain in the ankles or the heels. Plus, a short 5-minute foot massage daily will make your ankles strong and flexible, thus preventing unpleasant ankle and foot injuries.
Alleviates swelling (edema)
Regular foot massage during pregnancy can help reduce the effects of edema, which is swelling in the feet and ankles due to fluid retention. This is very common during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester.
ExtraTip: It has been found that massaging your feet with warm olive oil or coconut oil can give much relief from the pain and inflammation caused by foot tendonitis.
The focus of the session
Regardless of your health condition(s) (for example, migraine, nausea, sciatica, etc.), the reflexologist focuses on the entire pattern of the reflexology therapy, starting at the toes and working down the foot. A complete reflexology therapy session uses many different techniques and includes all of the points on both feet (and perhaps the hands and ears).
By working all of the points, the reflexologist addresses internal organs and glands as well as muscle groups, bones, nerve ganglions (solar plexus, brachial plexus) and nerves (sciatic) during a session.
If you have a specific condition, such as migraines, the reflexologist will carefully feel and work the area corresponding to the presenting problem. However, they will also work all areas of the foot with gentle pressure, because, according to reflexology theories, this allows the nerve pathways and congestion to release and promotes the relaxation response for the entire body.
How pain and discomfort is handled
The first thing to understand is that the reflexologist stimulates the nervous system to do the work of balancing and releasing; it is not the therapist who “fixes” discomfort. In other words, “releasing pain” is not the model; the goal is rather to bring the whole body into balance, and then the pain will subside.
If reflexologists find pain, congestion, or tightness during the session, they will apply pressure to work on bringing the body back into balance.
The reflexologist can return to that area or spot at the end of the session, confirming the pain has released. Throughout the session, the reflexologist will stay present, grounded, and in a calm and centered state of awareness.
What reflexology feels like
Experiences with reflexology sessions vary from a general feeling of relaxation, to a sense of “lightness” or tingling in the body, as well as feelings of warmth, a sense of “opening,” or “energy moving” from the practitioner's pressure to the specific body area or organ. There is often a physical perception of energy flowing through every organ, valve, gland, or muscle, as well as a sense of communication between each body system.
It bears repeating: Reflexologists do not diagnose
Reflexologists do not diagnose or tell you about any congestion or tension they observe on the foot, hand, or ear during a session that may suggest abnormalities.
One of the theories of reflexology is that the body will nurture and repair itself once released from stress. If the body is extremely stressed, the reflexologist may refer you to a medical team or another treatment, if appropriate, but at no time will he or she give medical advice or diagnosis.
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The end of the session
Most reflexologists have some type of calm, peaceful way of closing the session that involves stroking the hand or foot and holding the limb in some manner. The important aspect is for you to feel comforted and nurtured.
Now that the session is complete, you should not feel rushed. Gently bring yourself back into the present moment, and orient yourself. As you feel comfortable, gather yourself and your belongings to leave.
The practitioner may recommend that you drink water, rest if necessary, and pay attention to your body in the next few hours. If any questions or concerns arise, you should be able to call the practitioner.
After a reflexology treatment
Various reactions may occur following a reflexology session. These, too, are subtle, and are often not recognized by many people as a result of the reflexology therapy. Many of the reactions are positive signs that the session is part of a healing process; other symptoms are indicative of the body's attempts to return to a state of balance and harmony. Symptoms usually last for 24-48 hours.
Reactions to reflexology treatment may include:
Scheduling follow-up sessions
The number of sessions varies and is determined by the client's health and reasons for seeking reflexology. But in general, results from reflexology are often subtle and are cumulative. Thus, you are more likely to see greater benefits from regular sessions (for example, once a week for six weeks) than if you had a session once every six months.
If you are dealing with a specific illness or condition, you may need to have more frequent sessions. A general recommendation might be to begin with a session every week for 6-8 weeks, followed by a "tune-up" every four weeks.