It’s likely you’ve heard of reflexology but don’t fully understand what it is – or does. Performed in a gentle and relaxing manner, this ancient practice is a great way to de-stress and give your body a quiet respite. But this is only the tip of the iceberg in explaining the many benefits you’ll enjoy, especially in the hands of an experienced staff member at Backstage Salon + Spa in Rowley, MA.
What Are the Benefits of Reflexology?
Let’s start by explaining the nature of this practice – a distinctive category of massage in which a therapist applies different degrees of pressure to the hands, ears, or feet. The feet are a particular focus because of the nearly 15,000 nerves found there; these also explain why a foot rub is so enjoyable.
What we now have to say will make a bit more sense. For starters, reflexology (RF) is shown to positively impact sleep by easing anxiety and stress, relaxing the body and mind, and reducing pain (more on this in a moment). These effects account for changes in the body that closely mimic light sleep patterns. A clinical study even found that after 35 minutes of RF, most participants showed brain wave activity similar to sleep stages one and two.
Improved Sleep Quality
RF doesn’t only induce a sleepy feeling so you rest well; it also improves sleep quality so that, in the morning, you feel less tired. The symptoms of insomnia are similarly erased, especially when combined with sound sleep hygiene practices that include:
- Maintaining a consistent bedtime
- Avoiding excessive light exposure
- Maintaining a dark and quiet bedroom free of electronics
- Eating well and regularly exercising
Stronger Immune System
The immune system is not a compartmentalized portion of the body, but rather a network of cells, tissues, and organs that shield the body against bacteria and other external pathogens. What does this system have to do with the feet? Plenty. During a reflexology session, the organs that comprise this system are stimulated with pressure applied to specific points on the feet.
This pressure helps boost circulation to feed these organs with crucial nutrients, including oxygen. They in turn work more effectively to better protect the body. Stress must also be considered when discussing the immune system. Its presence leads to weaker immune responses, but RF helps wipe away stress and tension. Again, this improves blood flow as well as lymph circulation to pull toxins from the body’s tissues so they function optimally.
Detoxify Your Body
Just a moment ago we talked about toxins as they relate to the immune system, but these also need to be discussed in a broader sense. Symptoms like aches, pains, sluggish digestion, and mental fatigue can collectively suggest your body is on toxic overload. Consider what we each face every day:
- Environmental pollution
- Food additives
At a certain point, toxins accumulate because the liver can’t keep pace with removing them. While drinking plenty of water and maintaining an active lifestyle helps, RF provides a much more efficient solution. It stimulates energy flow through organs known to remove impurities, including the skin, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Targeting these organs in a single treatment can give you clearer skin, better mental clarity, and more energy.
Renewed Pep in Your Step
We’re going to stay on the topic of energy for a bit longer. As a branch of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), reflexology considers the kidneys to be the “root of life.” In other words, they serve as reservoirs for energy, and when kidney function is low, the body experiences an overall lack of energy. Factors that deplete the kidneys include:
- Lack of sleep
- Too much work
Massaging the kidney point, located almost directly in the center of the foot, restores the organ’s natural function and encourages higher energy levels. The thyroid and adrenal points, also located on the bottom of the feet, can be similarly beneficial for providing you with more vitality.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is not an isolated event, nor does it occur randomly. A root cause is always to blame, meaning your body is trying to tell you something. Medication can help, but it doesn’t get to the source of the condition. RF, on the other hand, stimulates blood circulation; it also targets the heart and other organs to naturally and effectively lower your blood pressure.
Stop Headaches and Migraines
Now is as good a time as any to broach the subject of Qi (pronounced chee), or life force. TCM views health from a whole body perspective and is especially concerned with the flow of Qi from your feet to your head. Any blockage or disruption, such as that caused by overeating, stops the free movement of Qi and puts the body into a state of dysfunction.
Qi flowing through the head in unstable patterns leads to a headache. Too much causes intense stabbing and/or pounding pain, while too little causes dull, chronic pain. In both cases, reflexology can be used to unblock Qi so it once more flows freely. This brings the body back into a state of balance, free of the symptoms most of us “learn to live with” each day.
Earlier we said that RF can reduce pain. Here, we’re going to give this topic the attention it deserves. Studies suggest RF may work as effectively as painkillers when used to treat the pain associated with certain cancers, backache, joint pain, and osteoarthritis. For instance, in one study conducted by UK researchers, participants were able to keep their hands submerged in ice water for longer after receiving a session of reflexology.
While the connection between RF and pain relief is not perfectly understood, researchers believe treatment may prompt the brain to release chemicals that reduce pain signals. Treatment may also stimulate nerves in a way that interrupts pain signals from traversing the body. The point is that whether you choose to use RF to complement other therapies or as a stand-alone treatment, you can look forward to greater physical comfort.
Although often considered to be separate, the mind and body are deeply and intricately connected. Once we experience an emotion, the nervous system activates and, in the case of stress or anxiety, blood pressure rises and the heart beats more quickly. Stress also promotes the production and release of corticosterone, which may explain why depressed people have higher levels of this hormone.
RF is proven to be highly effective in releasing stress and tension (we discussed this earlier). It can also unblock energy flow, improve blood circulation, and remove lactic acid build-up. These effects help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety to promote a greater sense of well-being.
A Treatment with a Long History
The ancient practice of RF can be traced to China, Egypt, and indigenous North American cultures. The book Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine was written in China around 1000 BC and contains a chapter on examining feet. It also features the earliest print discussions about pressure points found on the feet.
Much later, in the 14th century, Marco Polo is thought to have translated a Chinese massage book into Italian. This brought the concepts of massage and reflexology to Europe. And again, jumping ahead, William H. Fitzgerald, MD, of the United States wrote of his knowledge of pressure points in 1917. Providers continued to expand upon his work and designed maps and RF charts still in use today.
RF tells us the bottom of both feet are tied to the central nervous system. By dividing each foot into different zones, nerves relative to specific body organs can then be stimulated. This is why the maps and charts referenced earlier are so important; they show us which zone connects to which body parts.
The left foot correlates to the body’s left side and all its organs, while the right foot does the same for the right side. Your second and third toes connect to the eyes and remaining toes relate to the sinuses, teeth, and head. And in the middle of each foot, pressure points exist to help with stomach and digestive issues. This is just a small sampling of how foot zones link to the rest of the body.
A Word on Qi
TCM tells us that Qi gives life to everything, and while we often think of this element as energy, it also encompasses function and intelligence. Every organ and tissue has its own Qi – or purpose and function – and while the body is interconnected, each component must work well on its own for the whole to be operative. Individual organs must also be in harmony with each other, which explains the need for balance in the body.
RF is a simple but powerful tool that helps maintain balance by opening Qi channels. Yes, this allows energy to move more freely, but because Qi also encompasses function, RF additionally restores purpose. Keep in mind that when part of the body isn’t functioning well, the rest tries to compensate and grows weak and fatigued. This is why so many symptoms can be corrected with just one RF session: it targets the whole body.
What to Expect from Treatment
Your appointment can be scheduled for 30 or 60 minutes, and you simply sit or lie down with your socks and shoes off. You can talk or rest during this time as you wish; some patients fall asleep, and if you do, you’ll still receive the benefits offered by treatment.
Regardless of your reason for scheduling the session – to relax, ease migraine frequency, or address other concerns – we focus on the whole foot to restore balance throughout your body. If you have a specific condition, such as slow digestion, we can carefully work the area that corresponds to that body part. But, again, we’ll also work other areas of both feet to relieve unknown energy blocks and promote relaxation.
Patients report feeling a range of sensations after RF, from a sense of lightness and tingling to warmth and more energy. Many people also report improved sleep and pain relief. To continue experiencing these benefits, we can develop a schedule for you to come in for regular “tune-up” sessions.
Give Yourself Some Much-Needed Relaxation
Whether you want to detoxify your body, ease pain, or add a little more energy to your day, RF can help. You also get the added benefit of “me” time in which you can relax and let one of our staff members take care of you. Schedule your appointment today by contacting Backstage Salon + Spa in Rowley, MA.