Body Sense

SPRING | 2019

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Reflexology More than just foot massage By Adrianne L. Fahey Ask most massage clients if they've ever experienced reflexology, and many will say, "Sure. Isn't that just a fancier name for foot massage? Aren't they one and the same?" As any certified reflexologist will tell you, the two are very different. Reflexology and massage are two distinct disciplines with their own definitions, scopes of practice, and techniques. WHAT IS REFLEXOLOGY? Reflexology is a protocol of manual techniques, such as "thumb- and finger-walking," applied to specific reflex areas predominantly on the feet and hands. These reflex areas, which are also found on the outer ear, correspond to specific areas of the body. For example, the reflex areas found in the center of the foot (the arch) represent the organs, glands, and tissue found in the center of the body—from the ribs to the hips. Reflexology techniques stimulate the complex neural pathways linking body systems and support the body's efforts to function optimally by promoting a relaxation response via the nervous system. This encourages the body to seek balance and, in so doing, assists the body to function more efficiently. Unlike massage, reflexology clients are not required to remove any clothing other than footwear for a session. Where massage works with the structure of the body, reflexology works with the function of the body. Massage primarily changes the soft tissue that is being addressed; reflexology works to improve the function of organs, glands, and all systems of the body. Precautions While reflexology is deemed safe in most instances, certain contraindications to reflexology exist, in which case it should not be administered. They include: • Acute infectious fevers and diseases • Acute inflammations of the venous and lymphatic systems • Gangrene and extensive fungal infections of the feet • Conditions where surgery is indicated • Fractures of any of the bones of the hands or feet • High-risk pregnancies BENEFITS OF REFLEXOLOGY According to Karen Ball, past president of the Reflexology Association of America, reflexology focuses on reflexes corresponding to stressed organs and glands, not on the connective tissue of the body like massage. And although the benefits of reflexology include relaxation of body and mind, its primary goal is to support the well-being of the body's internal systems. The effectiveness of reflexology is recognized worldwide by various national health institutions (most notably the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health). The first-ever reflexology research study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, in 1993, demonstrated that ear, hand, and foot reflexology were useful in the treatment of both psychological and physical symptoms associated with PMS. More recently, two studies looked at the effects of reflexology on breast cancer patients. Results found reflexology to be safe and of benefit to breast cancer patients by improving their ability to function in everyday activities, such as walking up a flight of stairs or carrying a bag of groceries, and in reducing pain and fatigue, among other symptoms. 6 Body Sense

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