Help, only a foot away!

DO YOU suffer from constant headaches, insomnia, back pains or digestive disturbances? Help is only a few feet away! Yes, foot massage, reflexology or zone therapy may be all that you need to rid yourself of these nagging, often stress-induced, problems.

By Chitra Ramaswamy (Contributor)

Published: Wed 2 May 2007, 10:41 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:29 AM

Reflexology is a form of massage in which pressure is applied to certain parts of the feet and hands (most often, the feet) to relax the body and heal any of its organs, glands or other structures. The therapy works on the feet to help heal the whole person, not just the prevailing symptoms. It is based on the scientific premise that the feet and hands are mirror images of the entire body and that they are connected to every part of the body through the nervous system. Hence body balance is restored when specific reflex points in the feet or hands are stimulated, explains reflexologist Lizeh Hasan of Essensuals, Dubai.

Although reflexology has been practiced since ancient times in Egypt, China and India, it was founded as a scientific therapy only in 1915 by Dr.William Fitzgerald, an American ENT specialist. He termed it as zone therapy. Physiotherapist Eunice Ingham later refined the therapy in 1930 and called it reflexology. She observed that congestion or tension in any part of the foot mirrored the very phenomena in a corresponding part of the body. Hence treating the relevant area of the feet could decongest the affected organs or tissues in the body.

For example, the tip of the toes reflect the head, the arch of the foot corresponds to the kidneys, liver and pancreas, the ball of the foot represents the chest and heart regions, the heel area corresponds to the low back and intestines. Pressure applied to the feet generates a signal through the peripheral nervous system from where it enters the central nervous system. Here it is processed in various parts of the brain and then relayed to the internal organs to effect the necessary adjustments wherever required. By the same logic chemicals such as endorphins are released which lead to reduced pain and stress, thereby setting the healing process in motion.

Most clients who seek reflexology sessions are victims of high levels of stress and tension that has come to characterise today’s living, says Lizeh. Needless to say, the therapy helps them on all three planes — physical, mental and emotional, by enhancing blood circulation, by oxygenating all cells of the body, by stimulating the lymphatic system to rid the body of all the accumulated toxins. It thus helps to energise and de-stress the individual, by restoring harmony and activates the organs and systems of the body to function properly. By restoring the body’s natural equilibrium, reflexology helps individuals who suffer from stress and related conditions, digestive disorders, different kinds of headaches including migraine, arthritis, back problems, menstrual disorders including PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome) and insomnia, to name a few.

Reflexology can treat a range of health problems, independently of any other system of medicine. However, it should not be treated as a substitute for conventional medicine, emphasizes Lizeh. 'We do not claim reflexology to be an alternative therapy. But we believe it can complement the conventional system of medicine and that it is compatible with all other forms of therapeutic systems. For instance, reflexology may be highly beneficial and even self sufficient in the initial stages of hypertension, diabetes or cardiac conditions. But once these conditions have set in, alongside conventional medication, reflexology may be used to keep the blood pressure or sugar levels in check. Similarly, reflexology will not fix fractures or dislocated bones or conditions that necessarily require surgery. However, in these situations, regular use of reflexology will enhance the main line of treatment by keeping the circulation stimulated and the lymph system active, thus hastening the healing process.'

Reflexology has proved beneficial in the case of mentally challenged and autistic individuals. It helps calm aggressive and violent tendencies in them and enables them to interact better socially. However, it is more the "touch" and contact of the therapist that helps these cases, emphasises Lizeh. 'Reflexology helps calm even the normal adults who are prone to undue anger and aggression and exhibit quarrelsome, garrulous behaviour with family, friends or even at work.'

Reflexology is not recommended for pregnant women, particularly in the first trimester. However, the therapy is immensely beneficial for women close to labour since it eases the process and makes for safe delivery. The therapy is also not advised for epileptics, people with foot infections and patients with serious health problems including uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension or cardiac problems and cancer.

A typical reflexology session lasts for between 40 minutes to an hour. A six weekly course of one session per week is the normal recommendation though this may be extended depending upon the intensity, frequency and chronicity of a person’s condition. It is absolutely necessary to maintain a minimum interval of four days between one session and the next so as to allow the body to detoxify itself. After a session or two, most individuals observe a sense of well being and relaxation. Some people may complain of feeling lethargic, sleepy or nauseous. But these are not signs to be feared since they are temporary and reflect the body’s response to the therapy, indicating that the healing process is taking place.

Clients are advised to take plenty of water following therapy to enable flushing of toxins from the body, to abstain from eating spicy food, drinking and smoking, at least for 24 hours following therapy. Also, they are advised to go slow on any exercise regimen and pay heed to the body’s signal and not push themselves beyond their limit.

However, once such a course is completed for a specific condition, people usually find it useful to continue with regular treatments in order to maintain general well being and also as a preventive against disease condition.The therapy is also a preventive since it strengthens the body’s immune system and healing capacity, both to fight infection and to help patients recuperate from chronic conditions. Since it promotes good health, even healthy individuals can have periodic reflexology sessions to keep themselves fit, opines Lizeh.

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