Reflexology is an effective form of therapeutic foot treatment that aims to treat the client from a mind-body-spirit perspective. Reflexology cannot isolate a disease such as cancer and treat it symptomatically, nor does it work on a problem organ or body system. This treatment works with a focus of inducing a state of balance and harmony. As a holistic therapy, reflexology aims to treat the body, as a whole, and endeavours to get to the root cause of disease and treat the disease rather than the symptoms.
Therapeutic reflexology can be performed in the feet, hands, and ears, but this article will only examine its function with the feet. Corresponding areas on the feet are easier to locate than the eyes, ears, and hands as they cover a larger area and are more specific, making them easier to work on.
Therapeutic reflexology should not be confused with foot massage, as reflexology focuses on specific pressure techniques that work precisely on reflex points on the feet. These reflex points are based on the premise that reflex areas on the feet correspond with all body parts. Since the feet represent a microcosm of the body, organs, glands, and other body parts are mapped out in a similar arrangement on the feet.
For best results, the participation of the client is required; so, clients must be encouraged to take responsibility for their own health. The reflexologist merely facilitates the process. Years of study and practice have concluded that reflexology works on a number of levels – physiological, psychological, and spiritual.
Reflexology is an adjunct to medical care, not a substitute.
REFLEXOLOGY AND THE CLIENT WITH CANCER
One of the most important benefits of reflexology is its efficacy in reducing stress. People diagnosed with cancer carry a large amount of stress. Reflexology can help to alleviate the effects of stress by inducing deep relaxation, thereby allowing the nervous system to function normally, allowing the body to seek its own homeostasis.
Many people have issues with quality of life resulting from cancer treatment; while reflexology is not capable of removing the disease, it does make the client more comfortable and the pain more bearable. A good treatment can help improve the client’s condition significantly, activate excretory organs, stimulate the respiratory system, and help the client achieve better control of bladder and bowels.
Additional conditions experienced by a client during cancer treatment and the recovery period include constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, joint pain, and low energy.
WORKING THE WHOLE BODY
When facilitating a reflexology treatment on the feet, the professional works the whole body, but can spend more time on areas of the feet mentioned below for these specific conditions.
When aiming to relieve constipation, the professional should: Work the solar plexus reflex area for relaxation and to relieve tension, which often contributes to constipation. Work the adrenal gland reflex area to stimulate peristalsis (wavelike contractions of the small intestine and colon that propel food along). Work the gallbladder, liver, colon, and small intestine reflex areas. The liver and gallbladder produce and store bile needed for digestion. Work the tailbone and rectum reflex areas to ease tension in the lower back. The colon and small intestine are enclosed by the pelvis and lower spine and any tension in those areas can affect digestion.
Easing the frequency of diarrhea requires the professional to: Work the colon reflex area as often as possible.
Professionals can do the following to assist the client in getting more rest: Work the solar plexus reflex area on both feet. Work the head and brain reflex areas and brain stem reflex area.
Relieving pain requires a professional to: Work the knee and leg reflex areas where the pain is associated. Work the colon reflex area to help facilitate mobility. Work the adrenal gland reflex area to thoroughly aid in calming inflammation. Work the spine reflex area to relax the vertebrae.
Patients often experience fatigue with cancer treatments; it is also possible that blood sugar levels can be low. The pancreas is involved in regulating blood sugar levels. Work the pancreas reflex area for several minutes.
It is not necessary to apply deep pressure with reflexology. It can be equally as effective through the application of light pressure. For those clients that really cannot handle the deep pressure through pain in the extremities, a light form of pressure is perfect. When working with a client who is severely ill, work only for brief periods of time and apply only light pressure.
POSITION OF THE RELFEXES
Over the years, professionals with experience in reflexology have perceived reflex positions on the feet based on their experience and, therefore, there are slight alterations of the actual positions. This has also resulted in a number of reflexology charts that are very similar, with only subtle differences. Many organs do overlap in the body and are, therefore, the same on these charts.
Knowledge and experience of both reflexology and meridian therapy is powerful. Sometimes meridians may be out of balance instead of the actual organ. The meridians are a network of energy channels or electrical pathways covering the body that are similar to the zones that are traditionally known in reflexology. There are twelve major meridians, each passing through one side of the body and having a mirror image on the other side.
A basic understanding of the meridians can help professionals understand the disease pathways and assist them in pinpointing problem areas. The electric energy running through these meridians is known as” chi.” This energy is derived from the food people eat and the air they breathe and is considered to be the root of life, the vital energy within the body that nourishes body and mind. A healthy diet, exercise, healthy breathing, good posture, and limited stress will maximize chi and ensure a healthy individual. A poor diet, lack of exercise, poor breathing, poor posture, and high levels of stress will deplete chi, causing imbalances within the system that may ultimately result in disease.
READING THE FEET
Skin care professionals that have years of experience using reflexology also have the ability to read the feet. Imbalances in either organs or meridians can be gleaned through a thorough investigation of the feet, both visually and during treatment. Imbalances can manifest by way of thick skin, skin lesions, discoloration, and more.
Reflexology is, for the most part, a very safe, effective way to provide a service to a client diagnosed with cancer. The feet are far from most tumors (abdominal/head neck area) and while relaxation is being induced, the professional is able to look at the client face to face and glean necessary information about medical history.
As a leader in the industry, Morag Currin has spent over 25 years in the wellness industry, researching and learning about cosmetic chemistry, advanced skin analysis, reflexology, aromatherapy, and other modalities. She is the global pioneer for oncology aesthetics and she researches and teaches to inspire therapists who want to make a positive impact on their clients living with cancer. She is the author of Oncology Esthetics: A Practitioner’s Guide (Allured Books 2009 and 2014) and Health Challenged Skin: The Estheticians’ Desk Reference (Allured Books 2012). Her work has appeared in numerous national and international publications. More than an aesthetician, Currin is a sought-after speaker who loves being a trailblazer and continues to reach out to those suffering from a variety of health challenges through equine therapy.