Looking for a new way to treat your ailments in one fell swoop? Then you might want to try out reflexology, a technique that dates all the way back to ancient China.
Reflexology was pioneered in the west in 1913 by Dr. William Fitzgerald, who insisted that reflex areas on the hands and feet were directly connected to areas and organs in the body--and that tension in certain parts of the foot mirrored problems in other parts of the body.
"It's a complementary therapy, like acupuncture," said Avital Weiss, a reflexologist and certified massage therapist in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "It's designed to heal the person, not just get rid of the symptoms."
Reflexology has been thought to restore and maintain the body's equilibrium--it's also good for counteracting stress, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances, chronic pain, and other problems.
A reflexologist uses her hands to apply pressure to the feet and can detect changes in points on the feet, which may affect a corresponding organ in the body. Reactions after a treatment range from a sense of relaxation to one of lethargy, but it's all part of the process of healing, said Weiss.
"It is a system that helps the body to correct and strengthen itself and it improves nerves and blood supply over time," said Weiss.
A study from the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, Oregon, tested the results of walking on a cobblestone mat--a tradition rooted in reflexology--with 45 minute sessions three times a week over eight weeks. The elderly participants showed an improvement in mental well-being and a reduction in blood pressure and stress levels.
While reflexology is enjoying an introduction to spa environments, Weiss said that "a reflexologist is neither a doctor nor a massage therapist. One of the tenets of reflexology is that we don't prescribe or diagnose, so individuals with persistent pain or chronic disease would be advised to see their doctors."
This is great information. I was reading a book on reflexology and it had said something really gnarly - that when you're feet are massaged or whatever, tiny crystals that have built up over time will dissolve. Like deposits and stuff. It sounded really gross but ... on the other hand... it made a lot of sense.
Another thing it focused on was how shoes have ruined our ability to heal ourselves with our feet. Back in the day, the terrain supposedly got in their and broke up deposits that were blocking things in the body.
Do I believe in it? I don't know. People didn't live that long back then. On the other hand, I can't say I'm going to completely kick it to the curb. After all, a foot massage can be very relaxing.