Reflexology / Massage Therapy Foot reflexology is a simple, non-invasive method to help balance the body. It has been described as a natural therapy that requires the application of a specific type of pressure on particular areas of the feet. It is based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet which correspond to every part of the body. Reflexology serves to relax, improve circulation and promote a general feeling of wellness. History of Reflexology Reflexology has been practiced for thousands of years in such places as China, Egypt, and India. In North America, it was Dr. William Fitzgerald, an ear, nose and throat specialist, who first introduced ‘zone therapy’ around the early 1900s. His ideas were advanced by Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist, who developed techniques and a body map of the foot, which later became known as reflexology. Today, reflexology is increasingly becoming a popular form of natural therapy as it provides numerous benefits, particularly one of profound relaxation. How Reflexology Works Foot reflexology quite simply refers to the reflexes that have been mapped out in the foot. There are many different foot reflexology charts that show where the reflexes are for every part of the body. Reflexology is different than massage. It is thought that reflexology works through nerve endings whereas massage is applied to the muscles and soft tissue of the body. The actual technique is quite unique as it is meant to affect the reflex and not just the surface of the skin. A treatment should not be painful, though there may be uncomfortable or tender areas if your body is highly stressed. The more one applies pressure to those areas, the less tender they will become. Benefits of Reflexology relaxation and stress management can aid in the relief of aches, pains and tension can aid digestive and elimination difficulties can help improve sleep patterns can increase mental and physical well being Reflexology Research In the past, Reflexologists could only rely on anecdotal evidence to support their claims of the numerous benefits of this technique. Today, there are many associations and organizations promoting and supporting the work of Reflexologists from around the world. There is also an International Council of Reflexologists which has produced a Research Analysis Document that contains over 300 reflexology research studies, mainly from such places as China, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Even in North America, a study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Some of the research studies examined the effects of reflexology upon certain health conditions such as: asthma, back pain, cancer, chest pain, childbirth, PMS, heart disease, constipation, gout, migraine, headaches, multiple sclerosis, and nervous exhaustion. Therapeutic Massage There are so many healthy benefits to receiving massage therapy on a regular basis: Relieves Stress Encourages Relaxation Improves Posture Improves Circulation Lowers Blood Pressure Helps Manage Pain Relaxes Muscles Improves Flexibility and Range of Motion Relieves Tension-Related Headaches Strengthens The Immune System Enhances Post-Operative Rehabilitation Improves Rehabilitation After Injury Recent scientific research also proves that massage therapy increases immune function, decreases stress levels and reduces recovery time in many medical conditions including: Allergies Depression and Anxiety Arthritis Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Asthma and Bronchitis Circulatory Problems Insomnia Sports Injuries Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ) Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Musculo-Skeletal Disorders Lymph Drainage a special form of therapeutic massage to treat specific circulatory problems Shiatsu Shiatsu (指圧 Japanese from shi, meaning finger, and atsu, meaning pressure) is a traditional hands-on therapy originating in Japan. There are two main Shiatsu schools; one based on western anatomical and physiological theory and the other based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Shiatsu is regulated as a licensed medical therapy in Japan by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and elsewhere by various governing bodies set up by Shiatsu practitioners. Shiatsu is an evolving form, and its various styles incorporate (to differing degrees) aspects of Japanese massage traditions, Chinese Medicine practice, and “Western” anatomy and physiology. Shiatsu has many benefits, but the most generally accepted are that it: Promotes General Well-Being Reduces the Effects of Stress Promotes Relaxation Calms the Mind Improves Circulation & Lowers Blood Pressure Relieves General Muscle Tension & Pain Aids Joint Mobility Swedish massage Swedish massage was developed in the Eighteenth century by a Swedish master in fencing and is thought to have been the first organized and systematic method of modern massage in the western world. The specific strokes and manipulations of Swedish massage are each conceived as having definite therapeutic benefits as it stretches the ligaments and tendons, keeping them pliable. Swedish massage stimulates the skin and nervous system and soothes the nervous themselves at the same time. It reduces stress, both emotional and physical, and is suggested in a regular program for stress management. It also has many specific medical uses. Injuries and muscular strain have a shorter healing time because the massage causes lactic acid, uric acid and other metabolic waste to be flushed from the body. Swedish massage includes long strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, and shaking motions. It is effective for most ailments, because massaging the skin, the body’s largest organ, sets up a chain reaction that produces a positive effect on all layers and systems of the body. It affects the nervous, muscles, glands, and circulation, while promoting health and well being. Stone Massage A stone massage uses stones, sometimes heated, to massage the body. The hardness of the stones allows the therapist to address specific problem areas with more detailed work or deeper pressure. Basalt stones of various sizes, shapes and weights are used throughout and heated in water. Technique The stones are used in two ways during the massage. One is to impart heat onto the body by laying stones under the client with a layer of fabric between the client and stone (a sheet or towel) and/or on top of the client, again upon a towel. Stone layout typically will be along both sides of the spine, or along the chakra centers on top and baseball sized stones would be placed in the hands. While these layout stones are delivering concentrated centers of heat, the therapist is simultaneously massaging the client with oiled, heated stones held in the palm of the hand with firm strokes along the muscles of the legs, arms, and torso areas. An authentic hot stone massage is not simply the “gliding” of heated stones lightly upon the surface of the skin, but rather the stones are used as tools to deliver effective tissue and muscle massage at a pressure level comfortable to the client. The client can request light, medium or deep pressure, which is the beauty of the hot stone massage technique. It can be customized in an instant to the request of the client. The hardness of the stones makes for a deep tissue massage and is easy on the joints of the therapists hands. The heat from the stones relaxes muscles, increase the blood flow to the area being worked on which further accelerates the healing process. This increase in circulation and the relaxation of the muscles also aids in mental relaxation. Mental relaxation is key when a Therapist is attempting to work into deeper muscles of the body. Stones need to be kept heated in clean, sanitized water between 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (about 50°C). Typically, gloves, tools, or mesh bags are used in removing stones from the hot water for sanitary reasons since hot water promotes the growth of bacteria. Alternatively, water temperatures kept too low may allow the proliferation of bacteria, algae, and mold, especially if the water has not been changed. Ideally the water should be changed for every round of sessions the therapist performs, the stone should be thoroughly cleaned and dried between patients. Your therapist or practitioner should have attended an intensive course over a period of a few days, with a resultant qualification. While the length of time the practitioner has spent being trained can be important, in general a recognized qualification from a reputable practical training source is preferred. Beneficial effects Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state anxiety. Theories behind what massage might do include blocking nociception (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep but such effects are yet to be supported by well designed clinical studies. Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a “sham” manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.