Benefits of Reflexology: My Personal Experience
What You'll Read:
1. My Personal Testimony
While one person's experience can't provide conclusive scientific proof that reflexology really works, I can share what the experience has been like for me. Below, I've shared the health benefits I've reaped since beginning this treatment and some other things that may surprise you.
2. An Interview with a Licensed Reflexologist
Because I wanted to share as much information as possible, I also interviewed my reflexology therapist, Julia Stevens. She answers the most common questions including safety, how often treatments are needed, and so on. Scroll down if you'd like to read this information first.
3. Tips on How to Find a Reflexologist Near You
I've included some links to help you find a reflexology therapist near you, as well as some advice from my own therapist.
My Treatment Experience
My experience with reflexology began in April 2014. I had been suffering from some unpleasant digestion problems since my Mum passed away in June 2007. However, during the winter between 2013 and 2014, my IBS-like symptoms and acid reflux had become much more troublesome.
I did quite extensive research online about these problems as I believe in self-help, using natural remedies and avoiding prescription medications whenever possible. I found a lot of information pointing to reflexology for relief from many problems, including digestive issues.
I decided to explore this further and found a reflexologist in my hometown. Having asked around and hearing very positive feedback about her professionalism and clients' results, I booked my first appointment.
Focus on Foot Reflexology
Since this article is about my own experience, I will only be talking about foot reflexology as this is the type of treatment I received. Some reflexologists also work on hands, lower legs, face, and ears.
What is a Reflexology Consultation Like?
My first session began with a consultation on my health problems, any medication I was taking and general information about reflexology. Right from the beginning, I felt relaxed with my therapist, Julia, who is a very calm, professional and centered person who inspires confidence.
I also felt that her approach was entirely holistic. She was looking at me as a whole person, not just at the symptoms I had told her about. Sadly, just about all you ever have the opportunity for in a ten-minute slot with a general practitioner—especially here in the UK—is to tell him or her the specific problem you are experiencing at the moment.
Each subsequent session of reflexology has begun with a brief recap of my health issues and whether anything has changed since last time. This gives Julia the opportunity to focus more attention on my areas of concern.
What if You're Ticklish?
I was a little concerned about how the treatment would go as I do have ticklish feet! However, I need not have worried. The way your feet are touched by a reflexologist is not tickly at all. Firm pressure is applied to some points and a gentler touch in other areas. It is different from having a massage but the whole experience for me is always very relaxing, soothing and calming.
Why Are Some Reflexology Points Uncomfortable?
I was surprised to find that some points my therapist worked on were quite uncomfortable—enough to make me flinch a couple of times. As I had no idea of which points on the foot corresponded to which parts of the body, I was surprised to learn that the areas where I found this discomfort were those linked to the digestive system, kidneys and urinary tract. Bearing in mind that I had decided to try the treatment because of the digestive system problems I had been experiencing, that really set me thinking!
How Do You Feel After a Treatment?
After my treatment was finished Julia gave me a glass of water to drink while she discussed her findings and what she had worked on specifically. She advised me to relax as much as possible for the rest of the day and drink plenty of water and to let her know how I got on.
I did as instructed, but the following day I had a really bad headache, and I do mean bad! I felt sick with it and painkillers did not touch it. I kept drinking water, and by the evening it had subsided. The following morning, I felt fine.
Julia explained that this was a healing reaction, it is apparently quite unusual to have as severe a reaction as I had, and I have not experienced the same intensity again. I have monthly reflexology treatments now and the only time I have had a headache afterwards is when I have missed a month through being away when Julia visits.
How Reflexology Healed My Digestion
Since my very first reflexologist treatment, my digestive problems have improved immeasurably! I hardly ever have acid reflux or the IBS-type pain, bloating and wind that used to be very frequent. I would continue with reflexology just for this reason, but I have found many other health benefits too. When you read Julia's interview answers and understand a little more about how reflexology works, you will see why I feel it is so important to keep those meridian channels flowing freely and keep the body working at its optimum.
Several times, I have experienced some slight discomfort when she has worked on particular areas of my feet. I made a conscious decision at the beginning not to study the reflexology chart so that I would not be influenced, but the evidence is conclusive for me. For example, in one session where I experienced quite a lot of sensitivity, I asked my therapist and found that the sensitive areas on my feet corresponded to the urinary tract. This surprised me as I had mild cystitis at the time and I had not mentioned this to her before my treatment.
I found the following video quite helpful in explaining the areas of the foot corresponding to parts of the digestive system.
Ask a Reflexologist
Below is an interview with my therapist, Julia Stevens
Thank you to Julia Stevens of Heal and Sole Holistics for allowing me to publish this and for the images she so kindly supplied!
I began the interview by asking Julia a little about herself, how long she has been practicing, what sparked her interest in reflexology and why she had decided to train as a reflexologist.
J: I have been practicing for 2 years. I was ready to change my 26-year career in banking and having always had an interest in complementary therapies and ethical living, I decided this was the route I would like to follow for my second career. I chose to train in reflexology as I was fascinated how points on the feet connect to the whole body.
What is Reflexology and What Are the Benefits?
J: Reflexology is a complementary holistic therapy which works on the feet to help heal and balance the whole body. Reflexology can bring relief to a wide range of conditions; it is deeply relaxing and can help reduce stress and tension.
How and Why Does Reflexology Work?
J: The theory is that reflexology helps the body to restore its balance naturally; there are several theories as to how it actually does this, the main ones being the Meridian Theory and the Nerve Impulse Theory.
The Meridian Theory states that there are channels that run throughout the body, and when they become blocked, the body does not function as efficiently. Blockages can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, emotional issues, illness and trauma.
Through the application of pressure to the reflex points using specific thumb and finger techniques, reflexology aims to release tension and direct the free flow of energy throughout the body to bring about self-healing and normalize the functions of the body.
The Nerve Impulse Theory is similar as nerve pathways throughout the body can become impinged, causing problems. By stimulating the 7,000 nerve endings in the feet, tension and pressure on the nerves are eased, improving the flow of blood and its oxygen-rich nutrients to all parts of the body.
Is Reflexology Safe?
Who can use it?
J: It is safe and can be used on everyone from babies to those receiving end-of-life care.
Are there any situations where, or people for whom, it is not appropriate?
J: If someone has a serious, unstable health condition, you would wait until their condition is stable. Also, you would not treat anyone who has an infectious condition such as flu.
Is it safe during pregnancy?
J: Yes, although it is not normally undertaken during the first trimester.
What is the difference between Reflexology and foot massage?
J: Reflexology is the application of pressure to specific reflex points on the feet using the therapist’s fingers and thumbs. General massaging techniques are often used to relax the feet before a treatment.
What Conditions Can Be Helped?
J: Anything! It can be used on its own or alongside another complementary therapy or traditional medicine. Some people and some conditions respond to reflexology better than others.
What Does Treatment Involve?
J: A full medical history will be requested on your first treatment, and you will be asked to sign a consent form for treatment. You will be asked to remove your socks and shoes and lay down on a massage couch, although treatments can take place in a chair with your feet raised on a foot rest. The reflexologist will work on one foot at a time.
What techniques does a Reflexologist use?
J: Use of various finger and thumb pressure techniques.
Is Reflexology painful?
J: It is not usually painful although some slight discomfort can sometimes be felt on areas where there is an imbalance in the body.
Are there any side effects from this form of therapy?
J: There are no side effects, although sometimes after the first treatment a healing reaction may occur which can take the form of a headache, nausea, cold-like symptoms, lethargy, increased visits to the toilet, deep sleep or feeling more emotional than usual. These symptoms will pass within 12–24 hours.
What can I expect during a session?
J: You will probably feel very relaxed and may even feel like you're asleep. Generally, you are not asleep, just in a deeper state of consciousness. You may feel tingling sensations in your hands and arms.
How long is a session and how often should I have them?
J: A session usually lasts for an hour, although if treating a child or elderly person this is often reduced to half an hour. How often depends on your personal circumstances. If you are looking to treat a particular condition, then weekly sessions may be advisable for a few weeks. If you are looking to maintain your general well-being, then monthly treatments are usual.
How many treatments are needed?
J: This depends on the condition you are treating, how long you have had it and your body's response. Generally more chronic conditions may need six treatments (one each week) followed by monthly treatments to maintain health. Having said that, if one treatment is enough to get a really good response, I would then recommend monthly or six weekly treatments to maintain good health.
Advice For Before and After A Treatment Session
What should I do before a treatment?
J: Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water and take some time to relax if possible.
How can I maximize the benefits of the treatment session?
J: After a treatment, drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and cigarettes for the rest of that day, avoid strenuous exercise and try to relax and get a good night’s sleep. All of these things will aid the healing process.
What should clients expect after treatment?
J: You will probably feel very relaxed, chilled out and possibly tired. Sometimes after the first treatment, a healing reaction may occur which can take the form of a headache, nausea, cold-like symptoms, lethargy, increased visits to the toilet, deep sleep or feeling more emotional than usual. These symptoms will pass within 12-24 hours.
What results can be expected?
J: This depends totally on the individual—how well they react to treatment and/or how good their lifestyle is! With certain conditions, reflexology may need to be used alongside some lifestyle changes such as a well-balanced diet, drinking more water, exercising, taking steps to reduce and relieve stress or reducing orgiving up smoking.
Ready to Get Started?
Why Not Try Reflexology for Yourself?
Alternative, complementary therapies including reflexology are growing in popularity as people come to understand that mainstream medicine does not have all the answers. While reflexologists cannot legally claim to treat or cure any illness, there are so many testimonials like my own that speak to the benefits both physically and emotionally. If you have a health problem and are wondering whether reflexology could benefit you, why not try it for yourself and see?
I will be continuing my monthly sessions with Julia as I have found this to be about the right frequency for me and have definitely noticed a difference if I have missed a session for some reason.
How To Find A Qualified Reflexologist
I asked Julia about how to find a qualified practitioner wherever you live in the world. She said:
Make contact with the main professional reflexology body in your country. They will have a list of qualified therapists. Usually, this information is available on their website. In the UK, this is the Association of Reflexologists which only allows membership to those who have gained certification at a high level of training and who are committed to continued professional development as well as agreeing to abide by their Code of Practice and Ethics.