Reflexology for Orthopedic Conditions
Broken Bones and Joints Can Recover
Several years ago I received a free trial treatment of reflexology after the cast removal from a compound fracture that was accompanied by a sprain and strain to the ankle. It was difficult to walk and I was pleasantly surprised by the huge amount of flexibility I recovered with just one session of reflexology. In fact, I was able to walk again, without a mobility aid.
The reflexology treatment worked so well that I needed no further treatments of any kind. I continued to walk farther each day and the ankle continued to heal well.
It is reasonable to think that reflexology, a type of massage and trigger point therapy that works in the same manner as acupressure, might work very well in cases of joint damage and muscle stiffness.
The question of efficacy enters when considering the treatment effects experienced in other physical conditions besides broken bones and stiff joints. Numerous studies have shown various and opposing results, but the Mayo Clinic has written that reflexology may have some benefit. By my experience, it certainly does!
Finding the Facts
Anyone that wants to try it should not be discouraged by others who may feel that reflexology is "quackery." It is a form of massage and the research literature shows great positive effects in massage treatments.
If the application of this complimentary alternative treatment can lower healthcare costs and the use of both prescription and over-use of pain medications, then reflexology proves itself effective.
Some individuals suspect alternative therapies to be a part of a system that is in direct opposition to their faith and religious beliefs. Persons with related concerns are best advised to interview alternative health practitioners and decide for themselves before submitting to any treatment, allopathic or alternative, for that matter.
Patients should not be discouraged from pursuing alternative and complimentary medicine, but neither should they be forced to accept any treatment against their informed wishes.
Reflexology and Massage
At the same time, nursing instructors have informed me that nursing students were once taught massage therapy as part of their LPN and RN training programs, but no more. I feel that it should be continued.
Massage provides such a number of benefits, that perhaps massage should be reinstalled as part of the nursing curriculum nationwide. In fact, an enlightening conference presentation from a massage patient in 2005 at the Columbus, Ohio Annual Health Fair showed how daily foot and leg massage helped her after suffering two broken ankles in a fall. She was in her late 40s and was expected to require several weeks or months to recover fully, but she recovered much more quickly.
Several women from her church visited her daily to provide company and to massage both of her feet, ankles, and legs. Within about four weeks, this patient was fully recovered and back to work without mobility aides. This is but one example, but it presents a good testimony for massage in a case of bilateral ankle breaks.
The massage that is known as "Medical Massage," "Swedish Massage," or "Deep Tissue Massage" is accepted as useful and effective for a number of conditions throughout the U.S. Reflexology, at least in its mechanics, is a similar type of deep tissue massage that includes trigger-point therapy, which I have used successfully. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity of receiving additional training through workshops in Swedish massage by a long-time area professional.
Reflexology is Recommended to Medicaid and Medicare Patients
- ARCB - American Reflexology Certification Board
A non-profit corporation founded in 1991, their website offers information about education and Testing, and links to certified Relexology Schools.
- British Reflexology Association & Bayly School
Important history, information, and referrals. Named after Dr. Doreen Blayly.
- NIH Alternative and Complimentary Health - Massage Therapy: An Introduction
General overview of massage therapy (including reflexology amd acupressure) and sources for additional information. From the US National Institutes of Health.
Some Benefits of Reflexology
Simple Explation of Foot-Body Correlations
Who Invented Reflexology?
I have heard lecturers point to the introduction of reflexology techniques in the early 20th century and later in a New Age Movement. However, the British Reflexology Association (BRA), founded in 1985, states that reflexology was first introduced by ancient Chinese and the Egyptians.
This is unsurprising, since Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) and Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM) and ancient Egyptian medical systems incorporated some of the same techniques.
BRA also states that what we may call Modern Reflexology began as the work of Ms. Eunice Ingham, an American that called it Zone Therapy, but which had actually begun even earlier in the Roaring Twenties by her countryman, William Fitzgerald, MD, who is often credited for the whole system. In the UK, the work was further developed in the 1960s by Ms. Doreen Bayly. Thus, many men and women developed reflexology.
Other personalities in other countries no doubt have added their expertise to refining the system. In fact, it is also known as Thai Foot Massage. It has also been traced to Japan, Africa, and a small number of Native North American Nations.
How Does it Work?
Reflex areas on the soles of the feet are felt to be connected to other body parts and systems. Stimulating those reflex areas with pressure (acupressure) and massage creates positive results. Various charts for the hands and feet, their reflex areas, and what body systems they may affect are available online and in textbooks for accredited courses.
Additional Uses of Reflexology
Reflexology, which applies to the hands as well as to the feet, is said to affect a number of health conditions in a positive way, although conflicting evidence has arisen. It may be a matter of individual differences, certain treatments working for certain individuals.
A partial list of conditions for which reflexology has been used includes:
- Cancer pain
- Childbirth pain
- Circulatory system issues: angina, high blood pressure, stroke
- Immune responses
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sciatica and other back and joint pain
- Stress and anxiety
- Regular use enhances circulation of blood and lymph systems, which can aide in any healing process.
Consult your healthcare professional before undertaking a regime of reflexology or other alternative health treatments—some health practitioners feel that reflexology should not be used in cases of pregnancy and diabetes, for instance.
Another thought is that since relaxation increases the body's efficient use of medications (requiring smaller amounts), then a reflexology treatment that reduces stress and tension may produce similar results. Ask your healthcare professional for his or her opinion.
- Acupressure's Potent Points by Michael Reed Gach; 1990.
- Complete Reflexology for Life by Barbara Kunz; 2009.
- Foot Reflexology Therapy System by Meng Chung E.; 2009, 2013.
Seminars and Workshops
- Acupressure Seminar provided by Industrial Commission of Ohio, Division of Workers Compensation; 1989.
- Ongoing Professional Development training in Eastern Medicine provided by Haas Martial Arts Schools; 1998 - 2000.
- Ongoing Professional Development training in Eastern Medicine provided by Yang Institute; 1982 - 1989.
- Preventive Medicine Curriculum, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine; 1994.
- Treatment sessions for myself with reflexology; 2003.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Is it OK for me to have reflexology after broken hip?
Since each case of surgery and recovery for a broken hip is different, please ask your healthcare provider your question. I will say that one session of reflexology completely released the stiffness of my ankle after surgery.
© 2010 Patty Inglish MS