The ancient Chinese practice of reflexology, a manual therapy focusing on the feet. Reflexologists believe that different areas on your feet and hands correspond to other parts of your body, and massaging them stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system to heal itself.
For 3,000 years Chinese practitioners have used reflexology to re-balance Qi (the life force flowing through energy channels) to treat a number of conditions. 'The Chinese believe that reflexology stimulates the body into healing itself by improving circulation, reducing stress, pain and restoring natural balance. to promote healing and improve wellbeing and vitality.
Reflexology is based on the Chinese principle that certain areas on the soles of your feet or hands – known as reflex zones – containing millions of nerve endings, correspond to other parts of the body.
'Around 3,000 years ago, Asian practitioners were massaging hands and feet applying pressure to certain points to stimulate organs, nerve endings and energy pathways to promote health,'
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'It can boost a sluggish circulation and is useful for treating stress, anxiety, back pain, migraine, poor digestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), respiratory problems, asthma, headache, bladder problems, menopausal symptoms and period pain.
My clients comment that being able to zone out for an hour enjoying a relaxing massage has a positive psychological impact on their wellbeing, while pregnant women find that reflexology relieves the pressure on their legs and feet.'
Some Trusts will fund reflexology for certain conditions, although currently NHS access to this therapy is limited and most people pay privately.
'Since 2003, NICE has approved reflexology as a pain relieving treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS)
'Although little research has been done to prove that reflexology works to relieve the pain caused by MS, patients tell us that it does and often book further sessions.'
An Israeli study of 71 randomised MS patients backs this up. It reported that many patients' motor, sensory and urinary problems improved after eleven weeks of reflexology.
Chinese doctors believe that our bodies are composed of the opposing forces of Yin and Yang that need to work in harmony for us to achieve health and vitality.
'In Chinese medicine, reflexology works on a similar principle to acupuncture where the body is divided into 12 pairs of energy zones (Meridians),' explains O'Connell.
'Chinese practitioners believe that when these energy channels become blocked a person feels unwell.
'Both reflexology and acupuncture aim to dissolve any blockages causing ill-health by encouraging the free flow of vital energy through the body.'
Whilst acupuncture focuses on points along the Meridians, situated all over the body, and stimulates them with needles, reflexology focuses on the Meridians in the feet and works on them with finger pressures and is useful for people with needle phobias.
However, the therapy is not suitable for everyone and shouldn't be used by people who suffer from verrucas or athlete's foot, osteoporosis, a recently broken or fractured bone in your ankle or foot, or broken skin.