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Reflexology

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Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American, discovered that some of his patients were able to reduce pain by applying pressure at certain points. Dr. Fitzgerald became the founder of zone therapy, the basis of modern reflexology. Zone therapy divides the body into ten vertical slices (zones) from head to toe.

Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American, discovered that some of his patients were able to reduce pain by applying pressure at certain points. Dr. Fitzgerald became the founder of zone therapy, the basis of modern reflexology. Zone therapy divides the body into ten vertical slices (zones) from head to toe. Each zone has a corresponding finger and toe, and all body parts in the same zone are linked.

Reflexology uses therapeutic pressure on the foot's reflex points to enhance the body's natural healing mechanism and balance body functions. It is based on the principle that internal glands and organs can be influenced by properly applying pressure to the corresponding reflex area on the foot. When balance is achieved, health is achieved. Hand reflexology, though reflexes are not as sensitive as those in the feet, can be used especially in cases of an injured or missing foot or for self-treatment. Reflexology lends itself to use with all natural therapies, including naturopathy, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, herbs, external therapies, deep breathing and diet.

A reflex is an automatic response to a stimulant. Stimulating a foot reflex results in electrochemical nerve impulses, and has a direct effect on the associated body organ, gland or part. All body parts map to the feet the soles, tops, bottoms and sides in a logical pattern that follows the layout of the body.

Correct stimulation results in improved health since it enhances the body's natural healing powers by revitalizing energy flow, relaxing the body and improving circulation, which has a cleansing effect. Working on the foot's reflexes enhances vitality by breaking down congestion and crystallized calcium deposits which impede blood and energy flow.

Reflexology helps induce deep relaxation, reduce stress, relieve pain, stimulate the organs of eliminative and respiration, improve circulation, revitalize energy, improve nerve functioning and balance the body. Reflexology may help in the removal of kidney stones, and improve conditions like asthma and sinus problems, as well as a wide variety of other problems. It can be used to maintain health, prevent and treat illness at any age. Elderly people can benefit from a twice-monthly treatment to keep their bodies toned and balanced. Reflexology should not be used for those with severe foot problems, osteoporosis and decalcification, acute infectious fevers and diseases, or severe inflammation of circulatory and lymphatic systems. Although reflexology cannot diagnose a disease, it can, by determining tender areas on the foot, indicate unbalanced organs, glands and body parts.

Reflexology at Home

Self-treatment is beneficial for general health, as a preventive, and for first aid. Reaching the feet may be difficult for some, in which case, it may be difficult to completely relax when self-treating. Have a friend or family member assist you. It will strengthen your relationship, as well as your body. Hand reflexology is also beneficial for self-help. Be sure to do background reading before you start self-treatment.

Sit cross-legged, put one foot on the opposite knee and provide support for your back. Pay close attention to tender spots. A painful reflex often suggests an underlying health problem.

It is important to support the foot properly with the other hand in order to correctly master the pressure techniques. The support hand should always stay close to the working hand.
There are four basic techniques:

  • Thumb walking "walk" the thumbs forward with the tip and ball of the thumbs alternately.
  • Rotation gently rotate the thumb or finger on the reflex.
  • Milking using both thumbs, gently but firmly stroke the skin as though squeezing a tube of toothpaste.
  • Feathering use thumb over thumb, or finger over finger, to "feather" stroke the skin in a soothing, rhythmic manner.

To begin, start with deep thumb pressure moving slowly across the foot, with walking motions of the thumb, moving forward about a quarter of an inch at a time. If you hit a particularly painful area, massage it with deep thumb pressure for ten seconds, then move on. You can always come back later, and work on the same area until the pain subsides. You should work the entire foot, sole, sides and top of foot, always returning to and spending more time on the main target area for best results. If the foot is cold, warm it by rubbing between both hands.

Relaxation techniques, used before or after the session, and between working on different reflex sections, include stretching the Achilles' tendon, rotating the ankle , shaking the foot, jiggling the ankle, twisting the foot, rotating the toes and wringing the foot. Creams or oils are often applied after the session to further relax and invigorate the feet.

The pressure is firm, not ticklish. Different people have different sensitivity levels; alter the reflex pressure accordingly. Sensitivity increases with the number of treatments. Depending on the level of congestion, massaging sore areas often results in a feeling of deep pressure, dull ache or sharp pain, sweating, and chilling, but it is common to feel relaxed and revitalized after treatment. The pressure stimulates the release of toxins and, as a result, the body has a healing crisis, or temporary symptoms, while it deals with these toxins. This is a positive sign that healing is occurring. Symptoms can include increased urination and stools, mu-cus discharge, acne, perspiration, tiredness, dizziness, and nausea. Drink lots of water to help flush the toxins from the system.

Unless otherwise in-dicated for a particular condition, you may work the feet for up to an hour, preferably every other day, to give the body time to heal and regenerate. As a preventive measure, one treatment per week is sufficient. Considerable or complete improvement may be achieved in three to four sessions. Chronic disorders require long-term treatment.

Mechanical aids, such as reflexology shoes and foot rollers can stimulate blood and lymph circulation. To properly care for your feet, avoid chemical sprays or powders, and synthetic or tight footwear or hosiery. Additional treatments include taking foot baths use an infusion of dried herbs or aromatherapy oils. Take this foot bath hot, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and for up to eight minutes, then work creams or oils into the feet.

PDF Chart of Foot Reflexology

Visiting a Reflexologist

The practitioner will take a complete medical history, and visually inspect the feet for such things as color, temperature, bunions, calluses and muscle tone. By applying pressure and noting areas of tenderness, the practitioner can determine which body parts are unbalanced.

The reflexology session starts with a gentle stroking of the feet followed by a systematic working of each foot, about ten minutes each. Then twenty minutes or more are devoted to tender areas, with a maximum of a few minutes to any one area. One hand will support the foot, using different grips to optimize ease and effectiveness, and the other hand will apply pressure.

Acupressure

Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing art that uses the application of pressure without puncturing the skin on certain points on the body to restore and balance the Qi (pronounced "chee"), or vital body energy.

Over four thousand years ago, Chinese physicians observed how touch relieves pain, and physicians and philosophers discovered the meridians the channels that run through the body which carry body energy. The underlying philosophy behind acupressure maintains that we are a part of nature and must live in harmony with the laws of nature.

Acupressure is useful for relieving a wide variety of problems, such as stress and tension, joint stiffness, headaches, colds, digestive complaints, backache, sore eyes, insomnia, depression, pain, first aid, menstrual discomfort and difficulty during pregnancy and childbirth. It can be used as a preventive technique to maintain health, as a curative for minor illness, and as a complementary therapy when battling major illness. Ear acupressure tones, stimulates and balances the entire system. It also enhances immunity and the functioning of the lymphatic and hormonal systems. It is easy to learn and simple to use on yourself and others.

Appropriate locations for acupressure, called acupoints, coincide with the body's neural receptors. Manipulation of the points influences the nervous system.

Acupressure results in definite bodily responses that affect the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the recipient. The acupoints are spots where the energy lines or meridians come close to the skin. Points along a meridian will affect the corresponding organ. Since the meridians run throughout the body, an acupressure point for a specific body part may be located at that part or at a distance somewhere else along the meridian.

Most acupoints are located in depressions between bones, muscles or tendons. Some acupoints are more sensitive and therefore more effective than others. Make sure you read up on acupressure thoroughly before treating yourself or others.

PDF Diagram of Body Zones

Acupressure at Home

Acupressure requires no special equipment, is easy to understand, and it can be used to treat many minor ailments. You will not be able to reach all the points on your body yourself, so ask a friend to help, or seek out an acupressure practitioner. Common mistakes in self-treatment include missing the acupoint, and applying pressure for too short a duration. The following tips will help you with the self-treatment of acupressure:

  • Use the tip of your thumb, index finger, or middle finger. Place the middle finger on top of the index finger to give it more strength.
  • Use an acupressure chart to find the energy centers of the body and apply pressure to any of them that are painful. Press with the tip of your finger with a firm and steady pressure for at least one minute. Use only the amount of pressure you can tolerate. Acupressure should not be uncomfortably painful.
  • For acute or chronic conditions, treat the specific pressure points once daily for the first week, then treat every other day and later once weekly for maintenance and prevention. Sometimes only one treatment is needed to resolve the condition.
  • By treating the acupressure points of the colon, constipation can be often relieved the same day. Indigestion from eating too many fatty foods can be relieved through stimulating bile flow by pressing the points relating to the liver and gall-bladder.
  • Whether you have pain in the head, back, stomach or legs, these main pressure points should be part of each treatment.

Visiting an Acupressure Practitioner

Acupressure should be performed on someone who is not suffering from any serious illness, and who has not eaten in the past hour. Loose cotton clothing should be worn to allow ease of movement and minimal disturbance of the subtle energies being manipulated. Traditionally, the patient lies on a futon. In preparation, the practitioner should relax, and wash, dry and warm his or her hands.

The person should be touched with both hands, preferably close together and on the same meridian. The amount of pressure used depends on the body part being treated fleshier parts get heavier pressure and the bonier parts need lighter pressure. Lighter pressure is also used for children, the elderly and those with depleted energy. Pressure can be applied with the thumb or the fingertips. The thumb can be pressed perpendicular to the point and held for thirty seconds to two minutes. Acupressure can be applied in the direction of flow of the meridian to enhance energy and function. Apply pressure in either a circular motion or by pressing and releasing.

A calming technique is used to relax an overstimulated body. Either use the palm to cover the point or apply a light motion to the point, such as stroking, for thirty seconds to two minutes. Pressure is applied perpendicular to or against the direction of flow. Release your touch on the points slowly.

For general relaxation and balance, the order of points treated generally works from top to bottom and back to front. Since most points occur on both sides of the body, treatment is usually given on both sides. If there is a specific area needing treatment, the acupressure should focus on that area.

You may feel a dull ache or an "electrical" feeling when acupoints are being manipulated. When this sensation stops, the acupoint has been balanced. Excess energy in the body usually makes an acupoint sensitive.

For acute conditions, acupressure can be used several times daily at regular intervals. For chronic conditions, treatments may be applied two to four times a week for a period of weeks or months depending upon the state of the condition. Other therapies used in conjunction with acupressure are shiatsu, craniosacral therapy, exercise, deep breathing and visualization. Naturally, maintaining a proper diet low in fat and high in fresh fruit and vegetables aids this external therapy.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a therapeutic method from Japan that is very similar to acupressure in its treatment of diseases as they relate to the body as a whole. It is based on Eastern philosophies about health and disease according to the flow of energy in the body along meridians. It is believed that when the flow of energy becomes blocked due to stress, cold or injury, disease develops. Applying pressure at certain, often sensitive, areas removes blockages and redistributes the energy. Shiatsu is supposed to help re-establish balance before disease takes hold, and improves overall stamina

Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy is a manipulative technique that works with very subtle changes in the skull's bone structure. The cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord is subject to pressure changes that produce rhythmic movements. Just as the rhythm of the heartbeat and breathing affect the body, this rhythm in the fluid surrounding the brain and spine affect the skull structure and the health of the entire body. A craniosacral therapist can detect these changes. Using subtle manipulative techniques, balance can be restored.

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