Reflexology for Orthopedic Conditions
Broken Bones and Joints
Several years ago I received a free trial treatment of reflexology during the aftermath of a compound fracture with a severe additional sprain to one ankle. After four and a half months, I was finally able to say farewell to my wheelchair, but I still had some swelling that would not allow the joint to move freely.
The reflexology treatment worked so well that I needed no further treatments of any kind.
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 its effects in cases other physical and mental heath conditions. Numerous studies have shown various and opposing results, but the Mayo Clinic has written that reflexology may have some benefit.
Anyone that wants to try it should not be discouraged by others. It the application of this complimentary treatment alternative can lower healthcare costs the the over-use of pain medications, then reflexology proves itself even more effective.
Some individuals suspect alternative therapies to be a part of a system that is in direct opposition to their faith and religious beliefs. Any with related concerns is 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. Massage provides such a number of benefits, that perhaps massage should be reinstalled as part of the nursing curriculum nationwide.
An enlightening conference presentation from a massage patient in 2005 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.
Several women from her church visited her daily to provide company and to massage both of her feet, ankles and legs. Within four to five 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 extremity massage in a case of bilateral ankle break.
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 founded in 1985 (link above, right), states that reflexology was first introduced by ancient Chinese and the Egyptians.
This is unsurprising and thoroughly believable, since traditional Chinese and Korean medicines and ancient Egyptian medical systems incorporated some small techniques much like homeopathy. The BRA goes on to state that what we may call Modern Reflexology began as the work of was of Ms. Eunice Ingham, an American that called it Zone Therapy, but which had actually begun 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.
Other personalities in other countries no doubt have added their expertise to refining the system to its best effects. 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 Ameican Nations. Personally, I am thankful to all of the cultures and individuals that developed the system of reflexology, because all of their combined millennial of efforts worked to eliminate my final problem of the obstinate ankle as I described above.
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 a positive results. Various charts for the hands and feet, their reflex areas, and what body systems they may affect are available online. My experience is that reflexology worked for me in the case of the skeletal and muscular systems.
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; also pain of childbirth.
- Circulatory system: angina, high blood pressure, stroke
- Immune response
- 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. (One treatment did it for my ankle, and then I kept exercizing.)
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 will be likely to produce similar results.
- 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.
© 2010 Patty Inglish