How Reflexology Worked to Relieve My Pain
Reflexology works. Looking at it with Western logic, it shouldn't work—it really shouldn't. I mean, how can a foot massage possibly cure pain in your neck, shoulder, or hip? Don't ask me; I can't explain it! But I can say that reflexology worked for me.
Many years ago, I slipped on a soapy, wet floor. I flung out my arm to save myself, and I landed with all my weight on one hand. The shock shot up my arm and into my neck, herniating a disc.
For those who don't know what a herniated disc is, let me explain.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
Between each bone in your spine there's a gel-like disc. When a disc herniates, the surface breaks and the jelly inside oozes out. Sensitive nerves run down either side of your spine, and the lump of gel rubs against them as you move. It's agonizing!
Once the jelly has escaped, you can't put it back in. Surgery is risky, and there's no guarantee it will actually reduce the pain. So I spent years trying alternative treatments. Chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, traction, massage—you name it. Manipulative therapy helped, but even that didn't make the pain go away completely.
Anyone who has continual, nagging pain will tell you: they're willing to try anything. So when I went on a blind date and the guy told me he'd cured his frozen shoulder with reflexology, I dismissed it at first. I knew reflexology used the same meridians as acupuncture and acupressure, and I'd already tried both of those. But by the end of the date, I was asking him for the name of the therapist (that was the only thing I got out of that date, by the way—he never called again).
My First Reflexology Foot Massage
On my arrival at the clinic, I discovered the reflexologist had limited English. She asked me "Where is pain?" and I pointed to my shoulder (one of the odd things about herniated discs is that the pain turns up in funny places—it's called "referred pain"). I started to explain that it was caused by a damaged disk, but she interrupted me, bustling me over to the massage bed.
Great start, I thought. She doesn't even understand my problem, there's no chance she'll be able to fix it.
Lying on the bed while she frowned and prodded the side of my foot, I couldn't help feeling stupid. Here I was, having my feet pummeled to fix a problem at the other end of my body. Was I serious?
At that point, she took hold of my big toe and I nearly hit the ceiling.
"Ah," she said, beaming with delight at her discovery. "You have problem with neck!"
That was the start of a very painful half hour, as she worked mercilessly on my toe. At the end, still feeling silly and now tortured, as well, I meekly made another appointment but swore silently that I wouldn't be back.
The next morning, I woke up and turned my head to the left for the first time in two years.
How to Choose a Reflexologist
Now, before you rush off to book an appointment, take care in your choice of therapist.
First, make sure you choose a practitioner who's a member of a recognised association. As I've discovered, there's a big difference in the results you'll get with a fully trained, specialist reflexologist like my miracle-worker above, and someone who's done a short course.
Also, keep in mind reflexology is not acupressure, although it uses the meridians in a similar way. The obvious difference is that acupressure treats the whole body whereas reflexology only works on the extremities, but the techniques are also different. Don't assume that an acupressurist will automatically be good at reflexology.
You also need to be aware that reflexology doesn't work for everyone. About 25% of people simply never feel benefit from it at all. That's not due to the skill of the practitioner, it's just that some people are sensitive to the treatment and some are not. And even if it works for you, it usually takes three or four visits to see significant results. I was just very lucky!
Finally, I should clarify that, of course, reflexology didn't cure my herniated disc. I've still got it, and finally had surgery last year (30 years after the accident!). What reflexology does - very effectively - is block the pain and stop the spasms for long periods of time. My surgeon was amazed that I'd been able to avoid surgery for so long. I'm glad I did, because spinal surgery in the neck is fraught with possible complications, and by delaying, I was able to undergo a new, more advanced method of surgery that is much safer.
If you're traveling, or money is tight, you might like to try giving yourself a reflexology treatment. Personally, I never feel a DIY session is as effective as having my feet kneaded by someone else - but when there's no alternative, it's better than nothing!
You'll find lots of books and DVD's on Amazon to help you, but my personal preference is , by Geri Riehl. It's fairly basic but that's a good thing as it doesn't confuse you with more advanced techniques. The instruction is nice and clear and the music is soothing. It also comes complete with a reflexology chart, which you'd have to buy separately with some other DVD's. Reflexology for the Feet and Hands
If you're thinking of doing your own treatments, then I would always suggest having at least one session with a trained reflexologist. It's difficult to get an idea of the subtleties from a DVD - things like how much pressure to apply, for instance. Also, a professional will pinpoint areas where you need special attention, which you might miss starting out on your own.
I wish you happy feet!
© 2010 Marisa Wright