Reflexology is a complementary medicine which can be traced back at least 5000 years to China, Japan and Egypt. The act of foot massage spread to Europe in the Dark Ages and was known as ‘pressure point therapy’. In the USA at the end of the 19th Century, Dr. William Fitzgerald rediscovered this therapy and assigned it the name ‘Reflexology’. Reflexology as a therapy finally arrived in Britain in the late 1960s.
Reflexology is concerned with bringing about relaxation, balance and healing through the stimulation of specific points on the feet, hands or head. A therapist will only use their own hands to apply the therapy and this is one of the characteristics of reflexology which is believed to have made it popular – along with its simplicity, visible effectiveness and the general belief that there is no risk associated with this type of therapy. Additionally, reflexology is recognised to live up to the ‘complementary’ element to its title. Many doctors believe reflexology works well in conjunction with orthodox medicine in areas such as side effect symptom reduction and general enhancement of traditional treatments.
Reflexology is based on the premise that every part of the body is connected by energy pathways which culminate in reflex areas on the feet, the hands and the head. By working with these ‘reflexes’ through a precise and systematic massage technique, the therapist is said to stimulate the body into achieving its own state of natural wholeness and good health. The feet are seen to be very receptive and working on them in this way is especially beneficial for restoring homeostasis, detoxifying and balancing the body.
Reflexologists believe every body has the ability to heal itself. Any illness, stress or injury will cause the body to be in a state of imbalance with the vital energy pathways perhaps blocked. Reflexology can be used to restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium and encourage healing.
How can reflexology make a difference in pregnancy?
Reflexology has been cited as a possible treatment to alleviate high blood pressure, social stress, oedema, cystitis, insomnia, irritable uterus, nose bleeds, migraine, musculo-skeletal, heartburn, hypertension, long, the length of and the pain experienced in labour. Reflexology works to relieve many of these complaints and is recognised as having degrees of success in all of them.
It has also been recognised as having a particularly high success rate in the area of labour outcome (‘outcome’ in this sense is not referring to a baby, rather the time it takes to produce your little bundle of joy) – many women have experienced labours of only 2-3 hours after undergoing reflexology therapy during their pregnancy. In addition, reflexology is becoming more popular for the purpose of pain relief during labour – even if it only lasts for two hours you might as well be comfortable.
In order to benefit from the effects of reflexology during labour, you can opt for regular treatments all the way through your pregnancy, regular visits in the few weeks before the birth or simply a few visits in the days leading up to your birth. The second of these options seems to be the most practical and sensible. For example, if you had decided to have treatments for a week before the baby was due and you gave birth 10 days early, you’d be gutted. In addition, it is probably a good idea to acquaint yourself with your professionally qualified therapist as well as the procedures involved in receiving a treatment well before the birth. This will eliminate any possibility of added stress due to experiencing therapies you’re not used to.
Reflexology can be used at any stage of labour and its effects can be experienced between one and two minutes after beginning. The full effects of reflexology can be felt after 15 minutes.
If you’re currently pregnant, you may be thinking, “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” Reflexology as a therapy for pain relief in childbirth has been less than well documented and discussed for the baby having public.
The advantages can be summarised as follows:
- The therapy can BE performed by you on yourself or by your partner.
- Regardless of specific effects, the therapy can be calming and relaxing in its own right.
- There is no other apparatus required other than a pair of hands and at least one foot.
- Reflexology has many benefits which all can be experienced during one therapy (in terms of labour).
- Reflexology can also be used for relaxation when performed on your newborn.
- It has been argued that reflexology can help the bonding process between mother and baby.
This may all sound too good to be true. There are a few drawbacks in using reflexology as a regular treatment before, during or after the birth of a child. They are as follows:
- It is very important that you are treated or taught by a professionally qualified therapist
- The cost: your first session will cost you between £25 and £40 which should include a detailed interview and medical history, along with a treatment and instruction on where your pressure points are for labour.
- To have a therapist there for your labour may cost you over £100 for a flat fee, or an hourly payment which could turn out to be a lot if your labour is a long one (sorry!)
- It is advisable for you to sound out your Hospital in terms of their feelings towards having a therapist there in their professional capacity, performing Reflexology while you are in labour and giving birth. It is unlikely to be a problem, but again, this will reduce any potential conflicts, which may cause stress at the point when stress is the last thing you need.
All in all, if you can afford to try it, there certainly seems to be no reason to avoid Reflexology and every reason to try it. There are no health risks involved and the potential benefits seem pretty exciting. For further information you can contact the Association of Reflexologists on Tel : 01823 351010 or write to them at 5 Fore Street, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 1HX.
Treating Colic in Infants
There are many parents who would kill to have the hands of Sonja Clemminson. She is a reflexologist who has specialised in the treatment of colic in babies. During her career, Sonja has treated more than 2000 colic infants using reflexology techniques. Due to this, maternity wards and health visitors recommend her treatment to parents who have suffering infants. The treatment will usually consist of three to five 15-20 minute sessions per week, with no more than one week between sessions.
Sonja says that colic is an imbalance of the digestive system. She sees the newborn stomach as an ‘immature engine’ and reflexology as giving the car a push. She maintains that the ‘visible evidence’ often arrives shortly after a treatment commences – sometimes her ‘patient’s’ nappies having to be changed more than once during a session!! Sonja is certain that in reflexology, there is real relief for infants from the symptoms of colic.
Reflex Zone Therapy and Post Natal Problems
Reflex Zone Therapy (RZT) is a manual discipline, which has developed into a recognised form of treatment. The stimulation, which RZT gives to the local blood supply during a treatment, is accompanied by an improvement in the functioning of the organs which relate to respective areas of the foot. Although there has been no huge volume of direct scientific research that has proved the positive effect of reflex zone therapy on common postnatal problems, there are those who are advocates of its use and who argue that it can produce good results. Margarita Evans, who works in a maternity unit, investigated the therapy and began to practice it on new mothers. She used RZT on a woman who was having difficulty passing urine after the removal of a Foleys catheter. This problem was causing the patient further discomfort that what would have been expected on the second day after a forceps delivery. Margarita performed RZT on both feet on the ‘zones’ which related to the kidney, bladder and the solar plexus for 20 minutes. Within half an hour, the patient had passed urine and when she was seen two days later, she had experienced no more problems.
Another patient was suffering from a muscular problem which was causing her to limp. In using RZT on her spine and feet, the pain was relieved, although she was still experiencing aches in her back. She was shown how to continue the treatment on herself after returning home which of course is an advantage of this type of treatment. Margarita has many cases in which she feels that RZT made a real difference to new mothers who don’t need additional problems when they have a newborn to care for. These include relieving trapped wind, tension and neck pain. As is mentioned above, babies can also be treated with this type of therapy for colic or restlessness.
Reflexology and infertility
When a couple decide to try for a baby, they are probably unaware that they have a one in six chance of meeting the problem of involuntary infertility. In 40-45% of cases, the problem will lie with the woman, in the same percentage of cases, the problem will lie with the man and the remaining 10-15% of cases, the problem will remain unknown. If you are experiencing this type of problem, you may want to consider reflexology.
A study was carried out which involved 108 women who were under 35 years old, had no previous children and who had attempted to become pregnant for over two years. Professionally qualified reflexologists treated the women free of charge. They each received 16 treatments over a 7-8 month period. The study hoped to establish whether or not reflexology would become a recognised supplement or even replacement for current methods of addressing the problem of involuntary infertility. Sixty-one women completed the series of treatments – 15% (9) became pregnant in the first six months, 77% of those who had experienced menstruation problems reported that they had noted a welcome improvement.
Other ailments in which subjects reported improvements were in areas of muscle tensions, psychic imbalances, indigestion, poor circulation and general imbalance. Although the recognition of this study was impaired by the fact that it had been carried out without the usual funds and by those reflexologists who had no research experience, the study organisers do seem to have set a useful platform for further investigation, as well as (perhaps) having ‘a hand’ in the production of 9 new babies!