is the art and science of applying pressure to key "reflex" points on the feet, hands and sometimes ears to help relieve pain or correct imbalances in other parts of the body. Often associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM), this ancient therapeutic modality also has antecedents in ancient Indian Ayurveda
and Egyptian medicine. While anyone who has experienced reflexology can attest to its benefits for relaxation and stress relief, how can reflexology help ease back pain?
Theory of Reflexology
Reflexology, trigger point therapy
are all natural therapies sharing the common theory that energy pathways exist in the body. These pathways and their meridians have been meticulously mapped. The feet and hands, which together contain over 72,000 nerve endings, also contain innumerable energy meridians (meridians of ki) that are energetically connected to the vital organs and areas of the central nervous system. It is believed that a reflexologist can help relieve pain and restore the body's natural chemical and neurological balance by applying pressure and manually massaging or manipulating energy meridians on the feet and hands.
Reflexology for Back Pain
When treating for back pain, a reflexologist takes a holistic approach. While manipulating certain meridians will be part of the process, the reflexologist will also take a number of other things into account. A typical first session begins by discussing the issue with the patient. What initially caused the back pain? Is it due to heavy lifting, poor posture, sudden trauma or something else?
An examination of the feet will follow. There may be a callous on one foot that indicates that the patient applies more pressure to that side of the body or oedema may be present, indicating poor circulation and a sedentary lifestyle. These and other physically apparent abnormalities will help the reflexologist determine the best course of treatment.
The actual reflexology session may last anywhere from half an hour to an hour. The client will remain fully clothed except for the removal of shoes and socks and will lie down comfortably on a massage table while the practitioner works. The reflexologist uses their fingers, thumbs and palms; kneading, massaging, manipulating or holding steady pressure as required. None of this will be painful and most patients describe the treatment as profoundly relaxing.
At the end of a single treatment, many patients feel distinct relief from the symptoms of back pain. However, this is only one of the reflexologist's goals. In order to help prevent a recurrence of back pain, the practitioner will also attempt to restore balance to the body and even promote a healthier psychological attitude. If oedema is present, part of the treatment will include an attempt to improve circulation.
As a form of complementary medicine, reflexology is not necessarily meant to be a stand-alone treatment program. If treatment begins early, before back pain is present, it may help prevent its occurrence. If serious pain is already present, the reflexologist may be able to help minimise the need for medication.
Reflexology is a safe and non-invasive procedure, but if your back pain persists, you may need to see a specialist. Your holistic doctor
may be able to help you find the right combination of therapies, both conventional and alternative, to help you overcome back pain and prevent its recurrence.