Arthritis can sometimes seem like a sentence, not a diagnosis. The pain, stiffness and swelling of your joints and other, associated connective tissue never quite goes away. Living with arthritis is more about managing your symptoms successfully and finding ways of improving your quality of life.
That’s where reflexology can be very useful. This particular therapy can offer the following benefits to those coping with Arthritis:
- Pain relief – The existing research into the effectiveness of reflexology in treating arthritis has concentrated on its ability to reduce pain or the need for pain medications. Regular treatments have been shown to reduce pain and (in some cases) help to alleviate the depression long term sufferers can experience
- Detoxification – Individuals coping with gout, pseudogout and certain other forms of arthritis are often encouraged to change their diets in order to improve their symptoms. Regular reflexology sessions can help to speed up the process of removing toxins from the body and will have a positive effect on your metabolic rate.
- Improve sleep – Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons why people struggle with sleep. It’s also a bit of a catch-22 situation; if you could get more and better sleep, you wouldn’t be as aware of the pain.
- Improve circulation – Reflexology is an excellent way of improving the circulation of both blood and lymph, particularly in peripheral areas. Improving the circulation will help to remove toxins that are contributing to arthritic symptoms. This is particularly important for those suffering from gout or pseudogout, where waste products of metabolism have been deposited around specific joints. Getting rid of these waste products will significantly reduce the symptoms of gout
- Reduce stress levels - Living with the discomfort of arthritis is going to generate a certain amount of stress in your life, no matter what else is happening. Long-term stress can leave you feeling exhausted, debilitated and prone to developing other symptoms of ill-health – as well as making your arthritic symptoms worse. Regular treatments can help to keep stress at manageable levels and to keep you in optimum health.
- Improve the immune response – Some forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis in particular, are autoimmune conditions. They develop as a result of the body’s immune system starting to attack other body tissues. Reflexology concentrates on balancing all body systems; that includes encouraging the immune system to respond normally.
What if the Arthritis is in Your Feet?
Although reflexology treatments are most commonly carried out on the feet, most reflexologists are trained to work on the hands as well. Foot reflexology treatments would not be recommended if, for example, you suffered with gout and you were experiencing a flare-up of your symptoms at the time of the treatment. In a situation like this, working on the hands would be just as effective; and the feet can be treated between flare-ups.
Hand reflexology is also highly recommended if you want to work specific points in between your reflexology sessions. It can be a very effective method of helping you to relax and to reduce other stress-related symptoms.
Reflexes to Focus on
- Reflexes relating to the painful joints – Most of those coping with arthritis experience it only in specific joints. If this is true for you, make sure that you work the reflex areas that relate to those joints. The elbow, wrist, knee, hip and ankle all have specific reflex points that are easy to identify.
- Adrenal reflex – As well as being a key area to work when you are struggling with the symptoms of stress, the adrenal glands are also involved in making and releasing cortisol (one of the stress hormones). Cortisol is used as a form of pain relief for arthritis (it is usually given either as a cream (hydrocortisone) or as an injection. Working this reflex helps to adjust the levels of cortisol in your body to meet your requirements for pain relief.
- Pituitary reflex– The role of the pituitary gland in governing the production and release of hormones in other endocrine glands makes it an essential area to concentrate on when coping with arthritis. Working here will help to make the adrenal, ovaries and pineal glands all work more effectively.
- Pineal reflex– If your sleep is poor or inadequate as a result of the pain you are experiencing, then working the pineal reflex will help to encourage better quality sleep.
- Ovaries and uterus reflexes in women – Many women report that their arthritic symptoms worsen when they are menstruating. This is most likely to be as a result of the immune system’s response to changing levels of oestrogen in the body. Particular attention paid to the uterus reflex during menstruation and the ovaries throughout the rest of the menstrual cycle is likely to provide some relief from your symptoms. This will be most effective if these reflex points are massaged on a daily basis.
- Liver and kidney reflexes– These organs are an essential part of the body’s detoxification systems. If you have been encouraged to make dietary changes to relieve your symptoms, then working these particular reflexes will help to speed things up. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before and after treatments in order to speed up the detoxification process.
- Lymphatics and Thymus reflexes – These particular reflexes are worth concentrating on if your form of arthritis is related to an overactive immune response. Working in these area will encourage the lymphatic organs and the general immune response to function normally.
- Small intestines, colon and Ileo-coecal valve reflexes – Recent research suggests that those struggling with rheumatoid arthritis often have higher than average numbers of antibodies to E. Coli in their synovial fluid. Working the bowel and small intestine reflex areas will help to stimulate those areas of the body that are most vulnerable to bacterial infections (like E. Coli), encouraging them to work properly. The illeo-coecal valve also relates to an area rich in lymphatic tissue - Peyer’s patches - which are also involved in the body’s response to disease-causing agents.
- Solar plexus reflex– an essential reflex to work if you know or suspect that your symptoms worsen when you are experiencing stress.