Using Reflexology to help Alleviate Modern Day Illnesses
by Jayne Vosper
Reflexology and Osteoarthritis, Depression and the Menstrual cycle
Although reflexology was used as long ago as ancient Egyptian times, it is a relatively new therapy being popular over the last 20 years or so. More and more people are turning to complementary therapies to alleviate aches, pains and diseases. It must be pointed out that reflexology cannot cure diseases, but can help to make a sufferers life more comfortable.
A reflexologist has trained in the skill, and upon checking over the clients feet, can feel the tiniest crystal (calcium deposit), sometimes being the size of a grain of salt. These crystals often indicate a blockage or imbalance in the corresponding part of the body.
Reflexology and Osteoarthritis
Reflexology is excellent in alleviating many medical problems including Arthritis. Two types of Arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the more common form, which is usually a painful disease and occurs with advancing age and alters the structures of joints. It is caused by the wearing down of cartilage in the joints. It can affect any joint in the body, but mainly affects the hands, spine, hips and knees. It worsens with time, and unfortunately, there is no cure.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a more serious and possibly disabling form. It seems to affect more women than men. It attacks joints, possibly affecting connecting tissues of the body.
The causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease, are though to be caused by white blood cells moving from the blood stream into the membranes that surround joints (synovium). The cells appear to be the cause of the synovium becoming inflamed. This inflammation then causes the release of proteins which causes the synovium to thicken over time. The protein can also damage bone, ligaments, cartilage and tendons close to joints, which can lose their alignment and shape. Rheumatoid Arthritis can occur because of genes, lifestyle and viruses. Many, if not most sufferers of Arthritis take medication, mainly Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen, but these can lead to side-effects of abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn and diarrhoea. Also, many peoples have Cortisone injections to the affected joint but these injections can suppress the immune system, a potentially harmful side effect. Also, they are only a short term treatment that last for about two to six weeks.
The foot reflexes to work on for Osteoarthritis are:
- Spine reflexes
- Knee reflexes
- Upper arm reflexes
- Elbow reflexes
- Hip reflexes
- Sacro-iliac joint
- Neck reflexes
- Shoulder reflexes
All are the reflexes to the major joints in the body. The ankles can be treated separately, and they also correspond to the wrists. Of course, we also need to work on the adrenal gland reflexes, which are situated on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands are responsible for regulating the synthesis of corticosteroids. Corticostreroids are a class of steroid hormones. They are involved with immune response and with the regulation of inflammation.
As with all of my clients, when they first come to see me, I like to learn about their conditions and the possible causes of their conditions. It is also a fascinating and interesting way to learn more about the human body.
One of my clients, Mrs. P, 62 years of age, has been coming for treatments since May 2006. She has been suffering with Osteoarthritis for 17 years. She has had both of her hips replaced, one in 2001 and the other in 2002. I asked her to describe what it feels like when she has a flare up. She told me that her joints feel hot to the touch, but not hot in the joint itself. She can feel the joints grinding together. Often there are sharp, shooting pains. She also told me that although they look normal, her joints feel as though they are enormously swollen. It is highly uncomfortable and extremely painful generally.
Mrs. P. is cheerful though and won’t let it stop her leading her life. A good, positive attitude.
Since she has started her treatments with me, Mrs. P hasn’t had as many flare ups and treatments appear to be controlling the pain. It has eased greatly and has also helped with other ailments.
Reflexology and Depression.
Depression may be triggered by physical illness such as a viral infection, hormonal disorders, such as hypothyroidism. Some drugs such as contraceptives may contribute. Inheritance may play a part and many people suffer in the Winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. Seven to twelve per cent of men suffer from depression. In women it is higher, 20% to 25%, because post-natal depression contributes to this.
Some symptoms include:-
- Generally feeling miserable
- Disturbed sleep
- Lack of concentration
- Tearfulness for no reason
- Feeling anxious
- Negative thoughts
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Thoughts of suicide
Reactive depression usually happens as a result of something happening outside the body such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, stress occurring in life and bullying.
Clinical depression can be caused by changes in levels in levels of chemicals in the brain. For example, as hormone levels go up and down, so your mood can change. This is often seen in women because of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the menopause.
Low levels of serotonin may be associated with depression. Serotonin is found in the central nervous system, playing an important role as a neurotransmitter.
The neurotransmitter action for serotonin are for:
- Sleep and temperature regulation
Serotonin is also found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Serotonin is manufactured in the brain using the essential amino acid tryptophan, also found in foods such as bananas, pineapples, plums, turkey and milk.
The neurons in the brain that release serotonin are found in the medulla, pons and mid-brain, all of which are located at the top of the spinal cord.
The brain is composed of millions of interconnecting nerve cells called neurons. In order to think, move or feel, these neurons must communicate with one another. They do so by sending and receiving chemical messages.
Communication of information is accomplished by movement of chemicals across a small gap (the synapse). The neurotransmitters are released from one neuron at the pre-synaptic nerve terminal. Neurotransmitters then cross the synapse where they are accepted by the next neuron receptor. If the neurotransmitter is taken back into the neuron the action of serotonin, norepinephrine (noradrenalin) is stopped.
The areas of the feet to work on will be the `pads` of the big toes, as these are the reflex areas of the brain. Other reflexes here are the pituitary or master gland, the thymus gland, the hypothalamus and the pineal gland. Working on the solar plexus reflexes can bring about relaxation and therefore a calming effect. Other reflexes to work on are the thyroid and parathyroid, diaphragm, chest, lungs, shoulders, arms, neck and heart.
Mrs. J, 76 years of age, has been coming for treatment since March 2006. She has been suffering with depression for about 28 years. Unfortunately she did not consult her doctor about this until 18 years later, when it was diagnosed after going to see the doctor with another problem. The doctor prescribed Dosulepin (formerly Dothiepin). Mrs. J. has been taking this medication for about 10 years.
I asked her how the depression affects her and she told me that small problems turn into big problems and are constantly on her mind. She did not sleep well, waking two or three times in the night. She felt very tearful, very anxious about everything and would find herself rushing around, doing things such as housework or gardening.
Mrs. J. told me that she has never discussed these feelings with anyone and has bottled them up inside her for all these years. She feels, that since coming to see me, she is stronger and happier.
Mrs. J. went to see her doctor about three months ago, and with the doctors total agreement, has, over the months of gradually decreasing dosage, stopped taking Dosulepin, which also gave her unpleasant side effects. These are also decreasing.
Mrs. J. is very glad that she has stopped taking the tablets. She is coping incredibly well without them. She says that she feels so much better in herself and much more confident and feels that she has achieved this with reflexology.
Reflexology and the Menstrual cycle
Menstrual cycles are different in different women. Some women may have light periods with little discomfort and some women may have heavy periods with terrible discomfort. Periods can be regular or irregular.
Menstruation average is four to five days. Signs of the cycle can include lower back pain, swollen and tender breasts, mood swings and sometimes, abdominal pain. Some women can suffer with Pre-Menstrual Syndrome or P.M.S. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, weight gain, bloating and diarrhoea.
The menstrual cycle is part of the female reproductive cycle, which can start as early as 11 years of age. Women menstruate until the age of 45 to 55 when the menopause begins.
The menstrual cycle is how a woman’s body prepares for the possibility of becoming pregnant each month.
The menstrual cycle is controlled by complex hormonal mechanisms involving feedback mechanisms between the ovaries, uterus (womb), and the brain.
After several days one, possibly two follicles become dominant which will release an ovum or egg (ovulation). If the egg is fertilized by spermatozoa, it will become a zygote. If it is not fertilized then it will die and be absorbed into the woman’s body.
On average, a cycle lasts for 28 days. Day one of the cycle is the first day of bleeding (menstruation). On average, when periods have become regular, this will last for five days. Usually bleeding is heaviest on the first or second day.
When the period has finished, the lining of the uterus starts to grow and become thicker, ready for another egg. About 12 days before your next period, an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation). The egg travels along the phallopian tube from the ovary to the uterus.
The egg will survive for about 24 hours if it is not fertilized by spermatozoa. If fertilization does not happen, hormone levels will drop and the period will start. Then the whole cycle continues. The period itself is when the lining separates from the rest of the uterus because it is not needed for the egg to grow. The old lining is shed and the uterus gets ready to make a new lining for the next egg.
The loss of the lining is mostly blood, which can be bright red, dark red or dark brown and sometimes has some clots in it.
Hormones: Follicle Stimulating Hormones (F.S.H). As these follicles mature, they secrete increasing amounts of :-
Prolactin – breasts
Luteinizing Hormone (L.H.)
Oestrogen and progesterone are sex hormones. The sex hormones come under the influence of the pituitary gland and both F.S.H. and L.H. play necessary rolls.
F.S.H. stimulates immature follicles into ovaries to grow
L.H. triggers ovulation
The gonadotrophin- releasing hormone of the hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland and both glands receive feedback from the follicles.
Oestrogens are produced during the first part of the menstrual cycle, after the period.
Progesterone complements the actions of oestrogens. It is mostly secreted during the second part of the cycle, before the period.
Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Except during breastfeeding, prolactin has no effect on mammary function.
The reflexes on the feet to work on are:
* To help with hormone balance, relieve stress and help with relaxation, the pituitary and hypothalamus gland reflexes
- Thyroid gland
- Solar plexus
- Adrenal glands
- Chest reflexes (for tender breasts)
- Uterus reflex
- Ovary reflexes
- Fallopian tube
- Lymph drainage of pelvis/groin
- Spinal reflex
- Stomach reflex (bloating)
- Bowel reflex (diarrhoea)
Mrs. F. is 42 years of age and has one child. She first came to see me in February 2007. She often suffers with incredibly painful periods in which she feels as if she is going to pass out and she has to lie down for at least an hour. This usually happens first thing in the morning, just after getting out of bed, on the first day of her period. She doesn’t like taking pills, but will take a paracetamol, which helps. She says that the cramps can sometimes last for two days.
Mrs. F. has consulted her doctor about the problem but the doctor was unable to help except with the advice of taking Ibuprofen, which upsets her stomach.
Her periods are regular and she usually comes for treatment one week before, and the day before her period
Since the start of her treatment, Mrs. F. has had two painful periods, but without feeling ready to pass out with the pain. The other periods were of minor discomfort to her. She feels that the treatments are definitely helping. The cramps have also eased and she feels much happier when the time of the month approaches.
As you can see, three very different problems, all of which are being helped greatly, by reflexology treatments. They don’t have a miraculous effect over night, but take time.
Feet are amazing. Apart from the many reflexes, each foot contains 26 bones, which are: 14 phalanges, the big toe has two bones and the other toes have three bones. There are five metatarsal bones, seven tarsal bones, which are three cuniform, one cuboid, one navicular, one talus (ankle bone), and one calcaneum (heel bone). Also there are nineteen muscles and 107 ligaments. There is also an incredible 7,200 nerve endings in each foot.
I feel that if the medical profession had more belief in various therapies, then the ailing National Health Service in Britain could be saved millions of pounds in prescription drugs per year.
The Arthritis Help book: A tested self-management Program for coping with Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. By Kate Long and James F. Fries.
Arthritis for Dummies: By Dr Sarah Brewer, Barry Fox PhD, Nadine Taylor, Jinoos Yazdany, M.D.
Depression: The way out of your prison. By Dorothy Rowe
SOD-IT: The depression ‘virus’ and how to deal with it. By Martin Davis