A recent survey of professional complementary therapists revealed that reflexology is the most popular treatment with their clients, following massage.*
With its roots dating back thousands of years, reflexology as we know it today is based on the principle that specific ‘reflex’ points found on the soles, tops and sides of the feet correspond to different areas of the body. In this way, the feet can be seen as a ‘map’ of the whole body.
Reflex points can also be found on the hands, ears and face, however it is the feet that are most commonly treated in reflexology.
By applying specialised massage techniques to the reflex points, the aim of a reflexology treatment is to help restore balance to the body naturally and improve general wellbeing.
The therapist will usually work the various reflex points using their thumbs, fingers and knuckles, though some may incorporate crystals or special tools to enhance treatment.
Mary Dalgleish, vice president of the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT), the UK’s leading professional association for complementary therapists, says: “I have been practising reflexology for more than 16 years, and in that time have seen first-hand what a huge difference this gentle but powerful therapy can make to people’s quality of life – from stressed-out mums and business professionals, to those coping with a long-term health condition. Many of my clients also use reflexology as a preventative measure to help keep their mind and body in optimum health.”
Here are five key benefits reflexology can potentially offer.
1. The ‘stress’ factor
Stress is such a common phrase these days that we almost forget what a huge impact this can have on our health if left unchecked. As well as affecting us physically, emotionally and mentally it can also lead to unhealthy behaviours such as drinking alcohol, smoking, or eating too much or too little. Studies have shown that reflexology can help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol as well as improve mood and sleep, and relieve anxiety and tension.
2. Cancer support
Cancer Research UK now estimates that one in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. While complementary therapies like reflexology obviously can’t cure or treat cancer, lots of people affected by this terrible disease find reflexology hugely supportive throughout their journey. As well as helping to reduce anxiety, reflexology can also help them to cope with different symptoms linked to both the disease and the essential but unpleasant medical procedures that can follow a diagnosis. The power of positive touch is also not to be underestimated in people who are very poorly or distressed.
3. Hormonally speaking
The menopause usually affects women between the age of 45 and 55 as their oestrogen levels fall. While it’s a natural part of the ageing process, it can bring with it a range of troublesome symptoms, perhaps the most well-known being hot flushes, night sweats, sleep problems and low mood. Working specific reflexes on the feet that correspond with the reproductive system can help to restore balance to the body and relieve symptoms.
4. No pain, all gain
A small research study carried out by FHT Fellow, Carol Samuel, at the University of Portsmouth, found that people who had reflexology felt around 40 per cent less pain and could stand pain for about 45 per cent longer than when they received a fake electrical nerve stimulation treatment. Other studies also suggest that reflexology may help reduce pain perception in people with rheumatoid arthritis, low back pain, multiple sclerosis and menstrual pain.
Trying to conceive can be a really stressful time for some couples, particularly if they’ve been trying to start a family for some time. Reflexology promotes relaxation and restores balance in the body, creating a better emotional and physical state to help support new life.
A plan to pay
Despite the sort of health benefits outlined above, sadly reflexology is very rarely available on the NHS. This usually means people have to pay to have reflexology treatments and, sometimes, the cost of treatment can put people off getting the help they need. However Russ Piper, chief executive of cash plan provider Sovereign Health Care, explains: “The cost of treatment shouldn’t put people off receiving the help they need, especially when there are products, such as health care cash plans, available that can pay you money back towards treatment costs.”
Russ adds: “For just a small monthly payment, cash plans allow policyholders to claim money back towards a range of everyday health care costs, including reflexology, physiotherapy, dental treatment and much more.
“Reflexology has many wide-ranging benefits and can help people facing a series of health issues. It’s important that people are aware that cash plans are there to help them afford the treatment they need.”
Mary adds: “If you are thinking of trying reflexology, it is really important to find a therapist who is professional, suitably qualified and accountable. The FHT’s Accredited Register has been independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, and lists more than 5,800 reflexologists, helping you choose a complementary therapist you can trust. The FHT is one of Sovereign Health Care’s recognised professional bodies for reflexology.”
*2017 FHT Member Survey, 532 respondents