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Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Prehab Beats Rehab

“Surgery is a major event – think of it as a marathon. Leading up to any major event, you need to prepare.” So says Francesco Carli, MD, one of the coauthors of a McGill University study that looked at the effects of prehabilitation (what you do before surgery to support your body) on patients’ recovery experiences. The study concluded that those who practiced a pre-op routine bounced back faster than those who didn’t.

The four effective rehab actions identified in the study were:

  1. Move. Mild to moderate cardio, strength-training and flexibility activities practiced for at least six weeks prior to surgery.
  2. Eat more protein. Protein is needed to repair and build muscle, an important factor in recovery. Eat protein within two hours of exercising.
  3. Stop smoking. Need I say more here?
  4. And this is where reflexology comes into the plan. Don’t ignore pre-op stress. The apprehension of a pending surgery causes chemical releases in the body that are counteractive to healing. The study discovered that anxiety and or depression results in greater pain levels and complications following the operation.

Share this information with clients and family who are awaiting surgery. In addition to offering your services following the procedure, encourage the people in your life to be pro-active before undergoing the knife.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Stories The Nails Can Tell

Like the rings of a tree, the bumps, dents, ridges and color of the toe and fingernails tell a story – of your health. Short or long, deep red or neon green, manicured or au natural, our nails not only reflect our personal tastes (think nail polish colors), our lifestyles (ever notice gardeners’ hands?), even our career choices (reflexology or massage anyone?).

Nails help us manipulate small objects with our hands, and protect the soft tissues of our fingers and toes. More importantly, our nails often provide clues of underlying disease or medical conditions requiring attention.

Anatomy of a Nail

Fingernails and toenails are made up of layers of a protein called keratin. Keratin is a live cell found also in the skin and hair.

There are six parts to a nail:

  1. Nail plate – the visible part. The nail plate sits on the…
  2. Nail bed, which is protected by the…
  3. Cuticle – the tissue at the base of the nail plate
  4. Lunula – half-moon shape at base of nail plate
  5. Nail folds – skin that outlines and supports the nail on all three sides. Below this layer sits the…
  6. Matrix – the hidden part of the nail where growth takes place

A normal, healthy nail is flesh-colored or slightly pink; the growth extending past the nail bed (what you regularly clip) is white and evenly shaded.


Bacterial or fungal infection (onychomycosis) is suspected with any of the following symptoms:

  • swelling and/or pain at nail site
  • cracking or peeling of the nails (especially toenails)
  • thickening and discoloration of the nail

The best preventative measures for bacterial or fungal infections are to keep the area clean and dry, and to avoid nail-biting. A visit to a dermatologist, podiatrist or pharmacist would be prudent should an infection occur, since more serious conditions may be at work if these symptoms present suddenly and last for more than a few days.

More Than an Infection

The following conditions are ones you may encounter in your practice and are provided for the purpose of recognition, not diagnosis.

White Spots (punctuate leukonychia). Looking somewhat like a chalky stain, these imperfections can indicate damage to the cuticle. The cuticle acts as a seal, keeping in moisture and blocking out bacteria and drying chemicals (like acetone and formaldehyde-based polish removers). When cuticles are trimmed too aggressively, or are pushed back excessively, and/or cut or picked at consistently, irritants can slip below the surface, compromising the nail-growth process.

Split Nails can result from over exposure to water and chemicals, which weaken nails.

Rough White Patches. The nail plate looks white and appears “roughed up”. These keratin granulations can form from wearing polish for too long and/or using drying polish removers three or more times/week.

A referral to a dermatologist or podiatrist for consultation is warranted if any of the following are observed.

  • pink, red and/or purple lines beneath the nail plate. These fine lines are usually signs of splinter hemorrhages, caused by trauma to the matrix, medications or a systemic disease
  • unusual nail color, ie. completely white, half-white/half-pink, pale, blush at base of nail – may indicate problems with the liver, pancreas or kidneys
  • red nail beds – may be pointing to heart disease
  • horizontal or vertical lines – can be warning signs of malnutrition or more serious conditions
  • painful lumps at the matrix or under the surface of the nail may be pointing to the growth of a wart or tumor
  • unusually-shaped nails, ie. clubbed nails (domed, large, broad) or spoon nails (concave, weak structure). These may be caused by severe fungal infection, or respiratory or congenital heart issues.

Please keep in mind that it is outside the legal scope of our practices as reflexologists to diagnose any of the above conditions. Should you notice any irregularities recommend that your client get it checked out by a medical professional.

Next post I’ll talk about simple ways to take care of our nails. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Complications of Lymphedema

Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of high-protein fluid just beneath the skin. The word edema originates from the late Middle English period from a Greek word meaning “to swell”. It occurs most commonly in the arm or leg, although it may occur in other parts of the body as well.

Chronic retention of fluid in an area sets off a cascade of further complications. The first is inflammation, which contributes to the development of fibrosis (scar tissue) in the affected area. The presence of fibrosis makes it even more difficult for the body to eliminate the excess fluid. Increased fluid and fibrosis then cause the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to the area to be slowed, which in turn impedes wound healing, providing an ideal environment for bacterial growth and increased risk of infection.


There are two classifications of lymphatic obstruction:

– Primary – abnormalities in the lymphatic system associated with congenital or genetic irregularities.

– Secondary – a result of damage to the lymphatic system (the system that transports white blood cells throughout the body, ridding the body of toxins and waste, and providing immune function). Common causes are surgery, trauma, radiation, chemotherapy, parasitic infection and lymph node removal.


A feeling of heaviness or fullness, swelling and aching pain in the affected area are the classic symptoms associated with lymphedema. Advanced lymphedema may also present with a number of skin changes such as discoloration, thickening, hyperplasia (cell proliferation resulting in enlargement of tissue or organ) and wart-like lesions and eventually deformity (elephantiasis).

So how would you help a woman with advanced lower extremity lymphedema (primary) when she cannot receive foot reflexology? Danielle Gilmore, a 2014 Academy grad was determined to help. See where staying open to possibility took her.


National Lymphedema Network

Brorson H, Ohlin K, Olsson G, Svensson B, Svensson H (June 2008). “Controlled compression and liposuction treatment for lower extremity lymphedema”. Lymphology 41 (2): 52–63. PMID 18720912.


Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Drying Hands Hygienically

A recent study in the Journal of Hospital Infection tested three methods for drying the hands in public areas. As strange as this may sound, the impetus for this inquiry was founded in the discovery that hands left wet or damp after washing may still carry bacteria and viruses. Drying finishes the job.

Jet-Air Dryers. Everyone loves these, because they are fast. The problem though is that they spread four times as many microbes as regular hot-air dryers. The velocity of these units blasts bacteria and viruses upward – right to your nostrils, mouth and eyes.

Warm-Air Dryers. Fewer airborne microbes are propelled into the air with these common dryers because the intensity of air movement is less than that of jet-air dryers. The problem with these units though rests not with the machine, but with those using it. People tend to get impatient – these take longer to dry the hands – and walk away with wet, germ-laden hands that ultimately get wiped on the pants. Now the bacteria are on your clothes.

Paper Towels. While paper products are not as environmentally friendly as the other two options, they are the best bet for public accommodations, such as a reflexology or massage operations. They spread 27 fewer microbes than a jet-air dryer. I think this is especially important for reflexologists. We work on the hands and the feet, the two body structures that make the most contact with the environment and therefore pick up the most germs.

There is an easy and very effective way to reduce your environmental footprint when using paper towels though. Use only one square. Don’t believe it’s possible to fully dry your hands with just one? Try this little experiment:

After washing, hold your hands over the sink, and vigorously shake them 12 times. Then take your square, fold it in half, and using one hand dry the other with one side of the towel. Transfer towel to the hand just dried and dry the other had with the other side of the towel. Et voilà! Dry hands. It’s called the Shake and Fold method. It works. I’ve been practicing this for quite some time now. Watch why and how here.


Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Flip-Flops and Your Feet

The warm weather has arrived in Florida (fortunately without the high humidity yet). If that’s not your experience where you live, can you imagine? Pretend that you’re trading in your wool socks and closed-in boots for “spring/summer attire”? Where I live, that means flip-flops and slides – the topic of my post today. So, what’s wrong with these free-wheeling shoes? Plenty. Especially if you’re someone who is on their feet a lot and doesn’t take preventative measures to keep them healthy and strong. As an experiment, don your fave flip-flops . . . → Read More: Flip-Flops and Your Feet

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