Gout is an acute form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs in joints and their surrounding tendons. Initially, it affects just one joint, and usually the metatarsalphalangeal joint of the foot. (This is the joint between the great toe and the rest of the foot that, in reflexology, corresponds to the shoulder line in the first zone.)
‘True gout’ results from hyperuricaemia, a big word that basically indicates an increased level of uric acid crystals in the blood. The build-up of uric acid crystals (a by-product of protein metabolism) develops unrealized over years, until such time as the crystals literally cut through the synovial fluid sacks surrounding the joints, releasing the synovial fluid, and leaving the joint unprotected.
Pain can be excruciating and is accompanied by redness, swelling, and heat, and the inability to bear weight due to pain. Imagine trying to walk! A person experiencing a flare-up would not allow you to touch their foot, it’s that painful.
‘Pseudo gout’ refers to a build-up of calcium pyrophosphate crystals from the breakdown of purine proteins found in organ meats, sardines and anchovies. Although labeled ‘pseudo’, it too is very painful.
What Causes Gout?
There are a number of situations that can precipitate hyperuricaemia and the resulting painful attacks on the joints, and much that can be done to prevent and manage an existing diagnosis. I know from my own clinical experience that reflexology can play a notable role in assisting those suffering from this swollen, red, hot, shiny and extremely painful condition.
One to two percent of the western world is said to suffer from gout. A doubling of the number of cases since the 1990’s is mostly due to the dietary changes in our society that have led to an increase in metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance, develops from what has been termed the ‘rich man’s lifestyle’: a diet high in alcohol, sugar products, meat and seafood, and low on physical activity. Use of diuretics, niacin and aspirin are also associated with the development of gout. Excess weight, dehydration and an acidic diet are also known to contribute.
Why The Foot?
So, why does gout tend to manifest in the feet or the hands?
In an attempt to protect the vital organs, the body will make every attempt to push toxins externally, away from the body’s core.
What To Do
Left untreated, hyperuricaemia can lead to kidney stones and “tophi”, nodules that result in deformity.
A dedicated multi-factorial approach is necessary to overcome gout, beginning with dietary changes.
Doctors recommend avoidance of alcohol, fructose-laden foods, and weight management. Exercise, vitamin C, and moderate consumption of coffee and dairy products are known to decrease the risk of insulin resistance and subsequent attacks of gout. Restoring a healthy digestive tract through dietary changes and the use of herbs designed to keep urates soluble provide big benefits to sufferers. During an attack, icing the joint for 10 to 20 minutes, three times a day is suggested.
Since gout attacks occur more at night, when the body’s temperature has dropped and is tired, sufferers might also want to look at their sleep habits. Get plenty of regular sleep; go to bed before you’re exhausted and keep the body warm.
A Reflexology Approach
Reflexology can decrease the pain associated with inflammation, support the taxed adrenal glands, help to flush the body of excess urates and relax a hyper-stimulated body fighting an attack.
During a bout of gout, the individual will not want you near the inflamed joint. So, if the foot is affected, work the hands. Work the adrenal, kidney and all the lymphatic reflexes thoroughly. Following the Law of Similars, work the metacarpalphalangeal joint on the corresponding hand, including range-of-motion movements. Between attacks, work the affected extremity.
Please note that reflexology will assist in the recovery of gout. It is not a substitute for the lifestyle changes absolutely necessary to overcome this painful condition.
Do you suffer from gout?
Have you ever provided reflexology to clients with gout?
What were the results?