It seems that the massage community is beginning to recognize the role of the nervous system in determining muscle tone. Reflexology, however, has always taught that it is through the nervous system that we affect all the systems in the body, including the musculoskeletal system.
To confirm those early theories regarding reflexology’s relationship with the central nervous system, Dr. Jesus Manzanares of Spain conducted EEG (electroencephalogram) studies a few years ago that compared the changes in brain wave amplitudes with subjects receiving foot reflexology. The EEG showed the movement of the autonomic nervous system through the various wavelengths; from beta (the waking, alert state) to alpha to theta and delta (deep sleep). Dr. Manzanares’ study confirmed what other research had shown, and that is the direct effect of reflexology on the central nervous system’s autonomic system function.
And now, the massage industry is discovering the role of the nervous system in muscle tone. As Til Luchau reports in the 2018 July/August edition of the ABMP magazine:
“Massage, bodywork and manual therapy probably don’t work in the ways we thought they did. It’s becoming clearer that these modalities produce many (some say all) of their beneficial effects via the nervous system and the brain, and that they probably produce far few direct physiological changes (such as reducing lactic acid) or structural changes (such as permanently remodeling connective tissues) than we previously thought.”
This is certainly contrary to what I learned attending massage school back in 1989! We were taught that it was the direct manipulation by our trained hands that was manually coercing muscles to relax. Today, modern science is demonstrating that it is the nervous system that directs muscles to contract or relax, not so much direct manipulation with our hands.
It makes sense then to go to the source – to talk to the brain – and let the body’s incredibly wise nervous system direct impulses to the muscle fibers to return to a healthy tonus.
As Luchau continues, “We can be me even more effective in our work by better understanding the ways our hands-on work interacts with the brain and nervous system.”
Thankfully, reflexologists have a head start on that conversation. And, I think it would behoove our industry to learn and teach even more on this critical point, don’t you?