This is a very good article written by Michelle Milder, a reflexologist in California, on the subject for Massage Magazine. Well worth a read as you consider how to re-boot your business in the coming year.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) occurs when the nervous system and the immune system malfunction as they respond to tissue damage from trauma. The nerves misfire sending constant pain signals to the brain; pain that is measured as one of the most severe on the McGill University Pain Scale.
Although excruciating to live with, few studies have been conducted with RSD, and none testing reflexology’s effects – until now. Academy grad, Vicky Mood, decided to see if weekly foot reflexology sessions might make a difference for a woman living with this disease since 2011. Continue….
2019 Academy grad, Grace M. Beck, decided to test whether or not weekly foot reflexology sessions might help to decrease the anxiety, frequency/urgency issues and pelvic pain of a 69-year-old female living with IC since 2006.
The results were favorable and very encouraging. Read how the study was administered.
Your immune system plays a key role in keeping you healthy. It safeguards your body against infections and diseases by blocking pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and parasites from entering and wreaking havoc in your body.
But what if your immune system turns on you and begins attacking your body instead? This is the reality of those who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
The Basics of Autoimmune Disease
A properly functioning immune system would be able to tell the difference between invaders and your body’s cells. An autoimmune disease, however, causes your immune system to mistake healthy body cells as foreign ones. Thus, it attacks your body by producing proteins called ‘autoantibodies’ that impair the body’s tissues.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences notes that there are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that stem from an interplay of genetics and environment. Some of the most common ones are type 1 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Celiac disease. Typically, medication is prescribed to help ease the painful symptoms of an autoimmune disease. From oral medication to injections the kind of medicine depends on the condition. There’s still no cure for them, but their reaction on the immune system can be managed with immunosuppressants — medications that weaken the immune system’s activity.
Researchers still cannot pinpoint a clear reason as to what causes an autoimmune disease to develop. What’s more, Parsley Health reports that a worrying 20 million Americans currently have some form of autoimmune disease — but most don’t even know. Unexplained rashes, body aches, fatigue, and hair loss are just some subtle but common signs you may be suffering from an autoimmune disease. If these are symptoms you experience, it would be best to consult with a medical professional to check the condition of your immune system.
Reflexology’s Role in Treating Them
Tracing its roots as far back as ancient China and Egypt, the art of reflexology is a form of therapy where pressure is applied to the hands, feet, and outer ears. Reflexology has healing effects like providing deep relaxation, decreasing body pain, and strengthening nerve stimulation, which was previously shared on the Academy’s post ‘The Real Benefits of Reflexology’. So, how can reflexology help aid those with autoimmune diseases?
Living with an autoimmune disease can be extremely stressful, as the bodies of those diagnosed will most likely be attacked by their own immune system for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, a study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion found that anxiety, depression, and stress in women with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder, significantly decreased thanks to reflexology treatments. This is because its relaxation techniques have the ability to release muscle pain, which has severe implications on both a person’s physical and mental health.
More than just a massage, the pressure applied to the body part touched by a reflexologist can reach different body systems, such as the digestive system, the endocrine system, the nervous system, and the circulatory system. This, in turn, can help bring balance to an immune system that’s not functioning properly. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system that helps calms down high-energy functions in the body, reflexology lowers the amount of stress-inducing hormones while helping the body harmonize and relax.
Although autoimmune diseases are complex conditions, the simple power of touch can make all the difference for the pain they cause.
Old paradigms held that pain was generated at the periphery, at the site of an injury. We know that not to be true now.
The high cost of war resulting in so many lost limbs has necessitated substantial research on phantom pain, and that has changed our understanding of where and how pain is felt.
As an example, according to the new model of pain initiation, if you drop a heavy object on your foot, receptors will transmit that sensory input to the brain. Pain is not actually felt until that information reaches the brain and is interpreted there.
We also now know that interpretation takes into account, not just the sensations from the object landing on the foot, but memories of similar past experiences, psychological concerns (such as fear) and other stressors.
In other words, the brain is more involved in the experience of pain than we once believed. It is, in fact, more involved than the actual site of injury, and as I stated at the outset, pain is multi-factorial – a very complex issue.
Bodywork and Pain
Because of the unprecedented and tragic results of opioid addiction in the United States, the medical field is scurrying to find other routes of pain mitigation. This puts bodyworkers in a strategic position to be of service, since loving therapeutic touch does reduce pain.
Reasons that bodywork is so powerful in addressing pain:
* People coming for bodywork bring much more than their physical selves into the room – their entire history arrives with them. Research shows that hands-on approaches impact people on far more than just the physical level – therapeutic bodywork touches every layer of a human being, not just the physical. A pill cannot claim that!
* We are just now learning that it is less about what you are doing and more about how you are doing what you are doing. The latest research shows that it is the deeply relaxing and positive aspect of hands-on interventions that actually works with the brain and nervous system to help reduce pain. This is why I love reflexology so much. The modality is masterful at relaxing, and speaks directly to the brain through the neural circuits. No ‘middleman muscle’ even needs to be touched.
* Bodyworkers create longer-lasting relationships with their clients – one hour (sometimes more) versus the 15 minutes doctors budget. Giving clients the time to talk about their pain allows them to better understand all that contributes to the situation, and perhaps discover healthy ways in which they might shift the quality of their lives. Empowerment and hope do much to smooth the edges of chronic pain.
* Reflexologists and other bodyworkers take great pride in designing environments that are soothing and calm, not sterile and hectic as is the case in a medical office. Soft lighting and quiet music sets the stage for deep relaxation. And, remember ….
RELAXATION IS THE BASIS OF HEALTH!
Cardiologist and author, Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, called on the medical profession to acknowledge the critical role emotions play in coronary health.
He went on to state that although the heart is commonly associated with love, it is not the source of love. He explained that the heart does not generate our feelings, but is responsive to them. And that is why the state of our emotional health is so important to our overall wellbeing.
As examples, he showed how fear and grief set off a cascade of changes such as pinching the shape of the heart muscle, speeding up the heart rate, contraction of blood vessels, and increasing blood pressure – all of which can result in damage to the organ.
The above are all triggers that occur in what is commonly referred to as ‘broken heart syndrome’, a biological event that can cause ‘death by grief’. On the other end of the scale, emotions such as joy and happiness create opposite changes in the heart that support healthy functioning of the organ.
All of these observations have led to studies with some surprising results. The one that caught my interest the most was ‘The Lifestyle Heart Trial’, published in 1990 in The Lancet, a UK science publication.
In it, the subjects, all living with coronary disease, were divided into two groups: the control group, who received regular allopathic practices, and the lifestyle group, who were put on a program of vegetarian diet, moderate exercise, stress management techniques and a social support network.
The results were undisputable. Although diet and exercise played a role in slowing the progression of coronary disease, the prevalent decider was stress management techniques and social connection. Those who receiving loving touch experienced less aortic disease than those who didn’t.
Dr. Jauhar concluded his talk with sharing that over the last 10 years the decline of coronary disease has slowed, at the same time the external stressors of modern life have increased.
It’s time we take stress management seriously. Our lives depend on it.
You can watch Dr. Jauhar’s full 15-minute talk here.
I started out with the idea to write something today about the ‘gut brain’ and then remembered this wonderful article written by two friends, Dorthe Krogsgaard and Peter Lund Frandsen of the Touchpoint Institute in Denmark.
Peter and Dorthe covered the topic so well, I realized there was no sense in my writing anything when they said it all! So, with their permission, I share it here. Please read and enjoy!
I am inspired by the research findings that I read these days regarding reflexology, Reiki, craniosacral therapy and massage. I hope and trust that all professional therapists are using this valuable information to reach out and help more and more people in their communities who are living with debilitating and often life-threatening health conditions.
That is what motivated me back in 2009 to include a class on evidence-based research and the writing of case reports in my Therapeutic Hand & Foot Reflexology Professional Certification curriculum. With that information in their pockets, students choose a health condition they would like to explore and create and implement a case study on their own.
To date, the research conditions the Academy has archived include fibromyalgia, endometriosis, diabetes, cancer, panic disorder, PTSD, peripheral neuropathy, migraine headaches, liver disease, constipation, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic back pain, Parkinson’s disease, chronic hand pain, lymphedema, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, upper extremity mobility, uroschesis, anosmia, and Marfan Syndrome.
To read the studies, including methodology, results and conclusions, please visit this link.
I make these studies available to show some proof – albeit, limited – of reflexology’s potential to influence certain health conditions. They are great educational and marketing tools. Give those clients who want to see proof that reflexology might help them improve the quality of their lives what they want! Use these findings to encourage people you know to give reflexology a try.
You may share links to any of these papers, if you wish.
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?
2017 Academy grad and advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), Roberta Cirocco, decided to test whether a combination of hand and foot reflexology could positively affect a 68-year-old woman with diagnosed lymphedema who has been living with venous insufficiency for 20 years. You can read the results here.
image courtesy of medicinenet.com