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.
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.
Diabetes mellitus comes from two Greek word roots meaning “flowing through” and “sweetness”. People with diabetes experience frequent urination and their urine is loaded with sugar. In old days doctors would place a patient’s urine in an open bowl near a beehive. If the urine was high in sugar, the bees would swarm to it.
There are several types of diabetes; type 2 (DM2) is the most common, the most prevantable, and one that years ago presented only in mature adults. Unfortunately, we now see young children living with DM2.
* There are an estimated 30.2 million adults 18 years or older – 9.4% of US population – living with diabetes in the US (2015)
* $245 billion is spent each year in direct and indirect expenses related to diabetes (2012)
* The average medical expenditure for people with diabetes is $13,700 per year. That’s 2.3 times higher than that for people without diabetes! (2012)
* Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. (2016)
* There are 90,000 people in the US currently on a waiting list for a new kidney (mostly due to diabetic complications).
* Diabetes causes more amputations than any other disease.
When we look at predisposing factors that contribute to the development of diabetes, we see a lot of imbalances that Americans commonly live with in our society that often result in other serious health conditions as well.
* Excessive weight and obesity
* Physical inactivity
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* High blood glucose
How Does Diabetes Develop
The stomach and small intestine convert the food we eat into usable chemicals that nourish our cells, and glucose (a form of sugar) that fuels our body with energy. When the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood rises, a signal is sent to the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin unlocks the receptors on our cellular walls to allow glucose to enter. The insulin also brings blood glucose levels back into normal range. All good.
DM2 develops if the pancreas can’t make enough insulin to keep up with a constant influx of sugar into the system, or if the cell receptors stop working, or even worse, if both are not functioning.
With no access to sugar, cells must burn protein and fat for energy. The excess metabolic waste that is left behind by protein and fat metabolism is like dumping sand into the bloodstream. Unchecked, this will lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup) leading to hypertension (high blood pressure), and eventually stroke or heart disease. The additional pressure put on the kidneys to clean the blood can result in renal failure.
So, what I shared above is the generally accepted theory in medicine of how diabetes develops. If you would like to hear a new and different perspective, especially regarding the relationship between obesity and diabetes, watch this TED-talk video from Dr. Peter Attia.
DM2 is preventable and treatable. To reverse the early indications of DM2 developing, however, requires both a serious commitment to lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, stress management) and a partnership with a doctor trained in the area. Please do not ignore the early warning signs: frequent hunger, thirst and urination.
Reflexology and Diabetes
Both my own personal experience and controlled studies show that well-managed diabetes (diet, exercise, medication) responds very favorably to foot reflexology. I’ve included links at the bottom to three case studies completed by Academy grads that you will find interesting.
There are some important points to take into consideration when offering reflexology to diabetic clients:
* If fatty plaques from atherosclerosis accumulate in the legs, peripheral neuropathy may result. Reflexology is excellent for helping to manage peripheral neuropathy, but you must keep in mind that the client’s ability to sense pressure or temperature will be diminished. Watch your pressure and the temperature of the water if you do foot soaks – your client’s ability to recognize discomfort may be off.
* Poor circulation damages the skin, especially in the feet. Sores take longer to heal. Ulcers and nerve damage can develop from chronic ischemia (reduced blood flow and delivery of oxygen to cells). Even minor injuries like blisters and ingrown toenails can become threatening if left to develop into an infectious situation. These skin conditions may also force someone to alter their stance and gait; balance then can become a challenge. Avoid all contact with skin ulcers. Insist that your client have them covered before arriving for a reflexology session. Strongly encourage clients with skin issues to see a professional – not to perform ‘self-surgery’.
* Blood sugar often drops during reflexology. Before beginning sessions with a diabetic client determine how she is prepared to respond in the event she feels dizzy and/or light-headed afterward. Many carry a quick-acting candy with them at all times.
* Although reflexology will bring blood sugar levels closer to a normal range, DO NOT advise clients to adjust their oral or injected medications! That could be life threatening! Although it is possible to get off diabetes medications, the process to do so takes months and is only accomplished with a determined commitment from the individual and strict monitoring by a medical doctor. Reflexology cannot cure diabetes. It can support and improve someone’s efforts to heal their endocrine system.
* Schedule sessions for the middle of your client’s insulin cycle; not right after they’ve taken insulin and not later when they’re getting hungry and blood sugar is dropping.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2017.
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