Alternatively Speaking: Understanding reflexology

Alternative medicine expert Natalie Marx answers your questions: What exactly is reflexology and what it can be used for?

Herbal remedies 370 (photo credit:  REUTERS/Simon Newman)
Herbal remedies 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Simon Newman)
Q. Dear Natalie, please can you clarify what exactly reflexology is and what it can be used for. My daughter recommends I try it but I don’t exactly understand what it is.
A. Originating in China, reflexology is the ancient art of foot massage. Using the principles of acupuncture, every part of the foot corresponds to an area of the body, and massage of the feet stimulates the corresponding part of the body.
Receiving a reflexology massage can be regarded as the equivalent of a full body massage since the foot is a microcosm of the body. Energy runs through the body in channels known as meridians and therefore massage of the feet stimulates these energy channels, promoting healing and relaxation. The experience is generally firm, but gentle, and does not cause discomfort or pain.
My experience as a Reflexologist for over ten years has proven that people of any age or sex ranging from the elderly, women, men, teenagers, children and babies derive positive benefits from reflexology. We have over 7,000 nerve endings in the feet, and these are connected to the whole body through the central nervous system. Massaging the feet works to restore the delicate balance between the different body systems and functions, and when this happens harmony is restored.
Reflexology is not only very relaxing, it is also very effective in pain relief, as tension is taken out of the body and stress reduced, so pain is also reduced. Reflexology increases the circulation and stimulates the digestive system. It is so effective at this that most people feel the need to urinate after a treatment, and are nearly always thirsty, as toxins are eliminated from the body.
Q. Dear Natalie, my father recently suffered from a stroke. He has been recommended to try reflexology. Can this help him and if so, how?
A. Having worked for many years as a Reflexologist within an Orthopedic Hospital, I had the privilege of working with many stroke patients who turned to reflexology to help them in their recovery. I began to study exactly just how this form of therapy based on the pressure of specific reflex areas induces a positive outcome and physical change to the body. Reflexology can significantly help stroke patients because the pressure application has the possibility of sending out signals of balance to the nervous system which release chemicals that reduce stress and pain. Reflexology stimulates nerve circuits, which can relieve symptoms of stroke patients. I offer sessions which can last between 30 to 60 minutes and in program packages of four to eight weeks.
Q. Dear Natalie, I suffer from terrible period pains. Every month I depend on painkillers to see me through the week of terrible cramping and lower back pain. Can reflexology help reduce or cure these symptoms?
A. Yes indeed. Reflexology is most successful in resolving any hormonal issues. In a study involving 68 young women aged between 18-25 with dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) researchers compared the effects of reflexology and Ibuprofen. After 10 sessions of reflexology, provided during two consecutive menstrual cycles it proved that reflexology significantly decreased both the intensity and duration of menstrual pain. The reflexology intervention had lasting effects as opposed to the Ibuprofen, which proved to offer only a temporary solution. When comparing the reflexology group to the Ibuprofen group, the reflexology group showed a greater reduction of pain intensity and duration.
Reflexology has become well known for helping during the menstrual cycle, whether it be helping to regulate the cycle or help with the menopause. Reflexology helps relieve  inflammation and tension in the body, and during menstruation offers great relief.
By applying pressure to the corresponding reproductive areas, reflexology helps to restore balance in the body and ease the effects of menstruation. I treat many women who suffer from irritability, breast pain, food cravings, headaches and dull congested pain in the uterus. After only a few treatments reflexology helps to normalize the imbalance in the hormone system that can cause these problems.
Q. Dear Natalie, Can reflexology help me with my constipation? As a result of being blocked I suffer terribly from bloating.
A. In my experience and clinical practice, I have found reflexology to be very effective in treating constipation and issues concerning the digestive system. A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (Feb 2010) proved that reflexology is found to help improve symptoms of constipation, helping also to treat the bloating associated with constipation.
Working the intestinal reflexes in the direction of peristalsis can help move the contents through the gastrointestinal tract. The relaxation induced by reflexology helps the body switch over to the parasympathetic nervous system, which supports the whole digestive process. Reflexology also promotes harmonious contraction and relaxation of the diaphragm resulting in rhythmical massage of the abdominal organs.
Q. Dear Natalie, what exactly can I expect if I go to a reflexology session?
A. The reflexologist will inquire about your medical history, lifestyle and current state of health to ensure that reflexology is the appropriate choice of therapy for you. They may also include a description of how reflexology works and how each session will be conducted.
The wonderful advantage of reflexology is that during the treatment, you will remain fully clothed except for your socks and shoes. Your practitioner will ask you to sit or lie down on a comfortable chair or couch in a quiet, relaxing room. They will examine your legs and feet for rashes, sores, bunions or other wounds, and ask if you experience leg pain or other problems. Before they begin, the reflexologist will likely wash your feet, soak them in warm water and position them a slightly raised on a pillow.
The practitioner usually starts working with the toes and progresses down your foot.  Following this they may work on the sides and top of the feet. If you are trying to find relief for a specific condition, they may focus on one particular part of the foot for a while, but will still massage all areas of your foot to promote relaxation.
Each session usually lasts from half an hour to an hour. Patients can talk, remain silent or fall asleep. Following treatment, many people claim to feel a flow of energy through their body, or a feeling of lightness or tingling. Other potential effects include thirst, laughing, crying, sighing, sweating hands or feet, coughing or possibly feeling light-headed. Most experience more energy, greater mobility and less pain.To book a free 15 minute consultation with Natalie please email She will advise which treatment is best for your individual needs; Reflexology, Homeopathy, Massage or Flower Remedies including nutritional advice. There is no obligation to book a treatment following the free consultation.