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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of American adults suffer an anxiety disorder in any given year. Scientific American reports that one in six takes at least one psychiatric medication. Pills can be really helpful, but they can come with unpleasant side-effects like nausea. Plus, the cost of medication adds up over time.
So, what can you do if you’d rather try a natural remedy? Alongside lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and healthy eating, complementary therapies like reflexology can help.
Reflexology – the basics
Reflexologists believe that certain points on the hands, ears, and feet correspond with other parts of the body. These are known as “pressure points.” For example, the first three toes are believed to correspond with the brain and neurological functions.
People have practiced reflexology in several countries for over 4,000 years. Among the earliest depictions of reflexology are Egyptian inscriptions dating from 2330 BC.
Nobody can say with complete certainty how or why reflexology works. One theory is that our bodies require a steady flow of vital energy to maintain wellbeing. When this energy becomes blocked, we get sick. According to this theory, reflexology stimulates the body in a way that corrects energy imbalances.
Another explanation is the “zone theory.” This theory proposes that the major organs and body parts can be mapped to “reflex zones” on the feet and hands. For instance, practitioners believe that it is possible to stimulate the kidneys by pressing on the centre of the sole.
Practitioners typically use their hands to stimulate pressure points. However, they may also use aids such as rollers, sticks, and cups. Most believe that a tender pressure point indicates weakness, illness, or injury in that particular part of the body. Although reflexology shouldn’t be painful, it may occasionally be uncomfortable.
How reflexology can help with anxiety
If you ask a reflexologist for help with stress and anxiety, they will stimulate pressure points associated with the head and nervous system. This helps calm you down and improves your energy levels.
For example, there is a key pressure point located approximately an inch below the gap separating the first and second toes. Your reflexologist is likely to stimulate these points to promote overall well being and lower your stress levels. There is another point on the inside of the foot, roughly one inch from the largest toe, that is implicated in stress relief.
If you are receiving reflexology treatment on your hands, your therapist may stimulate a pressure point on the inside of your wrist. They may also massage your fingers if they are tense or curled. If you’d like to try self-massage, why not try stimulating these points yourself?
The benefits of reflexology are backed by a small body of scientific research. Reflexology massage significantly lowers anxiety levels in people receiving chemotherapy. Additional research shows breast and lung cancer patients shows that reflexology can lower levels of both pain and stress.
Reflexology is also relaxing. Knowing that you are taking a proactive approach to your own health is empowering. Receiving gentle touch is therapeutic in its own right. The session will usually begin with a general foot and lower limb massage. This encourages good circulation and stimulates the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms. You can also try some DIY reflexology.
Using reflexology safely
Reflexology is a safe treatment for most people. Your therapist will ask you for a brief medical history at your first appointment. If you have recently had surgery on your foot or sustained an injury, you may have to wait until it heals. In some cases, you may need medical clearance from your doctor.
You should allow around an hour for a treatment and expect to pay approximately $60 per session. Although you will probably feel a difference after a single session, you may need several further treatments.
Clara Masters from Massageaholic.com
On a mission to bring massage therapy closer to those who want to live a balanced, healthy life, connecting body-mind, and spirit.
Also published on Medium.