Foot reflexology

By Jackie M. Young

POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009

When your feet are tired and aching, who ya gonna call?


A foot reflexologist might be one. Or just try letting the “;crunchiness”; in your feet mingle with sand between your toes during a walk along the beach.

That “;crunchiness”; in the heels or soles of your feet “;could be due to uric acid deposits, which reflexology helps to disperse,”; according to Makiki reflexologist Suzanne Garrett. “;It also helps to mobilize the foot's structure, helps to balance the endocrine system, and to balance the spine, shoulder and neck areas,”; she said. “;And reflexology points overlap the Chinese system of meridian or acupressure points.”;

Garrett said shoes are a “;huge culprit”; in foot problems.

“;Walking on concrete is a problem for feet. Sandals and slippers are a backward way to hold your foot because feet like to be held around the ankle and the heel, so when you have the support between the toes, it's awkward. It's better to walk on the sand or to use shoes with 'rocker' bottoms,”; she said. “;If you study the design and the whole muscular structure of feet, they are meant to be walked on without shoes, like over rocks and tree stumps. I never use shoes in the mountains.”;

Linda Friedman, president of the Reflexology Association of Hawaii (including 21 licensed, practicing members), agreed.

“;One of the benefits of reflexology is that you don't necessarily need to see someone for it; you could walk on the beach. Everyone has access to it.”;

So why seek a reflexologist?

“;It's like a manicure,”; said Friedman. “;You could give yourself a manicure, but the experience of having someone else do it for you is totally different. It's hard to reach a state of total relaxation and stress relief by doing reflexology on yourself. And if you do it yourself or have a friend do it, the proper pressure isn't always applied.”;

Foot reflexology is defined as the art and science of manipulating points on the feet that correlate to organs and glands, helping the body maintain a state of balance, according to Friedman.

“;It's the only way I know to access the internal organs through touch,”; she said. “;The receiving and giving of reflexology seems to slip through people's defenses because they feel safe; there's no issue of modesty when someone is touching your hands, feet or ears (all three are considered reflexology access areas). And people don't have to take their clothes off; it can be done anywhere, with no special preparation.”;

Some people don't like to have their feet touched.

“;I completely respect that,”; smiled Friedman, “;and then I promptly offer to work on their hands. Little do they know, it's the same thing.”;

Some individuals are afraid they'll be ticklish, but usually find that sensation only lasts a few minutes.

“;Women especially are very self-conscious about their feet. Many of them apologize to me about their toenails, when they don't realize all I'm seeing are the bottoms of their feet.”;

Friedman got hooked on reflexology through a class and has been a licensed massage therapist since 1999.

Garrett also took a reflexology class, 37 years ago, and found it “;very fascinating stuff.”; She's been licensed since 1987.

“;It's been a journey of working with people's bodies through their feet, and noticing people's energy through their feet, whether it's flowing well or not, or if the reflexes to the different organs are sore or tender or tight.

“;My patients are my best teachers,”; noted Garrett. “;It's an ongoing learning process.

“;We do not diagnose people, but often we'll find a spot that's sore, and will ask if there's something going on in that reflected area, and people will say, 'How did you know that?'

“;Well, your feet were telling me.”;

MEDICAL EXPERTS don't agree on the health benefits of reflexology. Theodore York, a podiatrist who's practiced for 29 years in Honolulu, believes that at most, reflexology provides an excellent foot massage.

“;We have not yet been shown proof that points in the foot match up with other areas in the body, unlike with acupuncture that does have a great body of proof. This is where the West parts ways with the East.”;

York has lectured frequently at local reflexology and acupuncture schools, and does believe massage to specific areas relaxes those areas and brings an individual's blood pressure down, thereby triggering a general healing effect, “;but not to the extent of affecting unrelated areas of the body,”; he said.

“;Podiatrists look to the causes of foot problems—blood clots, muscle weakness, structural problems. We diagnose and treat the source of the problem.”;

York admits some treatments might address a patient's psychological well-being.

Garrett said her clients report some benefit from foot reflexology, even if it's just relief from a job that might require standing for long hours.

“;I usually tell new clients to pay attention to how their feet feel during our first session. Usually, after I finish with one foot, they can feel a huge difference, and want me to immediately work on the other foot!

“;When people's feet are happy, they walk more easily. When the bones are mobilized, the feet support you better. Your energy and your body run better; your circulation is better. I love being part of that and having people re-experience their feet in a new way. Some tell me it's like having a massage inside out.”;