The Pressure’s on

Danielle Toth

Reflexology techniques benefit mind, body and, especially, feet

Reflexology, a type of massage that promotes bodily health, is “therapy in a reclining chair, and you don’t have to take your clothes off. The only things we require you to take off are your shoes and socks,” said Freddie Fouse, a licensed reflexologist.

Credit: Andrew popik

Protect your feet.

Just like your momma always said.

Or was that wear a hat?

Either way, your feet are important, so why not treat them with reflexology?

A nice foot rub can alleviate pain and tension after walking to and from classes all day — and it can improve the function of several organs, including the stomach, heart and lungs.

Reflexology involves placing pressure on different pressure sensors in the feet and hands to promote overall bodily health, said Carolyn Tustin-Gregory, a massage therapist at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

“Getting results from reflexology is no different than getting results from exercise,” Tustin-Gregory said. “If the pressure is applied appropriately, the response could be one of health.”

When deciding to try reflexology, Tustin-Gregory advises students to remember that they are not professionals. Do not cause pain, do not use tools and do not allow the fingernail to hit the surface of the foot or hand, she said. The key to reflexology is applying pressure to pertinent areas.

The science of reflexology involves the body’s reflexes and the “fight-or-flight” response, Tustin-Gregory said. Feet detect changes in surroundings and bodily positions, and the pressure sensors react to those changes by sending signals through the body. The body can respond by fighting or fleeing.

Reflexology is becoming more popular, said Freddie Fouse, a licensed reflexologist and owner of Freddie’s All Naturals in Hartville.

“It used to be something that was just on the East Coast and West Coast,” Fouse said. “But more people are finding out it’s therapy in a reclining chair, and you don’t have to take your clothes off. The only things we require you to take off are your shoes and socks.”

Fouse has treated clients for a number of ailments, including stress, allergies, arthritis, headaches, diabetes, asthma and back, neck and shoulder pain.

Reflexology has emotional benefits. It relieves stress and tension, helps restore circulation and improves the nerves and blood supply, she said. Most sessions take about 50 minutes.

“I treated a 7-year-old today for asthma,” she said. “Since I’ve been treating him, he’s had no attacks.”

Fouse has been operating in Hartville for 11 years and said most of her clients come in through word of mouth. Many doctors do not yet recommend reflexology to patients because they don’t understand how the pressure points are linked to the organs. For example, reflexologists claim the pressure point for the lungs is located underneath the second toe, but doctors are skeptical of this connection.

However, doctors are studying the benefits of reflexology on many diseases, including cancer and multiple sclerosis.

The Sheba Medical Center, the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research conducted an 11-week reflexology study on patients with multiple sclerosis. At the end of the study, patients showed improvements in many symptoms, according to Massage Magazine. Improvements continued for months afterward.

Similarly, the National Cancer Institute recently funded a two-year study on the use of reflexology to relieve pain in cancer patients.

Whether reflexology is scientifically proven or not, one thing’s certain: A growing number of people are experimenting with reflexology techniques.

“After a long day on your feet or spending the day in tight shoes, a basic foot massage is beneficial,” Tustin-Gregory said. “If your feet feel good, the rest of your body will feel good.”

Contact features reporter Danielle Toth at [email protected].