Reflexology (or foot reflexology) is a therapy based on the principle that there are small and specific areas of innervation in the hands and feet that correspond to specific muscle groups or organs of the body. In this system, the nerve endings in the extremities provide a “map” of the rest of the body. Examples are the base of the little toe representing the ear, or the ball of the foot representing the lung. Through the application of pressure on particular areas of the hands or feet, reflexology is said to promote benefits such as the relaxation of tension, improvement of circulation, and support of normalized function in the related area in the body.
A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).
One risk is clearly neurological and complex: some people are basically sitting ducks for the well-documented and nasty phenomenon of “central sensitization,” and indeed may already be in pain and seeking help because of it. A strong massage can severely aggravate that situation, with long term and extremely unfortunate consequences. It’s rare, but it happens. The typical clinical scenario here is a gung-ho under-trained therapist over-treating someone in, say, the early stages of fibromyalgia. Bad, bad, bad.
Reflexologists posit that the blockage of an energy field, invisible life force, or Qi, can prevent healing. Another tenet of reflexology is the belief that practitioners can relieve stress and pain in other parts of the body through the manipulation of the feet. One claimed explanation is that the pressure received in the feet may send signals that 'balance' the nervous system or release chemicals such as endorphins that reduce stress and pain. These hypotheses are rejected by the medical community, who cite a lack of scientific evidence and the well-tested germ theory of disease.
In addition to my private practice, I work with patients at the Initiative for Women with Disabilities (IWD) at NYU Medical’s Hospital for Joint Diseases. Many of the patients I see are dealing with issues such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and rheumatoid arthritis, and find reflexology a beneficial way to incorporate integrative therapies into their treatment.
Structural Integration's aim is to unwind the strain patterns in the body's myofascial system, restoring it to its natural balance, alignment, length, and ease. This is accomplished by hands-on manipulation, coupled with movement re-education. There are about 15 schools of Structural Integration as recognized by the International Association of Structural Integration, including the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute (with the brand Rolfing), Hellerwork, Guild for Structural Integration, Aston Patterning, Soma, and Kinesis Myofascial Integration.
Since reflexology is not recognized by law, no formal training is required to practice reflexology or call oneself a reflexologist. However, some nurses and massage therapists offer reflexology as part of their licensed practice. Some courses are accredited for continuing education for nurses and massage therapists. The most widely publicized training source is probably the International Institute of Reflexology, of St. Petersburg, Florida, which claims to have 25,000 members worldwide . Its seminar on the "Original Ingham Method of Foot Reflexology" are taught by Ingham's nephew, Dwight Byers. Its "Certified Member" status requires 200 hours of instruction plus passage of written and practical tests. As far as I know, this certification process has neither legal nor medical recognition. The Institute's Web site states:
While a Swedish massage works great to help people who suffer from health conditions it also works wonders on people who suffer from everyday troubles and concerns. There are many things in our life that can cause us to be stressed and worried on a constant basis. The more that we stress the more our muscles became tense and we find it hard to relax them.
One of the key benefits of Sports massage therapy compared to other modalities is its ability to target muscle-tendon junctions. A 2010 study in the journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that even a 30-second massage improved hip-flexor range of motion. Another study conducted by Margaret Jones, Ph.D. of the American College of Sports Medicine, demonstrated a notable trend toward decreased muscle soreness in the athletes who received massage either before or after exercise.
Alongside the above mentioned, basic massage notions such as following circulation of the lymph nodes, adjusting massage intensity and combination as per each user are also essential to follow to best deliver an effective massage experience. Perfecting the Swedish massage may take time; yet, with constant practice, the art can eventually be attained.
One difference, however, is that you may not want to drift off the same way you might during a conventional massage. "The only times I run into issues with people not liking their treatment is when they just plop down on the table and go to sleep," Colin says, adding that you should "be honest with your therapist, let them know what your goals and expectations are, and have that conversation."
Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutch man, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage application. In English, these movements are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking.