Reflexology is a subtle, yet powerful modality which treats the whole person rather than just the symptoms of illness or disease. Reflexology offers the therapeutic calming touch to someone whether they are in the first stages of diagnosis or the last stages of life when they are facing the future with fear, anxiety and possibly isolation.
The practice does not make any claims to ‘healing’ or ‘curing’, rather it is used as a complementary holistic treatment that facilitates relaxation, relieves stress and assists in optimising health. Many cancer patients turn to reflexology as a way of improving their overall wellbeing and state of mind as well as to manage some common symptoms and treatment side effects such as anxiety, pain and stress.
What is reflexology?
Reflexology is a type of pressure-point massage based on the ancient belief that there are certain areas on the hands, feet, face and ears connected to specific organs and glands in your body. In this way, these parts of the body can be seen as a ‘map’ of the body. Applying pressure and soothing techniques to these areas can have a healing effect on the relevant organs and assist the body’s self-healing ability. This is achieved by restoring energy flow that may have been blocked due to stress, toxins, illness, emotions or injury.
What will happen to me in a reflexology session?
At your first session, your LivingRoom reflexology practitioner will talk to you about your medical history and about the symptoms you are currently experiencing. Your practitioner will determine the reflexology treatment that’s best for you based on the information you provide, so it really helps for you to be as honest and open as you can be.
To begin your treatment, you’ll be asked to take off your shoes and sit down or lie back on a comfortable chair or couch. Your therapist will probably begin by gently massaging your ears, looking for signs of sensitivity which can signal that certain areas of your body need extra attention during the session. Following this, your therapist will focus on your feet and hands, possibly using a fragrant balm. Your feet and hands will receive an all-over treatment, then your therapist will start working on the specific points that relate to your internal health issues.
Let your practitioner know if you are uncomfortable or start to feel any pain during your reflexology session. The sensitivity of the feet varies from person to person, and your practitioner can adapt the massage so that you don’t feel any discomfort.
What will reflexology do for me?
Reflexology has been shown to make people feel more relaxed and to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in people with cancer. Reflexology is used to integrate the soothing caring touch needed at this time and to enhance the patients’ quality of life. The desired long-term effects of reflexology include reduced stress and increased relaxation, a feeling of increased energy, relief from acute and chronic conditions, relief from stress-related conditions, relief from sleeping disorders, sports injuries, improvement of mental alertness and stimulation of creativity and productivity.
There are a number of studies funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health in the USA that indicate reflexology could assist with reducing pain, enhancing relaxation and sleep.
Some people feel an improvement after their first session, but others will have three or four sessions before they start to feel a difference
General benefits of reflexology:
- Reduced stress and tension
- Improved circulation
- Reduced toxicity
- Improved immunity
- Increased body awareness
- Complements cancer care
Reflexology and anxiety
When you are dealing with cancer, it’s common to experience some level of anxiety. For some people it comes and goes, while for others it is constant. Intense anxiety can make you irritable, tired and may even affect your sleep and ability to concentrate. It can also present physically, causing breathlessness, dizziness, shakiness, tensed muscles, palpitations, nausea and chest pains.
A range of strategies and therapies are available to help you deal with anxiety, including relaxation techniques, exercise and talking to a counsellor or psychologist. You may wish to talk to your Lifehouse care team about ways in which you can manage your anxiety.
Reflexology has also been shown to make people feel more relaxed and to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Many people who use reflexology find it helps to improve their general sense of wellbeing, as well as reducing muscle tension and encouraging relaxation.
In a LivingRoom reflexology session, your practitioner will massage your ears, hands and feet, working on specific points that relate to your internal health issues. Let your practitioner know if you are uncomfortable or start to feel any pain during your reflexology session. The sensitivity of the feet varies from person to person, and your practitioner can adapt the treatment to ensure that you don’t feel any discomfort.
Other livingroom treatments for anxiety
Reflexology and pain
Reflexology in combination with conventional pain medications has been shown to have a positive effect on post-operative pain, more so than pain relievers alone. High levels of post-operative pain is often associated with high levels of anxiety so the soothing, calming touch of reflexology treatments may contribute to pain relief by reducing anxiety levels, thereby reducing sensitivity to or awareness of pain. If you’re experiencing pain as a result of treatment or surgery, reflexology may be able to provide you with some relief.
Are there any risks?
Reflexology has very few contraindications and is generally a safe and effective treatment to be given during the course of cancer treatments.
Who is my reflexologist?
Gretel Spiegel and Natasha Randall are the LivingRoom’s two reflexologists.
Gretel holds a Diploma in Reflexology, a Diploma of Remedial Massage and a Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment.
Gretel knows first-hand the power of reflexology as a supportive treatment. In 2004 she had her thyroid removed and struggled with her energy levels despite her daily medications. Out of personal interest, she undertook a 12 week introductory course in reflexology which included a short weekly reflexology treatment. At the end of the fourth class she realised she suddenly had an abundance of renewed energy and this was the turning point for her, leading her to undertake further studies.
Gretel has worked as a volunteer reflexologist as part of a cranio-sacral reflexology research program conducted on the cancer patients at Jacaranda Lodge at The San Hospital in Wahroonga.
For Gretel this experience highlighted three key understandings, that reflexology:
- Is a clinical treatment that positively affects all the organs and glands in the body;
- positively affects emotional states and as a consequence improves the results of treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy;
- offers patients comfort to their spirit, soothes their anxieties and provides the energy that they need to manage their symptoms.
“I have personally treated many people over the years who have had the successful removal of a cancer, who are currently in remission or are undergoing treatment as well as those managing terminal symptoms. Having a multi-faceted approach to a person’s wellbeing is important and reflexology can offer a means of relaxing and calming the patient by therapeutic touch.” – Gretel Spiegel
As well as treating patients in one-on-one settings in her practice, Gretel has also conducted natural therapies training workshops for the corporate community.
Natasha Randall is another of Lifehouse’s expert reflexologists.
“I have worked for 11 years as a professional reflexologist in my own private practice, mostly doing home visits in the Eastern suburbs and North Shore of Sydney.
I have a diploma in Reflexology and Facial Reflexology, and I also treat the body through the ears and hands!
I believe that reflexology is beneficial for getting your circulation going, boosting your lymphatic system and assisting with blood flow around your body! It can be incredibly relaxing and most people have a restful night’s sleep after a treatment!”
Natasha’s website can be found here: www.reflexologytherapist.com.au
Gretel and Natasha are available to treat Lifehouse patients. If you are interested, just get in touch with the LivingRoom team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 8514 0038.
- Clinical Reflexology: A Guide for Integrated Practice by Denise Tiran and Dr Peter Mackereth
- Reflexology: The Definitive Practitioner’s Manual by Beryl Crane