As this blog (which I originally posted in June 2015) attracted so much attention and interest I decided to send it again.
Looking back over my 43 years in reflexology practice and teaching, I am glad to know that many things have changed for the better, but I find it frustrating that some prejudices and misinformation persist.
In the early days, reflexology had something of a 'summer afternoon with tea and cakes' image about it, at least this is how it was recognised by the majority of people. The practice of reflexology was something one did when the children left home and one had time on one's hands - all very nice and genteel!
But there was another more worrying side of reflexology as a profession, particularly in the U.K. I remember being told by a tutor, that reflexology, if used incorrectly, could have dire consequences for the recipient if certain rules were not strictly adhered to.
Amongst these gems of misinformation was the danger of spending too much time on a reflex, and never to give more than two treatments weekly.
We were even told to use a stop-watch to time to the second the time we spent on each reflex. If a miscalculation was made with this, and the treatment was thirty seconds too long, the wrath of the heavens would fall on the poor patient!
I can recall, as a young reflexology acolyte, being haunted by the fear of the effect my reflex, timing miscalculation would have on that day's patient. A night filled with anxiety!
As for giving three treatments in the space of a week-that was heresy! How would the patient's body be able to handle the bucket loads of toxins which would be gushing into the blood stream?
Added to this were the pages of contra-indications we had to learn by heart, which meant that nearly every new patient had to be referred to their GP to confirm they were well enough to receive a treatment!
Thankfully, sanity now dictates that these beliefs are less predominant, but it is still surprising to me that there remain many reflexologists who are still fearful of the damage they could cause to a patient.
Even today it is believed by some that reflexology must never be given during pregnancy, or at least not until after the first trimester, for fear of causing miscarriage. Where did this come from? As if nature forgot that a pregnant lady may safely walk on a stony or pebbly surface.
Perhaps there should be warning notices on all pebbly beaches making people aware of the fact that walking on them may cause miscarriage or cardiac complications!
I have treated thousands of women throughout pregnancy; it is a time when both mother-to-be and the foetus can benefit from a treatment. I am not suggesting a 'gung-ho' approach, far from it, but an appropriate treatment for each particular patient.
Other pearls of advice included never to treat a person with implants, such as hip, knees etc. as this could cause rejection! I ask you, where does this stuff come from? Add to this heart conditions, cancer, diabetes and others.
I was once told by an eminent tutor while I was demonstrating working on the heart reflexes, that it was dangerous and could damage or even stop the heart! What a way to commit the perfect murder! Another reprimanded me about the dangers of working too hard on the spinal reflexes as it could crush the spine! A therapist told me that she watched a piece of shrapnel (which was embedded in WW2) migrate through the skin of a patient while she was giving a treatment! Not to mention the supposed anti-poison reflex on the feet which was all the rage a few years ago!
Reflexology, applied in the proper manner, is a wonderfully energising, relaxing therapy, capable of being beneficial to the recipient. It is not destructive, but constructive - it does no harm. Certainly patients can experience a variety of responses after a treatment; sometimes a feeling of wellbeing, and sometimes, slightly unpleasant sensations. The body will do what it has to do following a treatment. We as reflexologists cannot put our fingers in the spokes of the wheel of nature's healing response. It will do what it has to do in its own sweet way, as it has done since the first amoeba rejoiced at being alive.
Do your great work with this knowledge and respect in mind, and without trepidation.
My Best Wishes
This is what my Dupuytren’s contracture looks like. Commonly affecting the fourth finger (although can effect one or more fingers and sometimes the thumb) which gradually, over time become bent and pulled towards the palm. This is caused by a thickening of the connective tissue in the palm, causing hard nodules to form-a condition called fibromatosis.
Dupuytren’s can effect both sexes but is more common in men.
There are various speculations about its causation, some suggest an underlying thyroid condition.
There is a strong genetic link, as the condition is more common in those form Northern European or Scandinavian descent-hence it often being referred to as the Viking disease.
In my case it has not been caused by my years in reflexology, but through genetic ancestry, interestingly I have a thyroid condition. It began to develop many years ago, but recently has become worse and will have to be surgically treated soon.
The condition can effect other areas of the body, such as the penis (Peyronie’s disease). However (and this is something which concerns reflexologists) it can also effect the feet, causing the same symptoms as in the hand with the accompanying hard nodules on the plantar areas of the foot or feet. In this case the condition is known as Ledderhose disease.
Over the years many students have been concerned that patients with a hard nodule over a reflex is an indication of serious health problem to the corresponding area of the body. I have lost count of the times that I have been asked what these nodules mean.
Rest assured, it is not an indication of the existence of a serious health problem in the related, reflex area.
Whatever you can do or dream you can do
Boldness has genius
Magic and power in it
Begin it now……
“Taking the first steps towards our dreams or
even changing a situation we don’t like is often the
hardest move. However, making a commitment to action
is where the magic begins.
“All sorts of things help us that would never otherwise
have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision,
raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents
and meetings and material assistance which no one would
have dreamed would come their way”
Several years ago I was given a copy of this book by Dwight Byers, the nephew of Eunice Ingham, the ‘mother of reflexology’. Dwight and I travelled the world for many years promoting reflexology.
The book, of which few copies survive, was published in 1959 and is a transcript of a lecture that Eunice gave in Chicago in 1958.
The transcript gives a clear insight into her work. When she wrote her first book ‘Stories The Feet Can Tell’ in 1938, she had already been practising reflexology for many years and had given many thousands of treatments. Her treatment sessions were usually about 20 minutes in duration.
In this transcript, her way of ‘working out a reflex’ was by staying on the point with a deep, continuous, creeping movement for 30 seconds before releasing. She would repeat this process as necessary, ‘to work it out’.
Her approach to reflexology was positive and, in the words of her nephew, Dwight, ‘not for the faint of heart’. It is her method of working which is of interest. She explained the purpose of reflexology with a very simple mantra: ‘find a sore spot and work it out’.
For a detailed insight into her work life, I would recommend ‘Eunice Ingham - A Biography, by Christine Issel and “The Original Works of Eunice Ingham’ by Ingham Publishing.
It is this approach to reflexology that I use and promoted over the years, and it was the reason I founded ART (Advanced Reflexology Techniques©) in 1989. The techniques have been taught internationally since then.
ART gradually evolved into Focused Reflexology© which combines the original techniques of ART with various additions and refinements which have been developed over time.
I created these techniques for two reasons:
I wanted reflexology to be recognised as a therapeuticaly effective therapy, rather than one of only relaxation.
Secondly, I knew that these techniques would help and encourage the ever-increasing numbers of reflexologists who were disappointed and frustrated by the lack of therapeutic response they were achieving in their practice. Some had indeed considered leaving the profession.
Once they attended seminars and began to give treatments in a more focused way, they discovered a new and exciting world of reflexology. This awareness reinvigorated their enthusiasm in their profession. Patients benefited and appointment books filled up.
For those reflexologists who give what I call a ‘spa’ type of foot massage, with an emphasis on relaxation, the need to be concerned with the therapeutic potential of reflexology need not apply.
The length of treatments sessions
Most reflexologists and patients expect the duration of a treatment to be between 50-60 minutes. I describe these as maintenance sessions, and they provide a valuable service. However, when it comes to helping patients with health problems, one needs to adopt a different approach. Focused and frequent sessions of shorter duration are needed.
Many reflexologists give unnecessarily long treatments when they are not needed. In fact, when a patient has a health problem, a lengthy treatment can be less effective than a 30-minute focused session.
Tony Porter will be presenting a seminar in London on April 22/23, 2017
Details and booking - www.tpreflex.com
Seminar London 22/23 2017
Where are you going with reflexology?
Tony is a London-based reflexologist and founder of Advanced Reflexology Techniques (ART)