I’ve been a Reflexologists for 40 years, a licensed massage therapist since 1988 and am a NTP graduate. As a practitioner who is in constant contact with the tissues of the body, I wanted more information about the influence of nutrition on all tissues. I filled in this missing aspect with the NTT program. Upon graduating NTA approached me and asked if I would provide an overview of reflexology and its integration with the Foundations. What follows is how I’ve married the two concepts.
During a first reflexology appointment, I measure the arch of the foot and then from the toe back to the heel with a Brannock measuring device. I check the foot’s width. I have them do a walking stride imprint on something resembling a giant ink pad while looking for how the client balances weight from side to side. Once that has printed on the paper, I have the client step over their imprint and trace the outline of their foot. I then take the shoe they came in with and place it over this foot tracing to figure out if the shoe they are currently wearing is the right length and style for them. Inevitably I hear “well, I don’t wear it that often” from my clients. I liken this to what we hear as NTP’s when reviewing food journals. I’ve asked clients to keep a diary about their shoes to really get an idea of how much time they spend in the shoes they tell me they do not wear that often. This aspect is critical if they have sought my services because they currently have foot pain.
The next step is a quick bone assessment of the feet and lower leg. Reflexologists work the feet, hands and ears and are allowed to work up to the lower 1/3 of the legs and arms. The bone assessment is especially important if someone comes in wearing orthotics. My specialty as a Reflexologist is in working with the structure of the foot to return full mobility. When an orthotic is prescribed, it is often prescribed when many bones are out of alignment. If my goal as a practitioner is to get everything back into place and mobile, the orthotic often becomes obsolete with the first reflexology session.
Ready to begin, clients relax on my massage table with a bolster under their knees and a light blanket when needed. Now I can see the sole of the foot and what the leg length is currently. I look for calluses, corns, toes that have moved out of position, bunions, hammer toes, etc. I look at the nail size and compare each toe’s nail to the next. From my position at
the client’s feet, I also assess the tip of the client’s nose and I am looking for a crease under the tip of the nose to tell me about heart issues and between the eyebrows to tell me about the state of the liver. I feel for tension in the lower leg to tell me about the heart and have referred many folks out for blood pressure help. Now an NTP, I can take the blood pressure myself! The quality of tissue, tendons and ligaments of the entire foot talk to me about vitamin/mineral needs, health of the liver or if sugar handling needs to be addressed.
My own health care team is made up of chiropractors who work off the spine and Acupuncturists: Five Element and Traditional Chinese styles. What I have learned from all of these practitioners colors what I bring forth in the care I give to my own clients. As a result, I use not only the reflexes of the foot to “treat” a client, I also use the meridian flow of energy, the lymphatic flow, the nerve, breath and blood flows of the body. My foot assessment continues, before I actually begin working, by putting some of the already mentioned factors of bunions, hammer toes, calluses together with what toe they match. See the graphic of the hand and foot meridian reference points. I also look at the great toe to represent thinking; the second toe is feeling; the third toe is doing; the fourth toe is communication; the fifth toe is family of origin and family of mankind.
Then from a reflex point of view, I have moved away from “points” on a chart. You might have noticed differences from one chart to another. This is all about copyright laws. I consider the right foot to house things pertinent to the right side of the body. When thinking about anatomy and physiology superimpose the body onto the sole of each foot. All toes are representative of the neck (doesn’t the toe “stem” look like our neck?) and head. The webbed area between the toes is the top of the shoulders and ends at the shoulder joint at the little toes. Under the toes in the metatarsal area is the chest/lung/between the shoulder blades and the blades themselves. This is also breast tissue/lymph and lungs/heart and ribs. Right under the metatarsals and slightly different in color is the diaphragm/liver/gallbladder/colon/small intestine/stomach and all body parts in the mid region of our body. Arms and legs are located at the lateral sides of the feet. Around the ankles is the pelvic girdle/fallopian tubes/pubic bones. The middle of the heel has a liver point (I say that heel “spurs” in this region are connected to the liver). The bowel and the base of the spine are in the heel and the sides of the heel medially are uterus/prostate and the lateral heel houses ovaries and testes.
THREE TYPICAL CLIENTS
S came to see me because she thought she had plantar fasciitis. I measured her feet, assessed the bone structure of her feet and lower legs. Her tissue was like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I asked her what
She ate the most each day and she said about 12 cans of coke and two to three coffees. I told her she was malnourished. She was shocked.
K’s foot hurt after a weekend of training for an upcoming bike trip. She rode her bike one day for 70 miles, the next day for 90 miles, and followed that up the next day with a walk with a girlfriend, even though her foot hurt. She thought she had “bad pedals” on the bike. After assessing her feet, I told her she’d over trained and broken the second metatarsal bone and sent her off for an x-ray. She didn’t believe me until the doctor confirmed what I’d already told her. During those rides, she’d only eaten “bars”.
When I first touched “R”, I knew he didn’t want to live. He had an asbestos tumor in his lung large enough to deform his rib cage. I wondered what I could do with my reflexology treatment and simply “tuned” him up. He called me the next day to say that the nausea he had been dealing with was gone. I had concentrated my treatment on his stomach, liver and kidneys because I knew he’d undergone a lot of chemo. He was so happy because he loved to eat, and in fact, took me out to his favorite lunch spot. His wife told me after he died that he had told her when they married he would pass at the age of 54. He did.
SEASONAL CONSIDERATIONS: SUMMER
I always make note of the season when a new client shows up for treatment. Summer is about lightening up, play and deep joy. Conversely, one can feel “burned out”. The element of summer is Fire that gives us the power of illumination, to see our way through darkness. All things in nature have come into full ripening and bloom. From Fire comes partnership and warmth in relationships and community. When a client “hates” summer, I always ask what summer vacation was like between school grades and if the client knows how to play! Sometimes I have to help the client define what play might be for them.
Summer is about the Heart and is considered in Chinese medicine to have greater importance than the brain. When we wobble or lose our way with any part of life’s journey, listening to our Heart is key to restoration. There are three other “officials” that guide and support the Heart. The Pericardium is the protector of the heart and is in charge of grace and grants us full intimacy in relationships. The Triple Warmer/Burner/Heater is our joy maker, rhythm maker, family maker. The Small Intestine (considered to be the secretary) does the work of sorting and separating, of clarifying life at every level–body, mind, spirit.
Some practical tips for tending the fire of summer: eat bitter tasting vegetables like endive, spinach, watercress. Bitter tastes feed your fire. **When it’s hot outside, eat cool foods like fresh fruits, watermelon (eat melons alone or leave them alone), cucumber. Avoid drinking ice-cold drinks. Iced coffees are really heat producing because the fire is in the ROASTED coffee bean. **Notice clues showing you might be “burned out”: not wanting to return phone calls/answer e-mails; you don’t want to interact with people; you yearn for peace and quiet. **Balance activity with solitude. Take warm baths at the end of days filled with outside activities.
Here we go. Let’s visit Digestion and what it looks like in the foot. Bunions tell me a lot about a person: HCl is insufficient, there is a sugar handling problem and the liver is congested. If the great toe is straight, but the tip is upturned, this is more of a liver indicator. You see the medial border of the graphic shows spleen/pancreas. NTP’s know the pancreas is responsible for blood sugar handling and making digestive enzymes, but a bunion also tells me about the boundaries a client holds in their life. Women think they show up because of shoe choices, but over 30 years in practice with reflexology gives me a different opinion. Women with bunions often over-give in their lives and end up in such an exhausted state of being that life does not seem “sweet” any longer. The base of the great toe locates the reflexes for the thyroid/parathyroid and the voice box. When I ask a woman how easy it is to ask for what she wants in life, tears flow.
Flat feet indicate digestive disorders. The 2nd and 3rd toes are pertinent to the stomach, so if they are moved in any way, support the digestion! Operating on a hammer toe does not fix the digestive needs and ultimately sets up other problems for the foot.
Feet that are ticklish have digestive breakdowns. If a client is too wiggly and tense at the same time, I have them chew up a digestive wafer. NTP’s know the lingual/neural relationship has an immediate effect on the body. Clients are astonished when they settle down with ease by the time the wafer is swallowed and restless legs and cramping during a session calm down by putting a few grains of Celtic sea salt on the tongue.
Chinese medicine partners organs and I like to think that way as well. So, in having talked about the liver, let me say a bit about the gallbladder. Referring to the graphic again, I look to the fourth toe. Is there a corn; has the toe moved in any way. Has the client talked about a neuroma (often found between the 3rd and 4th metatarsal bones–I think that a medially rotated calcaneus that moves the cuboid bone actually sets up the neuroma). Following that fourth toe on top of the foot to the ankle, you might see a quarter sized swelling. Gallbladder congestion shows up when you are trying to make an appointment for treatment and the client can’t “decide” day and time. “D” asked me why I never told her she had a gallbladder problem. When she had to ‘fess’ up to me that she was getting Botox for her frown lines on her forehead, we talked about what that meant for the liver and gallbladder, but once the gallbladder was removed, she forgot that information and many of her appointments!
Liver and gallbladder manage our life’s thinking/planning and ability to take action steps to bring “something” forth. Anger/frustration/irritation/impatience result when the gallbladder can’t decide what to take action about!! Imagine what happens to the brain when this cycle repeats over and over.
Hydration problems in the body show up in the tissues of the feet; sometimes the entire sole of the foot looks like ripples in sand. When I talk to a client whose feet look like that, I ask them about how “easy” they find life. Nothing holds water back in the natural world, so when a client struggles with life, simply ADDING more water into their diet has amazing results. “S” created vertical lines in the small intestine area of the foot when she overdid colonics and drank too much coffee. Look to kidney information in the little toenail on each foot. A tiny nail on the right foot is our body’s bank account in life from mom, dad and the Universe. On the left side of the body, a tiny small toenail is what you added to your life’s bank account from hydration, rest and lifestyle choices. If the small toe has moved, i.e. a tailor’s bunion, the client can feel insecure in life, fearful about life, and looks to others to define their “place” in the world.
Chinese medicine pairs the kidneys and bladder. They govern our bones and can be responsible for tight Achilles tendons, leg cramps, sciatic nerve pain and chronic back pain, scoliosis, bouts of hearing loss or other ear disorders that don’t respond to hearing aids. The quality of hair and amount of hair is often related to kidneys. Feet pointing outwards and burning, sweating, or painful soles point to kidney/bladder, too.
Folks with tiny toenails on the small toes have weak ankles as the kidney meridians loop around them. As a result, this person needs to avoid shoe styles that don’t have a solid heel cup to keep their calcaneus in place. Sports shoes need to have a filled-in, oval sole. A lot of these style shoes “cut in” under the arch creating instability for the ankle.
Sugar handling shows in bunions as well as whether the great toenail gets ingrown or not. Sugar issues also show up in the quality of the tissue of the foot. Ulcerations on the lower leg and foot are related to the heat and inflammation that sugar generates in the body. A paste of turmeric and milk or castor oil applied to the ulcer will begin to show healing signs within 24 hours. Have the client take 1-2 capsules of turmeric daily as well.
SOME DO’S AND DON’TS FOR SUMMER SHOES
The first thing I teach my clients is how to fit a shoe to accommodate their feet needs so the marketplace becomes more manageable. If a client has come to me with plantar fasciitis pain, it is imperative they comply with changing shoe styles to support the calcaneus’ alignment. Once I have measured a man’s feet, they often find they have been wearing shoes almost two sizes too short. Once the length size is managed properly, the client’s width and toe box circumference will be properly handled.
Flip flops are the shoe I love to hate. Diane Sawyer did a piece on flip flops for Good Morning America, June 8, 2008. What they said about folks shortening their walking stride is true. But the piece left out a lot of other information. Those toes of ours are designed to help us balance and manage/interpret the terrain we traverse. When they are holding on to ANY kind of a shoe that has no back to it, we create neck and shoulder tension, we medially rotate the calcaneus (creating plantar fasciitis!) and we begin to put tension on our hips (gallbladder 30 is right at the hip socket). Every client that has had a knee replacement, ACL surgery or shin splints has a rotated calcaneus that also moved the fibula head and sometimes the knee cap out of place! Limit the time you might be tempted to wear this style shoe. The nickname for shoes without heel cups is “scuffy”. You can notice that scuffing sound as folks wearing that style of shoe walk around you.
Other shoes that I caution my clients against are: Crocs (they might be soft and cutely colored; they simply do not fit properly on the foot), MBT’s (the rocker shoe), Z-coils, Dansko clogs or any clog, earth shoes, or Birkenstocks because they all constrain the toes, Chacos overbuilt their arches (in my opinion).
I like some sandal styles of Naots, Finn Comfort, some Mephisto sandals, Romika, some Clarks, Naturalizer, Ecco, SAS, Teva has some terrific styles of sandals and I like Keens for some folks too.
I do not
recommend buying a shoe and then adding inner soles to it to cushion your foot or putting in an arch “support”. This changes the interior space of the shoe significantly! Look for cush within the shoe’s design. Our medial arch is designed to flatten when we put weight on the foot in order to spring our stride forward. If we cannot do that, we begin to contract the arch tissues (our adrenal gland and kidney reflexes are located at this point) and the contraction continues up into the legs and hips. One of the constant comments of folks as they get off the table from a reflex session is how “fluffy” their feet feel. Hydrate and spend some time reflexing your feet and you will find “cush” is built in!
I hope this excites you to want to do your own exploration of reflexology as a tool for supporting whole body well-being. Reflexologists can be located nationally through the Reflexology Association of America at www.reflexology-usa.org, the American Reflexology Certification Board at www.arcb.net or the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals at www.abmp.com/home/index.html.
Lighten up. Laugh more. What makes you smile nourishes you. Seek it out.
Kandi’s journey started when she crushed her 5th lumbar disc in her early 20’s. The resulting sciatic pain caused her to search everywhere for relief. Her first pedicure was combined with a reflexology session that offered her immediate pain relief! On her way home from the appointment, she bought two books the Reflexologist had recommended and began tending to her own health. She received her massage license in 1987 and an NTP certification followed in 2008. Kandi can be reached in Seattle at (206) 441-TOES (8637) or by email at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: Statements made in these articles have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products or protocols are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or be used as a substitute for appropriate care of a qualified healthcare professional. The ideas and options of contributing authors do not necessarily reflect those of the Nutritional Therapy Association SPC.