Published on March 2nd, 2016 | by Christel B. Haase PhD., Certified Reflexologist1
The Foot-Body Connection
Reflexology Targets Nervous System in Easing Stress and Pain
by Christel Haase, Ph.d., Certified Reflexologist
Leonardo da Vinci describes the “human foot as a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Indeed. Each of our feet houses 26 bones, 33 joints, over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles. In addition, thousands of nerve endings (or reflex points) which relate to internal organs, glands, and body systems. The application of pressure to reflex points used in Foot Reflexology normalizes body functions and causes our nervous system to trigger a healing response. Our feet and nervous system work together to break the cycle of stress and pain that feed into each other. Footwork induces a state of deep relaxation which allows our nervous system to free the body to seek its own homeostasis.
The peripheral nervous system connects both brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to the entire body. The nervous system serves as the body’s control center and its electrical-chemical wiring network. Internal organs and body parts require a nerve supply to function properly. Foot Reflexology makes contact with the body’s electrical centers and helps to re-energize the whole system. Electro-chemical nerve impulses (initiated through pressure points on the feet) connect to the nervous system and transmit information and pain signals. Stimulating these points on the feet initiates a simple reflex action, sending a calming message to the nervous system where it signals the body to adjust the tension level.
Pain is the result of irritated or in amed sensory nerves. When circulation in the foot slows down—due to muscle tension or illness, wearing uncomfortable shoes or lack of exercise—grainy crystal deposits form at the nerve endings. Foot Reflexology breaks up the deposits, thereby invigorating and opening nerve pathways and alleviating stress and pain.
Footwork can be likened to rubbing an area that is injured or painful and then feeling relief. Working all areas of the feet also encourages the production of natural pain-relieving endorphins within the brain to help ease pain and elevate mood.
Links between pain and chronic stress have been established with conditions such as headaches, joint pain, PMS, and muscle pain. However, there doesn’t need to be a physical reason for pain. Workplace stress is often associated with backaches. Tension headaches can become more intense and severe when under duress. Footwork on brain reflexes helps release the chemical neurotransmitter “serotonin, which is a natural tranquilizer and mood enhancer” states Beryl Crane, author and founder of the Crane School of Reflexology.
A scientific study on the psychological perceptions of pain theorizes pain as a subjective experience created by the brain. Mood and stress both influence the brain and how pain is experienced. When the brain responds to the sensation of pain, it also creates pain in response to emotional or cognitive factors. The specific thumb, finger and hand techniques used in Foot Reflexology increase nerve activity which, in turn, inhibits pain not only on the physical level but the emotional as well.
From anxiety to headaches and plantar fasciitis to the discomfort of ill-fitting shoes, Foot Reflexology addresses a wide range of conditions. The journey of life sometimes takes our feet in many directions. Let’s remember to reward them and treat them well.
Christel Haase holds a PH.D. in Holistic Health and Certification in Reflexology from the International Institute of Reflexology in NYC. Christel has been practicing Foot Reflexology over 11 years.