If you have ever struggled with severe anxiety, you know how painful it is to go on medication after medication and not find any relief. Additionally, your anxiety may become so crippling that it’s the only thing on your mind 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It affects your ability to sleep, your ability to socialize, maintain friendships, and function in public settings. Although there are a wide variety of treatment options, one that we are going to discuss an alternative one that may be of interest to some called reflexology.
What is reflexology?
Reflexology is basically a system involving massage or a degree of pressure in certain areas of the body that is used to relieve tension, stress, anxiety, and other ailments. This system is based on the theory that there are specific places called “reflex points” on the feet, hands, and other areas that are linked to helping restore proper functioning of internal organs. It is certainly an alternative, non-mainstream treatment for anxiety that has evolved from ancient Chinese therapy.
The therapy is rooted in the touching of “reflex points” or “reflex zones” to stimulate various body organs. When these organs become stimulated via massage or pressure, this therapy is supposed to help restore the body’s natural energy flow so that it can maintain balance in both physical and mental functioning – promoting relaxation. One of the most common uses for this type of therapy is to help treat stress and anxiety.
Additionally it may help to increase blood flow to the extremities, slow down heart rate, and decrease blood pressure. This massage work in this type of therapy is soft and has minimal pressure and feels soothing to the patient. The nice thing is that for people looking to chill out and not take medication, this could be a promising natural treatment. No equipment is needed, just a trained professional.
Specific regions with reflex points in reflexology
- Foot region – There have been studies supporting the fact that proper massage of the foot region in reflexology can help alleviate anxiety, stress, nausea as well as pain. There was a study done in 2000 with cancer patients that involved foot reflexology and the results demonstrated that these were statistically significant in terms of helping promote relaxation. There are specific regions on the foot that will help change the entire energy flow throughout the body if stimulated properly.
- Hand region – In the hand region there are various points that can be touched and massaged to help the entire body relax. If your hands are tense, it is a sign that you are physically stressed. The idea here is to free the trapped tension and let your entire body calm down. A clenched hand with tense fingers is a sign of stress. An open palm with loose, dangling fingers is a sign you are becoming more relaxed. A reflexologist may even show you a chart that depicts various regions he or she is trying to stimulate on your hand.
- Head region – One area that some reflexologists target is the head region. If you get frequent tension headaches or stress headaches, this can be a sign that your entire body is stressed. When cortisol production and epinephrine take over and the sympathetic nervous system dominates, it is extremely difficult to relax. Although it is less common, the head region may be targeted with various points to help you calm down.
- Stomach region – A very common point of focus in the treatment of anxiety with reflexology is the stomach area, or solar plexus chakra. This is a chakra (or energy system) that is located between your rib cage and navel. Working to soothe this area will help calm down an overactive nervous system and reduce that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. Most people with anxiety report having a knotted stomach or a lot of butterflies. When you calm this area down you restore healthy breathing and reduce the physical toll that stress has taken on your body.
What internal organs does reflexology help?
The stimulation of various points on the hands, feet, and other areas is supposedly linked to helping calm certain areas. If you meet with a professional reflexologist, they may be able to give you a specific breakdown on what zones on the hand correlate with internally.
- Adrenal glands – Since you are experiencing heavy anxiety, your adrenal glands are very sensitive. Perhaps they have been kicked into overdrive and are overproducing epinephrine to keep your entire body on edge and alert. When these are overstimulated, you need to take the time to calm them down so that you can successfully function in society.
- Brain – The goal here is to ease your anxiety both physically and mentally. Although physical regions are stimulated via massage, this can help calm the fight-or-flight response down inside your brain. If you are experiencing rapid thinking and cannot calm yourself down, this therapy may gradually help. As you become more physically relaxed, it opens the door for increased mental relaxation.
- Colon – In some cases anxiety can have implications on the digestive system and colon. If your stress and anxiety is linked to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or other colon issues, then this form of treatment may provide some relief.
- Pineal gland – If you are having difficulties falling asleep at night due to your heavy symptoms of anxiety, your pineal gland may be the culprit. It helps control the cycle of waking up and falling asleep. What reflexology can do is help reset natural functioning and aid in falling asleep and waking up at good times.
- Pituitary gland – Another glad that is implicated during high anxiety and stress is the pituitary. As the body increases the production of stress hormones, it throws off the natural functioning of the pituitary. As these stress hormones decrease, the pituitary helps promote normal hormonal activity and homeostatic functioning.
Why use reflexology for anxiety disorders and stress?
- Supplement existing treatment
- Natural treatment option
- Struggling with anxiety
- Want to try something new
- Alternative therapy
If you have high levels of stress and anxiety, reflexology may be able to help you calm down and learn to control your anxiety symptoms. Most people go to a professional reflexologist for an initial consultation and to see whether they respond to this type of alternative therapy.
Important reflexology study with cancer patients (2000)
There have been a few studies done demonstrating the effectiveness of reflexology. One of these studies involved the use of foot reflexology in cancer patients. In the 23 patients, it was found that foot reflexology significantly reduced their symptoms of anxiety, and also helped with nausea and pain management.
Although you may not be able to receive reflexology treatment every day, there are things that you can do in between treatment sessions to help keep anxiety at a minimum. Some people use hand reflexology on themselves to help control stress symptoms in between sessions with their reflexologist.
Interested? Find a professional reflexologist in your area.
If you are serious about using reflexology to help with your anxiety, look for a reflexologist in your area and give it a shot. It’s basically a just like a massage to targeted zones on your hands and feet. These zones will allegedly help calm down and restore natural function to specific internal organs – that’s the concept. Don’t expect anything magical other than a massage with some alternative science behind it.
Many claims in reflexology are unfounded and aren’t supported by clinical research. There are certain studies demonstrating a temporary anxiety relief from reflexology, but nothing major or permanent.mmThe best way to start with reflexology to help control your anxiety is by finding a professional reflexologist in your area. If you don’t know where to look, you can always check online or look for local ads. Reflexology is a less common practice these days, but you can find a fair amount of information about it online.