In addition to reflexology ...
... a range of essential oil blends is available and may be used to enhance and support the effects of treatment and, if required, to make various products tailored specifically to individual needs.
For detoxification and conditioning, use of a far infra red sauna may be booked.
(For information on essential oils, please click here and on the sauna, here )
Is Reflexology Therapeutic?
The word therapeutic is defined as "having the ability to treat disease" (and a therapist is someone who practises the art of healing in some way).
Reflexology is a special form of "therapeutic" massage, usually of the feet although the hands, face and even the ears may be used too. It is a safe, invigorating and yet relaxing therapy that is suitable for most adults, children and babies.
Reflexologists believe that every part of the body is represented by a specific area on the feet (these areas are known as reflex points and zones) and that massage of these areas will stimulate beneficial effects in the parts of the body that they represent whilst at the same time, helping to promote good overall physical and mental health and general well-being. Many people include regular reflexology sessions as part of their personal fitness plan for health maintenance (just as they might take regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and ensure adequate sleep - rather than resorting to it only when a problem arises).
The beneficial effects of touch, massage and the application of pressure to the body (and more specifically to the feet) have been recognised for thousands of years and across many different cultures - for example some Native American tribes have a tradition of treating the whole body via the feet; and acupuncture and acupressure techniques which were first developed in ancient China, utilise pressure points, many of which are located in the feet.
The way that reflexology is practised today was developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, from the research carried out by neurologists, physiologists, doctors and other professionals but also by drawing on the ideas that lie behind many of these more ancient forms of treatment.
Reflexology has developed as a holistic therapy, i.e. the whole person is treated by considering all aspects of their lifestyle including their health, rather than focusing just on health or any specific illnesses or conditions.
Reflexology may play a role in the symptomatic relief of many conditions, for example colic in babies; joint and back pain; hormonal imbalances (such as those experienced specifically by women or as associated with thyroid or other endocrine disorders - and some reflexologists have particular experience in working with couples who have fertility issues); sinus problems; digestive system disorders; low mood, stress and anxiety; headaches; fatigue and other debilitating long-term illnesses. It also often seems to promote good sleep, including in children.
But just as importantly, it may also help to maintain good health, prevent illness and aid relaxation. For these reasons many clients feel that their overall health and immunity are improved, supported and protected by having regular reflexology sessions; in other words, they find that reflexology is therapeutic.
So How Does It Work?
As yet, there is no straightforward, scientifically-supported explanation for the benefits that reflexology appears to provide to so many people.
And unfortunately, there is also little published peer-reviewed research into the effects of reflexology - but the current generation of well-qualified practitioners will undoubtedly soon begin to correct this omission ............
However, there is a wealth of well-researched and long-established evidence to show that stimulation of one part of the body can produce a response elsewhere - for example, in the early 20th century work of Sir Henry Head, a physician with a special interest in neurology and of Sir Charles Sherrington, an Oxford physiologist:
Through his extensive work on the nervous system, Sir Henry Head plotted the areas on the surface of the skin that are affected by each of the spinal nerves – these are known as Heads Zones or dermatomes; he found that diseased organs can cause sensitivity of specific areas of the skin and he also noted that, “the bladder can be excited into action by stimulating the soles of the feet”. Sir Charles Sherrington described the physiological process behind reflex actions and how they support function; he also developed the idea of proprioception which is the process by which the body constantly receives, interprets and adjusts to external stimuli, i.e. how the body achieves and maintains physiological equilibrium/balance.
But, as well as the idea that stimulation of specific areas of the feet or hands produces a beneficial (reflex/balancing?) response in another specific part of the body, there are several other theories regarding the action of reflexology including:
the idea, based on the Meridian Theory of traditional Chinese medicine, that a flow of energy (known as Chi or Qi) throughout the body is optimised as several major meridians or energy pathways are massaged during the reflexology treatment (and that this in turn promotes good physical and mental health and recovery);
the idea that nerve fibres, blocked by a build-up of crystalline deposits, are cleared by the treatment and that conduction of nerve impulses is optimised;
the idea that stress (which is known to suppress the efficient functioning of the immune system) increases the likelihood of some illnesses and conditions and that reflexology, like meditation, stimulates the body's relaxation response and the production of endorphins (the body's own potent pain suppressants), so reducing susceptibility to illness, alleviating discomfort and promoting recovery ("relaxation response" describes a specific set of physiological changes - the opposite of the fight-or-flight response - which includes lowered blood pressure, breathing and heart rates. The possible promotion of the relaxation response is one of the most powerful potential benefits of reflexology);
and the idea that the placebo effect is encouraged by the holistic nature of the therapy (the importance of the placebo effect should not be dismissed; it is universally recognised as being of clinical significance in relation to symptomatic relief).
The real answer is likely to involve a combination of some or all of these theories.
Some people appear to be much more sensitive to reflexology than others, just as individuals often respond in different ways to conventional medical treatments.
The lack of a clear explanation as to exactly how and why reflexology produces the beneficial effects that are reported, should not prevent or deter people from taking advantage of this safe, enjoyable and apparently helpful therapy if they wish to do so - and provided that they have first sought the advice of their general practitioner or specialist doctor for any unexplained symptoms or if already undergoing conventional treatment.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Reflexology
Q. What is Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT)?
A. This is an additional reflexology technique in which the feet are worked-on in a weight-bearing position. The treatment is short and can be used alone or in combination with the Eunice Ingham Method. Practitioners of this technique believe that it may enhance the therapeutic value of a treatment. VRT has been in use since the mid 1990's and was developed by reflexologist Lynne Booth. For more information about VRT visit: the VRT website
Q. Can reflexology offer a cure for any particular diseases or conditions?
A. The short answer is no but where a disease or condition has been clinically diagnosed then reflexology, as a complementary therapy, may be used to support and enhance conventional medical treatment, to provide symptomatic relief, to improve general well-being, to aid relaxation and to reduce anxiety. Clients have reported relief from joint and back pain, low mood, headaches, sinus problems, hormonal imbalances, stress, digestive disorders, poor sleep patterns and a number of other long-term debilitating illnesses and conditions.
Q. Will it work for me?
A. Many people believe that reflexology is a powerfully beneficial therapy and return regularly for treatment in order to maintain good health and general well-being - but there is no guarantee that it will work for any particular individual. Everyone is different and will respond in a different way and at a different rate.
Q. What is a typical session like?
A. The initial session will last for about an hour and a half and subsequent ones for around an hour although frequent shorter sessions may sometimes be recommended in order to obtain the maximum benefit for the treatment of a specific condition or for the relief of acute symptoms.
A confidential record of personal and medical details will be made and there will be time to ask questions and to discuss the reasons for the visit and anything else which may be of concern.
(At Autumndale Therapies, safe storage of clients' personal and medical details is of the utmost importance. All such details are kept on paper, in an individual file which is stored in a locked filing cabinet. No personal or medical details are stored electronically. Personal and medical information is never shared except at the client's request and/or with their permission - unless of course there is a clear indication of a significant risk to the client or another person.)
The reflexology treatment is given to bare feet or hands whilst relaxing in a comfortable reclining chair. The massage is firm and will be pleasant and relaxing overall although sometimes one or more reflex areas may be very tender or particularly sensitive to the touch.
Afterwards there will be a little time just to sit and relax for a few moments, to have a glass of water and to discuss the session.
Q. Will I need to undress?
A. If the feet are being treated, you will only need to remove your shoes and socks, tights or stockings. Trousers will need to be rolled up to just below the knee. If the hands are being treated there is no need to remove any clothing at all but sleeves should be rolled up to the elbow.
Q. Will it hurt?
A. Overall, a reflexology session should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience and if any part of the treatment is unpleasant or uncomfortable for you, it is important that you let the reflexologist know straight away. However, it is very common for some reflex areas to be tender or sensitive and it is helpful for the reflexologist to know this; once those areas have been treated, some soothing massage should be applied to help to restore you to a completely relaxed state. (Discomfort in a particular reflex area does not necessarily indicate that there is a problem in the corresponding area of the body - it is how the feet and the reflexes feel to the reflexologist that is of greatest significance.
Q. What is a reflex?
A. A reflex is an area of the body that when stimulated, produces an automatic, instinctive, unlearned response in another area. In reflexology, massage of specific reflex areas of the feet or hands appears to produce beneficial effects in other specific areas of the body.
Q. Are there any side effects following a reflexology treatment?
A. Some people do experience a reaction to the treatment; this may take the form of "odd" sensations (sometimes described as tingling or as if electricity is running through the body) or some other form of physical or emotional disturbance during the treatment; or it may manifest itself as unusual tiredness, altered sleep patterns or feeling "out of sorts" in some way during the two or three days immediately after treatment. Occasionally, a more significant reaction occurs but again, this will be short-lived and may be followed by an improvement in the presenting condition. Reactions like this may be an indication of a positive response to the treatment. Other people report feeling extremely relaxed or full of energy.
Q. Are their any contraindications to treatment?
A. Very few. Reflexology is a safe therapy for most people, no matter what their age. The presence of cellulitis may preclude treatment (due to the tenderness and fragility of the skin) as may a tendency to blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (because the massage may stimulate the circulation and therefore possibly dislodge a clot which could in turn lead to a more serious problem). Reflexologists will not treat anyone with a notifiable, contagious or infectious disease (including athlete's foot) because of the risk of infection and cross-infection. Caution will always be exercised in the presence of any serious or unstable condition and the client may be asked to seek the advice and approval of their own doctor before commencing treatment. A hand treatment may be possible if it is not possible to treat the feet.
Q. What if I'm pregnant?
A. Pregnancy is not a contraindication, in fact reflexology has become one of the most popular complementary therapies used by pregnant women. It may be very helpful for symptomatic relief, for example for back ache in the later stages. Some reflexologists specialise in treating women who are pregnant or who have had problems conceiving - and an increasing number of midwives are now trained in reflexology.
Q. What if I have very ticklish or sensitive feet?
A. Surprisingly perhaps, people with ticklish feet often enjoy a reflexology treatment and do not find any problems with having their feet touched in this way, i.e. firmly and with confidence - but if touching the feet is unbearable for any reason then the hands may be used instead.
Q. What if one or both of my feet can't be treated?
A. As above, hand reflexology is the answer.
Q. Is there anything that I should do or avoid doing before or after a treatment?
A. Just eat light meals before and after a treatment and afterwards be aware that it is possible to feel tired, unable to concentrate or a little out of sorts for a short time so try to avoid the need for a long journey, important meeting or strenuous exercise session straight away. If possible, try to make time for a rest or an early night, avoid alcohol, nicotine and any unnecessary medication and drink plenty of plain water.
Q. Will you be able to tell me what is wrong with me?
A. No. Reflexologists never diagnose (or prescribe medication) - unless they are medically qualified as well; however, it is sometimes possible to detect sensations in particular reflex areas which may indicate some sort of problem or imbalance in the corresponding area of the body.
Q. Why do reflexologists advise drinking plenty of water after a treatment?
A. Because massage stimulates the circulation and the improved blood flow means that the whole body will be eliminating impurities at an increased rate. Water will tend to be eliminated at the same time so, to avoid dehydration and to allow continued efficient elimination, it is sensible to increase water intake - particularly for the many of us who tend not to drink enough plain water anyway.
Q. What if I am having other forms of treatment?
A. If you are having other complementary treatments, it may be better to complete those sessions before starting reflexology - otherwise it may be difficult to decide which therapy is providing which benefits. If you are receiving conventional medical treatment, it is sensible to discuss the idea of using a complementary therapy at the same time, with your doctor.
Q. Will I notice an improvement in my health after one session?
A. Possibly. You may well find that your energy levels and mood are given a boost and that you feel more relaxed. Recently acquired health problems may be improved quite quickly but long-standing problems may take longer to address and so several sessions may be more helpful; just as with conventional medicine, a course of treatment is often needed. Acute problems may benefit from frequent, short sessions. Many find that a regular treatment, for example once every 4 weeks, seems to help to maintain optimum health and well-being.
Q. What is the relaxation response?
A. The "relaxation response" describes a specific set of physiological changes - the opposite of the fight-or-flight response - which includes lowered blood pressure, breathing and heart rates and reduced muscle tension. It is provoked by stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system - which forms one part of the autonomic nervous system (the other part of the autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system, stimulation of which can produce the fight or flight response or feelings of panic). The possible promotion of the relaxation response is one of the most powerful potential benefits of reflexology. The deep relaxation of the relaxation response is physiologically different to both sleep and the rest enjoyed when reading or watching the television, for example. It is highly beneficial to physical and mental health. Massage, as given during a reflexology treatment, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (yoga, meditation and progressive relaxation techniques can too) and therefore may elicit the relaxation response.
Q. What is the Eunice Ingham Method?
A. On the "Home" page I mention that I use The Eunice Ingham Method. Eunice Ingham (1889-1974) is sometimes referred to as "the mother of modern reflexology". She worked as a physiotherapist with an American medical doctor by the name of Dr. Joe Shelby-Riley who continued the work of another American doctor, ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. William Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's research had shown that when pressure was applied to particular areas of the hands and feet an anaesthetising response was produced elsewhere in the body and that this effect not only offered symptomatic relief but was reproducible. This work eventually led to his development of "Zone Therapy", where pressure applied throughout longitudinal zones of the feet was used to alleviate symptoms in his patients. Shelby-Riley used Zone Therapy too and he added some transverse zones to the treatment map.
(Fitzgerald mapped out five longitudinal zones on each foot and believed that each of these zones represented a corresponding longitudinal zone running throughout the whole body. He applied pressure to the zones in the feet in order to stimulate beneficial effects in organs and tissue within the corresponding zone in the rest of the body. There are similarities between Fitzgerald's zones and the Meridians used in traditional Chinese medicine. Some reflexologists incorporate Meridian Therapy into their work, with great effect - look at the work of Inge Dougans, for example.)
Eunice Ingham was a proponent of Zone Therapy and did much research herself. Her work suggested to her that the use of an alternating pressure technique not only produced an anaesthetising effect but seemed to promote recovery as well. She applied pressure to more specific reflex areas of the feet or hands, which she gradually mapped out during the course of her research, using her thumbs and fingers. She initially described her method as compression massage but later changed the name to reflexology. She was passionate about the positive benefits of this treatment and worked determinedly to introduce reflexology to the general public.
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Reflexology should not be used as an alternative to seeking medical advice
Essential Oil Blends
I have the privilege to be able to use a range of essential oils blends, painstakingly developed over a number of years by a master aromatherapist. These wonderful blends may be used to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of a reflexology session, to provide additional support between treatments or as stand-alone products.
I make creams, lotions, hand washes, bath and shower gels, rollerballs, massage oils, shampoo, body scrubs, etc. individually tailored to your personal requirements. They may have therapeutic intent - or just be for their divine scent.
All products are made with people and planet-friendly ingredients.
The blends are designed to help many conditions from skin irritation to sleep disturbance, travel sickness to tension, hormonal imbalance to mood swings ...
The most popular products are my rollerballs, with many satisfied clients using them either to promote sleep and relaxation or alternatively, concentration and alertness - great for long distance driving and healthier than caffeine or energy drinks!
Telephone consultations are available, to help you to discover just the right essential oil product for your needs. Products can be dispatched to you by post or collected in person.
The Sauna at Autumndale Therapies
The infrared sauna at Autumndale Therapies was supplied by Zoki UK. It forms part of a private health suite, incorporating a relaxation room with views across the garden, secluded sun deck and en-suite shower room. Clients have exclusive use of this whole area for the duration of their sessions.
The sauna itself is custom-built from well-seasoned spruce, which is close-grained and hygienic.
It uses nine ceramic emitters, which give an excellent all-round spread of both near and far infrared radiation. Both types of radiation offer similar health benefits, through their penetration of the skin to a depth of several centimetres and the internal warming that is generated. Near infrared has the advantage of warming the air too, allowing a relaxing background heat to be built-up. A simple dial allows the user to adjust the heat to a comfortable level - with infrared treatment, there is no advantage in extreme heat; the benefits are the same whatever the temperature, so individual comfort is of paramount importance.
There is an overhead emitter which may be switched off if the heat directed towards the head is found to be unpleasant.
The emitters are designed and manufactured to fully comply with the EEC electromagnetic compatibility directive. They have an extremely low EMF output with the benches and backrests designed to give an EMF reading of zero at the skin surface.
The sauna has a glass door so the cabin does not feel claustrophobic. It is well lit and there is an optional full spectrum light for those who feel the need for a boost to their daylight hours, especially in the wintertime (this may be particularly helpful for those prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the ‘winter blues’.
The air to the sauna is constantly filtered to remove dust and impurities and there is an ioniser to further support this function.
Why Use a Sauna?
There are many claimed health benefits from using an infrared sauna regularly, for example three times a week for 20 minutes per session.
The appeal of saunas in general is that they cause sweating and an increased heart rate, similar to taking moderate exercise. Several hundred calories may be used during a session in a sauna. Water lost through sweating can be replaced by drinking water, without putting back the calories. Sweating may also promote detoxification of the body, as some toxins are carried away in the sweat.
An infrared sauna, like the one at Autumndale Therapies, is capable of producing these results at lower air temperatures and humidity than a steam sauna. This makes it accessible to those who are unable to tolerate the heat and humidity of a traditional sauna. The infrared heat penetrates the body to a depth of several centimetres, warming it internally to create the therapeutic effect.
Sweating releases some waste products and toxins from the body, which is thought to be beneficial. The pores of the skin open and impurities that are on or which are brought to the surface can be easily washed away, leaving the skin looking clear, clean and conditioned. The appearance of cellulite may also be improved. Extreme external heat and excessive sweating are not necessary - gentle internal warming just to the point of sweating are sufficient.
Several studies have looked at the use of infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, mild depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some evidence of benefit has been found, however larger and more-rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results.
It is believed by some that toxin overload from environmental and other pollutants, alongside obesity, stress and nutritional deficiencies, are responsible for some of these conditions - and that regular use of an infrared sauna may gradually reduce this burden, alleviating symptoms and improving health and wellbeing.
Finally, taking a little while out of a busy schedule to relax and unwind, possibly using the time for quiet reflection, meditation or mindfulness is really beneficial for relieving stress and supporting wellbeing.
Using the Sauna
Firstly, do not use the sauna if you are feeling unwell (unless it is due to a simple cold); or if you have a hangover, are dehydrated, pregnant or have a recent (i.e. in the last 48 hours) musculo-skeletal injury such as a sprain (because the heat of the sauna will intensify initial inflammation following injury - although it may help to relieve older injuries and chronic inflammatory conditions).
Please tell me if you have any health conditions – you may need to check that your doctor is happy for you to use a sauna.
Make sure that you have had enough water to drink before you arrive – it is easy to become dehydrated in a sauna if you have not drunk enough – and this will make you feel unwell. Water is provided but you may prefer to bring your own sports electrolyte replacement drink or coconut water, nature's own electrolyte replacement drink.
Please shower or bathe before you arrive. There is a shower exclusively for your use but, because it is better to be completely dry at the start of the sauna, it is easier to arrive prepared – and you will have more sauna time.
You may like to use your own swimwear in the sauna or just drape yourself in the towels provided. No other clothing is needed.
Please also sit on a towel and place one on the floor beneath your feet – it will feel more comfortable and they will absorb any excess sweat. Plenty of towels and a toweling bath robe are available for you to use.
The sauna will be switched on, warm and ready for you and your first session will include an induction into its use.
Relax and enjoy the warmth for 10 – 20 minutes. It does not need to be unpleasantly hot – adjust the dial so that you feel comfortable.
If you feel uncomfortable or unwell in any way whilst in the sauna, come outside and sit down until you feel better. Call me at any time if you are concerned or need help.
You may notice that you do not sweat very much when initially using the sauna. After a few sessions you may begin to sweat more profusely. Reduced sweating may be due to dehydration, toxic overload and certain medical conditions.
When you come out of the sauna you may like to relax in the adjoining lounge area for a little while after taking a warm shower (rather than a hot or cold one). If you choose to relax, do use the robes and blankets provided to keep warm.
Some people like to spend 10 minutes in the sauna then 10 minutes outside - and then repeat the process until their session time is finished. However, it is important to always rinse away any sweat as soon as you leave the sauna cabin, to prevent re-absorption of any toxins that may have been released.
A sauna is a great way to end an exercise session - and also an excellent way to warm-up muscles before a work-out ...