What is reflexology?
Love it or hate it, the humble television commercial has grown into a national institution. And for the baby boomers amongst us, British Telecom deserves full credit for adding the word "ology" to the English language. For those of you who missed the BT Beattie advert of Christmas 1987, the plot revolved around a proud grandmother’s reaction to her grandson’s disappointing exam results (passing only sociology and pottery): "He gets an ology and he says he's failed ... you get an ology, you're a scientist!"
Did you know: ‘-ology’ means the scientific study of a particular subject.
The BT Beattie campaign not only amused the general public, but also created an opportunity to develop brand names that boasted expertise and reliability. Here are some of the results of a 2-minute online search: Business-Ology, the finance consultancy firm in Warrington, Cheshire; Triology, the bike fit and multisport store in Swale, North Yorkshire; Destinology, the luxury travel experts in Bolton, Lancashire; and of course, Sofology, the sofa specialist with 37 stores nationwide. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
Did you know: the word ‘reflex’ originates from the early 16th century; it comes from the Latin word ‘reflectere’, which means ‘to bend back’.
So, what does all this have to do with reflexology? Well, there is a thriving interest in the massaging of hands and feet in particular, to improve the health of different parts of the body – putting the ‘scientific study of bending back’ into practice, so to speak! And if this departure from more traditional healthcare scares you a little, The Association of Reflexologists recommend that this type of therapy should always complement rather than replace the mainstream drugs and surgery based treatments … which might come as a huge relief, in more ways than one.
Did you know: there are 20 reflexologists within 25 miles of OSIM UK … how many do you have??!!
Where did it come from?
Reflexology is not a new phenomenon, in fact it’s a modern take on a very old theme. If you turn the history pages back to around 4000 BC, you will find documented evidence of hand and foot massage being used in China. Then fast forward to 2350 BC, and the Egyptian hieroglyphics on the tomb at Ankmahor actually translate to give us an insight into what happened during a typical reflexology session: The client - Don’t hurt me; the practitioner - I shall act, so you praise me. Ouch, that sounds painful … but no pain no gain, right?
Let’s focus on feet now. Can massaging the feet really stimulate good health in the rest of the body? We know the Chinese and the Egyptians were keen on practicing ‘zone therapy’; and systematic foot treatment was the talk of the medical profession during the early 1900s, thanks to its rediscovery by Dr William Fitzgerald. His colleague went on to produce a detailed mapping between areas of the feet and the body’s organs and glands, and reflexology therapists who practice the Original Ingham Method use that same foot mapping chart today.
Does it really work?
The benefits of reflexology far outweigh the costs, according to the experts. Some discomfort during foot massage is quite normal, and most people are quick to forget when they report how relaxed and refreshed they feel afterwards. The rich and famous are no different, and their ‘money is no object’ lifestyle choices are reported with enthusiasm and read with envy: the late Princess Diana, for recurring back pain; Holly Willoughby, TV presenter, for pregnancy water retention; and Ann Romney, wife to US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, for multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Did you know: you can buy a pair of socks marked with all the pressure points, designed by none other than Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director, producer, stuntman, and singer … Jackie Chan!
From princess to president’s wife (well, almost), would it work for ordinary people like you and me? Research has yet to find concrete proof, therefore any reputable therapist should be offering services in terms of restoring the body’s natural balance rather than diagnosing (or heaven forbid, curing) a medical condition. Don’t forget that more than half of the bones in your body are found in your hands and feet, and the two largest bones in your feet carry most of your weight – so no matter who you are, it’s time to ditch the ‘out of sight-out of mind’ excuse and love your feet!
Did you know: the average person walks about 150,000 miles during their lifetime; more than one third of women claim to walking home barefoot after a night out because their feet hurt; and almost two thirds of all arthritis cases are in the feet (The College of Podiatry, London)
How do I get started?
Reflexology is a good thing, right - but what is the price of good health? Another quick search on Google, to find the cost of a typical 30-minute foot massage: South Shields in Tyne and Wear £20; Nantwich in Cheshire and Helston in Cornwall £22; and Sevenoaks in Kent £25. If you are looking for some foot therapy in our nation’s capital, there are currently 428 London venues to choose from, with tariffs ranging from a modest £22.75 to a whopping £40 for half an hour. Unless you have deep pockets, a visit to the professional masseur is definitely a special treat.
Wait a minute. Every day, you come back home, kick off your shoes, and rub your aching feet. A do-it-yourself foot massage, how hard can it be? Unless you are fit and flexible, or naturally double jointed, massaging the soles of your feet whilst sitting cross-legged could be a real challenge. Even if you do master the mysteries of the Padmasana (or Lotus Pose, to you and me), studies indicate that sitting cross-legged could increase your systolic blood pressure by up to 7% - are you stretching your legs right now, I know I am!
If you’re not keen on yoga gymnastics but still fancy the DIY approach, your favourite online retailer could help. A search for "reflexology" produces 6,465 results on Amazon UK, which includes 1,780 books (if you want to just read about it) and 276 manual massage tools (now that’s more like it). The cheapest option is a 6-piece set of Thai Massage Sticks, for only £10; and if you’re happy to spend more money for less effort, the EliteShine 2-piece Rock Massage Mat would cost about £115 (P.S. the cobblestones can be glued back on the polyester mat, apparently?!).
Taking the next step
The perfect foot massage is a very personal thing, so the ideal foot therapy is a very personal choice too. Here is my own wish list, for the best foot reflexology experience ever
1. A foot massage whenever I want it - 24/7 access, this is a wish list after all
2. A foot massage where all the work is done for me - the only true way to relax
3. A foot massage in the comfort of my own home - no traffic, and definitely no queues
4. A foot massage that adapts to my erratic aches and pains - hitting the right spot, every time
5. A foot massage that doesn’t cost the earth – let’s say, 15 minutes for a £5 note … just wishful thinking?
Does your wish list include some (or all) of the same ‘must-haves’?
There is a saying:
In life, there are no problems, there are just solutions waiting to be found.
And here at OSIM, we are always looking for solutions. So watch this space …