Archive for April 28, 2013

Stress and Therapeutic reflexology



It’s a Monday morning. You’re  late for work and you can’t find your car keys. Finally, when they are found you jump into your car and find yourself stuck behind a truck. You can’t seem to find a parking this is the all too familiar voice of stress playing out in their lives.

In this articlereflexology and feet I plan to look at stress and what happens to the body when its bombarded with ongoing stress. This topic will be discussed in relation to the principles of meridians, which forms part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM.)

According to Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage, “stress is our response to any demand on the body or mind to respond, adapt or alter. It is a state of readiness to survive, requiring hypervigilance form the body and mind.”

Often it’s not the stressor itself that’s the problem, but how we understand and interpret the stressors. If we don’t develop good coping mechanisms for stress the body and the effects of stress affects our bodies negatively, and in the long-run can lead to a range of diseases.

“When stressed, the body produces adrenalin, cortisol, and other strong chemicals in response, whether the perceived or experienced stress is psychological or physical. The body is well prepared to utilize these powerful chemicals by focusing on attention, dampening perceptions to distractions, limiting the ability to feel pain, or providing powerful boosts to available energy.

When a person is stressed over a long period, though, these substances have a serious negative impact on his or her health, including: sleep disruption, chronic headaches, hormone disruption, gastrointestinal distress, weight gain, immune system impairment, cardiovascular impacts, and psychological disturbances.

In the short term, stress challenges the immune system, adjusts blood pressure, increases heart rate, shifts neurotransmitters, and regulates the central nervous system. In the long term, stress damages the body’s systems, reduces its ability to cope with disease, and impairs brain function and mental health.” (Ref:

According to Inge Dougans, “it is believed that up to 80% of modern diseases have stress-related backgrounds. These include hypertension, high blood pressure, coronary thrombosis, heart attack, migraine, hay fever and allergies, asthma, peptic ulcers, constipation, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual difficulties, nervous dyspepsia, flatulence and indgestion, hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, skin disorders, tuberculosis and depression.” (Reflexology, the 5 elements & their 12 meridians.)

Julie Marie Wood in her book “4 Week Energy Diet,” does point out that, we all need some stress to function well and that recent studies indicate that some stress can encourage brain development, however too much stress can be detrimental to our health.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) 12 meridians have been identified. In brief, meridians are a network of energetic pathways which pass through the organs and tissues of our bodies. These meridians have specific points and a definite flow through the body. The source of these energetic pathways if Qi, or life-force. When we become stressed, blockages occur along these pathways, disrupting the free flow of vital life force through the body. Over time, these blockages can cause chronic symptoms and even disease.

According to Inge Dougans, “massaging the meridian pathways in the feet helps clear blockages along the meridians and encourages the vitally body energy to flow.” (Reference: Complete Illustrated Guide  to Reflexology) She points out that the reason reflexology works well in relation to to the meridians, is because, “six larger meridians – those that actually penetrate major organs, the stomach, spleen/pancreas, liver, gall bladder, kidney and bladder meridians – all begin or end in the toes.” (pg. 57 Inge Dougans, ‘Reflexology the 5 elements & the 12 Meridians.’)

The meridians interact with one another and a blockage in one meridian can have an affect on other meridians as well.

“According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), stress stagnates the energy of your liver. Once the liver’s energy is stagnated, this affects nearly every other organ and speeds up ageing in the rest of the body.”  (http://www.universaltcm)

As you can see, the liver meridian is responsible for the “smooth movement of bodily substances and for the regularity of body activies.” (Inge Dougans) If the liver meridian becomes congested it can cause eczema along the meridian line, shinbone sores, problems with the big toe, digestive problems, knee pain (medial side), liver problems and thigh pains. (Inge Dougans) If this meridian is strengthened it can assist the body in its healing process.

In some cases ongoing , chronic stress leads us to eat sugary, sweet foods, drink alcohol and smoke, which can lead to further congestions in the body. Applying the knowledge of the meridians and how they interact through the body can help the therapist pin-point where a blockage may occur. It must be emphasised that the meridians do not operate in isolation to one another but each one interacts with each other and is in constant flux and flow.

Using the principles of meridian therapy and reflexology, when combined, can assist in alleviating and reducing high levels of stress in the body and balancing out any blockages.



Inge Dougans “Reflexology the 5 Elements & Their Meridians”

Inge Dougans “Complete Illustrated Guide to Reflexology”

Julie Maree Wood “4 Week Energy Diet”

Sandy Fritz “Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage”






I have just read an article by Eric Stephenson, a massage therapist who discusses the pain factor in massage. I’d like to dispel a few myths regarding pain and massage.

Many clients who come to me for massage, believe that if the massage is ‘hard’ and they feel pain, then it must be good. NO, NO. Not the case. Think about it. The reason for your muscle aches and pains is because your body is under stress and shouting for help. Now you come along and ask for a ‘hard’ massage and you put the body under even more stress.

Stephens points out one of the fundamental ideas of the Hippocratic Oath, which is “do no harm.” Yet clients think more pain will surely improve the problem. Actually it could make the problem worse in the long run.

As a matter of routine I look to use a penetrating deep tissue with the aim of relaxing and stretching muscle tissue, not by throwing it back into a contracted state by inflicting further pain. I am reminded of words my Alexander teacher once told me. The body has an innate wisdom, as a therapist if we can help a person’s body to recover by 70%, then the body will do the rest.

Next time you want a good massage, look for a therapist who has the knowledge and sensitivity in their touch to work skilfully.