The number one question I’m asked is, ‘what is reflexology?’ So here is my personal perspective. As a practitioner there are certain things we can and can not claim, legally and to be within the confines of professional conduct. You’ll read that elsewhere on this site, but here; well, this is my take on the ins and outs of reflexology. As a person.

When I first trained to be a reflexologist, I remember people asking me, ‘Oh, isn’t that feet. How can you touch someone’s foot?’ The truth. It never even entered my head. I was so caught up in being able to learn the ancient art of healing someone from pressure points that it never even occurred to me that I would have to deal with all kinds of ugly feet.

And ten or so years on, I still never think about it. Because I’m so fascinated with the ability to improve people’s health and pain with a therapy that is focussed on a different area of their body to where they are experiencing their issues.

Simply put…

Reflexology is the complementary therapy which uses a zone format to trigger reactions in different areas of our client’s bodies. This treatment is so much more than a foot massage as many people think of it. We have reflex points that we use our hands and fingers on to improve the functioning of specific organs. This includes the brain, and in particular stress anxiety and sleep disorders.

What medical conditions can reflexologists who have had training help with?

If you speak to any doctor with modern thinking they’ll tell you that stress leads to approximately 90% of all disease. For sure this may well be indirectly, but if you track it back, the figure lands up somewhere in this region.

Research studies have shown that practitioners can legally claim that they can help with the symptoms of stress. But in reality, what I have experienced is benefits far beyond this one condition. Perhaps it’s because we don’t think about stress as being an underlying condition which almost encourages other diseases to manifest, but regardless, the effects of reflexology on any number of conditions including fertility and cancer can mean it is a practice that stretches further than the hour of the session.

So what body parts can you help with reflexology?

Foot map showing some of the main reflexology points in different coloursPretty much any body part. When I’m running my finger on the underside of your sole during a reflexology treatment, I can feel if an organ or system is out of balance. For instance, if I am working on your right foot, I may feel some crunching, or popping under the surface of your skin when I put pressure on. This may mean that your liver is out of balance. It does not mean that you have liver failure, liver damage or any other such disease. It may mean that it’s a good idea to get it checked out by a medical practitioner if this goes on over a few sessions, but we do not diagnose. We can simply tell that your liver is struggling.

Working this back the other way with a health history is really helpful. So a client will come to us and say that they have an issue with fertility for instance. Often this can be an inexplicable reason, other times it will be because of a diagnosed condition such as endometriosis or PCOS.

I will then focus my attention to specific areas, say the reproductive area and then track back throughout the body system where else I think is out of balance. Using my training and years of specialist experience in fertility, I’ll then work with the client to see what we think they can change in their lifestyle to have a positive effect on their chances of conception.

It’s not unusual in an example such as the above to feel some imbalance around the ankle areas. These are the reproductive reflex zones. But, if the client is under a ton of stress, this can affect their relaxation and nervous system. There’s more on this here. It’s likely I’ll find something also out of balance around their toes.

Reflexology never fails to astound me on how it can affect and improve a health condition seemingly unrelated to the feet.

Doesn’t a reflexology session cover an entire body?

Yes it does. When I mention I’ll focus on an area, it means that I know this is why the client is coming and it gives me a starting point for which internal organs I need to zone in on and track back. But, I will always work your entire body during a session. We’ve seen too many times how one health condition can be affected by body health in a seemingly unrelated area.

Is reflexology a medical treatment or a complementary treatment?

Absolutely it is complementary. Doctors can prescribe and you can take traditional medication whilst receiving the complementary benefits of reflexology, either alongside or separate to whatever conventional treatment your doctor sees fit to give you for any condition.

Can reflexology be used to relieve pain?

I have studied and therefore have professional training in a particular branch of reflexology which uses nerve reflex points to reduce pain. This could be something as common as period pain (and/ or premenstrual syndrome), down to neuropathy or ongoing pain management. Using targeted acupressure in these instances is amazing. It shocks me every time. And I’ve been doing this for years now.

But here’s the thing. You come in, relax in a reclining chair and give me your feet. I press a few areas and can tell which part of your nervous system is struggling. And that’s when we get to work on using nerve reflexology to ease discomfort. We do not diagnose or classify symptoms associated with an issue. That’s down to your GP.

This is where we have issues. Because there generally isn’t the funding to show beyond anecdotal evidence that the energy flow client’s enjoy when they receive reflexology is useful in relieving chemical imbalances that lead to many diseases. We need significant current discussions to develop into clinical studies if this alternative therapy.

Certificate of Karen Botha the qualified reflexologist at Essential Feeling in RomfordHow do you qualify to be a reflexologist?

My certification is of a standard high enough for me to be a part of the AOR which is the Association of Reflexologist’s. So, for me, the efficacy of my training was far more advanced than some other courses which people can do. For instance, there is a one day course that I know of some local practitioners doing.

My education spanned months with hours of teaching on practical skills being developed alongside anatomy and physiology content. For instance, I learned not just about the human body, but also about chronic diseases such as diabetes. I learned how the pancreas can be fundamental if you’d like to avoid eye disease. And the integrative nature of how all the systems in our body link to create overall health, or illness. So the consultation process is so invaluable when you come for a session with us. It helps form the basis of your treatment, because we understand so much about the different conditions of our body — and how to use reflexes to ease the issues you are undergoing.

At the end of my training I sat an exam which gave me a level three therapists qualification which means I can practise in the UK and abroad.

Karen is the lead reflexologist at Essential Feeling who are based in Gidea Park, Romford, Essex. You may book your session online today.


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Massage for lymphatic drainage

Massage for lymphatic drainage is performed by our specialist, certified, lymphatic drainage therapist in order to reduce swelling from fluid which accumulates in the lymph nodes. This is otherwise known as lymphedema sometimes spelt at lymphoedema.

Having a massage for lymphatic drainage can be important for several reasons:

Our body eliminates metabolic waste through a few systems, one important one being our lymphatic vessels. This is a very delicate structure which sits just under the surface of our skin above the muscles, with lymph nodes in key areas around our neck, groin and under our arm. Other key places include the back of your knee, around your eye area and breasts.

Having a massage for lymphatic drainage is an important treatment because this lymphatic system can't eliminate waste without either movement or sufficient water intake. Something often lacking. It may also struggle to cope with an influx following swelling related to trauma — if, for example, we injure ourselves or have surgery.

This impact the flow of toxin's ability to leave our system. The light pressure techniques involved in a lymphatic treatment help the flow of this lymphatic liquid and avoiding stagnation by using gentle strokes on swollen tissue. Your physical therapist will use their hands/ palm to improve this circulation and gently pump the fluid to your lymph nodes. Your therapist will then use their fingers on these nodes e.g. in your armpit to help your system drain the fluids effectively.

Popular questions people ask

Often after surgery I'm in pain, does this hurt?

Your massage for lymphatic drainage is a gentle touch because it only needs to reach the vessels which lie under the surface of the skin. Unlike other massages such as deep tissue sports, we are not looking to break down muscle fibres.

Why do I need a massage for lymphatic drainage when I am wearing a compression garment?

Your compression garment products will help to prevent the buildup of stagnant lymphatic fluid, but it is not a fail safe. Your body has undergone trauma and the natural way that it heals is by swelling. This needs to be moved on for you to get the best possible results from your surgery and aid healing. And we do this when we perform manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage.

The benefit of compression garments is that they help to minimise swelling from medical wastes, and the benefits of massage for lymphatic drainage is that it removes what still accumulates.

I only have swelling in one area, why are you doing MLD on my entire body?

If you think about your lymphatic system as one giant circle that runs around your body, it's easy to see that it's necessary for us to work every part — even if you just have swelling in a localised area, e.g. legs. If we only concentrate on one specific area, then we're not giving you our proper care because we're just moving fluid from one place to the next, rather than helping your system totally eradicate it.

This isn't a ruse to get more time out of you, it's an important part of ensuring that your risk of infection is minimised and you get the best possible results from your procedure.

Looking at the diagram, I see I have vessels on my chest/ breast. Will you work this area too?

Yes. We will work everywhere that your lymphatic system runs. If you are female, then we will use your hand to cover your breast and then touch your hand upward in such a way that you end up moving the build up along yourself.

We will work around your head and your face, covering around your ears, down to your jaw and neckline. This is regardless of whether you are swollen in that area. Our treatments will continue around your collarbone slowly with gentle effleurage, around your breast and chest area and under your arms, and around your elbows.

We'll cover your stomach, up your legs, behind your knees and into your groin because this is where the network of lymph nodes, vessels and glands are located.

This is a painful time, it would be nice to just relax.

Strange as this may sound as this is a therapeutic treatment, well known because it stimulates improved healing and effects the removal of toxins from swollen body parts, whilst also improving your immune response; it is also amazing for relaxation.

We know! Who would have thought a health based therapy designed to remove excess waste content would also be a technique that would not only keep you healthy but also encourages your feeling of peace?

How does this improve recovery of my tissues?Charlton Botha certificate of qualification from 2012 in MLD manual lymphatic drainage massage

Clearing excess waste products from tissues and cells means that our body doesn't have so much of the heavy lifting to do itself. Think about it you go to the supermarket and you have six bags, it's easier to have someone else carry them out of the car with you when you get home than do it all on your own. This not only gives you more time, but more energy to enjoy the fun stuff, or perhaps clean the house. If you didn't have this energy because someone helped you, then you probably wouldn't clean the house at all, or if you did, it wouldn't be as good a finish. Our body works in this way, regardless of whether we can experience the results in a tangible way.

This is why your doctor will recommend lymphatic massage post surgery. We cannot underestimate the effect of massaging with these gentle movements by a qualified and experienced professional in improving your healing results.

How will I feel after my MLD treatment?

You may experience some fatigue as your body works to filter out waste because of the stimulation of your lymph system. If you can relax and take a nap after your session, this helps.

Book your session online now.