Feet reveal incredible truths—they reflect unique details about each one of us. In the next few minutes we will touch on the history of Reflexology, and explore key alarm messages our feet convey to us—and how to bring refreshing relief.
Too often we hear expressions like:
• ‘If my feet are cold, the rest of my body feels cold too.’
• ‘My tired feet make my whole body feel tired.’
• ‘That one aching toe is all I can think about!’
There is no doubt—feet affect our entire being.
In 1938, pioneer Reflexologist, Eunice Ingham wrote a book entitled Stories The Feet Can Tell. Through her work as a Physical Therapist she treated countless patients. Her devoted efforts of tracking repeated applications, gave her confidence to map out reflex zones as we know them today. In reflexology, the foot represents a central switchboard—it stimulates balance and toxin release related to specific structures, organs, and glands of the body. (There are also reflex zones in the hands and ears).
A good visual scan over the wonderful topography of the foot will give immediate clues as to its quality of life. In my practice the types of feet I treat have awesome diversity. On rare occasions I have the privilege of seeing feet that are cherished—they are cared for and enjoy liberation—these ‘free feet’ have flexibility, the toes not crumpled, and the nails and skin beautiful. In contrast, I mostly treat ‘beat feet’ (that belong to some wonderful people). Like my clients, I congratulate you for taking the time to ‘let the good stuff flow’ to your feet and being.
In ‘foot geography’ we have 26 bones. (28 if you count the ankle joint). In an orchestrated marvel of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves we take our steps every day. Were the foot idle, there would be little problems. In radical contrast we are made for movement. The many small bones of the feet are curved and curiously shaped—made for adaptation. Each step we take is balanced on three arches—the inner, outer, and transverse arch. In ideal function, these arches are made to distribute and absorb our body weight—in comfort and balance. With the reflex zones happy, your body feels the harmony.
The ‘tootsie trauma’ begins when we add weight and movement. The mere act of standing and walking doubles the pressure on our feet—ratchet this up to running and we have fourfold pressure. There is 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch on a high-heeled spike worn by an average size woman! With each step, these forces travel up from the heel and affect the entire kinetic chain. Also, trauma on the balls of the feet translate to tension/pain in the neck/shoulder reflex zones. (In table therapy sessions, I have numerous requests to integrate neck and shoulder releases with reflexology). It is a great privilege to facilitate head-to-toe balance.
There are myriads of foot foible alarms that range from mild discomfort to acute pain—whatever the source, it is best to not ignore and treat as a ‘false alarm’. It might be a persistent bunion by a slanted over big toe, or a rumpled baby toe looking like it ‘gave up’. It may be acute pain with each roll from heel to toe. Tension/pain on the edge of the inner arch to the big toe often mirrors pain in the spine—clients are astonished when I palpate the related reflex zone and identify the exact area of their spinal vulnerability. How true, our feet really do tell our stories! Though our movement patterns become ingrained over the years, there are many synergistic therapies that can facilitate positive change.
Here are some quick ways to bring refreshing relief:
1) An important basic: become aware of how you stand. If you have to wait in line, make it count. Look at your feet—are they hip width apart and aligned? (Inward or outward rotation creates arch imbalances). How about ear, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle alignment? Release any area held tight with a deep breath—while you drop your shoulders, open your chest, and realign. Feels good, doesn’t it?
2) Walk in slow motion from heel to toe; and then on the inner and outer edges of feet. (This may even make you smile despite a long line, as you can do this standing in place). Walk on your heels, then your tiptoes…if your balance is good, do this walking backwards. (Researchers have found reverse walking is easier on the back, likely because of the initial softer toe-strike.) Doing with bare feet on lawn is super!
3) Ankle circles help with flexibility, circulation, and fluidity. Prop your leg up and allow your ankle to hang over the edge of a bed, couch, or table…use your big toe as a pointer—draw small circles and spiral out to larger circles. Reverse directions. Go for uniform flow, freedom, and fluidity. Note difficult areas. If circles get too easy and rote, try drawing the ABC’s.
4) Sage relief for painful feet—simply freeze (plastic) bottled water. Roll under foot on painful area—this helps numb out inflammation and give needed stretches.
5) Spiney balls are great to break up tension and congestion. (If you want to go deeper, you can progress from a tennis ball to a golf ball). Roll ball from toes to heel, and side to side. Your feet will tweet their good pleasure to your entire being!
Now you have some simple, yet powerful tools that will help you recognize and quell foot foible alarms—and open up your reflex zones to allow rejuvenation. As Eunice Ingham would champion—may the stories your feet tell be glad.
By Linda Dunn
Integrative Health Therapist