Reflex Therapy is the treatment of areas or points on the skin or the underlying tissues that become more sensitive than the surrounding area in response to some physical or health problem located in or around that particular location or elsewhere in the body. Tender spots or reflex points located on or around a problem area are usually a direct response to local inflammation and abnormal function and are also known as "trigger points." There is a second class of reflex points, which occur in apparently unrelated areas of the body. These not only appear in response to the presence of inflammation or abnormal function in the body, but also as a result of other problems, such as those related to organ and metabolic function and health.
Ancient records show that this type of treatment has been practiced all over the world for at least 6000 years; and that the ancient Egyptians, the Mayans, classical Greece, medieval Europe, China, Korea, Japan and many other cultures and civilisations had (and have) their own approaches to Reflex Therapy, that show remarkable similarities.
Over the last one hundred years a great deal of research has been done that has mapped reflex points and reflex areas in detail, and this research has found that the relationship between a given reflex area or point and the body area, organ or function it represents is usually specific and predictable. Therefore checking for sensitive reflex areas and points can also be used to diagnose health problems.
Reflex Therapy therefore has application in the diagnosis and treatment of muscle, tendon, joint and nerve problems, and in the treatment and diagnosis of abnormal function of the organs and metabolism. In fact it may be used for problems with any structure or system of the body.
- Local "trigger" points are mostly used in this clinic for the treatment of problems associated with muscles, tendons, joints and nerves; this treatment approach is known as "Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy." For more specific information on this subject, please bring up the relevant page by clicking this button:
- In addition there are a large number of reflex areas and points that represent a function rather than a specific part of the body; these are called "Functional Reflexes". These functional reflexes can be used to treat conditions such as over- or under-activity of specific organs, headache, allergies, fever, respiratory problems, nausea, digestive problems, vascular and blood disorders, menstrual disorders, menopausal problems, hormone imbalance, metabolic abnormalities, dizziness, fatigue, emotional problems, as well as a wide range of other functional disorders. In cases where organ or metabolic problems are associated with muscular, tendon, joint or nerve problems, the treatment of active Functional Reflexes is usually combined with Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy.
Active reflex points are treated by a variety of methods that may include local massage, spot warming, the application of suction cups, the insertion of very fine needles, and/or the application of therapeutic magnets.
More recent technological innovations have added treatments such as electrotherapy, ultrasound, long wave infrared and laser therapy.
In recent times there has been a great deal of scientific research into the efficacy of Reflex Therapy. This has led to conclusive evidence that this system has therapeutic value; although there is no evidence that some of the more esoteric approaches outside the reflex therapy system, such as those associated with the hypothetical meridian system of some oriental traditions, provide any improvement in therapeutic outcome.
Recent History of Reflex Therapy.
Most of the original scientific research was done in Western countries such as the United States of America and France; while recent research in Korea and Japan is also adding to our understanding of its principles.
Some of the early pioneering scientific research work into the practical application of the body's reflex system took place in the United States of America, where a number of Medical Doctors, including William Fitzgerald and Edwin Bowers, published their discovery of this reflex system in 1917. This was added to a year or so later by George Starr White, through further research and writings. In 1942 Dr. W.E. Daglish and Dr. Joe Riley published a review of this information together with the results of further research.
This information was picked up across the Atlantic by the French neurologist Paul Nogier, who subsequently developed a system that utilised the reflexes of the ear. He called this system "Auriculotherapy" and in 1957 published his first book on the subject. In this system health conditions are treated by stimulating small reflex areas that represent different organs and structures of the body; these treatments may include massage or spot warming of these areas or the insertion of very fine needles into tiny active points within these areas.
In 1984 Prof. Park Jae-Woo of Korea published his adaptation of the reflex system, which focused on the reflexes found in the hands and feet. He named this "Su-Jok", which simply means "hands and feet" in Korean. His system of treatment involves massage, spot warming as well as the insertion of very fine needles into active reflex points. A unique part of his system is the treatment of points that become active in line with the cycles of the body clock.
Both Paul Nogier's Auriculotherapy and Prof. Park's Su-Jok system utilise principles that are essentially the same as those of the reflex system discovered by medical practitioners during the early 20th century in the U.S.A.
How Reflex Therapy Works.
Recent research undertaken at Universities has shown that individual body cells communicate with their neighbours by means of electrical impulses that follow specific patterns. And there is now some consensus that this may well be the mechanism behind the body's reflex system. Nevertheless, this appears to be a complex system and further studies are ongoing.
Conditions Commonly Treated By Reflex Therapy.
A lot of research has been undertaken in the last 20 years or so as regards the efficacy of the treatment of reflex points; and much of this by Western Universities. All-in-all however, research as to the uses and efficacy of reflex therapy are ongoing both in the East and the West. So far this research has proven the applicability of this approach in a wide range of conditions, including those associated with the joints and muscles, such as chronic sprains and strains; joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis or due to wear and tear; rheumatic conditions and nerve pain; allergies; metabolic disorders; anxiety, stress and insomnia; as well as menstrual and menopausal problems. Traditionally however, the treatment of reflex points is usually not used alone, but in combination with other approaches such nutritional medicine and herbal medicine, as is the case in this clinic. Reflex Therapy can also be used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.
Location of the Reflex Points.
Reflex points are located within the specific reflex areas that were mapped by the early pioneers of Reflex Therapy. A large number of specific points within this system have been known for millennia. Each reflex point has its own unique function and not only that, certain reflex points become more active during stress and illness and at specific times during the day in response to diurnal (daily) and other biorhythm cycles. In addition, the location of active reflex points is not fixed, but varies somewhat from individual to individual, while these points will also move around, albeit within the confined region of the specific reflex area. Active reflex points may be located by means of careful palpation, because their focus is usually either more tender or less sensitive to pressure, and/or colder or warmer or softer or firmer than the surrounding tissue. At any given time many points can be active, therefore the points to be treated must be selected carefully and located accurately by a skilled practitioner in order to achieve the greatest treatment benefit.
The Effect from the Treatment of Reflex Points.
As stated before, reflex point are treated by means of a number of methods that may include massage, spot warming, electrotherapy, the application of suction cups, the insertion of very fine needles and/or the application of therapeutic magnets. As far as the insertion of needles is concerned, some people may feel apprehension about this approach. This usually because they expect that the insertion of these needles will be similar to receiving an injection. Reflex Therapy however does not use injection needles, but a "dry needling" method that utilises needles that are solid, not hollow. This allows these to be very fine (quite a few of these needles will fit inside the "hole" of a standard injection needle) yet strong. As a result this type of treatment is usually not painful, and tends to elicit far less discomfort than massage on active reflex points. In fact there is often little if any sensation associated with this treatment; although this depends to some extent on the area treated; for example treatment on the hands and fingers is more likely to be felt as a small and transient "sting", than treatment on the limbs or the head.
During a Reflex Therapy session a temporary sensation of heaviness, numbness or pleasant tingling may be felt radiating from the area being treated. This is however not a standard rule, and a sensation of this nature is not essential for any therapeutic benefit.
All-in-all most people find a Reflex Therapy session a pleasant and relaxing experience, and it is not uncommon for a patient to enter into state of deep relaxation for the 20 minutes or so that are required for a treatment.
This sense of relaxation and calmness tends to persist for some time after the conclusion of the treatment, as do any other benefits, such as any pain relief that has been derived from the treatment. Having said that, in many cases several treatments may be necessary before full benefit is achieved.
Why use Reflex Therapy?
The treatment of reflex points has been extensively researched by medical science, and its efficacy has been demonstrated time and again in these studies.
Although the use of Reflex Therapy is very ancient, its scientific base is gradually being understood by modern science through research into embryology and fractal mathematics. This provides considerable advantage over theories that involve the hypothetical meridian system, which are not in any way supported by scientific evidence.
Most of these esoteric puncturing system have their foundation in Oriental philosophy and religion. As such many people find these approaches hard to swallow. No such philosophy is associated with Reflex Therapy.
As such Reflex Therapy is suitable for those with a scientific outlook on life, as well as to those who object for religious reasons to the esoteric approaches of other traditional treatment systems.
European Medieval Reflex Point Chart.
Reflex System (Fitzgerald & Bowers).
Reflex areas of the ear (Paul Nogier).
Su-Jok hand chart (Park Jae-Woo).
Copyright© Paul Hysen PhD. December 2012