Reflexology for Back Pain

Can massaging the foot treat back pain? Interestingly enough, a reflexologist applies pressure to specific points on a person’s foot in order to relieve pain and discomfort in many parts of the body, including the back. According to reflexologists, strategically applying pressure can alleviate pain from a variety of conditions, including stress, digestive problems, headaches, and back and neck pain. Back pain, caused by a physical imbalance like an injury or psychological imbalance like stress or anxiety, can be treated using reflexology.

Reflexology is more than just a simple massage on the feet. Reflexologists use a foot map that charts the location of reflex points associated with various parts of the body where pain or tension can occur. After determining the physical and/or psychological indicators of imbalance that causes the discomfort, reflexologists apply pressure to specific reflex points using their hand or another instrument. Reflexology is a treatment that can work on its own to treat pain or in conjunction with other allopathic methods of treatment.

Reflexology and the Back

If you’ve ever thumbed through a book on massage, you may have noticed an interesting looking foot chart; this is a map of the foot that identifies the reflex areas of each part of the body. Foot maps provide the location on the foot of points associated with certain vital organs in the body. In reflexology, the point on the foot associated with the back is located on the side of the foot along the bone running from the outward side of the middle of the big toe all the way to about half an inch or so below the ankle, along the arch. As you run your hand along this area, you can feel distinct breaks, similar to running your hand down a backbone. This reflex area curves upward with the arch and back down again as it runs under the ankle.

If reflexology were just a massage of the area of imbalance and pain, you could massage the reflex area of the back and be done with it—but it is not that simple. Effective treatment of back pain using reflexology often depends on determining what causes the back pain and balancing those areas as well.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain can be connected to a physical or emotional imbalance. The cause of this imbalance will determine the treatment required to alleviate the pain. For example, if you suffered a recent loss or death in the family, you may be suffering from lower back pain due to an emotional imbalance. If you have been unable to express the full extent of grief felt, this can lead to an imbalance in the earth region. In this case, a simple massage of the foot and the back reflex area—especially the area running from the heel to the middle the foot—may offer considerable relief. Back pain is often associated with emotional imbalances, caused by putting a difficult emotion aside instead of dealing with it. If this has been going on for a long time, it may take two to three sessions or a longer period of massage before the emotions can rise to the surface and be released.

If back pain is caused by a physical imbalance, relieving the pain can be difficult. Physical imbalances can be caused by imbalance in the spinal column, such as misalignment that follows an injury or results from bad posture. It can also occur because an imbalance in another part of the body radiates pain to the back. In this case, there is usually some indicator of imbalance within the foot that reflexologists can use to pinpoint the source of the imbalance. If you have lower back pain, a reflexologist might find indication of this imbalance in or near the heel or below the ankle. If you have mid-back pain, the imbalance may be found in the water region of the foot. If you have upper back pain, you may find an imbalance in the ball of the foot. You can use a reflexology chart to locate the region on the foot associated with the area of imbalance in the body.

If the origin of the back pain is physical imbalance, then reflexology should not be the primary treatment for the pain. Reflexologists should always advise you to seek conventional medical advice in addition to reflexology therapy for physical imbalance. As with many physical conditions, lifestyle changes can prove extremely effective. Reflexology can help relieve pain through relaxation and breaking the pain cycle as a supplement to conventional medical treatment.

The Reflexology Regions of the Foot

Foot charts show the top, bottom, and sides of the foot as corresponding to different parts of the body. If stress is causing physical tension and discomfort, these psychological issues can also be treated with reflexology. As with ancient and eastern medicine, reflexology uses the elements earth, water, fire and air to relate parts of the foot to spiritual and psychological aspects of a person’s life.

A reflexologist examines the color and feel of distinct regions of the foot to determine the physical or emotional imbalance causing the patient pain or distress.

  • The heel relates to the element earth. This means that it is connected to emotions arising from the condition of physical wellbeing. A disruption at home or with family can cause an imbalance here.
  • The area between the ball of the foot and the heel corresponds to the element water. It is associated with a person’s emotional balance. Worrying can cause imbalance here.
  • The ball of the foot is associated with the element fire. Anger or intense fear can trigger an imbalance in this region.
  • The toes are related to the element air. This means that cognitive issues can cause an imbalance in this area, such as difficulty concentrating or confusion.

Self-Treatment For Back Pain

A reflexologist can provide specific massage techniques based on their knowledge of the foot’s structure, the areas that connect to certain parts of the body, and ways to identify imbalance. But many people inadvertently practice a form of reflexology when they massage tired or sore feet to relieve pain or stress.

When reflexology is used as a supplemental treatment for a physical imbalance, frequent massage of a sore spot on the foot as well as along the backbone can help a person relax, breathe more deeply, and break the pain cycle—even if performed at home by yourself or a friend. For an emotional imbalance, you may need a longer session or several long sessions to relax, feel safe, and release the emotions. If you have a friend or partner who is willing to do this type of massage, this may help back pain. In this case, the friend or partner should massage what feels good and what feels sore, to temper the bad with the good.

Good reflexologists can certainly be more effective because of their ability to understand the source the imbalance and apply different types of manipulation to the appropriate areas of the foot. If you experience persistent back pain, adding self-treatment at home between reflexology sessions can help treat symptoms of back pain.

Additional Resources
The Reflexology Research website presents Reflexology charts online.

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Haas Acupuncture
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Miami, FL 33176
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