Reflexology for Fibromyalgia

Persons suffering with fibromyalgia often experience profound and widespread pain that most commonly involves the hands, shoulders and neck, lower back and pelvis areas. The amplified pain experienced in fibromyalgia is believed to be due to an abnormal sensory processing in the body’s central nervous system. Individuals diagnosed with the chronic pain syndrome known as fibromyalgia have reported a reduction in symptoms after undergoing a series of sessions under the care of a trained reflexologist.

How Can Reflexology Help Fibromyalgia?

Reflexologists examine the foot looking for “stress cues” that help determine which area of the body may be experiencing distress. When pressure is applied with thumb and hand techniques to specific areas of the feet, this helps stimulate the body’s natural healing response in corresponding body parts. For individuals suffering the pervasive pain of fibromyalgia, reflexology can offer some relief of the distressing symptoms without danger of the side effects often associated with pharmaceutical medication.

Some of the benefits of reflexology include:

  • Improved circulation and energy flow
  • Relief of common aches and pains
  • Release and elimination of toxins from tissues
  • Promotion of healthy functioning in organs
  • Improved immune system function
  • Alleviation of tension and stress
  • Balanced energy and promotion of homeostasis

Reflexology is based on the theory that energy blockages along the meridian pathways of the body may disrupt the flow of blood and lymph necessary to healthy functioning of organs and tissues. Some theories of fibromyalgia suggest that energy blockage plays a part in development of the fibromyalgia syndrome. When a tender point or tension is found on specific areas of the feet, this may indicate a blockage of energy in the corresponding organ or tissue. Manipulation of this tender point through reflexology pressure can relieve the blockage, stimulate self-healing and provide some easing of pain.

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is an alternative therapy and holistic health maintenance practice involving application of pressure to specific areas of the feet or hands. The pressure is applied with thumb and finger techniques to stimulate healing in other parts of the body. Reflexology targets specific zones or regions of the feet that are believed to correspond with certain organs and glands in the body. When pressure is applied, either by a professional or as a self-care practice, this stimulates reflexes along energy pathways, or meridians, and is believed to restore energetic balance and promote stress reduction. In reflexology theory, the right foot corresponds to the right side of the body and the left foot to the left side of the body. Reflexology charts are available that map out specific zones on the feet and their corresponding internal organs and glands.

Reflexology differs from simple massage. In reflexology, the manipulation and applied pressure to certain zones or areas of the feet acts to promote healing in remote areas of the body rather than just the area being massaged. Reflexology is similar to the theory underlying acupuncture and acupressure in that each of these alternative health procedures involves stimulation of Qi or body energy to promote health and well being.

Various forms of therapeutic bodywork involving manipulation of the feet through applied pressure have been used since ancient times, particularly in Egypt and China. Reflexology was introduced into the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D., who called the practice “zone therapy.” In the 1930s Eunice Ingram, an American physiotherapist, expanded Fitzgerald’s theory of zone therapy into the modern practice of reflexology. Specific training courses exist that utilize the Ingram method.

Individuals should keep in mind the following when using reflexology:

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after a meal
  • Do not apply heavy pressure to bones
  • Limit application of reflexology pressure to under ten minutes if serious heart conditions, diabetes, or kidney problems are present

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a complicated disorder of the nervous system that is not yet well understood. Most often, the syndrome is diagnosed by exclusion, as other conditions are eliminated as a possible cause of the symptoms, since there is no definitive test. Fibromyalgia may have a slow onset or develop suddenly after a traumatic injury of illness. Patients often experience widespread pain that occurs continuously with often very little relief from pain medications.

Additional symptoms associated with the fibromyalgia syndrome may include:

  • Muscle stiffness and soreness
  • Tender points when touched, usually unilateral and localized
  • Debilitating mental and physical fatigue and energy drain
  • Sleep disorders, particularly involving disruption of stage four deep sleep
  • Irritable bowel and bladder complaints
  • Anxiety and depression in response to limitations in physical and mental ability
  • Migraine headaches

Additional Information

The website of the National Fibromyalgia Association, dedicated to providing information to improve the quality of life of fibromyalgia sufferers, contains extensive information on the syndrome, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

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