Understanding migraine and supporting sufferers using varied reflexology techniques
by Allison Walker FMAR (part of this article was published in the Association of Reflexologists Reflexions magazine)
Migraine can be a debilitating illness for many people and according to Weaver S (page 4) is ‘A complex neurobiological disorder with genetic, vascular and biochemical components.’
For those who have never experienced a migraine believe me it’s a whole body experience not just a one sided banging headache. I know this because I started with migraines at the age of 11 after my first trip to the hairdressers and became a migraineur (this word meaning someone who has migraines is somewhat controversial and as we know it is not always helpful to label yourself or anyone as ‘being their disease’). I suffered with migraines regularly before menstruation, after eating certain foods (cheese stronger than a 3, plain chocolate, red wine, oranges and grapefruits, monosodium glutamate, caffeine, cider apple vinegar and more!), with stress, when dehydrated, artificial perfumes, bright lights and neck and teeth problems. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint the trigger and often it might be one thing that just tips the balance after several other triggers and at different times of the month or day. I thought that they would go when I hit the menopause – sadly no. So let’s look at migraine in more detail, what happens in the body and how we as reflexologists can make a difference to migraineurs’ quality of life.
The word migraine from French, via late Latin from the Greek word hēmikrania, from hēmi- ‘half’ and kranion ‘skull’ differentiates a migraine from a headache because the pain is usually on one side of the head. But it is not just about the pain, people can also feel or be sick, can’t bear bright lights or loud noises, have slurred speech or find it difficult to find the right words, lose feeling on one side or lack co-ordination. I have even gone blind in one eye (I sniffed some plain chocolate that was being melted and everything went black and I lost all feeling down my left side); I had to lie on the kitchen floor until I could see again – very scary! People regularly lose days or weeks off work and suffer horrendously.
There are many different types of migraine such as:
Classic Migraine with an Aura which are the visual disturbances preceding the migraine – this is what I have and at first parts of what I am looking at disappear as if there are bits missing, then I have flashing circles in different colours going round (almost like the outline of the pupil of the eye) this is followed by zig zags flashing in colour across my vision (and with eyes closed) usually on one side. Then I know that the pain will normally follow on the opposite side of the head to the visual disturbance approximately 20 minutes later; this is the time to take action with medication if you don’t take a preventer drug (lots of useful information on medication from the Migraine Trust). When the pain kicks in with the other symptoms they can last anything from hours to days.
Silent Migraine is when you have the Aura but no subsequent head pain. I have had this a few times.
Cluster Migraine is when you have spells of continuous Migraines. These are a nightmare for some people when you have one after the other for a period of time but you can then be migraine free for several months.
Abdominal Migraine usually affects children under the age of 14 and the pain is in the intestines and not the head.
Other classifications of migraine tend to link to the symptoms or causes including menstrual migraine and chronic migraine (over 15 migraine days per month), also vestibular migraine that is the second most common cause of vertigo. Meniere’s disease is now being linked to migraine, called MMV – Meniere’s with migraine variant.
There is no doubt there is a genetic predisposition to migraine (my grandmother, mother and brother all suffered/suffer) and that there are avoidable triggers. Research also links migraine to epilepsy through hereditary factors and some doctors believe that there is an auto-immune component.
There has been limited research into the exact causes of migraine but scientists are now saying that migraine is a neurological and not a vascular disorder (although there is vascular involvement). There is a fascinating article called Pathophysiology: What Happens in Your Brain During a Migraine available at www.migrainesurvival.com.
Pathophysiology looks at what happens in each of the body systems during an illness and in migraine latest research appears to link migraine to abnormal excitation of neurones in the brain and trigeminal nerve. This nerve stimulation may be caused by low magnesium levels as well as brain chemical or cell abnormalities. According to PubMed (2007) ‘Cytokines are now considered to be the pain mediators in neurovascular inflammation. Furthermore cytokines may be a cause of the migraine pain: in fact high levels of chemokines (a family of small cytokines) could stimulate the activation of trigeminal nerves, the release of vasoactive peptides or other biochemical mediators, such as nitric oxide, and then to cause inflammation’. Sinobiological (2017) explain that Cytokines are a large group of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system. Cytokines are a category of signalling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation and haematopoiesis. This would account for the link between asthma and migraine which I have experienced. When I am suffering with migraine I am more prone to having an asthma attack, the inflammation being the common factor.
Research into another cytokine called Leptin which is mainly produced in adipocytes (fat cells) increases nitric oxide levels. According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in an article entitled ‘The Role of the Adipocytokines Adiponectin and Leptin in Migraine’ (2009): ‘Although the role of fasting and certain foods have long been known to trigger headaches, total body and abdominal obesity have only recently been linked to migraine. Adipose tissue is a functioning, active endocrine organ with important physiologic and pathophysiologic roles. In addition to regulating energy homeostasis, adipose tissue is important in regulating lipid and glucose metabolism as well as autoimmunity and inflammatory processes.
Centrally, the role and function of feeding and adipose tissue is modulated by the hypothalamus and its connections. Likewise, functional imaging has implicated the hypothalamic activation in acute migraine. Peripherally, adipose tissue has been shown to secrete or modulate several proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and IL-6, as well as adipocytokines (eg, adiponectin, leptin), which are involved in feeding and linked to migraine.’
I wonder if this is another reason why I crave carbohydrates before a migraine and then cannot face food during and after an attack. The hypothalamus, as we know, is the connection between the Nervous and Endocrine systems and is part of the Limbic system which processes our emotions in the brain as well as other functions.
There is current research into the amount of oxidative stress the brain is under before a migraine attack and that the migraine is the brain’s way of protecting and repairing itself. Oxidative stress is a result of the body not coping with free radicals that cause cellular damage. Combating oxidative stress involves avoiding the causes of free radicals, eating foods that contain anti-oxidants and breathing deeply to improve oxygenation.
The last research I have found really interesting is into lectins and migraine. Lectins are found in healthy foods such as seeds, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables. According to migrainekey.com (2018 [online]) lectins are naturally occurring and prevent certain plants from being eaten or enable their seeds to survive the digestive process so they can pass through an animal to be excreted so they can propagate. The chemicals they contain can cause or exacerbate IBS symptoms, gut damage and increased histamine levels - all have been linked to migraine. Some people are more susceptible to lectins than others so it is wise to not over indulge in high lectin foods but also not to exclude them as they contain many health benefits. The book The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in "Healthy" Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain by Dr Steven R Gundry M.D explains which high level of lectin containing foods to avoid for migraine sufferers.
According to Nico Pauly (MNT-NR) migraine is a result of a sensitised Sympathetic Nervous System in connection with trigeminal nerve activity and inflammation in cerebral blood flow. It is a dysfunction not a disease.
In chronic cases of migraine injecting Botox® (onabotulinum toxin A) every twelve weeks into the trigeminovascular system has helped although not cured. Surgical procedures include nerve blocks, stimulation and decompression and have varied levels of success.
There is some interesting research outlined on the Migraine Trust website, for example looking at how circadian rhythms (sleep patterns) affect the incidence of migraine.
Many migraine sufferers are turning in desperation to Daith piercing. The London Migraine Clinic has ongoing research into the effects of Daith piercing. In over 1000 cases 75% report their migraines are ‘greatly improved or they ‘no longer have them’. Only 11% reported no obvious change. The Daith piercing is through the root of the helix where it is believed that the vagus nerve is stimulated. Anatomically through the auditory branch of the vagus nerve this area does affect the trigemino-cervical complex in the brain stem which is a key area for neurological research. As an Auricular Reflexologist I find this fascinating but holistically knowing that if we mask symptoms in one part of the body something else often occurs elsewhere, I am cautious about this. However, when I manually work this area during a migraine it is incredibly painful and does relieve the pressure somewhat, so worth looking in to if you are a chronic migraine sufferer looking for drug free solutions.
The National Headache Foundation (2018) claim that ‘A new animal study suggests that electrically stimulating the vagus nerve suppresses activity in the brain believed to be a headache trigger and responsible for migraine-related auras’. I totally do not support animal testing by the way and admire the work of The Humane Research Trust:
You can even buy vagus nerve stimulators on amazon claiming to help migraine sufferers!
Reflexology research into migraine is limited but there are encouraging case studies and trials, the most commonly cited being a Danish trial where after three months 16% had no migraine and 65% believed reflexology to be helpful. However as we know each client is unique and has different triggers at different times in their life so we need to look at the client’s lifestyle very closely to give the best advice and create the best session plan.
The most common advice regarding supplements is to take magnesium, Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin B12 and B2 (riboflavin) and the herb feverfew as a preventative. Vitamin D aids magnesium absorption so it is worth checking levels and stick to the recommended dose on the labels for all supplements. CBD (Cannabidiol) oil seems to be having some dramatic effects but evidence is still anecdotal. Magnetic bracelets have helped many people as long as they drinking enough water.
Potential Pathology of a Migraine attack:
1. When the body has been in a state of low grade inflammation, hormonal changes might induce inflammatory cytokines in the cerebral blood flow.
The Sympathetic Nervous System is always active in inflammatory states together with the immune system. Biological stress (organs, hormones…) and/or mental stress cause sympathetic nervous system activity together with hormonal changes via the HPA-axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis).
2. The lead up to a migraine can be immediate as in the case of shock or trauma or start days, weeks or even months beforehand. As we know stress affects the brain, the organs and the hormones. The body’s acid-alkaline balance is affected and it releases alkaline minerals such as magnesium from the cells in an effort to correct this imbalance.
3. Cytokines will circulate in the blood flow.
4. Slow continuous vasoconstriction is the result.
5. Nitric Oxide is a strong vasodilator important in triggering migraine. Nitric oxide is produced from the amino acid L-arginine. Nitric Oxide is lowered by Magnesium and the body depletes its magnesium levels even further by trying to neutralise toxic nitric oxide levels. Interestingly I took L-arginine in supplement form as it has been very successful in helping improve circulation, however I had a migraine every day I took it!
6. The sensory nerves, mainly the trigeminal nerve, pick up inflammatory chemicals (C1, C2, C3 in the Dorsal Horn). Pain is the result.
7. The nausea of a migraine is caused by the parasympathetic system, together with the activity of the trigeminal nerve.
8. The vagus nerve is the most influential nerve in our parasympathetic nervous system and any digestive distress can trigger a vagus nerve response. See previous comments on vagus nerve stimulation and migraine.
So we have a certain amount of pathophysiology information to help us with our reflexology session planning for migraineurs. However there is still more to learn as neurologists are discovering every day.
Clinical Reasoning to help formulate a plan
From the client’s case history assess the following:
1. Stress from Lifestyle and Events.
2. Digestive Stress: Acid Stomach, heartburn (nitric oxide thrives in an acid environment), acid foods such as pickles and mature cheese are known migraine triggers. Blood sugar - often the Liver has depleted its glycogen stores following a migraine which is interesting as post migraine all I want are mugs of Redbush Tea and digestive biscuits for a day or two! High consumption of L-arginine rich foods such as chocolate, nuts, dairy and animal products, seafood, wheat and oats, soybeans and chickpeas. (L-arginine undermines the effect of Lysine in suppression of viral infection, so someone prone to cold sores should decrease food containing L-arginine and/or increase intake of Lysine). Look at foods containing tyramine – basically anything fermented, aged or smoked including cider apple vinegar and kefir normally thought of as healthy foods - these are known triggers. Are there other known food triggers for this client such as citrus fruits, caffeine, alcohol, monosodium glutamate, aspartame, bananas, marmite, gluten - any foods that cause inflammation in the body or that the body craves such as the high lectin containing foods previously mentioned? N.B The association of consumption of tyramine containing foods and migraine has not been proven but in my clinical experience these are key culprits and it is worth downloading a list of these foods to share with your client. Also do they skip meals or are they dehydrated? Do they suffer with IBS in which case look at the low FODMAP diet and introducing a good probiotic.
3. Hormonal Influence: Do they have migraines at the same time every month, did they begin during puberty, were they different during pregnancy, are they changing around the time of menopause?
4. Mechanical: Check for Musculo-Skeletal system injuries. An old whiplash injury can cause long term problems following displacement of the bones in the neck, skull, face and ears. Neck and back postural problems from sitting at the computer. Dental bite alignment, teeth clenching and jaw misalignment may put pressure on the trigeminal nerve. Do they have a supportive bed and pillow? How do they sit in front of the computer and are their eyes OK? – squinting and the wrong lens prescription can cause problems. Lower spinal injuries can cause compression resulting in an inflammatory response. Foot dysfunction can cause imbalance along the kinetic chain. A lot to think about but worth assessing.
5. It might be a combination of factors: Hormonal and Mechanical when there is pelvic distortion there is pressure on the psoas muscle affecting the ovaries and twisting the uterus. The uterus filling with blood could be enough to trigger inflammation.
6. Do Migraines run in the family, is there a hereditary factor?
7. How often do they have a migraine, how does it present and what symptoms do they have with it? It is very personal remember.
Treatment Protocol for Foot Reflexology
Once you have assessed the probable cause or causes of the Migraine attacks then you need to decide on how to prioritise the reflexes to work.
If the cause is identified as mechanical then you need to start with the Peripheral Nervous System, then the Endocrine System. If there is stiffness in the neck, thoracic pain and pelvic distortion start at the lowest point of the problem and work up, do not start with the brain. If the cause is always bowel and food related then start with the Autonomic Nervous System. If Hormonal, work the Pelvic nerves first and then the Endocrine System. Stress of some sort will nearly always be a factor so include plenty of diaphragm relaxing work and classic reflexology relaxing techniques as well as the HPA axis (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenals – the body’s stress response route). Also work the limbic system of the brain well for the emotions and primitive fear/shock response (remember the limbic system communicates with the Autonomic nervous system) as well as for pain as the pain response is subjective and interpreted and instigated by the brain: the Thalamus, Amygdala, Neocortex and Hippocampus for example.
Suggested Treatment Plan and Techniques for Migraine sufferers
If you have trained in Nerve Reflexology then incorporate the Nerve Points as suggested. Otherwise work well on the spinal nerves relative to the areas outlined using the techniques you are familiar with. I have incorporated the following:
NR stands for Nerve Reflexology
A.R.T stands for Advanced Reflexology Techniques® by Tony Porter who has a wealth of techniques to share.
CR stands for Classic Reflexology – the method you were initially taught e.g. The Original Ingham Method®
VRT stands for Vertical Reflexology Techniques by Lynne Booth N.B The full VRT weight bearing protocol focussing on bespoke key points to work synergistically are ideal as well as additional points with the client lying supine.
N.B These are my suggestions but it is best to train in each reflexology specialism with its respective expert tutor.
Make an Intent for the session, breathe, ground and centre yourself.
Make a connection with the client (support heels in palms or palm on pad (heart to heart) on both feet).
Ask them to breathe into any painful areas, help them to focus on the breath throughout the session.
Start with bone loosening movements and relaxing techniques in your usual opening sequence then:
NR: dorsal and ventral routes, ligaments, pelvic floor and pudendal plexus.
ART: Pelvic sweeps.
CR: Walk and torque pelvic area (finger walking with all fingers at the same time as rotating the foot onto the working hand to increase pressure).
VRT: Pelvic sweeps, zonal triggers.
NR: dorsal and ventral routes, subcostal, L-1: ilioinguinal (muscles of the anterolateral abdominal wall, skin of superior medial thigh, root of penis and scrotum in male, labia majora and mons pubis in female), iliohypogastric (muscles of the anterolateral abdominal wall, skin of inferior abdomen and buttock), psoas (with iliacus muscle flexes thigh at hip joint, rotates thigh laterally and flexes trunk on the hip as you sit up from lying down) and quadratus (laterally rotates and stabilises hip joint), diaphragm and phrenic nerve.
ART: Sweep spine (with focus – slowly).
CR: Diaphragm tension relaxer, thumb walk spine, spinal twist.
VRT: Work spine with client weight-bearing. Diaphragm Rocking.
3. Autonomic Nervous System:
NR: TIL (tracto intermedio lateralis – long tube of sympathetic neurons from lateral horn C8-L2). Paravertebral ganglia, the cervical ganglia are always involved as migraine is in the head. Work the pelvic ones if there is a pelvic problem. The Pre-vertebral ganglia – coeliac, mesenteric (inferior, inter and superior). Solar Plexus.
ART and CR: Work all internal organs in the Digestive System and glands of the Endocrine System esp. adrenals. Endocrine balancing (linking) works well here.
VRT: Do Endocrine Flush and Digestive organs on dorsal aspect with client weight-bearing.
4. Upper Cervical Spine:
NR: Dorsal and Ventral Routes – C1, 2 and 3, Accessory Nerve, Occipital Nerve, Trigeminal Nerve.
Or Cervicals, Neck and Shoulders/Trapezius etc. with ART, VRT or Classic Reflexology techniques.
5. Parasympathic Nervous System in Brain Stem and Brain:
NR: Vagus nerve, Occulomotor if there is an aura or dry mouth with the migraine, Brainstem = medulla, pons and midbrain, thalamus, cortex and cerebellum. Limbic system.
ART and CR: Work the brain stem, brain and Limbic system, Pituitary and Hypothalamus and Pineal, Thyroid and Parathyroids. All toes for fine tuning brain and all zones.
VRT: All toes and Pituitary Pinch weight bearing.
Finish with HPA axis link on both feet simultaneously.
Then Relaxers, Diaphragm Rocking (VRT) and slow gentle breathing to finish.
Work quickly and deeply for no more than 40/45 mins and then plenty of gentle relaxation.
The number of sessions will depend on your Clinical Reasoning and the frequency of the Migraines. If the client is female and presents with monthly migraines then schedule your treatments around the time of ovulation and a few days prior to each period. If Musculo-Skeletal in origin, twice weekly for a fortnight then reduce as symptoms improve.
N.B Meridian and Auricular Reflexology are excellent for migraine sufferers if you are qualified to include them and if you have other techniques such as Facial Reflexology that you know to be beneficial then incorporate them as well.
Here are a few suggestions:
Auricular Reflexology: Full treatment with extra focus on: the Vagus nerve, the San Jaio (Triple Warmer/Burner), the liver, Shen Men, trigeminal nerve point and TMJ, brain, occiput, temple, Sympathetic Autonomic Point, neck, shoulders, Master Cerebral point and Master Sensorial point, Endocrine (pituitary) point, Thalamus, Hypothalamus, Adrenal and Pineal glands the Tranquilizer point, Master oscillation point, Windstream and kidney. As with all reflexology, each client is different and focus on what you locate on the ear and how the client’s migraines are triggered. I would always seed (ideally using tourmaline auricular seeds) the Shen Men (for mind, body and spirit balance, pain, stress etc.) plus the neck, cervical and trigeminal nerves. I have found that Auricular work helps me the most to manage my migraines myself. Try working the ears every day for prevention and seed if a migraine occurs to reduce the length and severity. N.B You can’t seed the Vagus nerve as it is too close to the auditory canal but you can pinch press around the helix root and into the inferior concha.
Meridian Reflexology: Essential go to points when in the throes of a migraine are: LI4 (Large Intestine 4 - contra-indicated when pregnant) which is against the index finger at the base of the first metacarpal bone before it meets the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Press and hold for 30 seconds several times while breathing calmly, repeat every twenty or thirty minutes until the migraine subsides.
SP6 (Spleen 6 again contra-indicated in pregnancy) – the client’s four fingers width (3 Tsun) above the medial malleolus, against the side of the tibia, in a small depression. Press and hold or palpate for about 30 seconds and again at intervals until relief is felt.
ST36 (Stomach 36 known as the 3 mile point as the Chinese army used to rub it on both legs to give them energy and stamina to continue on their march for the next three miles!) – located four fingers width (3 Tsun) below the knee, slightly lateral in the fleshy space between the tibia and fibula. Rub briskly, only repeat if feeling energised and stop if feeling too nauseous. Switch to Pc6 (pericardium 6) on the inside of the arm three fingers width below the wrist crease in between the two tendons which helps with motion sickness and nausea.
For prevention of migraine with Meridian Reflexology it is important to assess the client looking at which Meridian/s is/are out of balance, their constitutional type, their Yin and Yang balance, their symptoms and triggers and when they become ill – the season, time etc.
Key Meridians that are mostly involved in migraines are the Gall Bladder meridian, the Stomach meridian and the Urinary Bladder meridian. These three meridians start in the head and finish in the feet at the corners of the base of the toe nails. Pressure in the head can be released by working the toes well, as any stuck energy in the head can lead to pain. Similarly work the base of the little finger nail on the lateral edge for the Small Intestine and similarly on the lateral edge of the fourth finger for the Triple Burner meridians as both transport energy to the head. There are good Triple Burner points also midway along the dorsal aspect of the forearm and into the elbow so worth working well up the arm to help.
The Liver Meridian in conjunction with the Gall Bladder Meridian are the paired Meridians in the Wood Element which is often out of balance in migraineurs. The Liver Meridian especially Lv2 and Lv3 are particularly good points to work for migraines. These are at the base of the big toe on the lateral aspect (Lv2) and the base of the first metatarsal on the lateral aspect against the bone (Lv3). Emotionally the Wood Element is about our ability to make decisions, to plan and grow creatively and intuitively. When in balance we can bend like a tree in the wind and adapt to change in our lives with strength and determination feeling calm and centred. When out of balance we can become indecisive, store anger, be frustrated and lack drive, ambition and creativity. We feel out of balance, unsure of ourselves, bitter, angry and resentful. When our frustration and anger reaches boiling point the energy can be stuck in the head and may lead to a migraine – a pressure valve exploding perhaps? Finding balance in our lives, understanding and processing our emotions, making appropriate decisions calmly and letting go of anger can help our physical bodies and in the case of the Wood element our peripheral nervous system, muscles, tendons and ligaments which may all be involved in the lead up to a migraine.
NEPIP (NeuroEndoPschyoImmunoPody) is a unique reflexology protocol based on psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology (PNEI) which is the medical study of how our emotions through our nervous system affect our immune system via neuropeptides produced in response to our feelings. It is excellent for working pro-actively with migraineurs when stress is a key trigger.
Consider referring the client to a McTimoney Chiropractor or other professional who can manipulate and correct any spinal imbalances and suggest some regular stretching exercises such as Yoga, Pilates or Qigong to improve posture, reduce stress and prevent recurrences.
If the cause is dietary and this is not your area of expertise recommend a good Nutritionist or Kineseologist to discover and correct food intolerances although there are some excellent self-help migraine recipe books available. Often cutting out known triggers and working on alkalising the system is a safe and sensible approach. Also remember to advise drinking 8 glasses of water throughout the day away from meals and not to let sugar levels drop too low by skipping meals.
Other therapies that may be of benefit are homeopathy and herbal medicine. If the cause is an emotional one and to help with the stressful effects of living with migraine, energy psychology techniques such as E.F.T, the Emotional Freedom Technique may be of enormous benefit.
There is a wealth of information to help the migraine sufferer and often the cause can be identified and attacks minimised. However a few unlucky people will never discover their triggers or cannot learn to identify and manage them.
Reflexology is worth trying in all cases of migraine as it aims to support the body’s own healing mechanisms and prevents the imbalances that lead to an overloaded system. You can give the body an extra boost to balance itself and prevent the inflammatory cascade that leads to so much pain and misery.
For Training courses, books and DVD’s in the techniques mentioned:
A.R.T with Tony Porter www.artreflex.com 0208 920 9555
NEPIP is taught as part of the Level 5 Diploma in Practitioner Reflexology
Nerve Reflexology with Nico Pauly - www.mnt-nr.com
Carol Samuel is the recognised Nerve Reflexology Diploma trainer for the UK - www.reflexmaster.co.uk
VRT (Vertical Reflexology Technique) with Lynne Booth www.boothvrt.com 0117 962 6746
A review of current evidence in the surgical treatment of migraine headaches -
An overview on immune system and migraine’ www.pub.med.com
Medical Express - Migraines may be the brain’s way of dealing with oxidative stress www.medicalexpress
Migraine Key – Lectins and Migraines https://www.migrainekey.com/migraine-trigger/lectins/
Medical New Today – Everything you needed to know about Migraines - www.medicalnewstoday.com
Migraine Survival – Understand migraine pathophysiology and allodynia
Sinobiological - http://www.sinobiological.com/What-Is-Cytokine-Cytokine-Definition-a-5796.html
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association – ‘The Role of the Adipocytokines Adiponectin and Leptin in Migraine
By B. Lee Peterlin, DO -
The London Migraine Clinic – Migraine research into Daith Piercing www.london-migraine-clinic.co.uk
The Migraine Relief Plan – Stephanie Weaver - ISBN – 13:978-1-57284-209-0
The Migraine Trust – www.migrainetrust.org
The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in "Healthy" Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain by Dr Steven R Gundry M.D
Understanding Oxidative Stress – www.wallerwellness.com
Allison Walker qualified with The International Institute of Reflexology in 1999 and with a busy and successful practice became a tutor and then Course Director for the IIR. Allison has trained in ART techniques, VRT, Meridian and 5 Element Reflexology, Auricular Acupuncture and Nerve Reflexology as well as many other courses. She now teaches the Level 5 Reflexology Diploma in Practitioner Reflexology at her own college Contemporary Reflexology College and offers CPD course in Auricular Reflexology for Reflexologists. For details of courses and charts to locate the Auricular and Meridian points mentioned visit: www.contemporaryreflexologycollege.com
Taking Reflexology to the Next Level by Allison Walker FMAR, CRM5 Tutor
‘Taking Reflexology to the Next Level’ is the strapline of my reflexology school called Contemporary Reflexology College. It embodies what I strive to achieve and the qualification that I now teach.
It has been quite a journey to having my own reflexology college and I am so blessed to now be supporting so many amazing people on their journeys to reaching their potential with reflexology.
We need more reflexology teachers to raise the standard of teaching in the UK as we have been falling behind many of our Continental counterparts where the minimum hours of learning are generally a lot higher and controls more stringent. In the USA for example you need to have in depth massage training before you can practise Reflexology, in South Africa Reflexology comes under statutory control and RIEN (Reflexology in Europe Network) only recognises reflexology schools who offer 150 contact hours of reflexology training and 100 hours of Anatomy and Physiology training and this is scheduled to change in 2018 to a minimum of 240 hours with some European countries stipulating 500 hours in class training!
Why Level 5?
Centralia, the UK Recognised Centre for the Level 5 Diploma in Practitioner Reflexology, was set up by Sue Evans and Paul Steward who were become increasingly concerned by the falling and varying standards of reflexology training and lack of statutory regulation in this country.
I am sure that you have all come across people practising ‘reflexology’ where the feet are slathered in cream and you have little more than a relaxing foot massage. No medical history is taken, no treatment plan devised and the same simple routine is given to all. This is not what Eunice Ingham (1889 – 1974) a physiotherapist, spent 40 years of her life developing and refining so that people could benefit physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually from a bespoke in depth treatment.
Originally called ‘Compression Massage’ Reflexology was based on the Chinese method of ‘Zone Therapy’ as explained in ‘Stories the feet can tell thru Reflexology’ written by Eunice Ingham in 1938. Eunice Ingham named Reflexology (‘Ology’ meaning ‘the study of’ and ‘reflexes’ to describe the points that are worked and connect to specific parts of the body. Its origins in the modern western world are from the medical profession – see history. Reflexology today covers such varied treatments that it must be very confusing for the public to know what it really is and can encompass.
There have been steps taken to increase the professionalism and standardise reflexology in the UK. In July 1999, Reflexology organisations across the UK came together under the independent chairmanship of Simon Mills, from Exeter University's Department for Complementary Health Studies. This paved the way for a regular series of meetings and the Reflexology Forum was formally constituted on 20th September 2002. Its role included:
• Development of National Occupational Standards
• Conducting and reporting research into reflexology
• Developing regulation of the profession
• Developing standards of CPD and training
• Developing Codes of Conduct and a list of contraindications
• Providing a safeguard for the public
• Act as a single/lead body for Reflexologists in the UK
The original Core Curriculum in Reflexology produced in 2006 by the Reflexology Forum and edited by the late Clive O’Hara (available from Amazon) is an in depth benchmark manual for reflexology training. It was a huge step forward and offers an excellent guide to what should be included in practitioner training courses. The Level 5 Diploma course is the only course currently in the UK to deliver on all aspects covered in this core curriculum and often more.
The CNHC (The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) and the GRCCT (The General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies) are UK regulatory bodies to help protect the public and raise the profile of complementary therapies but Reflexology is self-regulated meaning that there is no statutory requirement for membership and therefore regulating standards is voluntary.
There are also membership bodies for reflexology and all complementary therapies, these have the members’ interests foremost as well as aiming to raise awareness and promote progression in reflexology through CPD (Continuing Professional Development). I am sure that you all know of the largest UK reflexology membership body the AoR (The Association of Reflexologists that now includes Indian Head Massage).
To regulate reflexology practitioner training we have Awarding Bodies that themselves are regulated by government and independent organisations responsible for regulating qualifications. There are hundreds of Awarding bodies to be regulated.
The regulatory bodies are Ofqual in England, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in Scotland and Qualifications Wales(QW) in Wales.
The Quality Assurance Agency covers all higher education providers in the UK and maintains the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ).
The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) replaced the Qualifications and Credit Framework, and National Qualifications Framework in October 2015. Each qualification must be recognised as part of one of the UK qualifications frameworks:
England is OFQUAL
Northern Ireland it is CCEA
Wales it is CQFW (The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales)
Scotland it is SCQF (The Scottish Allen Whitefield Credit and Qualifications Framework)
Once a qualification is recognised by a qualifications framework and regulated by an approved Awarding Organisation the course is then provided, usually by a body authorised and accredited to teach by the Awarding Body/Organisation. Awarding Organisations are responsible for ensuring the quality and practices of the Recognised Centres (Centralia in this case) that deliver the learning that will be assessed and accredited through certification.
When a course is approved by an Awarding body it is levelled, that means given a Level that leads to a specific qualification. The length, content, structure, learning outcomes and mapping of each part or unit of the course is scrutinised prior to levelling. Each course is continually verified to ensure that standards are uniform wherever the course is taught. Internal verification is when someone inside the teaching organisation monitors and assesses the work of the learners and external verification is when an independent verifier scrutinises the work to ensure that standards are reached and maintained.
The chart below taken from http://www.accreditedqualifications.org.uk/qualifications-and-credit-framework-qcf.html demonstrates how each qualification is levelled:
The next table updated in 2017 and available at: https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/United_Kingdom_Awarding_Bodies shows how the levels compare between England, Northern Ireland and Wales with Scotland and Europe:
10 and 9
Here is a link that explains who exactly regulates the Level 5 Diploma in Practitioner Reflexology. Here is a link to a fan diagram illustrating the Welsh Qualification framework: CQFW Fan Diagram. Hopefully now when I discuss the Level 5 Diploma in Practitioner Reflexology you can understand how it compares with the Level 3 that has in recent history been the accepted route for reflexology practitioner training or in some cases courses are offered with no recognised route.
Level 3 is recognised as an ‘A’ level equivalent and Level 5 as a foundation degree or HND equivalent.
It is not possible to do a bridging course between a level 3 and a level 5 because you cannot bridge from an 'A' level to a foundation degree without studying the full course to the required depth. Here is a complete answer to this often asked question and many others to help clarify: Centralia FAQ'S
The initial Level 5 reflexology course was created by Sue Evans in conjunction with Agored Cymru, a progressive Welsh Awarding Organisation/Body with over 30 years of experience and expertise in developing qualifications and supporting learning, assessment and verification in Wales.
Sue is Welsh and an experienced reflexology university lecturer however she had no idea that her newly created course would be levelled at 5. Sue had long been saddened by the dilution of reflexology training and frustrated that accredited reflexology courses seemed to be including topics that were not specific to reflexology. Also that some courses were very short and lacking in content and often courses were not properly accredited or registered with an independent awarding body. This means that people looking for a genuine reflexology course that will give them a recognised qualification find it very difficult to understand where to go and how to find a course that suits them, as well as in the future enabling them to join the relevant regulatory body when statutory regulation becomes mandatory - as it will. It is scary that anyone can set themselves up as a reflexologist, especially when it is such a powerful therapy, even scarier that anyone can set up a course without independent regulation. In her effort to raise the standard of reflexology training and make it 100 per cent specific to becoming a professional reflexologist Sue has created and continues to refine and develop, an exceptional pathway to becoming a professional reflexologist.
The qualification comes under the Sector - Nursing and Subjects and Vocations Allied to Medicine - this is the only reflexology course in the UK under this sector.
Each unit studied consists of credits that learners can, on successful completion of the course, put towards a full degree in an associated field of study. The Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology and Business Planning sections of the course are specific to reflexology and levelled at 4.
To study to Level 5 you must be over 18 years of age for Level 3 it is 16 years of age.
The other huge differential between level 3 and 5 is the TQT (Total Qualification Time). The TQT is the number of notional hours which represents an estimate of the total amount of time that could reasonably be expected to be required in order for a Learner to achieve and demonstrate the achievement of the level of attainment necessary for the award of the qualification.
TQT for Level 3 appears to vary depending on the provider. VTCT state that their guided learning hours are 266 and City and Guilds 296. The Level 5 has 790 hours of guided learning approximating to:
• 6-8 hours week self study & research (300 minimum hours total)
• clinic hours (300 hours minimum)
• 160 hours direct delivery for whole qualifi cation
Contemporary Reflexology College offers 168 contact hours of teaching and advises learners that they will need 12 - 15 hours per week for home study; many learners do far more than this as they enjoy and beneifit so much from the learning experience.
There are CPD (Continuing Professional Development) courses offering level 4 or 5 but these are not the same as a full practitioner course that has been independently awarded a level 4 or 5. You cannot upgrade to a practitioner level 5 by adding in CPD courses - see Centralia FAQ'S. CPD of course is essential to all professional reflexologists.
How I became a Reflexology tutor
I was working as a busy Sales Manager when I trained to become a reflexologist in 1998. I loved learning from a wonderful man (John Morley-Kirk) with the IIR (International Institute of Reflexology) and was glad that I had then chosen to learn the Original Ingham Method of Reflexology which was very much as Eunice Ingham had worked, with deep thorough pressure.
However I found that there was much to learn on completion of the course and realised quite quickly that I needed more knowledge on Anatomy and Physiology, Pathology and particularly nutrition and the emotional aspects of illness. I was treating up to 50 people a week (not something I recommend to my graduates now!) but it gave me brilliant learning opportunities at the time. I also recognised that not one style of reflexology suits all and that when working with pregnant women or fragile cancer sufferers I needed to adapt my treatments quite drastically. I didn’t feel confident in some areas and booked myself onto many CPD courses including VRT and ART. I was always drawn to the more scientifically based treatments with a firm pressure until I discovered Reiki and EFT when I began to realise that some people had dramatic shifts with light pressure and a more energy based approach. Over the years I have developed many different techniques and ways of working with clients and include (as many tutors do) a lot of my own experience based techniques.
I didn’t think about becoming a reflexology teacher but was approached at a CPD day when I was trying to explain to my practical partner for the afternoon how to perform the techniques we had been shown. I was overheard by my Tutor’s successor Marion Murphy and asked to come and give a talk to her group on how I started my business. Marion then suggested that I work shadow her for a year while I did my teacher’s training. This I did and then set up my own courses teaching in Staffordshire and Warwickshire, then Manchester and Birmingham and finally Nottingham when Marion retired. After teaching with the IIR for several years I left to focus on my practice and Energy Psychology training becoming a Master Practitioner Trainer. I was also teaching ear candling (Thermo-Auricular Therapy) and became a Reconnective Healer, it was a time of personal and spiritual growth and development. But I missed reflexology teaching and felt that I had developed so many of my own techniques and ways of working that I wanted to share them. David Wayte asked me to join his reflexology college - Jubilee College taking over his Manchester course and developing a Birmingham course. This I did and thank goodness as it was such a time of change within the reflexology teaching world as the level 3 went through two big changes to a seven module course and then back to a four module and then the Level 5 arrived! There was so much writing and rewriting of course material that it was really helpful to work with David and his other tutor Melanie Thompson (pharmacist turned reflexologist now running Lotus Holistic Academy). We made a good team sharing all of the course writing and discussing how to interpret the base guidance notes. We each had areas of special interest that we could develop and include to make the course unique.
In 2013 it was mutually agreed that I should set up my own college and I spent some months sorting out a name, logo, website, DVD’s, College foot, hand, ear and meridian charts, handouts etc.
Contemporary Reflexology College was launched in January 2014. This May (2018) I started my 11th Level 5 course and it is developing all the time. I love it because I can include what I have found most useful over the years in clinical practice and also what I found was lacking in my own training such as how to help someone who is terminally ill and who is pregnant. It is not caring to turn clients away because you don’t know how to help them, so I want all of my graduates to feel confident in treating anyone who contacts them and ensure that they have a good list of contacts to signpost them to in other modalities for additional support.
Passionate about Reflexology
As well as plenty of practical reflexology and practitioner skills, the course includes integrated Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology, Business planning and Marketing, Entrepreneurial skills and how to give safe nutritional and lifestyle advice. Research is so important in today’s world where quantitative and qualitative measures are needed to substantiate anecdotal evidence, so we have a day on research and learners have a research assignment to do as well as including MYCaW forms in their person study work.
Additionally there is a weekend on Adapting Reflexology for Palliative Care which everyone loves as the techniques are so gentle and relaxing. It is a good opportunity to discuss supervision and to realise the importance of self-care, so we have a session on EFT (The Emotional Freedom Technique) in case talking about terminal illness presses anyone’s buttons. This weekend is based on the Christie hospital’s course with additions as well as covering the Lymphatic and Immune systems in detail. The Christie is a specialist cancer care hospital in Manchester that has a very pro-active complementary health department. Inner Intent Reflexology is included on this weekend which is a way of working that I have developed over the years incorporating energy techniques to release emotional blockages through focussed intent, guided visualisation and affirmations. It can be used with all clients and indeed most graduates would not think of working without Inner Intent.
Our weekend on reflexology to support fertility and maternity care is a lovely journey from pre-conception care to reflexology for a new baby! The men on the courses find it fascinating and quite hilarious when they have to pretend to be pregnant as we practise treatment planning and treating different issues through each trimester. The aim is to empower the practitioner to work safely with couples trying to conceive and to be able to support them throughout pregnancy and beyond. Some learners choose to specialise in this rewarding area on completion and go on to take CPD courses with specialists such as Barbara Scott at Seren Natural Fertility and VRT with Lynne Booth.
Meridian and Five Element Reflexology is covered over a weekend so we can only touch on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) but it really helps the learner to understand that if you are not progressing with a client working the meridian channels may help and that if they find a tender spot it may actually be an acupressure point. The college charts are comprehensive and it is easy to locate and understand what each point can help.
Auricular Reflexology is included! I had been studying Auricular acupuncture and reflexology since 2001 and developing CPD courses in Auricular Reflexology so it is great to include it in the Level 5 course. AR is just brilliant for pain relief and I had always focussed on helping people with emotional and physical pain throughout my practice.
Lastly we include a new unit which is a practical treatment protocol specifically aimed at helping clients with stress. It is based on scientific research into neuropeptides and how the mind and body are integrated and therefore how the mind impacts on our health. Graduates are encouraged to return to class and revisit any days that they need to refresh.
So the Level 5 course is very comprehensive and is not for the feint hearted or those who haven’t got the time to immerse themselves in reflexology for a year or more. In which case a good, well regulated Level 3 course run by an experienced tutor is the alternative. It really is best to find the course that suits you, your style of learning, a tutor you feel comfortable with and think carefully about the amount of time and commitment you are able to devote to learning.
The level 5 course isn’t about simply adding in CPD as some think. Each aspect of the course is included for a reason and that is to ensure that every graduate who completes all of the essays, assignments and in depth studies are fully confident professionals. It is a structured progression of learning specific to reflexology. Over the years, having taught many different reflexology courses, this is by far the most comprehensive, makes the most sense if the goal is to have a busy clinical reflexology practice and importantly it has the reassurance of an exceptional Awarding body and Accrediting body to support the qualification. Some people look at the course fees and think that the course is expensive, to that I say that you get what you pay for. Graduates often tell me that they would willingly have paid more for the course as they appreciate how much work has gone into it and what amazing resources they are given. If you look at the cost of a foundation degree which is typically two years then the average cost would be in the region of £17,540. Frequently I get told that the resources my learners receive are better than when they did their degree, they also say that there is as much if not more work as well!
The course now attracts many people from healthcare backgrounds such as nurses and midwives. One midwife had 75% of her course paid for and is now employed as a Reflexology Birthing Midwife where she uses her skills to induce labour and support throughout labour. Another learner from a medical background has had her whole course funded by her NHS trust. I also have several reflexologists on the course who have trained to level 3 but didn’t feel confident to practice or knew that they were missing something.
One graduate was running a very successful beauty therapy business and had a Level 3 in reflexology. Reflexology constituted 12% of her business, within a year of retraining to Level 5 it grew to over 70%.
A couple of learners who came to my CPD courses decided that they needed to retrain to Level 5 when it became evident that they didn’t know even the basics of body dynamics, hand holds and leverage and didn’t know how to create a treatment plan. I feel so sorry for those people who want to train in reflexology but who are confused by the qualifications and don’t realise that the course they have chosen may be very superficial. I am passionate about raising the standards of practitioner training.
There are some excellent fully accredited Level 3 courses with some equally passionate tutors and I applaud them because it is not easy to prepare and deliver an in depth course. I am concerned over the lack of regulation and the misconception that the public must have about reflexology when they visit some therapists. This needs to change and with all passionate tutors whatever the level of the course and good CPD training this can happen.
There are some amazing CPD courses available now as reflexology goes from strength to strength. This is why we need well trained practitioners, not only to help more people but so that they can progress and develop reflexology. I believe that we need to build on the foundation of best practice in reflexology to push the boundaries and see how far we can go in helping the body to heal.
I am lucky in that when I am going to have a physical problem I feel it sharply in my feet and ears. I don’t ever get signals in my hands but my reasoning is that I need my hands to work my feet and ears! I have been awoken by sharp pain across the base of both big toe nails with an accompanying pain across the occipital ridge. Some quick reflexology to the base of the nails stopped the back of head pain.
Recently in the night I had a sharp pain on the nerves in my ear that innervate my intestines and pelvis. I wasn’t sure why until I felt below my naval and found a sharp painful area. By working the ear the pain shifted and moved – it was trapped wind! Like many of you I am always amazed at the results that we get working with clients and how much more there is yet to learn and discover.
Last Autumn I was helping a friend relocate to Devon from the Midlands and had made some brownies full of hazelnuts and walnuts. The removal man ate a brownie saying how delicious they were then suddenly stopped and asked if they contained nuts. He started going into anaphylaxis! I asked if he had an epi-pen on him but he didn’t, there were no anti-histamines around and the shops were closed. He didn’t want me to ‘phone for the paramedics as he said it usually passed in a couple of hours but he still had most of the van to unload! I asked him if he was left or right handed, he managed to gasp that he was right handed so I grabbed his right ear and started working on his allergy point just under the apex of the ear. Within two minutes he said that his throat had stopped closing and his tongue had stopped tingling, he looked and sounded better. I kept working the ear for another few minutes until his voice and breathing normalised, he was amazed and overjoyed to think that he could eat Nutella again, this I did not advise! I was relieved and yet again amazed at the body’s powers of recovery given the right signals. How could I not include Auricular Reflexology in my course when I know that it is a potential life saver!
I hope that you now understand a little more about the qualification structure in the UK. Quite serendipitously I am teaching the Level 5 Diploma course in Practitioner Reflexology and although it is hard work with masses of marking and preparation I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to help train the reflexologists of the future. It was obviously meant to be!
Two comments that I hear from people who don't understand the qualification framework and structure are that the level 5 course is undermining those have already trained to Level 3 and that Level 5 graduates think that they are better than level 3 graduates. I think that it is important to recognise the good work that has gone before and is evident today in so many areas of reflexology but it is also important to embrace the new (although the level 5 has been around for over 7 years now!) and not to fear change. Be proud of your achievements whatever they are and continually review where you are professionally and look at ways of progressing and developing your own business and your USP's (Unique Selling Points). People are always attracted to people so if you are good at what you do and energetically in a good place you will be busy. There wasn't a Level 5 course around when I trained but I am still proud of my roots and training and have worked hard to learn and grow professionally and personally; if it had been around 20 years ago then yes I would have chosen this course as my route to becoming a professional reflexologist!
If you are an experienced reflexologist and inspired to explore teaching options then I recommend you look at the Centralia website for more information. There are Centralia Partnership Reflexology schools all over the UK now, we are a friendly group who meet and discuss innovative ways forward in Reflexology training and best practice, so do let people know if they are thinking of becoming a professional reflexologist or an inspirational reflexology tutor.
Links to organisations mentioned in the article:
Contemporary Reflexology College
Blog 4 March 2018
Self-Help through Auricular Reflexology for Everyone!
Foot Reflexology is amazing. There is no doubt about this in my mind and in the minds of the many people who have benefitted from this simple yet effective therapy for decades. Hand reflexology too is marvellous and is incredibly de-stressing and rebalancing.
However when it comes to self-help, I find that working your own ears is the easiest, quickest and most effective route to ease pain, balance the hormones and revitalise the whole body.
There is no bending down or pulling the foot up, no working one foot or hand at a time and no large area to cover when you are feeling out of sorts. For with ears you can work both simultaneously - sitting, standing or lying down. I love working my ears sitting at my desk with both elbows on the desk and my head bent forward; it provides a few welcome refreshing minutes break from working on the computer. Once you have mastered some of the simple ear techniques it is easy to share with your clients, friends and family.
In simplest terms, the ear is in the shape of an inverted (upside down) fetus so the ear Lobe represents the head, the Concha or central ear the internal organs, the Antihelix (the spiralled ridge that curves around the Concha) the spinal nerves and working out towards the Helix (the outer curved rim of the ear) you find the back, shoulders and most of the musculo-skeletal system. For a full picture of the body on the ear, the anatomy of the ear and all of the body systems then please look at the college ear charts.
Contemporary Reflexology College Ear Chart centre page
So let’s get started so you too can feel some of the benefits. I have tried to explain a simple treatment below but if you find it too complicated simply massage your ears in any way that feels right for you and the warmth you feel will be very healing.
Self Help with Ear Reflexology (daily recommended!)
Working both ears simultaneously
1. Make an intent for your treatment, such ‘I intend that this treatment will bring balance and harmony to my mind, body and spirit’.
2. Place the palms of your hands over your ears and breathe slowly and gently for a few breaths focusing on any areas of your body that need attention.
3. Gently stretch and pull the Lobe downwards and then the whole ear outwards.
4. Start in the centre of the ear on what is called the root of the Helix. The helix is the outer curved rim of the ear that starts in the centre of the ear and finishes as it joins the ear lobe on the outer edge of the ear. The centre of the ear is the anatomical centre of the body and there is an effective rebalancing point called Point Zero here. Point Zero brings the whole body into balance helping brain activity, hormonal activity and energy. Place the tip of your index finger nails gently in little grooves or notches in the middle of this raised ridge, create a light link and hold for a few seconds. Don’t worry if you can’t feel them at first simply make the intent that you are balancing your body with this light link. Then use your index fingers to work in little circles all along the ridge which is the root of the helix and the Concha ridge that divides the Concha into upper and lower sections. As you work towards the face you are working the solar plexus and diaphragm as well as a point for the Vagus nerve.
5. Pinch with thumb and index finger all around the Helix until you reach the Lobe. You may find it easiest to start with your thumb on the inside of the Helix and your index finger on the top and then swap them when you get to the Apex or top of the ear. The Helix is helpful to work for inflammation, allergies, pain and skin disorders.
6. Pinch press in the same way all around the Antihelix (the curved ridge that spirals around the Concha – Anti means in front of, so the Antihelix is in front of the Helix, it divides into two Crura or legs (Crus is one leg) either side of a hollow at the top of the ear) starting at the Lobe and working up until you finish under the Helix towards the face. Again you may need to swap your thumb and index fingers halfway. Just work in the most comfortable way for yourself. The Antihelix is worked for the spinal nerves, the neck, chest and abdomen and then it becomes the Inferior Crus or Lower Leg of the Antihelix where you find the buttocks and the sciatic nerve as you reach the Helix towards the face.
7. Massage and press into the Superior Crus of the Antihelix. This means the upper leg where the Antihelix heads upwards towards the top of the ear just above the Triangular Fossa which is a triangle shaped hollow in between the two Crura of the Antihelix - it is simpler than it sounds! This leg of the antihelix is worked for the hips, knees, legs and feet.
8. Press in and Massage the Triangular Fossa. This is the hollow found between the two Crura (legs) of the Antihelix and is worked for the pelvis and reproductive system. There is a very important point located at the upper part of the apex of the triangle called the Shen Men. The Shen Men (Spirit Gate) is for pain relief and has strong analgesic properties. It is the balancing point for overall well-being. It balances the emotions and calms the mind. Work for stress, pain, tension, anxiety, depression, insomnia, restlessness, excessive sensitivity and addictions. Used in all treatments it is the most important master point. Working the Shen Men also helps to activate other points as does Point Zero.
9. Press in and Massage the Scaphoid Fossa. Fossa means hollow and scaphoid means boat shaped, so it is the long narrow boat shaped hollow under the helix stretching from the Lobe up to the Apex of the Helix. Here we work for the shoulders, arms, elbows and hands.
10. Press into the Concha with your index finger and rotate. The Inferior Concha houses the Respiratory System and Heart, the upper Digestive System and Spleen and the Superior Concha the Liver, Gall Bladder, Intestines and the Urinary System. It is great to sweep the Concha from above the opening to the Auditory Canal against the wall of the Helix root all the way against the root to the Concha ridge and then against the wall of the Helix Root in the Superior Concha to under the Helix against the face. This covers the GI tract and is therefore marvellous for digestive issues.
11. Pinch and Press the Tragus. The Tragus is the flap that can block off the auditory canal when it is pushed downwards. The Tragus has the Adrenal gland in the centre at its apex if you have one rounded dome or in the centre if you have two little domes – run your index finger over the top of the tragus to see what you have. There are points on the surface to help with appetite control, high blood pressure and thirst. On the underside called the Sub-Tragus you find calming points, a point to help with nicotine cravings and the Master Oscillation point which balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and helps to rebalance where laterality (when one side is more dominant) is an issue or people are oscillating – this is when you work on one side of the body, the client feels it in the opposite side.
12. Pinch and Press the Antitragus. This is opposite the Tragus, the hill on the other side of the valley or the Intertragic Notch. Work here for the brain, thyroid and parathyroid glands, the occiput and temples.
13. Pinch the Intertragic Notch and slide the index finger nails in and slide them back and forth to access the Endocrine balancing point and Pituitary gland, it may feel sharp if you hit the right spot. The Pineal gland which is worked to aid sleep is underneath the Intertragic Notch onto the sub-tragus. Work the Intertragic Notch for all hormonal problems.
14. Thumb walk and massage the Dorsum of the Ear working across the ear from the head to the outer edge of the ear. The back of the ear is important to work for the spinal nerves, the vagus nerve, any back problems, the lungs, spleen, liver and kidneys.
15. Stroke down the groove where the dorsal ear meets the head. Stroking down the back of the ear against the head is very soothing and calming and can calm a crying baby or child.
16. Massage and finger walk the Lobe. Here are points for the teeth, the tongue, the jaw, inner ear, eyes, face, lips, tonsils, the TMJ and chin. There are Chinese points to help toothache, sneezing, memory, mood and metabolism.
17. Return to any tender areas, palpate and hold or link.
18. Press and Hold the Ear Shen Men point in the triangular Fossa (point 8).
19. Massage and stroke around the ears.
20. Place your palms over the ears for a few moments while taking a few gentle breaths in and out.
21. Drink some water and sit quietly for a few moments reflecting on what you feel on your ears and in your body.
22. Ground yourself by pressing the metatarsal pads of your feet into the ground to connect Kidney 1 acupressure point which is also called Bubbling Spring and is very grounding.
N.B Auricular Reflexology is not a substitute for medical care, please consult your GP if you have any medical problems.
Contemporary Reflexology College Ear Anatomy Chart on the front and the Body Systems on the back.
These are photos, please visit the college shop to order the laminated A3 original. If you are a qualified reflexologist and are keen to learn more then please Click Here for workshops.
Blog 3 January 2018
Reflexology and my Jeans/Genes
‘For an older bird you haven’t half got a nice bum’ said the young tip attendant cheerily and cheekily as he followed me up the ramp to the skip for cardboard.
I didn’t know whether to be insulted at being called an ‘older bird’, affronted at the un-PC-ness of the whole comment or chuffed that he thought I had a nice bum in my tight jeans! I suppose if I too were being PC it should be the Household Waste Recycling Centre and not the tip anyway.
So has the extra 5lbs (2.27kgs) I acquired during the Christmas festivities gone to my sagging bum and perked it up a bit or is it that I still have my genes to thank for looking younger than my years.
Is it really all about our genes? Is that why we get ill? And what can help?
Well there is a branch of medicine called Epigenetics that explores the links between our genes and why we get ill, including Cancer Epigenetics.
I know more people than ever this year who have been diagnosed with cancer, so I am really interested to know what the triggers are. I know that prolonged production in stress hormones can lead to a reduction in Killer T-Lymphocytes, the cells that mop up cancer cells that are formed in our body daily. Often if you ask someone what happened to them a few years before they were diagnosed with cancer, they often cite bereavement, redundancy, divorce or a similar stressor. This kind of stressor often means losing your appetite, or eating the wrong foods. This can impact the immune system and lead to illness.
I used to practice reflexology at The Ishta Centre in Stone and Allyn, who co-owns the centre with Sue, is a McTimoney Chiropractor. In 2011 he was diagnosed with cancer but chose to self-treat after surgery. He is fit and well today and recounts his story with lots of helpful information on http://www.ishtacentre.co.uk/Cancer.html Please share this if you know of someone struggling with cancer at present.
Anyway Epigenetics looks at how our genetic predisposition to disease is ‘switched on’ by environmental factors, chemicals, medication/drugs, aging and diet. The DNA itself is not altered but there are chromosomal changes that impact our health. According to Live Science:
‘Epigenetics literally means "above" or "on top of" genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes "on" or "off." These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells "read" genes.’ For more information visit https://www.livescience.com/37703-epigenetics.html
The result can be cells not functioning as they are meant to, leading to illness - even cancer.
More detailed medical information in an article entitled ‘Cause and Consequences of Genetic and Epigenetic Alterations in Human Cancer’ is available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2691666/
Genetic modifications can be passed down through the generations. As a reflexologist if we are treating a family we can notice similar characteristics in the feet and similar health issues between the family members. For example I have a small bunion on my right foot, I have always worn good shoes/boots so I cannot see a reason for developing a bunion, until I observe my mother’s right foot which also has a bunion in the same place, she too has always had good footwear – my grandmother had the same bunion and so on but somewhere in the past a member of the family must have done something to their right foot to have created this inherited characteristic. I know that foot readers may have differing opinions!
Also both of my brothers and I developed asthma in later life. Neither of our parents or any grandparents had asthma but my great grandmother died of asthma. However my grandfather on my father’s side died of emphysema, my father and grandfather on my mother’s side both died of lung cancer due to smoking. So what has ‘switched on’ my predisposition to asthma? Well my asthma developed after a particularly bad chest infection that coincided with moving to a damp environment. If I had a cold as a child it always went to my chest. Both my brothers lived and worked in the polluted London area for many years but we cannot be sure what the actual trigger was to the genetic ‘switch on’.
There is some interesting information on how our bodies respond to the triggers that affect our cells in this must read article: https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/fundamentals/
Some issues are thought to be related to the Nature versus Nurture theory, most theorists agreeing that we are 80% nature and 20% nurture with early childhood being the most formative time. Latest research tends to also substantiate the genetic predisposition to behavioural and psychological wellbeing. For more information look at this recent review https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/abcs-child-psychiatry/201710/nature-versus-nurture-where-we-are-in-2017
So if our physical and psychological health depends on our genetic inheritance how can we stay healthy?
As mentioned previously cell modification is also affected by diet, chemicals, drugs and aging. We all age but can we age more healthily by looking after our diet, limiting exposure to chemicals, avoiding drugs and limiting use of non-essential medication?
Yes we can! And in the process limit the chemical changes in our bodies that lead to cell changes and how they read our DNA.
Most people know what constitutes a healthy diet but finding the right diet for each individual does take some trial and error, as everyone is unique in how they respond to foods. Generally it is accepted that we need to limit inflammatory foods as inflammation is the body saying that it is not happy - it is trying to heal itself from a potentially harmful substance or event.
Inflammatory foods include refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cakes etc., sugar, red meat, alcohol and trans fatty acids fats (created by hydrogenation - adding water to fat to change its structure and found in foods such as margarines). Food intolerances, poor gut health, chronic infections, lack of sleep and exercise all contribute to inflammation as well.
Choose foods that fight free radicals (free radicals are molecules formed by inflammation, poor diet, smoking, alcohol, chemicals etc. that can lead to cellular damage).
A diet high in vegetables and fruits such as berries can really help. Foods that alkalise the body rather than acid forming foods are also worth considering. People following a diet of 80% alkaline foods report more energy, better digestion, healthier skin and a lighter mood. There is a free downloadable chart available from Avocado Ninja at https://www.avocadoninja.co.uk/pages/free-alkaline-food-chart and lots of other information, recipes and classes online.
One of the biggest influences on every action within the body is stress. Another relatively recent branch of medicine called Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) links chemicals changes within the body as a result of our emotions, to a reduction of the effectiveness of our immune systems - leading to illness. So finding healthy ways of acknowledging and releasing our emotions is essential. PNI is scientific proof of the mind/body connection that has always been recognised in complementary health circles. At Contemporary Reflexology College we include a lot about the mind/body connection and learners are taught a wonderful treatment based on PNI research combined with intent and affirmations in the form of a guided visualisation tailored to the client’s needs. More about PNI in future articles.
So hopefully you can see that although you don’t need an in depth understanding of Epigenetics and PNI, you can appreciate the importance of looking after ourselves physically and emotionally to minimise negative impact on our health and wellbeing.
If in doubt about your diet seek the advice of a good nutritionist or naturopath, it may be the best investment you can make for your health and longevity.
Minimise or learn to cope with the stress in your life, if you can’t change it. There are many coping mechanisms such as exercise, being in nature, mindfulness, a soak in a bath, meditation, talking through your problems and of course therapies such as Reflexology and E.F.T (the Emotional Freedom Technique). Reflexology is marvellous for helping the mind and body cope with stress and at Contemporary Reflexology College there is a lot of emphasis in helping learners to understand this. My training and experience with energy psychology techniques such as EFT really helps and combining these with a hands-on reflexology session is extremely powerful.
There is an excellent article entitled ‘Reflexology to help with stress and anxiety’ by the amazing Lynne Booth of Vertical Reflexology fame available here: http://www.positivehealth.com/article/reflexology/reflexology-to-help-stress-and-anxiety
Although the medical methodologies of research are challenging to apply to complementary therapies, there is consistent qualitative and quantitative evidence demonstrating that reflexology does help reduce the symptoms of stress and improve the sense of wellbeing in the majority of people. This research article demonstrates through MRI scanning that the areas of the feet worked by a reflexologist activate a corresponding area in the brain: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394008013694
A study entitled: ‘Evaluation of anxiety, salivary cortisol and melatonin secretion following reflexology treatment: a pilot study in healthy individuals’ concluded:
‘Considering the connection between stress/anxiety and well being, the effects of reflexology may have beneficial outcomes for patients’. I know that good regular reflexology not only helps to minimise the effects of stress but also helps each person to cope better with life’s ups and downs.
I remember one computer literate client stating that he felt as if I was ‘defragging’ him with each maintenance treatment! If you look it up, as I had to because I thought he was being rude, you will note that it means to sort out all of the files and folders to make the system work more efficiently. A bit of a strange analogy but reflexology does appear to help the body rebalance and reboot!
If Reflexology can help the body to cope with stress more efficiently then theoretically it can help to minimise the effects of stress on our cells and genetic predisposition to illness.
For self-help I find that placing my hands on my heart in bed morning and evening and going through the events of the day that have been or are to come, while releasing any uncomfortable feelings with the breath and intent can really help. Hopefully you have your own way of releasing any feelings, thoughts and memories that are causing you distress. If not seek a good EFT or Matrix Reimprinting practitioner such as Karl Dawson: http://www.efttrainingcourses.net/matrixreimprinting.htm or try Jessica Ortner’s free tapping for stress relief, it is wonderful: https://www.thetappingsolution.com/jessica-ortners-stress-relief-audios-free-download/
Changing our environment is not easy but you can switch off your internet router at night, minimise the use of your mobile ‘phone and avoid carrying it in your pocket, make some quiet times when the TV and radio are off, find a space at home that is your quiet space, walk in the countryside or find a small green patch somewhere to stand and ground yourself or even visualise yourself doing so if you can’t get outside. Think about small changes you can make to enhance your wellbeing at home and in the workplace, even a plant such as an aloe vera or spider plant on your work desk can have huge health benefits.
Use natural products in the home and for personal care to minimise the effects of chemicals and if you do need medication such as anti-biotics take pro-biotics to repopulate the gut flora. Also ensure that your dental health and hygiene is excellent.
So a chance comment by a cheeky young man has led me on a bit of a journey today. Yes the shape of my bottom is genetic (I remember my Gran telling me I had inherited ‘The Wallace Bottom’ when I was young and bemoaning the fact that it stuck out - Jennifer Lopez bottoms were not fashionable then)! However obviously my diet and exercise (or lack of) as well as aging now influences the size of my buttocks. So the 5lbs (2.27kgms) has got to go, and some if I am honest! A revisit of my diet, portion size, water intake, sleep quantity and exercise are on the agenda, as I am sure they are with many people at this time of year. I hope you appreciate how amazing our bodies are and why our emotional and physical wellbeing is so important and you too may get some compliments from strangers – hopefully more PC than the one I received…..
Diagram by National Institutes of Health - http://commonfund.nih.gov/epigenomics/figure.aspx, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9789221
Are you finding it difficult to get out of bed on these cold dark winter mornings?
Well bed reflexology is the answer!
You know that feeling when you want to shut out the world and stay snuggled warm in bed, you know that you have to get up but just don’t seem to find the energy.
While you are lying there on your back reach one foot over to the other and follow this simple little 5 minute routine after making an intent that feels right for you, such as ‘I’m going to get up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day’:
- Sweep the top of one foot with the other from ankle to toes gradually increasing the pressure.
- Use the big toe of your working foot to sweep the toes of the receiving foot on the dorsum.
- Swap feet and repeat.
- Use the side edge of the big toe of your working foot to saw across and then up the spinal reflexes working from coccyx/sacrum to cervical spine – the medial edge of the other foot.
- Swap feet and repeat.
- Place one foot underneath the other and hold the foot steady while you rub the lateral edge of the other foot against the small toes of the foot tucked under. It is easier than it sounds.
- Swap feet and repeat.
- Finish the feet by lifting your knees and rubbing the soles of your feet briskly against the bottom sheet.
You should now be feeling a bit more awake especially as you have been mindfully thinking about what you are doing.
(I am so not a morning dog!)
Hopefully now you have a bit more energy to focus on your hands so lift your hands up – preferably from under the duvet – so you are resting on your elbows and continue with:
- One by one tap the pad of each finger onto the pad of the thumbs in sequence working both hands simultaneously. Do this from the index finger to little finger and back several times.
- Vigorously wiggle all of your fingers
- Make a fist and then flick your fingers out – both hands simultaneously.
By now you should be feeling much more awake so if you have the energy, lift your hands up to your ears and:
- Place the pads of your thumbs under the lobes of each ear and use the sides of your index finger to sweep downwards and off the bottom of the lobes. Repeat several times until your ear lobes feel warm and glowing.
- Use the same sweeping technique to work your way up the helix (rim) of the ears and then sweep back down.
- Gently pull down on your ear lobes to finish.
By now you should feel warm and glowing all over – so much so that you want to throw off the duvet!
(nothing like a big yawn and stretch!)
- Have a big stretch!.
- Swing your legs out of bed and when you are standing stamp your feet on the floor to ground yourself.
Make another intent or affirmation that is relevant to you for the day such as ‘I have all the energy I need to enjoy this day and achieve everything I need to in a calm and focussed way’.
Hopefully you will now have a spring in your step as you head to the bathroom and start your day. N.B. Don’t reach for the coffee, have a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon instead. Be gentle with yourself if you haven’t had any form of reflexology before as although this isn’t traditional reflexology, it will connect to the body, spine and brain so can be quite powerful.
This is a suggested routine that works for me but you can add to it and amend it to suit yourself. You don’t have to be in bed to do this, if you are flagging at your desk then follow the same routine and see how you feel.
Remember though if you are continually tired every morning you may need to have a blood test to check such things as iron levels, Vitamin D or B12, your thyroid etc. So visit your GP. If you are tired because of poor sleep then I will cover this topic another day. Keep an eye on my Blog articles.
Have a great day! (Come on, time for a walk!)
Allison and Buttons
Welcome to my blog!
Well here it is at last, my first Blog. I am aiming to share articles, college news and health and wellbeing information, I hope you find it useful.
The photo is of me and my little pug x cairn dog Buttons who is now 15 years old. She came into my life when she needed a home and I needed some company. I have always had animals in my life and Buttons has been my little friend for nearly 12 years. Although she is now in the winter of her life, she is still full of beans. Arthritis is taking its toll and it took a while to find a supplement and medication programme that suited her but she is great at present.
Winter can exacerbate all of our aches and pains and it is also the dreaded cold and flu season.
In Chinese 5 element theory Winter is the element of Water. The two meridians associated with water are the Kidney and Urinary Bladder meridians.
The Kidney meridian is Yin or feminine because the kidney is a solid organ that stores energy (Yang organs are hollow and gather the energy). In this case it is our ancestral or prenatal Qi (pronounced Chee) or energy/life force that is stored in the kidneys. Additional Qi comes from the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and from our environment. The body then converts it into a usable form and it flows around the body via channels called meridians that connect to every cell. Recent research is making inroads into understanding meridians from a scientific perspective and narrow tubes (less than 1mm thick) that carry a clear electrically charged fluid alongside the nervous system have been identified and called Bonghan ducts or the Primo-Vascular system. It is interesting that acupoints (where the energy comes to the surface in little wells) have a measurable electrical potential on the skin surface.
One such point is the first Kidney point - Kidney 1 known as ‘Bubbling Spring’. This is the only acupoint on the sole of the foot and it is found at the base of the metatarsal pad just under the heads of the second and third metatarsals (see college chart in Shop). It is said to connect us to the Earth’s energy so try standing barefoot and focussing on this point by pressing your feet into the ground and visualising healing energy coming up from the earth into your body. Breathe in as you do this and as you breathe out through your nose visualise any emotional or physical hurts flowing out of your body. Even three breaths can make a difference and help you to feel grounded during a stressful day.
Kidney 1 is a good point for reflexologists to work for clients with mental health issues, anxiety, depression, headache, sore throat, neck pain, nausea, constipation, urinary system imbalances and hot feet! There are many ‘go to’ points for overall wellbeing and this is one of them.
Meridians are bilateral – on both sides of the body – and run either from the body to end in the fingers or toes (connected to Yang organs) or run from the fingers or toes to the body (connected to Yin organs). Meridians come in pairs so one will be going up and one down, the energy flows from one meridian to the other through internal branches that connect the organs. Over the course of 24 hours energy has flowed through all of the paired meridians peaking for two hours in each. If your symptoms are worse at a certain time of day or night it may be due to a blockage in the corresponding meridian or the one before as a blockage in one can affect the energy flow into the next.
The Kidney meridian energy peaks between 5pm and 7pm and if you have a blockage in this meridian you may experience urinary and reproductive disorders, hair and teeth loss, ear, knee and lower back problems. Emotionally you may be fearful, lonely or feel insecure.
Its partner is the Urinary Bladder Meridian and its energy flow peaks between 3pm and 5pm. It begins at the eyes at UB1 and ends on the outside corner of the nail base on the little toes. This is UB67 which is great point to help turn a breach baby (with the go ahead of the client’s midwife). Imbalances in this Meridian include headaches, nosebleeds, neck stiffness, back pain, cystitis, prostatitis and urine retention. Emotional imbalances include fear, inability to make decisions (also a characteristic of the Gall Bladder meridian) maybe even jealousy, suspicion and grudges in the extreme.
It is interesting that people with lower back pain often feel unsupported or are fearful about making the wrong decision and moving forward in life. On the feet the Urinary Bladder Meridian runs along the lateral edge of the feet and in the body it runs either side of the spine. Reflexologists often refer to the lateral edge of the feet as the lateral spine because it is so helpful with back issues. The spinal reflex is located along the medial edge of the feet but working both sides can really help.
It is one reason for reflexologists to understand meridians, because we will be contacting acupoints and perhaps mistaking them for disturbed reflexes if we are not aware and also working the acupoints can help enormously if classic reflexology is not helping. Eunice Ingham who developed Reflexology from Zone Therapy refers in her first book ‘Stories the feet can tell thru Reflexology’ to ‘This Chinese method of Zone Therapy’. There is more information about Zone Theory and Zone Therapy on the college About Reflexology page.
If you regularly feel tired in the afternoon, when the energy starts to peak in the Urinary Bladder meridian at around 3pm, try drinking a glass of water, as an imbalance in the Water element often indicates lack of fluid - warm water is best in the Winter. Drinking water can also help with some back problems especially if disc related. Every part of our body needs water to function, even our bones contain about 25% water. In Chinese medicine the Kidney meridian regulates our acid-alkaline balance including bone and bone marrow.
However if your bones ache in the Winter you may be deficient in Vitamin D, also if you feel tired and sluggish and be prone to colds as it affects the immune system. Most people in the northern hemisphere are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is normally synthesised in the skin from sunlight so in the winter we become very low in this vital vitamin. Food sources are wild salmon – indeed any oily fish, eggs, butter from grass fed cows and fortified cereals. A good vegan source of vitamin D made from Lichen is available from The Natural Health Practice.
In Chinese medicine winter is a time for rest, the earth is dormant and we too should try to rest by going to bed earlier and listening to our body’s need for more sleep.
Also eat more warming foods – nourishing soups, stews and foods to ward off germs and help with inflammation such as garlic, onions, turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables and oily fish (obviously depending on your own dietary needs and intolerances).
Vitamin C, zinc and Echinacea are good cold preventing and busting supplements to take throughout the winter too.
Scheduling time for reflection, meditation and reading is ideal in winter. It is a good time to go within and re-evaluate your goals and dreams.
Enjoy cosy nights in with family and friends, sharing music, laughter and love.
Another tip at this time of the year is to wear a scarf around your neck and keep your midriff warm. In Chinese medicine it is thought that wind-cold (one of the 6 external causes of disease) can enter through the back of the neck and the kidneys leading to colds and chills. So please wrap up warm on these chilly winter days!
Well this has been a longer blog than I anticipated for a first attempt so congratulations if you made it to the end!