Several research teams around the world find that foot reflexology reduces stress, anxiety and even certain depressions. Not enough to surprise those for whom a foot massage has almost magical effects to forget the worries of the day. Reflexology stimulates reflex points located in the arch of the foot and toes, each corresponding to an organ or a gland in the body, according to a mapping established by traditional Chinese medicine. Its mode of action is observed empirically but the theory is shared by most practitioners.
As effective as hypnosis
“We suppose that each stimulation on a point transmits a nervous message to the brain, then passed on to the nervous system which will regulate itself. We can act in this way on many disorders and pains ”, explains Dr. Xavier Magnac, reflexologist.
The results on anxiety disorders are demonstrated. In 2015, French practitioners compared the effect of reflexology session to those of hypnosis and music therapy in the stress management in 315 patients. Reflexology has been shown to be as effective as hypnosis but more effective than music therapy in reducing anxiety levels, with a drop just after the session of 16 points on a scale from 20 to 80. It can also help with get back to sleep at the rate of 2 sessions per week.
The method is also useful for preparing for or accompanying a stressful event such as surgery or heavy treatment. In 2014, 80 patients who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery received 20 minutes of plantar reflexology daily for 4 days after the operation. The result: a significant decrease in anxiety compared to the control group who had benefited from a classic massage. In 2010, another study published in theEuropean Journal of Cancer noted that after breast cancer surgery, a weekly reflexology session for 8 weeks could provide a “clinically significant” decrease in anxiety.
“Reflexology helps in these situations because it acts on stress by refocusing people on themselves and connecting them more to their body”, notes Cécile Rémy, reflexologist who works in particular with the Etincelle association with women suffering from cancer.
Specific points associated with relaxation
Whether you consult for temporary stress or recurring anxieties, the practitioner always starts with induce a state of relaxation. “The simple act of touching and massage the feet creates a feeling of well-being and releases endorphins. In case of stress deep, when certain areas of the foot are too painful to be touched, the first session (s) are devoted solely to obtaining a sufficient state of relaxation to then stimulate specific points, ”explains Cécile Rémy.
There are many points related to anxiety: “These are particularly points related to areas of the brain such as the pituitary or hypothalamus, located in the big toe,” says Dr. Magnac. But also on the areas corresponding to the diaphragm for release the breath, the solar plexus, the adrenal glands which generate the stress hormone …
Finally, the practitioner stimulates other points depending on the way in which the anxiety manifests itself: digestive disorders, sleep problems, tension in the trapezius …
More or less rapid results
The treatment requires an average of 5 sessions, although it is very individual and can also be shorter. “This obviously depends on how long the anxiety has been: one or two sessions may be sufficient in cases of mild stress,” explains Dr Magnac.
The first session is always long (approximately 45 min) then the practitioner suggests shorter sessions (20 to 30 min), spaced one to three weeks apart as needed. “The effect is generally felt from the first session. If no change is observed at the end of the third, it is better to stop, it means that the method is not suitable ”, estimates Cécile Rémy.
The major contraindication is phlebitis or thrombosis because stimulation of the arch of the foot modifies venous circulation. The practitioner also checks that there is no infection, injury or pain on the feet. On the other hand, no prohibition in the event of cancer since the method is proposed in certain institutes of oncology, on condition of consulting a professional in connection with the medical team.
Where can I find a reflexologist?
The lists practitioners trained in one of the eight recognized schools. That of Professional Union of Reflexologists lists certified professionals (“RNCP”, for National Directory of Professional Certifications).
How much does it cost ? Count around 30 to 40 € for a short session, 50 to 80 € for a long session, price very variable depending on the practitioner and the region.
This is not covered by Social Security. But some mutuals offer packages and reimburse on average one to three sessions per year.