Reflexology for osteoarthritis
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Reflexology is an ancient art.
It was first practiced by the early Indians, Chinese and Egyptians.
In 1913 Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat surgeon, provided his own interpretation of this practice. He posited that pressure on specific parts of the body could have an pain relieving effect on a related area. He divided the body into ten equal and vertical zones, ending in the fingers and toes. He stated that pressure on one part of a zone could affect everything else within that zone. Therefore, reflex areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone.
Eunice Ingham, a therapist, refined the zone therapy into what is now known as foot reflexology. She observed that tension in any part of the foot mirrors tension in a corresponding part of the body. She also detected that there were homologies ... thus, when you treat the big toes there is a related effect in the head, and treating the whole foot can have a relaxing and healing effect on the whole body.
The theory regarding reflexology is that following illness, the body is in a state of "imbalance", and vital energy pathways are blocked. Reflexology can be used to restore equilibrium and encourage healing.
The prime aim in reflexology for arthritis is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It most often affects middle-aged and older people, involving the neck, lower back, knees, hips and fingers. Nearly 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have x-ray evidence of the disease, but only half of these people ever develop symptoms. It may also occur in joints that have suffered previous injury, been subjected to prolonged heavy use, or damaged by prior infection or inflammatory arthritis. Patients with OA experience pain and loss of function.
OA results from degeneration of the joint cartilage. The causes of cartilage loss are multiple. In most people, cartilage breakdown is due to both mechanical ("wear and tear") effects and biochemical effects.
OA is suspected when pain develops in the commonly involved joints. It may be confirmed by a physical examination, x-rays and by ruling out other types of arthritis. Since it is so common, it may be present simultaneously with other types of arthritis.
Therapy for OA includes both medication and other treatments that help to relieve pain and improve joint function. Drug therapy should begin with simple pain relievers (acetaminophen) and progress to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or intermittent corticosteroid or viscosupplement injections. There is some evidence suggesting that dietary manipulation may have a beneficial effect.
Other therapies include patient education, occupational and physical therapy to restore joint movement and increase strength and aerobic capacity, reduction of weight on painful joints and application of heat and cold to relieve pain. Joint surgery to repair or replace seriously damaged joints may be required to end pain and restore functional mobility.
Less often but still worth looking at are non-conventional therapies. One of these is reflexology.
A reflexologist uses hands only to apply gentle pressure to the feet. Trained hands can detect tiny imbalances in the feet, and by working on these points the reflexologist can release blockages and restore the free flow of energy to the whole body. Tension is eased, and circulation and elimination is improved.
The therapy relieves a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, and is suitable for all ages.
Usually a treatment session lasts for about one hour. After the first treatment your body may respond in various ways. You may have a feeling of well-being and relaxation; or you may feel lethargic or nauseated. This is a transient problem. It is, needed information for the reflexologist, as it indicates how your body is responding to treatment.
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