When I first began my reflexology career, I was fascinated. Totally captivated. I had been romanced by an ancient form of healing, my world had opened up and my life would never be the same. I learned a relatively simple sequence of techniques that were applied in a specific fashion to the feet, hands and outer ears that would lead to better health, healing and wellness in myself and others. I had found the Holy Grail of health and healing.
But there were a few red flags…
While there are many reasons for giving and receiving reflexology, there a handful of reasons why reflexology should not be given. These are known as contraindications. A seven-syllable word used to describe the Issues and conditions associated with the feet that will prevent a reflexologist from providing a reflexology treatment. I soon found out that all feet are not created equal and it was important to initially evaluate, analyze and assess a prospective client’s feet in order to qualify them for a treatment.
First, a conversation with the client to get a history of the feet is important. Any sprains, broken bones or surgeries? Do you wear prescription orthotics? Do you have any numbness or neuropathy? Are you taking any medications and/or are you under a doctor’s care? If so, contacting the medical professional prior to the treatment is imperative. And lastly, for women clients, are you pregnant?
For all intents and purposes, this is a full-fledged intake that builds credibility and reveals an all-encompassing basis of information. If there is anything that requires follow up, we explore it immediately. Assuming the client passes the verbal intake, I perform a visual inspection of the feet.
I am looking for anything that may present in an obvious fashion. Any kind of skin condition – including, but not limited to, athlete’s foot – toe fungus, abrasions, scars, bruises, bunions, hammer toes, flat feet and varicose veins. It takes about one minute to perform a cursory overview of both feet for these issues. If any of these are present, we will discuss the impact on the treatment. In most cases, it is possible to work with, by working around, most of these conditions. This, of course, would mean a potentially abbreviated foot reflexology treatment and would be left up to the client as to whether or not they wished to proceed with the treatment.
Once we’ve gotten past the first two phases of the evaluation, we enter the final phase of the evaluation. The client is on the table at this point and the reflexology treatment has officially begun. I am now using my hands and feeling for anything that might be anomalous or painful for the client.
Subtle, or slight discomfort is not a problem – unles the client says it is. Keep in mind, there will always be some minimal discomfort or pain in some areas of the feet as a general rule, but typically nothing so painful or uncomfortable as to distract from the goodness of the reflexology. I am also visually and physically exploring the feet for neuromas (sensitive nerve-related conditons) or stress fractures, which are very painful if they exist, and I find them. I am very aware of the potential for these conditions and want to be sure I do not inadvertently cause a painful moment in the middle of an otherwise serene setting, so I am carefully probing.
Once we’ve made it to and through this phase, the reflexology treatment is well underway and we’ve thoroughly qualified the client and their feet.
While this procedure is important to perform in a client’s first session, it is also important to revisit the original findings and make any changes or adjustments necessary in subsequent sessions. Always remember to take notes, as well and remember… the best source of information is the client him or herself, so ask questions and listen carefully. This is important as a health and wellness professional and as a business owner.
What If The Feet Don’t Pass The Evaluation?
Oh NO! The feet have too many problems and you can’t touch them – for your own sake and the client. Now what?!
This is disappointing, to be sure. However, a professional reflexologist has a few tools in his or her tool chest. If there is a communicable condition, such as athlete’s foot or toe fungus, you could wear latex or thin rubber gloves. CAUTION: Be sure your client is not allergic to latex!
This is merely an option. You should never feel obligated to pursue foot reflexology if any of the above conditions exist. After all, you are the professional and must make the right call – for both of you!
The best alternative to foot reflexology is to provide hand and outer ear reflexology. An entire session can be built out of these two modalities.
I must relate an experience I had at a Health and Wellness Fair at a community college:
The head of the sports department sauntered up to me and asked me about reflexology. After explaining about foot reflexology, he confided that he had athlete’s foot on both feet and understood I couldn’t give him foot reflexology. I told him that all was not lost and that I could give him hand reflexology. He lit up – a huge smile crossed his face. “Great!” he exclaimed and jumped into my recliner chair. Less than a minute had passed and he sat in my chair, completely relaxed – sleeping and snoring away. I hated to wake him up, but he was beginning to draw some attention. After ten minutes, which was the length of the session, I woke him up. He said it was the best sleep he’d gotten in a long time. So never discount the power of hand and outer ear reflexology.