Reflexology good for hands, feet

Whenever I get a massage, I always wish more time could be spent on my feet. It just feels so good to have our feet pampered. Which is also why so many women, me included, love getting a pedicure. Sure, a little polish on the toes looks nice, but it’s really the foot rub some of us are after.

Most of us take our feet for granted. We stand, walk, run and hike with nary a thought about our feet unless they hurt. Bunions, blisters, corns. Since I make my living, literally, on my feet as a swing dance instructor, it’s especially important that I pay attention to them. Enter Lorraine E. Cucci, a certified reflexologist who works out of her home in Pleasant Valley. Reflexology is most often associated with the feet, but Cucci is quick to point out that it can also include the hands, which is why she operates under the name Hands to Feet Reflexology and Healing Arts.

“Some people either can’t or don’t like to have their feet touched,” Cucci said. “Maybe they have a real medical issue, such as a burn, fungus or broken bone, or maybe they simply feel they are too ticklish.” For these people, hand reflexology allows the exact same benefits as foot reflexology.

But the practice of reflexology is more than just a foot or hand massage, and its benefits are many. Whereas a massage focuses traditionally on relaxing tight muscles, reflexologists believe there are reflex points on the hands and feet located on the tissues of the skin that link to different organs or parts of the body. When a reflexologist works on the reflex point using thumb, finger and hand techniques, it is thought that it also affects the corresponding part of the body. Say you have liver issues, the reflexologist can address them by working on the liver reflex point on the foot. This is especially helpful when direct application to an organ or part of the body is inaccessible or undesirable.

A study published in the November 2012 issue of Oncology Nursing Forum found that reflexology helped ease some of the side effects from chemotherapy and hormonal therapy treatments in women with metastatic breast cancer. Like in many alternative circles, reflexology also stresses that ill-health is associated with blocked energy, and gentle manipulation and pressure applied on the reflex points opens the energy channels and promotes healing. It may also send signals to the nervous system and release endorphins that reduce stress and pain.

In fact, one of the major benefits of reflexology is the profound relaxation it facilitates.

While practices resembling reflexology have been documented in early China and Egypt, it was actually introduced to the United States by two medical doctors in 1913 for its anesthetic effect on the rest of the body. At the time there was no safe and effective method of anesthesia for surgery, and the medical community embraced this new “Zone Therapy.” This notion was modified by Eunice D. Ingham, a nurse and physiotherapist in the 1930s. She claimed that the hands and feet were especially sensitive and it was she who mapped the entire body into reflex points on the hands and feet.

So it’s no surprise that Cucci brings to her reflexology practice more than 30 years of experience in the medical profession as a registered nurse, blending her nursing knowledge with her intuitive healing gifts.

“Stress is one of the central causes of many illnesses,” she said. “When we are bombarded with everyday stressors, such as being overworked, worried about finances, juggling our family and work requirements, and just managing our day-to-day lives, our bodies react with increased levels of cortisol. These continuous increased levels of cortisol keep us in a fight or flight state. Our bodies have a difficult time returning to a balanced or normal state, also known as homeostasis. This sets the stage for illnesses, which can become chronic.”

Reflexology promotes relaxation throughout the entire body and brings it back to a state of homeostasis. It is said to also stimulate the elimination process to cleanse the body of toxins, and increase circulation and delivery of oxygen to all cells of the body. This returning to a more balanced and relaxed state gives the body the tools to begin to heal itself, calming the nervous, hormonal and lymphatic systems, and leading to the restoration of physical, emotional and mental well-being.

The experience

Cucci has a full-time job in the medical field and practices her alternative healing arts out of her home in Pleasant Valley on evenings and weekends. She says she finds it healing and centering for herself as well as for her clients. Her dedicated reflexology room is bright and cheery and taken up mostly with the massage table in the middle of the room.

She begins the session by examining my feet and asking if I have any issues or concerns about them and in general. She lays her hands on my feet and closes her eyes. Then she starts to massage my calves. She says she starts at the top and works her way down the Achilles tendon before she starts to work on my feet. It feels great. She applies such great-smelling oils that it’s part aromatherapy, part massage as her hands glide over my feet. It’s not too long before I fade away completely. The session is one hour and afterward I feel so groggy, I’m not sure I can drive home. Once I get there, I fall into a deep, restful sleep. The next day working in the yard I trip and twist my ankle. I apply RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation — and my go-to healing application of Topercin cream). Even I am surprised when my ankle feels completely fine in the morning. I attribute my quick healing to my response to the trauma, but also to the fact that I had just received the reflexology treatment. I believe the combination sped the healing.

It is a few weeks before I am able to return, and when Cucci asks if I noticed anything different I tell her the story above, but also that I realize that the soles of my feet feel more sensitive and tender when I walk barefoot. It’s almost like after years of no attention, they are now reminding me that they are there. I zone out completely just a little way into the session, but when I leave this time, instead of feeling groggy, I simply feel relaxed. By the third session, I actually feel energized after the session, as if my body needed to go through certain stages in order to get to the most balanced state.

For our final session she introduces me to hand reflexology. She explains that all of the same points that are mapped on the feet also exist in the hands. Just as she started with the calves before working on the feet, here she starts with the forearms before working on the hands. While it seemed obvious once she points it out, I never before really thought about how the back of my hand is like the top of my foot and the palm of my hand is like the sole of my foot. She says she could do a whole hour on just my hands as she had been doing for my feet, but after a half hour I ask her to switch to my feet. I need to nap.

The bottom line

There is nothing more important to a dancer than her feet. Except maybe her overall emotional, physical and mental health. These reflexology sessions addressed all three, offering me an hour of nothing but genuine R&R. While I love getting massages, I often find myself unable to simply drift away from the experience. But with reflexology, I found myself drifting away quite easily. There is something profoundly comforting, even biblical, about having your feet rubbed with oil.

Anyone who read my August column on having a sleep study knows that I seem to have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. I found the reflexology treatments to be profoundly relaxing, enabling me to move into a deeper relaxed state than I was able to find in my own bed at home.

These sessions were something I looked forward to and which allowed me perfect relaxation.

In addition to reflexology, Cucci offers reiki, Medical Intuitive Healing and an aromatherapy treatment called the “Raindrop Technique,” which I will be bringing to you in a future Holistic Guinea Pig column. As always, stay tuned.

Massage: a necessity, not a luxury

What was the first thing you did the last time you hit your funny bone, stubbed your toe or got a charley horse? You likely began rubbing the area immediately without thinking. It is a natural response to rub where there is pain, just as it is natural for parents to rub their child when they hurt themselves and when mothers rub and rock their babies when they cry.

This natural reaction is a healing art that has been documented as far back to 1800 BC in Chinese medical texts. Rubbing was considered a necessity by Hippocrates (460 to 380 BC), known as the “father of medicine.” His memoirs state, “The physician must be experienced in many things but assuredly also in rubbing. … For rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid. … Rubbing can bind and loosen; can make flesh (referring to the ability to tone muscle tissue) and cause parts to waste (soften and relax).”

Massage therapy — which comes from the Arabic root “mass’h,” meaning to touch, knead or squeeze — has taken that very basic principle and evolved it into a science and viable form of medical treatment. However, many regard it as an extravagant luxury, and they couldn’t be farther from the truth.

During massage, the manual assistance of the therapist encourages blood flow, sending fresh oxygen and nutrients to the body while promoting the removal of waste products and toxins. Also, your body’s relaxed state during and after the massage lowers your heart rate.

Heather Miller, a licensed massage therapist at Mind Your Body, considers massage as preventative maintenance for your body. Massage helps to improve athletic performance via an increase in your range of motion and improved flexibility. You will also experience shorter recovery time after exercise, be less prone to injury and will heal more quickly should you be injured.

The emotional advantages of massage include reducing stress, tension and anxiety, often leading to improved concentration.

Miller said, “It’s crucial for us to take care of our bodies to stay happy and healthy and what better way to do that than through massage therapy.”

Larissa King, also a licensed massage therapist at Mind Your Body, agrees.

“From elevated stress levels to old sports injuries, massage promotes the natural healing process within the body,” she said. “This therapeutic tool can benefit people at any age and can encourage optimal health.”

Regular massage therapy is much more than a mere luxury; it is a natural healing process that should be considered an investment — an investment in your health.

4 Reasons Why Massage is the Best Holiday Gift Ever

A massage gift certificate tucked into a holiday card may seem unassuming, but the effects of this present will be powerful.

People turn to massage for stress relief, pain alleviation and relaxation, and massage is appropriate for just about anyone—from healthy adults to seniors and pregnant women to athletes. Massage therapy is also safe and beneficial for people living with conditions including cancer, fibromyalgia and arthritis.

This is why treating the people on your gift list to massage makes sense this holiday season. Regular massage clients will know what to look forward to, and for someone who has never had a massage, a gift certificate can make his or her first session more accessible.

Here are four reasons why massage should be at the top of your holiday gift list, along with suggestions for massage and bodywork specialties to present to friends, colleagues and family:

1. The Gift of Stress Relief

The holidays can be filled with family, friends, fun, food—and freneticism. Gift-buying, overeating and travel can leave any merrymaker feeling tired and stressed. Massage makes the best holiday gift because it calms the nervous system and provides an oasis of respite from the holiday frenzy.

Three types of massage to gift:


  • Swedish massage: The most well-known type of massage, which utilizes strokes including stroking, kneading, percussion, vibration and friction.
  • Ayurvedic massage: This vigorous massage uses large amounts of warm oil and is one part of the traditional Indian detoxification and rejuvenation program.
  • Stone massage: Heated or cooled stones are placed on the body for energy balancing and a pampering sensation that contributes to the relaxation response.

2. The Gift of Pain Removal

From hanging Christmas lights to digging the Hanukkah candles out of the basement, the holidays’ decorating activities can create strain, sprain and pain. Massage makes the best holiday gift because it addresses pain and stiffness by increasing circulation, improving flexibility, and releasing crinkles and tight spots from muscles.

Three types of massage to gift:


  • Acupressure: An Asian therapy that involves pressing points along the body’s meridians with fingers, thumbs or palms of the hand to stimulate chi and bring about balance and health.
  • Sports massage: This session will feature techniques such as myofascial release, which affects connective tissue by applying pressure in the direction of fascial resistance.
  • Reflexology: A system that entails pressing points on the feet, hands or ears that correspond to systems and organs throughout the body.

3. The Gift of Raised Spirits

The holidays aren’t jolly all the time; family conflict, feelings of grief and other mood-stressors can arise, even in the midst of a Kwanzaa celebration. Massage makes the best holiday gift because it can boost mood. The release of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, is increased during massage, as is the release of serotonin and dopamine.

Three types of massage to gift:


  • Craniosacral therapy: This light-touch modality uses gentle, soft-tissue techniques to release restrictions in the membranes around the brain and spinal cord.
  • Reiki: An energetic healing system that utilizes off-the-body hand placements to transmit healing energy from the practitioner to the recipient.
  • Geriatric massage: This session will feature massage techniques modified for safe application to older people, who might arrive at a session with issues related to joint pain or fragile skin.

4. The Gift of Ease

Give yourself the gift of a super-simple present purchase. Massage makes the best holiday gift because professional massage therapists offer gift certificates for sale, via in-person sales, a website or a Facebook page. Whether you purchase now or at the last minute, your gift of massage will be the easiest gift you give this holiday season—and the most appreciated.

Three types of massage to gift:


  • Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy: The Ashiatsu practitioner uses body weight and foot compression, while supported by overhead wooden bars, on a client who is lying down.
  • Pregnancy massage: This session will feature massage techniques modified for safe application to pregnant clients.
  • Facelift massage: This session might entail lymphatic-drainage strokes to firm sagging facial and neck skin, ease away facial lines, stimulate blood and oxygen, and release toxins. The treatment can also involve hot towel wraps and oils.

Virtually anyone on your list will appreciate the gift of massage therapy this holiday season.

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