CAM Modalities for Stress
The popularity of holistic health modalities - also known as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) - continues to rise as more people are seeking alternatives to the symptoms-based approach of standard Western medicine. The holistic or CAM approach to health focuses on finding the root causes of disease and illness; with a particular focus on mitigation of stress since it is believed that stress is responsible for causing 90% of disease and illness (NASD, n.d.). Our stress levels are an important factor in every facet of our health as stress can lead to hormonal imbalances which affect our endocrine system (literally our hormonal control center), cardiovascular, reproductive and digestive issues (being in a state of “Fight or Flight”), and many other issues including those that affect our mental and emotional health. In the holistic health field, Reflexology is one of the top modalities for both reducing and interrupting stress levels. Following is how Reflexology can help to reduce your stress levels and improve your health.
In today’s world we are exposed to daily stressors from concerns about living a meaningful life and making ends meet, to getting the kids to and from school on time and having enough hours in the day to get everything done. Additionally there are environmental stressors such as dealing with heavy traffic while trying to be somewhere on time as well as increasing levels of exposure to toxic pollutants and hormone dysruptors on a daily basis. All of these impact our Central Nervous System (CNS, more about this in the "Geek Section" below) and create hormonal feedback loops that not only perpetuate, but accumulate, unless steps are taken to disrupt these “loops.” This is where Reflexology comes in and truly shines as it helps to interrupt these stress feedback loops, gives the body and mind much-needed reprieve, and also helps to prevent the many diseases and illnesses that have root causes in stress.
Reflexology & Stress
One of the main health benefits of receiving a Reflexology session (hand or foot) is stress reduction which in turn affects the health of the entire body system. This is because Reflexology helps to interrupt the stress feedback loop that keeps the body in a “sympathetic state.” This sympathetic state, also known as “Fight or Flight,” directs vital energy to the extremities of the body in order to react or respond to perceived threats or dangers. Reflexology redirects vital energies back to the central body parts and organs by increasing circulation to these areas through stimulating nerve endings that connect with other parts of the body and systems. The effect is an immediate disruption of stress feedback loops and stimulation of the parasympathetic mode also known as “Rest and Relax.” This feedback loop dysruption results in balanced hormones, improved cardiovascular health, as well as improved function of the reproductive and digestive systems.
Geeking Out On The Central Nervous System (CNS)
The nervous system consists of the CNS (brain and spinal cord) that connects to the peripheral nervous system (nerves running out to the periphery of the body) and has the appearance of wires that run from the spinal cord out to the extremities. These nerves send out impulses through an estimated “100 billion neurons” (Newman, 2022) and coordinate the functions of the entire body system. The CNS is the hub that controls our thoughts, emotions, movements, and responses, as well as the autonomic nervous system (controls unconscious activities such as our heartbeat and breathing; Newman, 2022) and the somatic nervous system (regulates voluntary activities such as muscle movement; Khan Academy, n.d.). It is literally the control center for the entire body that is informed by hormonal messengers and responds through nerve impulses throughout the body. When the body is in a heightened state of Fight or Flight long term, the CNS becomes taxed and “frayed” and results in heightened anxiety, cardiovascular issues, as well as the other issues associated with being in the Fight or Flight state.
Reflexology to the Rescue
Reflexology directly calms the central nervous system by stimulating the nerve pathways which share innervation with various body parts. This mechanism of a neurological connection was found by Sir Henry Head and Sir Charles Sherrington, both of whom were Neurologists of the early 20th century and played a role in what modern Reflexology is today (How does reflexology work?, n.d.). What they found was that using gentle pressure on the reflex points of the hands and feet sends calming impulses to the CNS which in turn tells the body to reduce its level of stress. Further, receiving a Reflexology session is extremely calming and comforting which helps to stimulate the release of “happy hormones” or endorphins. This not only results in stress reduction, but also in the reduction of pain as well. On top of that, the release of endorphins promotes a sense of well-being which can have an impact on both your mental and emotional health.
Additional Info & Benefits of Reflexology
Beyond stress-reduction, Reflexology has additional benefits that help to promote the health of all of the body systems. These benefits will come in later blog posts, but to read more about Reflexology and what it can do for you, please visit my FAQ’s Page.
To schedule a Reflexology Session, please CLICK HERE.
How does reflexology work? Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/reflexology/how-does-reflexology-work
Khan Academy. (n.d.). The nervous and Endocrine Systems Review (article). Khan Academy. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.khanacademy.org/science/high-school-biology/hs-human-body-systems/hs-the-nervous-and-endocrine-systems/a/hs-the-nervous-and-endocrine-systems-review
Newman, T. (2022, February 3). Central nervous system: Structure, function, and diseases. Medical News Today. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307076#what-is-the-cns
Stress management for the health of it. NASD. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://nasdonline.org/1445/d001245/stress-management-for-the-health-of-it.html#:~:text=In%20addition%2C%20medical%20research%20estimates,been%20linked%20to%20stress%20factors.
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