Friday, March 28, 2008
Insomnia: When counting shoes cuts no ice ?
Seems those who suffer from chronic insomnia may benefit from reflexology. TheAlternative Therapy uses acupressure on body medians which it is claimed can work wonders. The number of practitioners in the UK has escalated to an estimated 35,000 reflexologists in recent years and Professor Kathy Sykes from the University of Bristol has investigated the claims of the practice in her BBC2 documentary series. From apparent obscurity at the turn of the 20th century the practice has become mainstream therapy within a century. Although there are claims reflexology had origins which could be traced back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures, the modern form was introduced in 1915 by William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat specialist. He noted that pressure on one part of the body seemed to produce a numbing effect elsewhere, and introduced the idea of energy zones, running, not unlike Chinese Meridians, from head to toe. In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham, an American physiotherapist, wrote a book, Stories the Feet Can Tell, developing the idea that tension in the body can be treated by massaging certain points on the feet. She coined the term reflexology, and one of her pupils introduced the practice to Britain in the 1960s. Reflexologists believe that "crystalline deposits" of waste products, such as calcium and uric acid, accumulate around the nerve endings, of which there are seven thousand in each foot. By feeling these, a therapist is said to be able to identify a problem in a corresponding area of the body. Massaging these points is said to crush the deposits and stimulate the body to eliminate them, thus healing itself; revitalising the problem area while restoring balance and harmony to the whole person. Other reflexologists hold that its benefits come from stimulating circulation and "energy" via the nerves. It is clear that there is no single thesis, even among therapists, as to why reflexology "works". Nor is there a body of convincing scientific evidence showing that it does. Indeed, experts dispute any anatomical link, via nerves or otherwise, between the soles of the feet and the organs of the body. Now GPs, depending on their Primary Care Trust, can prescribe reflexology on the NHS, along with other unproved complementary therapies. Reflexology is essentially a form of massage. Studies have shown that massage can result in many physiological changes in the body, among them lowering blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, improving mood and immune function, and altering how we experience pain. While it does not claim to cure, diagnose or prescribe, reflexology, through its links to massage, is building up a stellar reputation in many hospitals, including Charing Cross and Hammersmith, and in Macmillan Cancer Relief hospices, where it is used to provide relief for cancer sufferers. A controlled trial at the Institute of Rehabilitation in Hull, yet to be published, has shown that it helps cancer patients to relax and cope psychologically with the after-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.