Reflexology is a type of foot massage used as an alternative treatment therapy to ease the symptoms of some health conditions and re-energize the body. Even though the feet are the focal point, pressure can also be applied to the hands. Reflexologists believe that massaging and stimulating specific reflex points and nerve endings in the feet increases circulation so that oxygen and nutrients can be distributed throughout the body and toxins can be cleared out. While side effects appear to be minimal, there are some things to watch out for.
Cold or Flu
Reflexology is generally considered to be a safe therapeutic method, but in some cases, people have developed cold or flu-like symptoms afterwards. Practitioners refer to this as a healing crisis that occurs as the body eliminates harmful toxins. You may experience a runny nose from sinus congestion or cough up mucus from the lungs as the bronchial passages clear.
You might notice yourself yawning; in fact, falling asleep during treatment and feeling tired afterward is pretty normal. If you experience both fatigue and a headache, it may be anxiety, which many people experience at the onset of illness or when beginning a new treatment therapy. Some people also develop headaches when they feel tired; since these two side effects seem to go hand in hand, a headache usually disappears once your energy returns.
You might experience various emotional reactions during or after reflexology treatments. Some people feel relaxed or like laughing, and others feel like crying. An intense state of relaxation may even make you feel lightheaded. If feeling emotional is uncomfortable, try to be gentle with yourself and trust that any overwhelming feelings should pass.
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Tenderness, increased sensitivity, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the feet are temporary side effects during or following the first reflexology session.
Uncommon Side Effects
Nausea, excessive sweating, insatiable thirst and skin rashes are other possible side effects. Reflexologists say that nausea may be due to the effect of eliminating toxins from your body. Drink plenty of water to help to ease the discomfort. Staying well hydrated also helps remove toxins from the kidneys, bladder and liver. Another way to fight nausea is to take small bites and chew slowly when you eat. Do not eat foods that are high in fat or sugar, as these take longer to digest. Some people may experience more frequent urination or bowel movements for a day or two afterward, as the body detoxes.
Duration of Side Effects
Side effects normally don't last for more than 24 hours, but in some cases, individuals may continue to experience mild discomfort for a few days afterward. The symptoms being treated may actually get worse before they begin to get better; this usually means that your body is responding. If symptoms continue to worsen, or if you notice any new symptoms after a day or two, report them to your doctor and reflexologist immediately.
Always check with your primary care physician before scheduling reflexology therapy. Certain health conditions, including thyroid problems, epilepsy, diabetes, foot ulcers, gout or other circulatory problems of the feet, should not be treated with reflexology. In some cases, reflexology can interfere with prescribed medications.
Pressure should not be applied to particular reflex points on the feet of cancer patients. The American Cancer Society warns that if the manipulation is not performed by a trained professional who is experienced in working with cancer patients, there may be complications. Cancer that has spread to the bones increases the risk of bone fracture when physical pressure is applied to the area.
Women who are pregnant should not receive treatments during the first three months of pregnancy.
Individuals with low platelet counts should not receive reflexology treatments, as they tend to bruise more easily from the pressure.