Reflexology and the Adrenals

March 16, 2009 by Wendy Coad  
Filed under Reflexology Teaching

If you’ve ever doubted what these two little “Endocrine System Glands” can do, just watch the news sometime.

Anytime you hear of some heroic headline – “Firemen Rush into Burning Building”, or “Mother Lifts Car off Trapped Child”… the adrenal glands are implicated (such as in acts of strength and stamina as well as the downright super-human).

Let’s take a look at these amazing organs of the body, and then we’ll talk about their reflexology reflex points.

The adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands) are the star-shaped endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are chiefly responsible for regulating the stress response through the synthesis of corticosteroids and catecholamines, including cortisol and adrenaline, respectively.

Anatomy and function

Anatomically, our adrenal glands are located in the abdominal cavity situated atop the kidneys, specifically on their anterosuperior aspect. They are also surrounded by the adipose capsule and the renal fascia. Found at the level of the 12th thoracic vertebra, they receive their blood supply from the adrenal arteries.

The adrenal gland is separated into two distinct structures, both of which receive regulatory input from the nervous system:

Adrenal medulla

The adrenal medulla consists of masses of neurons that are part of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Instead of releasing their neurotransmitters at a synapse, these neurons release them into the blood. Thus, although part of the nervous system, the adrenal medulla functions as an endocrine gland.

The adrenal medulla releases:

• adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and

• noradrenaline (also called norepinephrine)

Release of adrenaline and noradrenaline is triggered by nervous stimulation in response to physical or mental stress.

Some of the effects are:

• increase in the rate and strength of the heartbeat resulting in increased blood pressure;

• blood shunted from the skin and viscera to the skeletal muscles, coronary arteries, liver, and brain;

• rise in blood sugar;

• increased metabolic rate;

• bronchi dilate;

• pupils dilate;

• hair stands on end (”goosebumps”);

• clotting time of the blood is reduced;

• increased ACTH secretion from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.

All of these effects prepare the body to take immediate and vigorous action!

Adrenal cortex

Using cholesterol as the starting material, the cells of the adrenal cortex secrete a variety of steroid hormones.

These fall into three classes:

1. Glucocorticoids (e.g., cortisol)

The glucocorticoids get their name from their effect of raising the level of blood sugar (glucose). One way they do this is by stimulating gluconeogenesis in the liver: the conversion of fat and protein into intermediate metabolites that are ultimately converted into glucose.

The most abundant glucocorticoid is cortisol (also called hydrocortisone).

Cortisol and the other glucocorticoids also have a potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body. They depress the immune response, especially cell-mediated immune responses.

For this reason glucocorticoids are widely used in therapy:

• to reduce the inflammatory destruction of rheumatoid arthritis and other

autoimmune diseases

• to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs

• to control asthma

2. Mineralocorticoids (e.g., aldosterone)

The mineralocorticoids get their name from their effect on mineral metabolism. The most important of them is the steroid aldosterone.

Aldosterone acts on the kidney promoting the reabsorption of sodium ions (Na+) into the blood. Water follows the salt and this helps maintain normal blood pressure.

Aldosterone also

• acts on sweat glands to reduce the loss of sodium in perspiration;

• acts on taste cells to increase the sensitivity of the taste buds to sources of sodium.

3. Androgens (e.g., testosterone)

The adrenal cortex secretes precursors to androgens such as testosterone.

In sexually-mature males, this source is so much lower than that of the testes that it is probably of little physiological significance. However, excessive production of adrenal androgens can cause premature puberty in young boys.

In females, the adrenal cortex is a major source of androgens. Their hypersecretion may produce a masculine pattern of body hair and cessation of menstruation.

Fight-or-flight response

The fight-or-flight response, also called the fright, fight or flight response, hyperarousal or the acute stress response. We react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing. Thisactivation is associated with specific physiological actions in the system, both directly and indirectly through the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and to a lesser extent norepinephrine from the medulla of the adrenal glands.

An “Adrenaline Rush” means an activity of the Adrenal gland in a Fight-or-flight response, when it is releasing Adrenaline (Epinephrine). A chronic hyper adrenaline is a common symptom of an anxiety disorder.

So much packed into such a small package!

And, what does it mean to reflexologists?

If you have a client who’s stressed, anxious, overworked, overtired or who just lives in New York City – you’ll probably notice a “change in tissue texture” around the adrenal gland reflex on the foot (it’ll likely be sensitive on the hand reflex area as well – don’t flex too hard there - rather work into the point gradually).

Well we know that stress is s big factor in our everyday lives, but when there’s added stress due to emotional issues, health issues, daily life issues… Now, who couldn’t use a little support.

Our first task is to find the reflex points:

On the feet the “Adrenal Gland Reflex” is located on the lateral shaft of the 1st metatarsal, close to the base. That puts it (vertically) between metatarsals one and 2 and (horizontally) approximately half way between the waist and the diaphragm reflex line landmarks.

Usually you can’t miss it. There’s often a BIG change in the tissue texture! Now, don’t think you’re dying if you find it to be sore on your foot.

Remember it’s a “call for energy” and not a verifiable illness.

However, it’s in your client’s best interest to spend a little TLC time on that reflex point. Roll into it or hold it steady. Is there one way that’s better than another to work that little point… probably, but it’s not because “The Professor” said so it’s what the tissue needs – so “listen” to the tissue.

I love to work on this reflex point and don’t be surprised if you notice it can even be found on other reflex zones.

What else can you do?

A big adrenal stimulator is caffeine. It’ll increase the release of our stress related hormones and it keeps the body in a continuous, and unnecessary, state of stress - which can stress the adrenals along with other organs and glands. If this goes on for too long, you’ll probably notice other symptoms like fatigue, irritability, allergies, sleeplessness and… and inability to cope with stress. Not fun.

Always check with a professional before treating yourself (and don’t even think about treating others unless you’re a doctor). Some self-help texts say that small amounts of licorice help by acting as a re-uptake inhibitor for adrenaline. But, too much licorice can increase other hormones, so only use in small quantities.

Other than reflexology, one of the safest and most effective ways to combat stress that comes to mind is meditation.

There’s much more I’d like to share on this topic, so look for the next installment, coming soon.

Here’s a quote by Rachel Carson, who sums up an important perspective for well being:

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Hand Reflexology and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

March 10, 2009 by Wendy Coad  
Filed under Reflexology Teaching

Every reflexologist needs to know about the carpal tunnel. It’s important because you’ll have clients that complain about it. Equally important – you want to avoid getting it yourself. And, if you already have it you need to be especially careful.

You’ve heard me over and over again – I say that we reflexologists don’t treat, don’t prescribe and don’t diagnose. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know what’s going on.

Clients often hope that reflexology will be a magic bullet to their health woes. I can’t say it will be, and I can’t help but smiling too.

Why?

Because, most people will experience a reduction in pain and/or symptoms with Hand Reflexology. That’s true for local issues on the hands - even though they’re not the intended destination.

This is important – let me explain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain or weakness in your forearm and hand caused by pressure on a nerve in your wrist.  It is a medical condition in which the median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to paresthesias, numbness and muscle weakness in the hand.

The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.

The carpal tunnel - a narrow, rigid passage way of ligament and bones at the base of the hand - houses the median nerve and tendons.

Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:

Symptoms most often occur in the parts of the hand supplied by the median nerve: the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

If your little finger is not affected, this may be a sign that the condition is carpal tunnel syndrome, because the little finger is usually controlled by a different nerve (the ulnar nerve) than the thumb and other fingers.

Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers (especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers).
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, rather than a problem with the nerve itself.

Some other symptoms are:

  • Tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain felt in the fingers or, less commonly in the pal
  • Pain in your forearm, wrist or palm
  • More numbness or pain at night than during the day. The pain may be so bad it wakes you up. You may shake or rub your hand to get relief
  • More pain when you use your hand or wrist more
  • Trouble gripping object
  • Weakness in your thumb

Fact: Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men.

Causes:

The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome causes might be due to work conditions or due to underlying medical problems.

Other causes that could lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other causes of inflammation of the wrist
  • Endocrine disorders such as diabetes and hypothyroidism
  • Wrist fracture
  • Alcoholism

Risk associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

The following are risk factors associated with the development of carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Repetition
  • High force
  • Awkward joint posture
  • Direct pressure
  • Vibration, and
  • Prolonged constrained posture
  • Poor ergonomics

Diagnosis:

If you, or your client has some or all of these symptoms – unless you’re a medical professional you cannot diagnose it.

In fact, when a client tells me they have carpal tunnel syndrome I always ask who made the diagnosis. It makes a difference whether it was a doctor or a specialist – or their aunt Betty or someone at the local gym.

There are a few simple tests that can be done to check general function of the wrist (you’ll learn those in the Hand Reflexology Workshop and more). This will help emphasize the importance for your client to seek the appropriate medical help.

Of course, early diagnosis and treatment are important to avoid permanent damage to the median nerve.

A physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck can help determine if the patient’s complaints are related to an underlying disorder or to daily activities.

The wrist is examined for tenderness, swelling, warmth, and discoloration.

Each finger should be tested for sensation, and the muscles at the base of the hand should be examined for strength and signs of atrophy.

Routine laboratory tests and X-rays can reveal diabetes, arthritis, and fractures.

Treatment:

Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome vary and should begin as early as possible, under a doctor’s direction.

  • Underlying causes such as diabetes or arthritis should be treated first.
  • If there is inflammation, applying cool packs can help reduce swelling.

Non-surgical treatments:

There are a couple of homeopathic creams that might help the symptoms:

Brands like Traumeel (a calendula and arnica based ointment) and Topricin (with 11 homeopathic ingredients) have both shown effectiveness and are available in many health food stores.

In special circumstances, various drugs can ease the pain and swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. NSAIDS such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonprescription pain relievers, may ease symptoms that have been present for a short time or have been caused by strenuous activity.

Alternative support therapies – Hand Reflexology, Acupuncture and chiropractic care have benefited some patients.

Exercise - Stretching and strengthening exercises can be helpful in people whose symptoms have abated.

Doctors will sometimes suggest that one wear a wrist splint (can be purchased at most drugstores) to keep the wrist in a neutral position at rest. Splinting is usually tried for a period of 4-6 weeks.

What can Reflexology Do?

As a reflexologist, why would I even care about carpal tunnel syndrome if it’s not my job to fix it?
Remember, if you or anyone you know even thinks they have this problem – it’s very important they get the appropriate medical attention.

And, I’m repeating myself here too - with any illness, stress is always a factor. Rest is important and the stress relief that Hand Reflexology brings is a wonderful component to any health maintenance regime.

If carpal tunnel is acute (meaning it hurts or it’s active now) you won’t want to work on the area directly.

There are a lot of things to know and even more to think about. Be very careful with any nerve impingement.

I’ve learned this from my own experience – nerves do not like to be irritated - because it just make them, well, crankier. Not good.

If you’re trained in Hand Reflexology you know that there are some very specific strategies to support the body in its own healing process.

And, what about the reflexes?

Good point. There are specific reflexes in the area and as a good reflexologist, you need to also be focused on the systems of the body.

Be curious about these reflex area – does the client also have sciatica? Do they have any reproductive or digestive issues?

Inherent in the Hand Reflexology techniques (I can’t say what others teach, usually - not this much), are techniques that will let you work safely to relax the hand.

And, what if you don’t have this specific training? – I suggest that you work the good hand and the opposite foot – or the ears.

The benefits of reflexology can be nothing short of amazing.

And, it’s never been more apparent than in the UK where an British media article from 2004 reports that; “According to a survey conducted on behalf of Yellow Pages…, the number of high street greengrocers has declined by almost 60 per cent in 10 years, while the number of reflexologists is up over 800 per cent.”

I rest my case.

Are you a Professional Reflexologist?

January 15, 2009 by Wendy Coad  
Filed under Reflexology Teaching

It’s been a busy 12 months and that’s just how I like it. It took a long time, but I finally realized that if I want to be successful at reflexololgy and business, I had to be willing to keep on learning.

It’s a well know success principle - the work you do on improving your skills is the a BIG factor in how well you do.

Let me point out my favorites.

You’re as current as the last training.

Yes, you might be practicing and doing a good job, but there’s more to continuing education than meets the eye.

Everything that you’re doing is being done in the way that you know how. It will always have the same habits and parameters… and might just get a little stale.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone will effect change in several ways.

1. You get to experience someone else’s take on what you do. Why would this be of interest? Because they will be presenting it differently, they’ll have a look, feel, style that you can draw from.

2. Surround yourself with like-minded people. This is a huge energizer. The gathering of different students with different interests creates a networking opportunity. That’s one of the best parts of any learning experience.

I’ve actually gone to several workshops just to network. The course material is a bonus. Contacts, colleagues and friends made in the program were worth the price of admission. (Here’s a reality check - paying tuition of $1,000.00 a day, or more, is standard for workshops in the top professional fields.)

3. Find the best to learn from. There are a lot of people offering a lot of information, but the people who have been around and have solid programs are going to attract a more professional group of students – not to mention more information and experience to share.

4. Find a coach, a Mentor or a Mastermind Group. Stay in contact with someone who is doing what your want to do or doing it better than you are currently. The cost of the investment should be made back many times over.

We’ve all looked to others to model our practices. Pick a good model.

5. Invest in your practice. For some this means putting aside the time and for others it means you have to lose the poverty mentality. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work with people who can’t pay, but you too deserve to earn a living and you won’t if you don’t have balance in the the financial’s.

6. Go out and get some reflexology and pay for it. Find the best and most expensive practitioner you can and leave a really big tip too. Yes, I know there’s better than a 50% chance you’ll be disappointed because there really isn’t that much great reflexology out there, but it will teach you one or more of these 3 things:

a.) You can be happy you did because you got some “dynamite” reflexology. In addition, a couple of the techniques that you experienced are new or different and you can use them in your sessions too.

Or,…

b.) The session was lousy, so now you know for sure that people will pay well to have even mediocre reflexology. Imagine how thrilled they’ll be when they get the real deal from you!

And, therefore…

baseballc.) You’ll be confident that your work is 10 times better (and it will be if you trained with me or one of my colleagues - someone who really does know how to teach). Some practitioners claim to be reflexologists with only 16 – 20 hours of training… I rest my case.

After all you’ve had a minimum of 200 hours of reflexology specific techniques, anatomy & physiology, and practicum. (And, some of my students have had 500 hours of unique reflexology training – you can’t beat that.)

So, all you have to do is tap into your own goldmine.

That’s what my reflexology skills are to me – my goldmine. I have 8 years of college, a post graduate degree, up to 10,000 hours of bodywork training and yet, I make a great living and have a great life with reflexology.

I work for myself and I skip to work. I’m so happy, helping people have a better quality of life and “healing the world one foot at a time”™.

If you’re not there and you’d like to be, then implementing the above will help you - “step up to the reflexology plate”.

“Live long, reflex and prosper”