The focus of this article is the therapeutic significance of the toes in reflexology
I remember during my early reflexology years, in the late 1960s, we were told the toes reflex claim to fame was only their relationship to sinus, eye and ear problems.
There were no specific techniques for the toes, other than the classical (walking) which were transposed from the plantar areas to the toes, albeit with the appropriate supports.
This would pose a few problems, particularly when deformities such as a hammer toe condition existed.
It was easier to adapt the classical techniques to toes which were long and well formed, but even then the emphasis of the contact was still only applied to the plantar surfaces.
It was later in my career that it gradually became clear to me, that the toes, rather than being the poor relations of other areas of the feet, are in fact conduits to virtually every part of the body. For example they can show, observable indications of various physiological changes within the body-when we take into account the relationship of the toes to the meridians, it makes this easier to understand.
I am not going into the study of reading the feet, although it is interesting it is not something I know too much about, I will leave this to others more qualified on the subject.
What I can say is that I have seen changes in the shape and distortions of the toes relating to various conditions, for example: Thyroid conditions-bunions, thick skin over the heads of the metatarsal joints-conditions of the Thoracic cavity. Hammer toes often relate to tightness in the upper back and neck. Consideration of the influences of the meridians and mental/emotional patterns must also be taken into account.
The picture below illustrates this is in a remarkable way:
This was a young lady patient 20 years of age. She was born with seriously compromised kidney function, and later in her life was receiving Dialysis. She was also waiting for a donor kidney to be found at the time I was treating her.
The interesting thing about this photo, as you must have noticed is the underdevelopment of her little toes, the kidney meridian begins on the medial side of the small toes!
The toes are involved with proprioception which is the relaying of information of the relative position of the body to maintain balance during locomotion. They are also continuously 'expressing' themselves in conjunction with the feet, in response to conscious or unconscious feelings such as stress, worry, and sensuality.
William Shakespeare knew this well, as this passage from Troilus and Cressida reveals:
There is a language in her eye, her cheek, her lip. Nay her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out at every joint and motive of her body.
A treatment given only to the toes can be remarkably beneficial.
However I must make it clear that the techniques used are specialised, incorporating the classical techniques with those of A.R.T.
I have met a number of reflexologists who have discovered the therapeutic benefits of working on the toes as a treatment in its own right.
The photo below is of a blind reflexologist who gave treatments in this manner. He worked as a reflexologist at the Malaysian Hotel I stayed in many years ago.
I booked a treatment, expecting a general reflexology session, but before the session began, he told me that he only treated the toes, and with that proceeded with the session. It was an intense experience-using his fingers, thumbs and a small metal probe. He gave a highly concentrated and very effective treatment lasting around 45 minutes. I was very impressed with what I experienced during and after the treatment and booked several more. It was this experience which further confirmed my thoughts of the therapeutic potential of treating the toes in a focused and isolated manner.
The techniques I use are incorporated with the classical techniques and present an entirely different approach from the more accepted model of reflexology. For me, reflexology is a dynamic therapy, where a range of techniques are utilised to suit the idiosyncrasies of each patient and their feet! This applies particularly to the toes.
This modality is not brutality, but a treatment given with authority and where the patient is always in charge and free to express what they are feeling.
One of the reasons I conceived the A.R.T. protocol, was to be able to introduce other techniques to the classical model of reflexology and making the therapy into something more beneficial and at the same time, dynamic-moving from one foot to the other in a sequential rhythm.
In the case of the toes this makes it possible to really work all the areas, even when deformities exist.
For example, the dorsal surfaces of the toes are important areas to work and have a large range of reflex, influence, and yet this area is invariably ignored, or at the most receives scant attention.
I am not suggesting the toes need to be treated in isolation on every patient or session- there are times when a session performed in this manner would be beneficial.
However there are conditions where a focus on the toes is of great value, such as in conditions:
Spinal trauma, particularly of the neck, and other neurological conditions such as those of CVA (Cerebrovascular Accident).
When I worked for some time in a Spinal Unit of a neurological hospital in France to treat a friend, who following an accident in her home, became tetraplegic. I would give three short treatments daily, focusing mainly on her toes and lateral spinal reflex areas.
The staff were impressed at the neurological response I achieved. I was invited to treat other, similarly, compromised patients at the hospital. In fact the head of the physiotherapy department was so impressed that she took my A.R.T. training, and now incorporates this with her physiotherapy work.
How to demonstrate the effect of reflexology
Eunice Ingham once said that to demonstrate the efficacy of reflexology, just work on one foot, and after which ask the receiver to walk around and experience the difference between the 'worked' side of the body and the other.
With this in mind I formulated a method of proving the influence of the toes, but by only working on the toes of one foot.
I have used the protocol described over the years at exhibitions and seminars to prove the effectiveness of the Focused Reflexology®️approach. It entails working on the toes of one foot in a focused and stimulating manner with the classical and A.R.T. techniques for at least twenty minutes. (it takes me less). This has to be within the boundaries of tolerance by the receiver. Any undue sensitivity experienced at the onset of the procedure will gradually transform into a pleasant and rejuvenating sensation.
Working with a range of techniques going from toe to toe on one foot only for twenty minutes (with experience the time can be ten minutes).
At the end of this time the receiver gets off the couch and with bare feet, walks around (I often hold their arms as they can sometimes feel briefly disorientated).
If the toes have been stimulated enough, they will be very surprised, or amazed and sometimes emotional to experience how the side of the body corresponding to the foot feels-it will feel far more relaxed than the other side, warmer and often with a pleasant tingling feelings.
Something else, quite remarkable can also happen-the same side of the face will have a distinctive flush. I have seen on numerous occasions how patients with low back pain, often become pain free after a session focusing on the toes.
After this 'one foot' session both feet can be worked in the general way.
If you want to try out these techniques, I suggest that you start by practising on a colleague or friend, and who have 'easy' toes free of distortions.
My DVD shows many of the techniques of A.R.T. which you will find useful. Available from www.artreflex.com
I will be posting some videos of various A.R.T. procedures on my website in due course, which will include the procedures of this blog.
While on the subject of toes, I feel the use of smileys, such as the ones below should not be used in conjunction with reflexology. What kind of impression of reflexology does this give? Also terms such as Footsies or Tootsies are also used. After a lifetime in reflexology I hate to see this 'dumbing down' and dilution of such a wonderful therapy.
It demeans the professional image of the therapy.
I wish you all a Healthy, Peaceful and Successful 2019
The techniques described in this blog are those used by me and those qualified in the techniques of A.R.T. and are for information purposes only.
Myself or those connected to A.R.T. will not be liable for an adverse affects which may occur from these techniques.
Copyright 2018 Tony Porter
Tony is a London-based reflexologist and founder of Advanced Reflexology Techniques (ART)