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
September 22/23 2018 Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
It was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to give presentations on the development and protocols of A.R.T. reflexology at the symposium.
The symposium was very well attended by enthusiastic reflexologists from all over Ireland and some from the UK.
it was also nice for me to be back in Ireland for two reasons:
Firstly a number of my early seminars were given there in the early 1980s. The first one I gave was at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire, I used that venue a number of times and really enjoyed teaching and staying there.
Seminars were also given at many other venues across southern Ireland.
And secondly, I also spent long spells in nearby Tullamore of which I have fond memories.
It was during these early days that I met Anthony Larkin, who, sadly I was to find out during the symposium had recently passed away. Apart from reflexology, Anthony and I shared another passion which was radio. I have been a keen amateur short wave radio enthusiast since my teenage years - we spent many a time over a Guinness or two and good food, talking things radio, plus of course Reflexology.
I know that everyone at the symposium was with him in their thoughts - see you down the trail Anthony.
The symposium was really well organised by Tomasz Stanczyk who is the NIIR Secretary/Manager. I know from experience how much work goes into organising events like these. Tomasz is has such wonderful qualities and is a very special human being. Thank you Tomasz!
I would like to thank delightful Mary Littlewood and Joan Moore who picked me up at the Airport and provided a massage couch to demonstrate from, and to Roisin Graham for taking me back to the airport after the symposium.
It was also really nice to meet the other speakers:
Marie Therese Shelly who spoke about ‘Self Care for Reflexologists’ (a most important subject)
Susan Quayle ‘Empowering Families with Reflexology’
Susan has also published some delightful children’s books linked to reflexology. This was her first speaking engagement - I know what a challenge this can be from personal experience. She came through it with flying colours!
Mauricio Kruchik ‘Reflexology For The Treatment of Pain (For Crohn’s Disease Patients)
I am glad that at last our paths crossed. Mauricio gave a very informative lecture, interspersed with humour which was very well received. I was to find out that he speaks six languages fluently. I am still stuck on English!
For me it was very gratifying the way that my presentations were received.
Sadly I did not take any photos at the event to post with this article - I am not really into the media platform - I don’t do Facebook.
For those who asked me where they can access further information about A.R.T: - www.artreflex.com there are many blogs which I have posted there over the years which you may find of interest.
If you would like to get in touch - Email: email@example.com
I pointed out during my presentation that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the publication of ‘Stories The Feet Can Tell’ by Eunice Ingham. (1938). I doubt very much, in fact I am certain that reflexology would not be where it is today if it was not for her struggles to overcome the legal obstacles preventing reflexology being recognised as a therapy at that time.
For a full account her life, I highly recommend ‘Eunice Ingham a Biography’ by Christine Issel. Christine has also written other books on reflexology.
I also mentioned Eunice’s nephew Dwight Byers, who as many of you know lived with his aunt for many years, and later as a teenager helped her with seminars, and after she died in 1974 made the National Institute into the International Institute.
Dwight made reflexology more acceptable to the public and gave it a lot of publicity, which is another reason for its popularity today.
It is Dwight’s 90th Birthday in February 2019 he still keeps up his beloved tennis and goes to the gym regularly.
Another topic I mentioned was the Museum of Reflexology which will be based mainly on his Aunts work and life. It will contain many of her artefacts, unpublished writings and books. It will be the world’s first such museum and will be based in Florida. I am honoured to be on the Executive Advisory Board of the museum.
My Best Wishes
The Worlds First Museum of Reflexology Honouring the life and work of Eunice Ingham
I heard from my great friend Ignacio Sanchez that he, in conjunction with Dwight Byers will be opening a museum of reflexology in the U.S. It will be based mainly on the life and work of Eunice Ingham (The Mother of Reflexology) Her nephew Dwight Byers has supplied all of her reflexology artefacts, most of which have never been seen before. The museum will chronicle the history of the development of reflexology up to and beyond the contribution which Eunice Ingham made.
The process of curating and cataloging all the many thousands of pictures and items relating to the history of Eunice and reflexology is going on at this time. I am also doing the same with the many hundreds of photos I have of my international travelling days with Dwight in the early 1970s through to 2009. Many of these will be included in the museum.
It will also have a section on the development of A.R.T.
I am honoured to have been made a member of the Executive Advisory Board.
There is a website which is being developed at this time, and as soon as this is up and running will be announced on the ART website.
The location of the Museum will initially be based in Hallandale, Florida, although
Ignacio tells me he has plans to Exhibit the contents of the museum in many countries throughout the world, including the U.K. So lets wait and see what transpires.
I have, over the years seen many of the exhibits, unpublished writings and books by Eunice Ingham and they do really make fascinating reading. They also reveal the legal battles she fought to continue to promote reflexology in those days.
As a sidenote - It is Dwight Byers 90th Birthday in February next year 2019! A big party is being arranged in St. Petersburg, Florida. Dwight still plays his beloved tennis and gives treatments.
My Best Wishes
This is how my Dupuytren's looked before surgery.
Commonly affecting the fourth finger (although it can involve one or more fingers and sometimes the thumb) which gradually, over time as you can see, becomes bent and pulled towards the palm.
This is caused by a thickening of the connective tissue (Collagen) in the palm, causing hard nodules to form - a condition known as Fibromatosis.
Dupuytren’s can effect both sexes but is more common in men.
There are various speculations about its causation, there is a strong genetic link as the condition is more common in those form Northern European or Scandinavian descent, it is for this reason that it is referred to as the Viking disease.There is also speculation of a link to thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease.
In my case it has not been caused by my years in reflexology, but through my genetic ancestry, interestingly I also have Hashimoto’s.
My Dupuytren’s began to develop many years ago, but recently became worse affecting my work which necessitated surgery.
The condition can affect other areas of the body, such as the penis (Peyronie’s disease). However (and this is something which concerns reflexologists) it can also effect the feet, causing the same nodules to form on the plantar surface and sometimes on the medial heel, but without the curvature or bending of the toes as in the hand. In this case the condition is known as Ledderhose disease. It is not particularly common, but worthy of note. It can cause foot pain when walking. I would always refer to a podiatrist.
This brings me to the point of my blog
I often receive calls of consternation from reflexologists who have either found these lumps (which are sometimes small) on the feet of patients, or on their own feet. Their concern is that the lumps which may be located over certain reflex areas are harbinger's of doom!
A foot reader once told a student of mine that the lumps in her feet (Ledderhose disease) meant that she has had and was having a rocky journey through life. Being told this myth she found to be rather upsetting!
I had a great surgeon who made a wonderful job of releasing my finger joints without leaving scars or inflexibility. So back to work it is!
Because of the various misunderstanding about A.R.T.® I thought it prudent that I briefly explained what it is and what it is not.
What is A.R.T.® (Advanced Reflexology Techniques)
Founded by Tony Porter
The techniques came about through the course of my reflexology career which began in 1972.
A.R.T. has been the subject of clinical scrutiny.
The techniques of A.R.T. can also be described as Alternative Reflexology Techniques.
A.R.T. is a protocol consisting of techniques, designed to be used in conjunction with those of the classical approach.
A.R.T. Uses a range of techniques and contacts to suit the individuality of every foot and patient. It is not possible to use one technique on a one -size - fits - all basis and expect conformity of effectiveness.
A.R.T. is given with more focus and authority than the generally accepted understanding of reflexology, where relaxation is the main purpose.
A.R.T. is not (should not be) applied beyond the patients tolerance level.
The patient is always in charge of what they experience. A sweet, therapeutic type of pain should be the sensation experienced.
A.R.T. is not appropriate for every patient.
A.R.T. The importance of detecting, interpreting and contacting a disturbed reflex is the cornerstone of A.R.T.
A.R.T. Treatment when required can be given in 20-30 minutes several times weekly.
A.R.T. has been taught and (continues to be so) Internationally since 1989
A.R.T. is only taught as part of post-graduate training.
A.R.T. is not the brutal use of the knuckles
A.R.T. was conceived to be used in conjunction with the classical techniques (i.e. the walking movement)
A.R.T. seminars focus on teaching the correct and effective classical techniques in conjunction with those of A.R.T.
At a time in my reflexology career I had a practice at a medical clinic in London’s Harley St.
It specialised in the treatment of Endocrine disorders, particular of women.
It was through working there that I gathered valuable experience with the influence of reflexology on this subject. One experience which occurred regularly led me to become aware of an ovary reflex which was distinct from the one on the lateral heel.
This was born out and confirmed by clinical investigation.
The Iliocecal reflex has always been somewhat of a mystery to me, why should that reflex just refer to that small structure?
Many of the female patients who attended the clinic had very distinct and disturbed ‘Iliocecal’ reflexes, not only on the right foot, but on the same position on the left. My assessment was an iliocecal problem or appendicitis (reflexology is a very unreliable allopathic diagnostic tool!) Scans confirmed they had problems with their ovary/s.
After observing the same occurrence over a number of years I decided to publish a chart and paper suggesting that the ovary reflex is also on the illiocecal valve reflex, a more logical explanation as the reflex area of the fallopian tube runs approximately along the heel line.
This was back in 1980 - 82. Since then several other reflexologists and organisations have also confirmed this.
To be able to most effectively detect, contact and ‘work’ this reflex, a range of techniques relative to the individuality of the patient and the of foot may need to be employed.
I am pleased to share this with you, your views would be most welcome.
An article I recently wrote on the bladder reflex elicited much interest and debate, and occasionally confusion, amongst reflexologists. Because of this, I thought I would enlarge on the subject, with specific information based on my experience.
Although the reflex is related to the bladder, this does not adequately describe its full therapeutic significance. It has to be remembered that a reflexology chart is only a guide. The bladder reflex influences several anatomical areas such as the pubis and sacrum and surrounding structures. This principle applies to all the other reflex areas on charts (including the ovaries). More on this later.
Another issue is the type of texture present at the reflex. The bladder reflex readily displays the full range of textures i.e swollen (oedematous), granular, crystalline, hard, and other variations in-between. It will often be found that there may be more than one texture type in the bladder reflex.
This reflex often reveals its textures visually, as in inflammatory conditions of the bladder and urinary system, and in pregnancy when it appears swollen and covers a wider area during gestation.
During my years in reflexology I have observed the many conditions which are alleviated when this reflex is contacted. I use the term ‘contacted’ with caution. Like any other reflex, the way it is contacted is the key to effective reflexology. Even a small change to the way the contact is made (with finger or thumb for example) makes an enormous difference to the outcome of the treatment. The effect of making contact with the lateral side of the thumb is entirely different from using the medial side.
The other factor is whether the contact is static, pulsed or classical (i.e. the walking movement).
If only one type of contact is used during every treatment, valuable reflex information will remain undiscovered and unworked. The only way to avoid this, and to confirm the true status of the reflexes, is to use different techniques, particularly during an initial treatment. Some of these contacts are very subtle yet provide maximum therapeutic potential.
There are many areas on the feet which can and should be worked bi-manually i.e. working a reflex on both feet at the same time. The medial spinal reflexes lend themselves to this technique, and also those of the bladder. Working bi-manually greatly amplifies the therapeutic potential.
Static contact is a very valuable technique. As the name implies it is where contact is made to a disturbed reflex and held for a certain amount of time before releasing and moving either to a slightly different position within the reflex, or assuming a different angle. A static contact should be used on a reflex which relates to an area of pain and inflammation, as it will have a sedating benefit.
The types of contact we use are dependent on the type of reflex texture at the reflex site.
There are times when the contact needs to be firm and focused - in other words given with authority. This approach is generally more beneficial throughout reflexology in general.
In my experience I have found that effective contact applied to the bladder reflex delivers a wide range of reflex response. The areas influenced are:
Entire urinary system
Skeletal system including hips and knees ( it may benefit these areas because of its relationship to the psoas muscles).
Areas relating to gynaecological problems and pain
Prostate and erectile dysfunction
Loss of libido.
Helpful in inducing labor after late due date
It is important to realise that proficiency in a wide range of techniques is essential if one is to achieve the most therapeutic potential from this reflex.
I would be interested to hear of any comments you may have.
My best wishes
#focusedreflexology #artreflexology #hypothyroidism
#arttechniques #fertility #infertility
I was pleased to receive this letter from Pat Elliot, who replied to a Blog I posted regarding Eunice Ingham's book 'Stories The Feet Can Tell'.
Pat began her reflexology career many years ago, by attending a course run by my sister Ann Gillanders.
Following this she attended A.R.T. reflexology training with myself. I was impressed by her command of reflexology - it came naturally to her.
Pat's approach to treatment was and still is practical and positive. By this I mean she simply identifies and works out the disturbed reflexes in a positive and focused manner.
Her patients actually feel the treatment in a therapeutically 'good hurt,' way.
This was how Eunice Ingham worked. Sadly in these days this type of treatment is rare, particularly in the western world.
Pat is also an author and artist. Her letter is below.
In reply to THE BOOK WHICH CHANGED OUR LIVES, Pat Elliott said:
Oh how this book was part of changing my life!
I used to work in publishing, in management accounting. My husband had an accident at work and his consultant said he'd be in a wheelchair within two years.
One of my publishers gave me free rein to the books in her health section, and one, a Joseph Corvo book, led me to reflexology.
I started being taught by your sister, Ann -and this was one of the books she recommended.
Find the sore spot, work it out, became my mantra!
I qualified, started my own practice, and after a few years learned ART reflexology. My practice took off and most importantly, some 25 years later, my husband's still walking unaided.
Reflexology gave me hope, a walking OH, a business, a lifestyle and great satisfaction in seeing so many people helped.
On my latest holiday, I even helped a fellow camper with back pain.
For this book, all my reflexology books, you and your sister's training, I am immensely grateful.
None of it possible without Eunice and her dedication.
Mother of Reflexology, for sure!
Tony is a London-based reflexologist and founder of Advanced Reflexology Techniques (ART)