By Sam Belyea a.k.a. The Foot Whisperer
I get asked this question a lot because of where Reflexology is within the market as a modality gaining popularity. There are misconceptions and conflicting opinions that have developed and I will explain both sides here so you can understand in what context deep pressure can be used during Reflexology. For the record, I do use deep pressure and I am quite good at it the trick is for it to be appropriate.
1. Pain shuts down nerves, which are the highway of Reflexology.
If I am providing a session of Reflexology and someone is expecting deep pressure there is an educational moment that needs to happen. The first lesson is when we experience pain during bodywork the body doesn’t appreciate it. In fact, what most people consider ‘relief’ from a deep tissue massage is the fact that the body has actually TURNED OFF the nerves that the therapist was beating into submission instead of fixing any issue. The problem with this approach in Reflexology is that I need those nerve pathways fresh and open to transmit messages for the body to start self-healing. If I go into an extremity guns a’ blazing with pressure then the body will shut me out and not receive as profound an impact from the work.
2. Pain is how the body communicates damage.
Ever wonder why things hurt when you break/cut/bruise something? Because the nerves are telling the body that you are damaged!! So as a Reflexologist, why would I want to send the body signals of damage? There is no logical sense in that. Instead, with each press of my thumb/fingers (NO TOOLS) I am sending stimulating signals that give the body a chance to achieve lasting balance. If I induce pain then the body will view me as a threat and block my stimulation, like when you tense up before getting a shot no matter how much you prep yourself, and the session will be greatly compromised.
3. Difference in training.
There are two broad schools of Reflexology: A) I work hard because that’s how I was taught and B) Work smarter not harder. Most Reflexologists are trained within one of these two schools; I was personally trained in the first one. I started my Reflexology career working harder because I was taught that deeper pressure created deeper results. I learned from thousands of clients that deeper is NOT better and I have found time and time again that the clients who insist on ‘more pressure’ do not feel the results of the work – they are feeling the endorphin rush the body is using to off-set the pain.
As a general rule I will always take deeper pressure on the extremities on a case-by-case basis. The funny thing about nerves is even light pressure can cause sensitivity and deep pressure (when 100% appropriate) will be felt as lesser pressure because it is welcomed into the body. Be warry of the Reflexologist that tells you otherwise – they aren’t listening, they are performing. Now, I have come across some unicorns that truly require deeper pressure but they are too far and few between. As a general rule, 70% of clients do not need deeper work and the 29.9% that do truly need deeper work often times don’t want it and we need to ease into depth.