My health is a big part of this blog, as most of you will know who have been with me through my journey so far. After almost 3 years of craziness, the NHS have reached their full and final diagnosis - a post which will be saved for a later date. It is important now though, more than ever, that I look after myself as best as possible. I take my medication, I do my physio exercises, I stay active, I've worked out when I'm about to faint so can make myself as safe as possible and I listen to my body.
I have always been open-minded about complimentary treatments but what really upsets me is if someone says I'll be cured or miraculously start feeling 90% better... if i just change my diet... if i just meditate... if i just smell these oils... if i just, if i just... No. It's patronising and being someone living with a chronic illness, the last thing any of us need is to feel more crap about ourselves than we already do (in many cases, our own bodies are the ones fighting us, how rubbish does that make us feel?!).
So when Nicola, a local reflexologist, contacted me about reviewing one of her treatments and learning about reflexology myself you may think I would have been sceptical... I wasn't! You see, Nicola comes from a straight cut NHS background. She's a trained nurse with a history grounded in emergency admissions and intensive care at King's College Hospital. It was during her working years here that she became interested in a phenomena called ICU Psychosis (a form of Delirium) which is thought to affect up to 80% of patients in ICU. These people who have undergone many invasive or traumatic experiences will react unpredictably/violently when awake. This is obviously distressing for the patients themselves, their families and for staff involved in caring for them. Some of the coping and calming mechanisms used by ICU nurses are touch therapies and massage. Hearing this was eye opening for me, I had never heard about such things, I can only imagine how distressing going through life changes like coming out of ICU could be.
Nicola decided to qualify as a reflexologist at the Central London School of Reflexology after doing her own research into what she had seen and worked amongst at King's. She travelled through Thailand and Singapore, learning how these far away countries were implementing and successfully using reflexology and touch treatments as a part of their healthcare system, as much as we rely on things like physiotherapies. Evidence based practice has always been very important to Nicola coming from a nursing background. It wasn't enough to say these things will make you feel good, she wanted to know why and how. Nicola has devoted time and effort into the working core of reflexology. Medical trials, evaluations and case studies became a part of her daily reading so she could satisfy her thirst for proving reflexology can help the body and mind in numerous ways.
I cannot stress how important it is for someone like me dealing with a big medical condition to not feel like someone has done a weekend course as part of their training in a salon and is just trying to get me to come back for treatments that they barely believe in themselves. Nicola is the complete opposite of that. She is passionate about her work, she has knowledge and a real desire to help people.
A little fact list for you:
UK employers are entailing losses of approximately £28.3 billion per year due to health issues.
Depression affects 1 in 5 older people.
10% of children have mental health problems.
1 in 4 people experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.
Anxiety affects 1 in 10 people in the UK.
(ref: Mental Health Foundation)
These issues can all be helped with reflexology for feelings of anxiety. A pilot study in healthy individuals A J Mc Vicar et al complementary therapies in clinical practice 2007 vol 13 number 3 p 137-145 found reflexology profoundly reduced the anxiety state with a statistical significance but has no effect one the underlying 'trait' anxiety. The reduction was consistent with an increased feeling of ease & a reduction of actual anxiety, i.e. it treats the symptoms.
I am not a technical medical blogger by any stretch, so here are some more credible links to studies on reflexology so you can have a read of the facts for yourself.
Research link on Reflexology in the workplace, studies on migraines, Gynaecological issues, Digestive disorders etc
The Association of Reflexologists
Findings on how Reflexology can help through conception, during pregnancy and post-natal
Nicola used her newly qualified skills as a reflexologist working within St Christophers Hospice and drug and alcohol addiction treatment centres, alongside treating private clients whilst starting her own family. She also became a full member of the Association of Reflexologists. After having her three children, Nicola decided to take the plunge and dive in to working solo offering mobile and therapy room based treatments around the South East London area. My treatment with her was in her therapy room, in which she rents from the fabulous Dolls Salon in Beckenham.
After a warm welcome, refreshing glass of water and nattering like we had known eachother for a long while, Nicola took some details of my medical past and present conditions. I told her about my connective tissue disorder and heart condition, my defective thyroid and autoimmune disease. We chatted about stress, anxiety, sleep issues and digestive problems... all stuff I'm used to telling to nurses, consultants & geneticists. Nicola noted relevent points down and made me feel 100% comfortable discussing these things with her.
Her therapy room was the perfect temperature and smelled divine, thanks to the hand-picked Arcadian Candles she chooses to use alongside her treatment. The flickering candle light and matching purples made me think of rich rolling Lavender fields on a summer's eve.
Nicola explained I wouldn't be laying flat as it's not the most comfortable position, especially for someone with a postural heart condition, so we worked out where felt best on the treatment couch. She also explained I'd have a support cushion under my knees again to aid the comfort levels of my thighs and legs whilst she treated me. I popped my shoes and socks off and rolled my trousers up to my knees (as some of the treatment is taken up the shin and to the point of just under the knee itself) and got comfy.
Nicola asked me, whilst offering out to smell, which scent I preferred; A citrus tang or a smooth lavender. Having already imagined myself rolling around a field of the purple stuff five minutes earlier, I opted for the lavender. Gently, soft instrumental music began to fill the room, again levels completely balanced and not a hint of cheesy Enya to be heard (sorry Enya fans, forgive me!). Nicola began her treatment with purposeful strokes and massage on my lower legs and feet, whislt taking me on a vocal relaxation trip. Once I had imagined my stresses and anxieties away on a crumpled leaf drifting out to sea, I took some cleansing deep breaths, let myself go and relaxed into the full experience of the treatment.
Nicola worked on my feet mainly, stopping at particular points and working on certain areas with precision and gentleness. I remember certain points that felt very poignant, almost like a shifting of energy, a physical tingling up my spine, through my jaw and into my brain similar to that of an endorphin rush. It is here where I struggle to fully put into words what I experienced for the majority of my treatment. It was divine. Not only did it feel good, it felt like it was DOING good. I drifted in and out of a weird consciousness, feeling touch on my feet correlating to different parts of my broken, achy body was surreal yet so natural. Forms of reflexology have been going on for hundreds of years, again as research shows people have always used pressure points on and around the feet to help with various ailments, even back as far as the Ancient Egyptians! But I digress...
More time passed than I had imagined, lying there in my safe warm, sweet smelling coccoon. Nicola generally advises an hour and a half appointment for first consultations then an hour thereafter. Once my treatment had come to an end, Nicola genty left to fetch me some water (as it's advised to drink more than you normally would after a treatment of reflexology) and let me gently and naturally come out of my trance-like relaxation. I felt sleepy, warm and safe, not groggy as some massages can leave you feeling. It was wonderful.
I was excited about doing this review with Nicola and learning about reflexology before my treatment... but afterwards I felt a completely new level of respect for reflexology treatments as a whole and definitely for Nicola as a therapist. This isn't a sideline, throw away, learn in a weekend session. This is engaging, powerful and caring therapy as a complimentary addition to NHS/medical services such as medication and physio. I can honestly say I felt so relaxed and positive after my first treatment (and I will be going back for more), just having that focus and time to just ...stop... things for an hour, to put aside my health worries, my anxieties, my pain - was amazing.
Reflexology isn't a cure. Most importantly Nicola doesn't claim it to be. It is powerful aid that can help you if you are dealing with things like anxiety, depression, chronic pain, fertility issues, pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, sleep disturbances... the list goes on. Reflexology is suitable for people of all ages (Nicola is trained to work with infants and the elderly, too) and after my treatment I can really see how it would be a positive thing for so many people to have in their lives.
As the Association of Reflexologists claim themselves...
The only real way to know if reflexology will help you is to try it.
...and I urge all of you reading to do so, especially with Nicola here in Beckenham.
Nicola has just been nominated #BizOfTheWeek over on Twitter within the hugely popular local networking sector #BeckBromFL for businesses who have had positive reviews within the Bromley boroughs! She also has a special offer for this week only as part of her #BeckBromFL promotion...
**£10 OFF any treatment booked this week!**
Grab it while you can!
To chat about reflexology or book an appointment with her, feel free to use any of the below links:
Nicola on Twitter
Nicola on Facebook
Have you had reflexology? Are you going to book with Nicola? I'd love to hear about your experiences!
Who is Julie?
30 something, mother of two gorgeous boys, lover of one gorgeous husband, perpetually living in a dream world full of wine, chocolate and artsy crafty things.