Stressed out? Reflexology and the Nervous System. Why it works.

The human body is a remarkable thing. I think we take the magic of it for granted. We wouldn’t function at all if it weren’t for the Nervous System.

Composed of the Central Nervous System and Peripheral Nervous System, the nervous system runs the body. There are also the special senses: the eyes, ears, and skin. They give us messages from the outside.

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is protected by the skull; the spinal cord is protected by the spine. We know the brain controls: speech, hearing, sight, and emotion. The hypothalamus – located in the brain, is an interlink between the nervous and endocrine systems. It connects to the pituitary gland and plays a key role in maintaining body homeostasis – balance. I believe our body always tries to return to a state of balance.

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is both voluntary and autonomic: made up of nerves and their branches that start in the brain or spinal cord, leave them and go to other parts of the body. Vertebrae protect the spinal cord. The vertebrae get larger as they move down the spine, this makes sense as there’s more of us to support. Between each vertebra is a disc. Pairs of nerves exit each vertebrae. The voluntary part of the peripheral nervous system is all the nerves that go to and from the muscles that you have some control over. The autonomic part of the peripheral nervous system is all the nerves that travel to your organs and glands. We have little conscious control over these nerves.

The peripheral nervous system contains 12 pairs of nerves starting in the brain going to structures of the head and neck and 31 pairs of spinal nerves starting in the spinal cord travelling to the rest of the body. The peripheral nerves exit the spinal cord and run around the body, like veins and arteries. There are motor and sensory nerves. Sensory nerves move in the direction of the brain, motor nerves move away from the brain.

Most of us experience a pinched sciatic nerve from time-to-time. The biggest nerve; the size of a man’s thumb at its largest point, it carries a major portion of signals from the sacral plexus to the legs, exits the spinal column and feeds the legs and branches off. Where it leaves the spinal column it is prone to compression and this is often the sciatic pain people experience. In a reflexology treatment we work four reflexes specific to the sciatic nerve.

A plexus is a bundle of nerves. There are many of them throughout the body. The solar plexus, in the middle of the diaphragm, is one most of us are familiar with. We’ve all felt, in a moment of shock, a little punch in the gut. This is the solar plexus firing as it sets off the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system.

Imagine you are reading a book in your favourite chair and suddenly a door slams shut.

The sympathetic nervous system revs the system up — moves us into fight or flight (state of stress), increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, and moves blood to the extremities. It stops the digestive process. This is a basic response to threat.

I think a major problem with our culture is we are stuck in sympathetic nervous system overload. We don’t go into this state as an occasional thing, but are rather living in this state 24 hours a day, and are showing stress-related disease. As an example: We wake in the morning, haven’t even got out of bed and we are already going through our to do list for the day. This isn’t natural.

The parasympathetic nervous system slows the system down. A state of rest and repair, this system lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. This is the optimum time for us to efficiently digest our food. It should be clear to us — in this hectic world, our digestive systems aren’t working properly. It’s no wonder many people have digestive issues.

During a reflexology treatment, the practitioner focuses on the brain, head, hypothalamus, eyes, ears, inner ear, solar plexus, and sciatic nerve reflexes.

The beauty of a reflexology treatment is it immediately switches a person’s nervous system from sympathetic mode (fight or flight), to parasympathetic mode (rest and repair). This occurs during each reflexology session.

As a reflexologist, I notice the person’s breathing slow down, they may sigh, feel sleepy, their mood may change from one of agitation to one of peacefulness. This should be normal. The body wants to be in a state of homeostasis – balance. Unfortunately, this delicious calm feeling is rare.

If you are unable to have a reflexology treatment, a few other ways you can support your nervous system and reduce stress, are: laugh, smile, exercise, meditate, breathing exercises, and walking in nature.

Throughout my life experiences; broken leg, multiple surgeries, recent wrist trauma, stress — of all these things, what fills me with awe, is the resilience of the human body.

The nervous system is intimately linked to the endocrine system which I will talk about next time.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences and hope you’ll share with me in the comments section.



New series!

I’m beginning a new series: The Nine Body Systems & Reflexology.

We have nine body systems:

  1. Nervous System
  2. Endocrine System
  3. Respiratory System
  4. Cardiovascular System
  5. Digestive System
  6. Urinary or Renal System
  7. Immune/Lymphatic System
  8. Reproductive System
  9. Musculoskeletal System

Each month I’ll explain a system and how reflexology can facilitate positive change.

Stay tuned!



The Health Series: #7 Gardening Your Life

Welcome Verna Gregson, a part-time and temporary resident of planet earth, to this month’s Health Series!

Gardening Your Life

We all love to garden. We enjoy seeing the plants grow and flourish, the flowers bloom in their radiant glory and the foliage become healthy, vigorous and lush. We cherish the renewal and rejuvenation of life as our garden moves from one season to another, regularly revitalizing itself and its purpose. To assist our garden in this transformative process, we cut away the dead areas that have not survived the rigors of winter’s cold or summer’s heat.   We carefully inspect the foliage to ensure it is strong and healthy and, when we find shoots that have struggled too long or too far from their center, we lovingly cut them back and allow the plant’s energy to return to its core and foster growth closer to its own heart. We assess the shape of the plant and the pattern of its growth to ensure it is moving in a direction that is safe, strong and appropriate for its own wellbeing. When we see areas of deviation or misdirection, we gently reorient our garden’s growth to a more positive path.

Perhaps we should apply this same gardening philosophy to our own lives. Regularly we should examine our own life process and remove old elements that are no longer vibrant and have lost their purpose for us. We should check for items or behaviours in our personal journey that have ceased to be important or have moved away from our primary focus. They may be draining energy or sapping our vitality and, by removing them, we can concentrate more vigorously on those items that foster and encourage positive growth. Also, through quiet contemplation and reflection, we might allow ourselves to observe the shape and direction our lives have taken, thereby determining if we are moving on a course that is safe, strong and appropriate for our own wellbeing. If not, we can make changes. Think of your life and its journey as a garden and tend it with loving care.

Verna Gregson
April, 2017

Reflexology as pain management

If you’ve read my bio you know reflexology is part of my monthly pain management program. For those who haven’t read my bio, you can click Here.

I experience reflexology as a modality which immediately drops me into the parasympathetic, or rest and repair, mode. This is the opposite of the sympathetic mode; known as the fight or flight response. Due to our hectic lifestyles, I believe most of us reside in the fight or flight mode.

During a reflexology treatment, my breathing slows, I become calmer, I experience my muscles soften and relax, particularly my neck and shoulder muscles. Tension causing pain and worries drop away. I’m filled with a sense of peace and well-being.

I am allowing my body to do what comes naturally. That is: return to a state of homeostasis, or balance.

Reflexology is more than a simple foot massage.

A reflexology treatment is a specific sequence performed on reflexes corresponding to every organ, part, and gland of the body. A treatment improves circulation, assists the lymphatic/immune system, reduces inflammation, and promotes a deep sense of well-being doubly fostered by a sense of trust and connection via touch with the practitioner.

My friend, and fellow practitioner, Suzanne, gives me my monthly treatment. We usually go for lunch afterward. She delights watching me fade. A term I use when my body is saying, “Enough! I need to go lie down for a while – now!” Harold Tuxedo Cat and Rupert Sharpei love my reflexology treatment days. We all have a delicious restorative afternoon nap. This downtime further enhances the reflexology treatment.

What monthly pain management program(s) do you have? What does downtime mean to you, and how do you experience downtime? You can post your remarks on the Comments/Q&A/Videos page.

I await Friday with anticipation. It’s my monthly reflexology treatment; an integral part of my health regime. Whoop!