Reflexology—comfort for our oft-ignored feet

They travel, on average, about 115,000 miles in a lifetime (that’s more than four times around the world). In a typical day, they endure a force of several hundred tons.
Yet most of us never give them a second thought—until something goes wrong.
The human foot, that marvel of evolutionary engineering, is most often overlooked when people think in terms of health care and that’s what Melanie Murray is trying to change.
“Your feet are the whole basis of your body,” she explained. “They are, literally, your foundation.”
Murray has been in the nursing field since 1975 and a certified foot-care specialist since 1987. These days, she operates Melanie’s Footcare out of Rainy River, where she conducts foot care and reflexology clinics for people throughout the district.
In addition to her base in Rainy River, she holds clinics in Bergland, Morson, Nestor Falls, Emo, and Fort Frances. She even will make house calls to tend to shut-ins.
Primary foot care consists of maintaining correct toe nail grooming to prevent in-grown nails and addressing callouses. Murray also teaches her clients about fungal nails and special instructions regarding diabetes—a growing concern in this area.
But reflexology takes it a step further, so to speak.
What exactly is reflexology? To find out first-hand, I paid Murray a visit at her clinic in Fort Frances (355 Scott St.) to bare my sole(s) and learn about this ancient form of health care.
The origins of reflexology date back nearly 5,000 years to the Egyptians, who actually left pictographs of the practice. The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Russians also have a long history recognizing the link between foot care and overall health.
Not surprisingly, people with a vested interest in healthy feet—dancers and athletes, for instance—tend to take care of them better, but the general population gradually is getting the message, too.
“People are getting better at taking care of their feet,” Murray said as she examined mine. “Shoe manufacturers are becoming more conscious of the importance of proper fit and support.
“Of course, it’s usually the case that the ugly shoes are the ones that are good for you,” she added.
And what about those expensive brand-name shoes for which your kids are constantly bugging you?
“Yes, athletic shoes are pretty good and the people who sell them are getting better, too,” Murray remarked.
The biggest problem people today have is all the time they spend on their feet—standing at counters and walking on unforgiving pavement. Of course, we tend to ignore the consequences until things start to hurt.
“We do a lot of silly things until we learn,” observed Murray. “How many people take care of their feet until they start to hurt?”
The answer is not many. And that’s why Murray has a thriving clientele.
Of course, not all foot problems are lifestyle-related. A significant number of Murray’s clients are diabetics, who have their own special problems due to the poor circulation that’s a trademark of that disease.
She has special treatments and instructions for them, but even healthy people can run into problems which, while not directly associated with feet, sometimes can be diagnosed and treated through reflexology.
The principle behind reflexology is that there are reflex areas in the feet that correspond to every cell, tissue, and organ system in the body. The theory is that stimulating the appropriate area of the foot has a beneficial effect on the part of the body with which it is associated.
Conventional medical opinion notwithstanding, reflexology does at least uphold the primary tenet of all medicine—to do no harm. In fact, the sensation is quite relaxing, which Murray says is all part of the idea.
“What it does is help de-stress and relax tension so that the body can heal itself,” she explained as she worked on a spot on my right foot that produced a burning, crunching sensation.
When I mentioned that to her, Murray said something that caused me to stop taking notes and stare at her.
“Do you have a chronic problem with your right shoulder,” she asked?
In fact, I have dislocated that joint at least half-a-dozen times over the years, although it hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years.
Nonetheless, upon telling her that, Murray responded, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you have some arthritis developing there. This will help clear any calcium deposits.”
Murray explained the feet often are a repository for waste products from other parts of the body. The crunching sensation I experienced probably was uric acid deposits associated with the old shoulder injury.
Murray warned that one abbreviated treatment was not enough to determine if it did any good, but I did feel somewhat refreshed and energized afterwards.
“For reflexology to really take hold, it takes at least three sessions,” Murray advised, also stressing the importance of drinking plenty of purified water after each session to help flush out the toxins released.
Reflexology is gaining more acceptance and respect within the health-care community, but unlike related disciplines such as massage therapy and chiropractic, it is not yet formally regulated—a situation Murray would like to see changed.
“Right now, almost anybody can claim to be a foot-care specialist,” she said. “If there were provincial standards, it would be better for practitioners and clients alike.”
The program Murray took consisted of 60 hours of classroom instruction, followed by 60 case studies, in which she was monitored and graded by instructors.
This, in turn, was followed by both practical and written examinations.
Reflexology is not covered by OHIP or most private insurance plans, but some employers do make it available to their employees. It is, however, covered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for those who are eligible.
Melanie’s Footcare has been at the Rainy Lake Massage Therapy clinic on Scott Street one day a week since October. She also conducts clinics three days a month at the seniors’ apartments in Rainy River, as well as one day a month in Emo.
Evaluation sessions cost $25 in the clinic setting while reflexology treatments are $30. Prices are higher for in-home visits.
To book an appointment with Melanie’s Footcare, call 852-3308.