Complementary Therapy

The benefits of deep relaxation

March 29, 2021 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Veronica Tift expands on achieving deep relaxation through therapeutic reflexology as a natural intervention through endorphin release and therapeutic touch. 


As I walk into a retirement village, there is a sombre feeling as the aged, and often times forgotten residence keep a curious eye on me. With my bag in hand, along with my creams and towels used in my treatment, these aren’t the most important tools I have. My client, a 73-year-old man, makes himself comfortable in his space with his feet up, ready to receive his reflexology treatment. The minute I place my hands on his feet, his whole posture changes, his shoulders both soften, and he lets out an audible sigh, all before I have even begun to treat him. This is an example of the power of therapeutic touch.

What are endorphins and how do they work? 

Therapeutic touch has been shown to contribute towards the release of biological chemicals, known as endorphins. 

Endorphins are a group of chemicals that are mostly produced in the pituitary gland in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for that great feeling we get when we eat delicious dark chocolate, or when we are laughing so hard at Zoom calls gone wrong, and when we are experiencing a therapeutic reflexology treatment. 

Endorphins help us to decrease the feelings of pain and feel fewer negative effects that stress causes by releasing natural opioids that act like morphine. These neurotransmitters send electrical signals along the nervous system which can give you a feeling of euphoria and lead to a sense of deep relaxation. 

Taking a closer look at touch

There is an evolutionary reason why touch is so important for humans. Looking back in history, community was vital for our survival. Tribes were an awesome place to be a part of when you needed protection or when you needed to hunt for food. There was safety in numbers. We are hardwired to connect, to have a sense of community and interact in a positive way with people and while we don’t live in tribes as they aren’t vital for our survival today, connection and positive touch are still imperative because it’s by way of these human interactions that those feel-good endorphins are released. 

Deep relaxation through therapeutic reflexology

What therapeutic reflexology does on a physical level in aiding the body into a state of deep relaxation is nothing short of incredible. Our bodies have a network of peripheral nerves on the feet linked to the nervous system. By stimulating the feet during a treatment, this stimulates the function of the parasympathetic nervous system, helping the body and mind to find balance. 

When a reflexologist is working on your feet, they are also working on important reflexology points that correspond to the body, such as the solar plexus and the vagus nerve. All of these assists with stress related issues and helps the body cope with the effects of stress through the release of endorphins. The stimulation of the nerves and reflexes is one of the reasons why reflexology is supportive for patients living with cancer. It helps to bring about deeper relaxation. 

Other forms of therapeutic touch that can be of benefit, like a massage or acupuncture, have also been found to stimulate the body to release those all-important endorphins.

Important factors to know

  • Reflexology can’t be used as a primary procedure intended for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition or disease.
  • Please seek out a registered therapist (sareflexology.org.za) with the correct qualifications. 
  • There are various medical aids that will pay for reflexology or massage. This is plan and medical aid dependent so chat to your therapist. 
  • Side effects may occur, such as feeling light-headed, tender feet or an emotional response or need to pass urine more often. Tell your reflexologist about any side effects that you have. 
  • It’s important to check with your treating doctor, before you start any reflexology treatment.

 References:

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/reflexology/what-does-research-say-about-refloxology

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-endorphins-5025072?print 12 February 2021

https://www.dignityhealth.org/articles/facts-about-touch-how-human-contact-affects-your-health-and-relationships 12 Feb. 21

https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/touch/2020/the-neuroscience-of-touch-and-pain-013020 12 Feb. 21

https://www.medicinenet.com/endorphins_natural_pain_and_stress_fighters/views.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5114793/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280884245_You_are_whole_through_touch_Dora_Kunz_and_therapeutic_touch

Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.

MEET THE EXPERT – Veronica Tift


Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.


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