I’ve had a couple of people contact me recently asking if reflexology can help with peripheral neuropathy, so I thought that it would be a good topic to address. Before jumping into how reflexology is beneficial for persons with this condition, it makes sense to first understand the parts of the nervous system, and how each part functions in the body.
There are two main parts of the nervous system: the central nervous system (CNS), and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS contains all the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. The main function of the PNS is to connect the CNS to the limbs and organs, essentially serving as a relay between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. It also includes nerves that regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which connects the spinal cord to the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder, and sex organs. Peripheral Neuropathy means that there has been damage to the peripheral nerves.
There are two types of peripheral nerve pathways:
Sensory pathway: carries messages regarding physical sensations such as temperature, pain, and touch
Motor pathway: carries messages to cause movement
Peripheral neuropathy may damage both motor and sensory peripheral nerves. This helps explain why persons with peripheral neuropathy feel intense pain, tingling, or burning sensations in their extremities, and may also have issues with coordination, balance, or muscle movements. If the nerves that regulate the ANS are affected, a person may have bowel, bladder or digestive issues, sexual dysfunction, changes in blood pressure, or heat intolerance .
How Reflexology Helps
Through gentle pressure techniques applied to feet, damaged nerve fibers are activated, which are able to send and receive clearer messages between the CNS and the PNS. There is an improvement in blood and lymph circulation, improvement in nerve response, and gives the person a sense of overall well-being. Besides helping with peripheral neuropathy, reflexology may also be beneficial for diabetic neuropathy, phantom limb pain, and other forms of neuropathic pain.