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Back Conditions and Holism

by Mary Martin(more info)

listed in back pain, originally published in issue 76 - May 2002

The spinal column has not fully adjusted from its horizontal position, firmly supported by four limbs, in our primitive state. Nor does it receive the benefits of natural traction from swinging in trees! Additionally, sedentary lifestyles, improper diet, physical and psychological stresses, injury and obesity, etc., contribute to the agony of back pain. Back conditions are doubling every decade in industrialized countries and millions of working days are lost yearly. It costs the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds annually although, according to the Clinical Services Advisory Group, medical management of back pain is unhelpful!


Considering the multifarious causes and problems relating to back conditions, a holistic approach makes sense. Reflexology works holistically via the body's energetic communication system. This is important because physical trauma influences the emotional state – the whole organism is affected.

Reflexology can:

* Relieve physical and psychological stress and tension – to reduce pain;
* Normalize blood flow to affected areas – to aid healing and remove waste;
* Normalize nerve supply – to reduce swelling, irritation and numbness;
* Eliminate waste from the body – to reduce uric acid levels and inflammation;
* Increase the release of endorphins and enkephalins – natural painkillers;
* Stimulate the body's healing ability – on all levels.

Three Cases


David experienced intermittent sciatic pain over a period of 16 years. When I saw him he was in agony with a trapped sciatic nerve that prevented him from working, driving and walking properly. Despite this he was sceptical about reflexology. However, we were both delighted when at the end of his first treatment the nerve was freed. He attended for four more treatments and for the past 12 years he has been free of any sciatic problems. I use a simple but effective technique for relieving sciatic problems that does not always work the first time!


Seventy years old, Margery underwent three private operations on her spine for an arthritic condition – one a year prior to consulting me. The third one was unsuccessful, leaving her housebound for 11 months. Her legs and feet were very swollen and scar tissue in the spine was encasing the nerves. She experienced much pain in her buttocks and sciatic areas and walked indoors with two sticks. She slept very badly. Margery was taking between six and eight prescribed painkillers daily plus drugs for hypertension.

She was brought to me by a friend. I aimed to reduce the fluid in her legs and feet to enable me to work on the sciatic reflexes. I gave extra attention to the reflexes corresponding to the lymphatic and urinary systems and worked all the reflexes, to a greater or lesser degree, with plenty of relaxation techniques.

After the first two treatments many toxins were released in the form of sweating, skin rashes and increased urinary activity. By the third treatment Margery had reduced her painkillers by two daily, and had slept deeply. Her pain had lessened to the extent that she went for a short drive for the first time in almost a year.

Margery drove to me for her fourth treatment (five miles), which boosted her morale, especially as she had decided to sell her car before seeing me initially. She was now taking four or five painkillers daily and eventually she reduced these further and was able to walk indoors without sticks.

The greatest benefit Margery gained from reflexology was the reduction of pain to a manageable level so that she could drive to see friends and shop. Eventually she went swimming once a week and for occasional walks. She also enjoyed holidays and a better quality of life than she thought possible.


Jane experienced chronic daily headaches, which her GP linked to the 'pill' and advised her to give up. During her first treatment she experienced a headache that I considered to be a healing reaction.

A week later at her second treatment she told me that she had experienced a painful reaction in her shoulders, cervical spine and also her lumbar/sacral spine but no headaches! At her first treatment she had neglected to tell me of a back condition experienced six years previously, and of an accident in the previous year when she injured her coccyx! These healing reactions soon diminished, as her back condition was resolved. Whether this underlying problem was the cause of her headaches is difficult to prove. What matters is that both conditions were alleviated very quickly through a holistic approach.

Technique is not Everything

A truly holistic approach involves guiding patients towards healthier lifestyles relating to nutrition, relaxation and exercise, etc. Drinking sufficient water (minimum of one litre daily) is crucial for the discs of the spine, where it is stored to help bear the compressed weight of the body and the tension of muscular action on spinal joints. Water acts as a lubricant to all joints. This approach also involves referring patients for other suitable treatment where appropriate.

A balance is necessary between the technique and non-specific aspects of treatment – both are central to the healing process. No single part of treatment exists in isolation. Inspiring patients with trust and realistic hope within a framework of shared understanding can mobilize beneficial changes. Encouraging self-empowerment means that patients will gain better control over their own future health and well-being.

This is particularly relevant as orthodox medicine becomes increasingly technical, and patients the passive recipients.


Batmanghelidj F. Your Body's Many Cries for Water. The Tagman Press. UK. pp47-49. ISBN 0-9530921-6-X. 2000.


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About Mary Martin

A qualified teacher, Mary Martin established her School of Reflexology in 1987. She founded the Association of Reflexologists in 1984 and is an Honorary Life Member. Previously she practised as a Gerson therapist. Mary belongs to a network of therapists attached to the cancer centre at Mount Vernon Hospital. She has had a busy practice in Ruislip since 1983. She may be contacted on Tel: 01895 635621;

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