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Facilitating Positive Changes

by Mary Martin(more info)

listed in immune function, originally published in issue 104 - October 2004

The body is a harpsichord, and when its strings are too relaxed, or too tense, the man is sick. The Aquarian Gospel.

Many personal factors contribute to our level of health or illness – including psychological and physical aspects. Body and mind are inextricably linked. Environmental and lifestyle factors often take their toll on health. About a third of our lives is spent at work – poor working conditions adversely affect health. A holistic perspective takes all these factors into account. Stresses and strains usually manifest on a subtle level at first – tension headaches, fatigue, muscular aches, disturbed sleep etc. Without preventative action such symptoms lower immunity and lead to long-term problems.

Psychological Factors

The average GP has no time to talk patients through their problems and get to the underlying cause. They seldom acknowledge the significance of the mind/body relationship to health. Studies in psychoneuroimmunology have demonstrated that psychological factors can adversely affect immune function. Expressing their anxieties with a competent and understanding practitioner is therefore liable to boost patients' immunity. There is an underlying emotional element in most cases.

Involving patients in their own healing process increases self-confidence and provides greater choice. It also plays a significant role in preventative healthcare because beneficial changes made within treatments need maintaining.

Maria's Case

Maria, aged 56, is a typical example. When her marriage ended she had to raise her son, aged 5, alone. His teenage years were very stressful. Having no financial support, she worked full-time. In those days she had a stressful job as an area manager, responsible for 30 staff within a 40-mile radius.

Her present job is also stressful and involves much travelling. She works for 8-10 hours daily on a computer – her office environment is unhealthy with fluorescent lights on all day.

Presenting Symptoms

Maria told me that she had felt exhausted for about 18 months – even on waking. Blood tests proved negative. She felt on her last legs! This was a good analogy as she had experienced pain in her legs for 3-4 years, especially when climbing the station steps. For two years her right shoulder and neck were also painful and tingling.

Maria suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) for which her GP prescribed anti-depressants. Reflexology and/or light therapy could help her next winter.


I explained to Maria that sitting in a fixed position at a computer for long periods can impede the flow of blood and lymph in the legs. There was fluid retention in her legs and feet. The pains in her shoulder and neck were due to repetitive strain from computer work.

Her initial treatment produced stronger symptoms in her legs, neck and shoulder the next day and also a greater feeling of tiredness. The following day she felt a sense of wellbeing, so much so she started decorating her bathroom. The third day after treatment a lot of mucus was cleared from her sinuses. Maria's diet included a lot of milk and cheese that are mucus forming. She has changed her diet accordingly.

By her fourth treatment her neck and right shoulder were free of pain. Her legs and feet were no longer swollen – the bone structures of her feet were clearly visible for the first time. She awoke refreshed – feelings of exhaustion had gone.

At her sixth treatment she said that she felt 'back to normal'. The pains in her legs, shoulder and neck were alleviated. Bowel function had normalized. She was re-energized.

Adrian's Case

Adrian came to see me, more out of fear than anything. He faced an operation to have part of his bowel removed due to Crohn's disease. At twenty-one years of age his lifestyle was not a healthy one. He smoked and also drank quite a lot of alcohol and lived mainly on junk food. His social life involved 'burning the candle at both ends'. Adrian worked in telephone sales that was very stressful. He was extremely thin and 'lived on his nerves'. He said that his specialist told him not to bother changing his diet, as it would not make any difference! I explained that smoking and an unhealthy lifestyle were significant factors in his condition.


Reflexology induced a relaxing effect and also his digestive function improved. We discussed how he could make changes to boost his state of health and wellbeing. Feeling relaxed and enjoying better sleep made it easier for him to take my suggestions on board. I was surprised at his willingness to change. He gradually gave up cigarettes and completely changed his diet. Apart from this, he kept late night socializing to the weekends. He gained weight and his state of health and wellbeing improved significantly. Adrian avoided the operation.


Just as various factors contribute to the creation of illness, this also applies to the healing process. A particular therapeutic technique cannot be viewed in isolation to the less tangible aspects of treatment – empathy, trust and understanding, for example. The different aspects of treatment interact with each other and work as a whole, to facilitate change.

Whatever the treatment, the placebo effect is always present, whether intended or unintended. Research shows that this is at least partially due to the interaction between practitioner and patient. It appears to be powered by belief – it is therefore important that practitioners communicate a positive approach. There are patients who have a negative outlook. It is also worth noting that the placebo has a negative counterpart – called a nocebo. Never underestimate the power of the mind.


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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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