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7. Uses in Your Practice #3

The Importance Of The Dorsal foot

Unfortunately, reflexology is still overly focused on the plantar foot to the detriment of the dorsal. A check of reflex charts online shows that many do not even provide an illustration of this aspect. Of those that do, most only show some areas of lymph, the breasts, teeth, and vas deferens/fallopian tubes. But we are missing so much if we continue to think this way, as studying the appearance of the feet reveals that its top is as relevant as the sole and the need to pay equal attention to both. The reflexes of the internal and posterior body are found on the plantar, while those of the anterior are located on the dorsal. 

Dorsal-Plantar energy flow

And though reflexology concentrates on energy flow up and down the body, Visual Reflexology shows that just as energy also flows through the body from the back to front, it likewise flows through the foot from plantar to dorsal (and vice-versa). This means we can see the feet as a 3D microcosm of the body rather than simply reflecting organs in a flat 2D chart, and I will cover this in the next chapter. 

The musculoskeletal system is the most evident system to read this energy flow in the feet. The anterior and posterior sides of the body move mechanically in tandem, responding and reacting to each other with push and pull movements. The dorsal and plantar sides of the foot and their musculoskeletal reflexes move similarly. So it is necessary to observe the alignment of both aspects equally to get the complete picture of the gait and posture of the client. And misalignments are the cause of impediments to circulation and pressure on the nerves. 

In fact, there is a mass of reflexes to nerve pathways found on the dorsal foot, and eminent teachers of nerve reflexology, such as Dr Carol Samuel and Touchpoint, have mapped multiple nerve pathways here (video 1. following)Visual indicators of imbalances in the anterior of the body in other systems, such as distended veins, discolouration, skin conditions and so on, are likewise reflected on the dorsal footAnd although there are fewer stress lines on this side than on the plantar, the ones we see are of no less importance. There are also precise markers of energy blockages between the anterior-posterior body, notably freckles and red and brown marks. 

The emotional significance of the dorsal

And, of course, everything we read on the dorsal has holistic implications. However, in general terms, when reading the reflexes, it can be considered that the dorsal side represents the face that a person shows to the world, while the plantar has more to do with the private person underneath. And naturally, both these sides of a client’s personality are of equal importance.

Seeing A 3D Microcosm Of The Body

While there are other microcosmic representations of the person found in the hands, the ears, and the face, it would seem that because of their shape, the feet provide the easiest way to visualise the body in miniature. Energetically it makes sense to see them as a three-dimensional representation of the entire human body and everything in it (video 2. below). Visual Reflexology takes this approach, and a 3D way of looking at the feet is more holistic and certainly more  representative in terms of energy moving through the feet,

Simple charts of the organs (image 1. following) may have their uses, but as a profession we need to move towards a more sophisticated mapping of the body on the feet. Not just because their two-dimensional approach is unrepresentative but also because, they are not very holistic, with their emphasis on the organs in isolation. Charts need to reflect that when we are working on the feet, we are also working on all the systems of the body. 

image 1.
This chart is an example of what we are taught we are working on…
video 2.
But this video shows what we are really working on!

What follows is a little scientific digression for anyone else who, like me, is interested in these things.

 MRI scans and computer imagery mean the medical profession can increasingly look at the body in 3D form. (if you’d like to know more) It is remarkable how comparable their use of radiofrequency waves to sense energy differences and discrepancies in the cells of the body is to how we, as therapists, can feel or sense the movement of energy in the feet. 

And if anyone wants to check out MRI on wiki, it’s a complicated but interesting read. One sentence is of particular significance to us: ‘The contrast between different tissues is determined by the rate at which excited atoms return to the equilibrium state’.

But this is getting into physics, so it’s not essential to Visual Reflexology! It’s just an added extra observation into how quantum physics is starting to explain things cerebrally that the ancient world and holistic therapists have always understood, just in a different way.

Mapping The Reflexes

Not all charts are as simplistic as the one above, of course. There are some beautiful charts around which take into account the systems of the body as found on the feet, such as those below by Balancing Touch (images 2a. & b. below), which are part of a collection. They work well with the concept of systemic reflexology work, which I covered in a previous chapter and are recommended for anatomical reference and clarity.

image 2a.

image 2b.

However, for many reasons, even wonderful charts such as these can only be used for guidance. The feet are clearly not the same shape as the body, and in real life, the shape and size of the organs vary dramatically (image 3a. following), not just between individuals but also at different times of their lives. And some organs, such as the ovaries, do not even have fixed positions and actually move around. Ultimately, charts cannot truly reflect the uniqueness of the person in front of us, and it may never be possible to definitively map the reflexes. 

inflamed bowel

image 3a. 

This is an x-ray of a real colon. This is a fairly typical example of a colon, not even a particularly abnormal one. (This may be hard to believe based on a colon reflex on a chart such as that in image 3b., but google ‘healthy colon’ for further examples.

 image 3b

This chart shows a typical drawing of what we are taught relates to the colon reflex-wise. But it’s not difficult to see that the shape of the real colon and the shape of the reflex on the chart bear very little resemblance

Using the visual 

Despite this, our aim should still be to work towards a more standardised basic chart, as the vast array of different ones clearly negatively impacts our profession. They encourage scepticism in the general public and even the most sympathetic medical practitioners making research, clinical trials and integrative medicine problematic. And during treatments, practitioners inevitably are preoccupied with conflicting reflex placements, detracting from their focus on the client’s energy in that part of the foot.

It is possible that foot reading can be used to bring about greater consensus around reflex placements by noting visual patterns. For example, we may repeatedly see clients who suffer from the same problem with an organ that all have the same foot condition over the same area of the foot. So we can eventually conclude that it is likely that the reflex to that organ (or if it is a larger organ, at least the specific part of it which reacts to that health issue) is found in that place. We can do this as individual reflexologists within our own practices. And over the long term, more comprehensive research within the profession can be used to gain definitive results. 

Balancing The Body

But irrespective of conflict over reflex placements, when working with clients as individual therapists, one of the wonderful things about foot reading is that it takes us back to the essence of our therapy, which is simply to balance the body. During a treatment, it is not necessary to be sure of the exact siting of reflexes nor worry about having sufficient knowledge of anatomy and physiology or biology. We can simply focus on reading the energy reflected on the feet and work with that holistically without needing to reference anything else.

When we know what to look for, using the foot reading methods outlined in the rest of the book, the appearance of the feet will immediately tell us where and how the body needs attention, including which techniques to use. And we know that the client’s health is improving when the texture and tone of the skin look better, the feet are less puffy, the muscles are less tense, the joints are better aligned, and the lines are less evident. With Visual Reflexology, all that matters are the messages the feet give us through their appearance.

For Record Keeping

Written and/or photographic records of these visual messages from the feet are an excellent addition to client notes. The appearance of the feet constantly changes, sometimes even before being touched, because of emotional reactions to questions asked, and they will undoubtedly change during the treatment itself. Their appearance will also change between sessions and over a course of treatments. And if a client comes back to us after a period of absence, they can help us gauge how their health has changed during that time. I will cover how to make a visual record in depth in the chapters ‘How to do a Visual Assessment and ‘Photographic Records.

This is the Q&A section, so please go ahead and comment on this chapter if you wish. If you want to ask me something privately so only I can view it, make a note and I will not make it visible to other readers. 

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to notify you when your comment has been approved, so you will need to check, but I aim to approve them all within 48 hours. You can also scroll down to go directly to the next chapter.

3 thoughts on “7. Uses in Your Practice #3”


    Hi Paula,
    I’m glad that you enjoyed the chapter. These are lovely charts, but work out quite expensive as you will also need to pay postage and import duties as they come from Canada. But since I wrote this chapter there has been a book published in the UK called Pody Charts which has a similar type of charts and will work out cheaper. You can compare the two and check out current costs of buying and importing the charts from Canada then see what you think.

  2. Loved this chapter.
    Love the Balancing Touch charts, very informative for my learning. Do you think they are a good purchase or a book maybe ?? Thanks 😁😁😁

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