For years, it seemed like nothing would alleviate Sarah Fayman's chronic back pain.
The herniated disc prompted her to visit doctor after doctor.
"When I injured my back many years ago, I was told that the only solution to my problem was surgery. That wasn't something I wanted to do," Fayman says. "I tried cortisone treatments, which helped, but they did nothing to solve the issue. They only masked the pain."
Fayman found an alternative treatment that has soothed her aching back: reflexology, or the massage and stimulation of the feet.
"Reflexology is the application of pressure to certain reflex nerve endings located in the feet and hands, which correspond to specific glands, organs and parts of the body," says Julie Vernon, a Lawrence reflexology provider. "This stimulates blood circulation and nerve supply, activating the body's own natural healing power."
For example, the big toe represents the head; the inner sides of the feet are the spine. Walk your fingers along the bottom of each foot, and you'll find the breasts, lungs, diaphragm and vital organs. The more than 7,000 nerve endings in the feet, reflexologists say, can be touched for relief or stimulation to tap into a particular part of the body.
Vernon presses her thumb along the foot to give the needed pressure for the massage.
"It's interesting because while feet are the critical foundation supporting the body, they usually get very little attention," Vernon says. "Be kind to them, and you can do a lot to help your whole body."
Vernon trained in reflexology through the International Institute of Reflexology in St. Petersburg, Fla., and has been practicing since 1996.
Another Lawrence reflexology provider, Kristii Adrian, owns Bodyworks Downtown, 13 E. Eighth St., which opened in 2000. She concurs with the potential healing powers of strategically massaging the feet.
"Everybody loves having their feet rubbed, but they may not know why," Adrian says. "Every part of the bottom of the foot corresponds to different parts of the body, so in theory, having your feet worked is like having your whole body worked."
She says reflexology is a useful alternative to massage therapy if the client feels a body part is too tender to handle.
"People who are touch-sensitive can benefit," Adrian says. "It might help for a condition like fibromyalgia, for example."
She also touts reflexology as an option for those who would like a massage but aren't comfortable with traditional practices.
"For people who prefer to stay dressed for a massage, having your feet worked instead is an option. You can even keep your socks on if you want," she says.
Vernon says that although reflexology is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment, it's safe and effective for people of all ages. And it's great for relaxation, too.
"Reflexology is something couples or families can do for one another," she says. "While being a relaxing way to enhance each other's self-healing capabilities, it is also very nurturing."
Her client, Sarah Fayman, says she's a believer.
"I actually think it works. I feel like at the end of a session that my whole body has been worked on," Fayman says. "There are times when you have discomfort in an area, and (Vernon) can work through that. The discomfort is gone."