Hagar Basis: Reflexology and Fertility Issues
Hagar Basis, principal of the PR Affiliated Reflexology Academy in London recently talked with the Israeli Reflexology Association about her approach to reflexology and fertility issues.
Hagar teaches internationally and last year was a speaker at the Reflexology in Europe Network (RiEN) Conference in Brussels, and later this year she will be speaking in Taiwan at the ICR conference once again presenting Reflexology for Women’s Health.
1. Is conventional medicine in England being supportive of alternative medicine and specifically reflexology in case of fertility issues?
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) like reflexology are treatments that fall outside of mainstream healthcare in the UK. Complementary therapies in NHS (National Health System) hospitals are usually provided free by volunteering therapists.
Q&A Hagar Basis - Reflexology Academy / Israeli Reflexology Association
1. Is conventional medicine in England being supportive for alternative medicine and specifically reflexology in case of fertility issues?
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) like reflexology are treatments that fall outside of mainstream healthcare in the UK. Complementary therapies in NHS (National Health System) hospitals are usually provided free by volunteering therapists. This is most prevalent within cancer wards, units and hospitals. Those most commonly offered are reflexology, acupuncture and massage. In some private medical clinics where patients receive IVF and other assisted fertility treatments, they will often offer CAM therapies like acupuncture and reflexology privately alongside. It really is determined on the medical establishment as it is not conventional practice to have a CAM therapist alongside fertility treatments. The availability of CAMs on the NHS is limited, and in most cases, the NHS will not offer such treatments. Due to the high-stress factor of undergoing assisted fertility treatment, the medical profession looks upon CAM therapies as a way to assist well-being and help with stress. It is not commonplace but some reflexologists will get referrals from medical practitioners. I used to get referrals from a wonderful consultant gynaecologist in central London who has now sadly passed away. This was from his private practice not from the hospital where he also worked. He was a wonderful surgeon but advocated reflexology above surgery for the treatment of common pelvic pain. The clients he sent me more often than not suffered from endometriosis, which responded well with reflexology treatment.
2. Can you explain your insights about Dr Manzanares method and its contribution to fertility treatments?
In my experience of hosting Dr Jesus Manzanares I have never heard him speak about treating infertility as such. When asked about this subject by students at the seminars he only briefly mentions the reflex areas to treat. I recall him once saying that he doesn't get many cases related to hormonal problems in general and that it’s not particularly of great interest to him within his work. Jesus Manzanares works within a very structured protocol system for pathologies culminating from his 30+ years of experience, and in accordance with his own unique reflexology mapping system which he has developed from a foetal anatomical perspective. What I find insightful in regards to the Manzanares method of reflexology is in his location of specific reflex areas and the approach to the way that he applies his technique to those areas. It is interesting is that there are many crossovers and similarities between applications of technique, philosophy and methodologies with obvious parallels, though the languaging used is very different.
3. Could you shed light on the recent treatment methods and success rate related to thyroid problems?
Over my 27 years in practice, I’ve treated many clients with impaired thyroid function and hypothyroidism, especially women. In general, clients as well as those that receive thyroxine medication, feel more energised after reflexology treatment, function better, their symptoms ease and most importantly they feel more themselves. Nowadays it is very common for women especially to present with low functioning thyroid issues (often subclinically) as more often than not do not show up in the rudimentary blood tests given here in the UK. It is apparent that subclinical hypothyroidism is on the rise affecting many, and a precursor for many health disorders and pathological disease. Endocrine issues themselves are rarely straightforward affecting a myriad of complex body functions, the work of the reflexologist is to apply an effective stimulus to any disturbed reflexes until the tissue normalises. I use a specific bi manual holding approach when working the Endocrine system, after priming ‘waking up’ the reflexes first. This system of bimanual working (both feet at the same time) I have evolved from my initial training with Anthony Porter and his Advanced Reflexology Techniques (ART) which has been intrinsic to my own methodology and success in practice.
4. What would be your treatment focus with the patient facing difficulties getting pregnant with hypothyroidism background?
There are certain reflexes that will come straight to mind when facing a challenging client like this one. Often low thyroid function/hypothyroidism causes sometimes a lifetime of struggle including fertility issues and multiple miscarriages. However, I have found that working specifically using the bimanual techniques very powerful which has a balancing and restorative effect.
I assess each patient individually rather than apply a set protocol treatment. After all, it is better to treat the person who has the disease rather than the disease the person has! That as it may be I would always work the main reflexes of the Endocrine system as well as the thyroid. I would be looking at the adrenals as low adrenal function is often a precursor for low thyroid function/hypothyroidism. However the causes of hypothyroidism is not so straightforward, there may be sufficient production of hormones by the thyroid gland but due to an autoimmune response, the thyroid tissue is destroyed as in Hashimoto’s disease. Similarly if the thyroid does not have enough cells to produce its hormones no amount of reflexology will be able to fully restore functioning without hormonal supplementation. Our job as reflexologists is to detect the disturbed reflexes and then treat them accordingly; the body in its innate wisdom will do the rest. The HPA axis would be very important to reduce stress and for overall balancing. Of course the whole of the reproductive system including the reflexes of the kidneys for vitality, also in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) kidneys rule reproduction. In the centre of the kidney reflex there is a particularly powerful ‘pin point’ area that is especially useful, and work bimanually. I would include Kidney 1 acu- point including the Kidney meridian in the foot, and the Liver reflex (for metabolising hormone functions). I thoroughly work the toes, as they serve as a gateway primarily for moving the energy, which is a very important part of my treatment system. As well as working to address low thyroid function for fertility issues, the reflexology treatments would be working towards attaining a continued sustainable environment for a healthy pregnancy including the preparation of the birth.
My approach and focus in reflexology is fundamentally on ‘Moving the Energy’. This is done by working in such a way that actually reaches the reflexes. Through palpation, I determine the condition of the reflex and then work them accordingly. We know that any disruption to the movement of energy – our ‘life force’, also known as Qi – leads to disharmony. When there is a deficiency in our life force (which is our inherent vitality), the body becomes weak or blocked and this is when dis-ease and pain can occur.
5. Can reflexology treatment assist with sperm preparation?
In my practice I have worked with couples undergoing In vitro fertilisation (IVF). The man often has low sperm count and low motility (low-quality sperm). So yes, in my opinion, Reflexology can definitely help with sperm preparation. In one such case a man who I was treating, his sperm motility improved by 70% after his course of weekly reflexology treatments over a period of several months, and thereby assisting towards the successful IVF outcome.
6. Is there any contraindication between Reflexology and IVF?
For me there is no contraindication with reflexology in pregnancy or IVF, I treat all the way through preconception to Labour Day! Immediately after the embryo transfer, it is important to be sensitive to the woman's vulnerability at this crucial time. The only part of the IVF process that I may refrain from treatment (though I feel it would be helpful), are the days following the transfer of the embryo until it implants. However, this decision is guided by the client.
7. What would be your treatment focus at the pre-ovulation phase? In the IVF process, how would you focus your treatment before the embryo transfer?
The treatment focus to answer both questions would be similar, and as specified in the earlier question; however I always apply reflexology to the whole of the abdominal and pelvic area (regardless of the condition/or cyclical phase) which includes the reflexes to the specific organs. This focus helps to encourage all the circulation (via the five energetic pathways) to the ovaries other organs and surrounding tissues and helps to move any stagnant energy. Any constriction in the circulation of blood, or impaired innervation and lymphatic drainage can lead to countless conditions that lead to infertility. The uterus must be mobile for proper physiological function. When the uterus is fixed in one position fibrosis of the ligaments can ensue and thereby impair local circulation. When circulation is impaired, the cells won’t get proper nutrients (oxygen), pain, and cell death may follow.
Additional to the points and reflexes already mentioned I therapeutically reflex Spleen 6 acupoint (SP6), which is the crossing point of the spleen, kidney, and liver meridians and is key in the treatment of fertility issues.
8. How can a therapist assistant case of Thin endometrium?
The menstrual cycle mainly depends on the levels of estrogen which is necessary for the thickening of the endometrium and a healthy and normal-sized endometrium is critical for implantation and growth of a foetus. Levels of estrogen decline with age, and therefore it is more difficult for a woman to become pregnant as she gets older and comes into perimenopause.
Thinning of the endometrial lining is also significantly caused by inadequate blood flow and there are many reasons why there can be insufficient blood supply to the endometrial lining.
Reflexology can be helpful in the stimulation of endometrial cells to respond and proliferate. Uterine muscles become stronger and healthier and hormonal balance is improved. Improved circulation nourishes the reproductive organs and keeps them healthy. Reflexology as we know also encourages endorphins to be released. Stress causes the uterine vessels to shrink whereas the endorphins make more blood flow towards the uterus.
9. In case there is no medical reason for infertility, what would your treatment focus be? Should the therapist treat both the female and a male?
There is a multitude of different causes of infertility, but when no medical reason is found it is especially within this group of reflexologists we are often able to help best. Reflexology can help achieve optimum health to enable nature to take its course.
Stress is one of the main problems, when under stress we experience neurochemical changes. These can alter the release of hormones that regulate the maturation and release of an egg. There is a direct link between the brain and the reproductive tract. Nerve fibres connect the brain directly to both the fallopian tubes and the uterus. When a woman is under stress, spasms can occur in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus. In Men, both physical and emotional stress is known to affect fertility. Sperm count, motility, and structure are altered, and problems such as impotence and difficulties to ejaculate can occur. Though not always possible, it is always better to treat both the man and the woman for optimum results. As when working with couples going through medical assisted fertility treatment, it is also important for lifestyle and nutrition to be addressed simultaneously for the best outcome.
10. Would reflexology treatment for infertility focus on the feet or on the hands as well? When do you consider incorporate hand treatments as well?
I primarily work on the feet in my practice, very occasionally the hands, but this is not something that I incorporate specifically for working with fertility issues. However, I would consider this option if working the feet was an issue. It is possible that working both the hands and feet would only enhance the reflexology treatments. I remember a conversation with a good friend and colleague in reference to William Fitzgerald’s and his zone theory, that by working on the feet we affect more the organs and parts of the body below the abdominal area, and by working the hands for problems or conditions above the abdomen. I am sure it works both ways, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Hagar Basis is the director of Reflexology Academy in London, an established school that teaches the Level 5 Diploma in Practitioner Reflexology, post-graduate seminars and hosts international speakers. Hagar has been in reflexology practice since 1989 and was originally taught by Tony Porter and later went on to teach alongside him. This solid foundation provided the cornerstone intrinsic to her own personal development and practical adaptations within reflexology. Hagar teaches internationally and last year was a speaker at the Reflexology in Europe Network (RiEN) Conference in Brussels, and later this year she will be speaking in Taiwan at the ICR conference presenting once again Reflexology for Women’s Health.
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