An interview with Cristina Lipka, hand and foot reflexologist
By Sarah McElwain
Reflexology is more than just a foot massage. What is it?
Reflexology uses alternating pressure on specific points and meridians on the feet, hand, and ears, which elicits the relaxation response similar to acupuncture. This relaxation response promotes health by counteracting the effects of stress on the body.
Research demonstrates that 90% of all doctors’ visits are stress related. Stress releases cortisol, and adrenaline, which causes inflammation in the body.
Reflexology counteracts the stress response by promoting the release of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These hormones decrease depression, promote social bonding and feelings of wellness, otherwise known as the “rest and digest” response.
With over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot, we stimulate specific meridian points that affect every organ, gland and muscle. A session can be customized to address specific health issues and concerns. Your health concerns will be addressed with the practitioner before the session begins so that they can tailor the session to your specific needs.
As per the American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB), the gold standard for reflexology competency, it should be noted, that reflexologists are not medical doctors. A reflexologist cannot make a diagnosis from your feet. A reflexologist should never adjust or prescribe medications or supplements. We don’t prognosticate. Reflexology cannot cure a disease but it can support your health goals.
In practice the ARCB states a reflexologist must not diagnose, must not prognosticate about the future health of the client, cannot recommend a change in medications non recommend over the counter medications, vitamins or herbs which are outside the scope of practice. To do so would be to practice medicine without a license. They can, however, refer clients to other medical practitioners.
What are some of the benefits of reflexology?
During the session the practitioner may observe a softening of the muscles, and a slowing and deepening of the breath as tension is released. Studies have shown a slight drop in blood pressure and anecdotal reports often confirm relief from constipation. Reflexology increases digestion so that nutrients can be better absorbed. It is an effective pain management modality. It reduces the anxiety that accompanies pain and promotes circulation allowing pain medication to be better absorbed by the body. This may lead to a decrease in the amount of pain medication needed.
The reduction in stress and anxiety improves the immune system functioning and hormone balance that is important for those suffering from infertility as stress affects the ability to conceive.
Clients receiving chemotherapy often feels decreased nausea, vomiting, and less fatigue.
Diabetics, multiple sclerosis patients, and those with disabilities can safely and effectively receive sessions by modifying the plan of care the practitioner provides.
When NOT to receive a session?
While reflexology is safe for most people and typically causes no harmful effects, those with certain medical conditions should not receive it.
This includes blood clots, severe edema, dilated varicose veins, recent organ transplants, recent foot surgery or open wounds, diabetic ulcers or gout.
Please note: Athlete’s feet and plantar warts are communicable diseases thus reflexology is not recommended. This is for the protection of the practitioner plus other patrons from contracting the disease and/or infecting others.
I began practicing 23 years ago by first becoming nationally certified through the American Reflexology Certification Board, as afore mentioned, the gold qualifying standard.
What inspired you to become a reflexologist?
When, as a nine year old, my family moved from Argentina, I was fascinated observing peoples’ hands and feet on the subway.
After college I was a teacher in the New York public school system. And, after the city laid-off a great number of teachers, I found myself working for various law firms. This was unsatisfying work, and even though it was late in my life, it propelled me to get a Masters in Library Sciences.
Then, while working in the Information Center of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I was looking to learn something that would allow me to follow my passion to help people. After some thought, I realized what that was exactly and signed up for a reflexology course at the Open Center.
Consequently, I went on to become certified by the American Reflexology Board, a long standing member of the Reflexology Association of America and continued to hone my skills at workshops and conferences with teachers from different countries with different philosophies.
Even with a private practice, I worked for various corporate health event organizers as well as Saatchi & Saatchi in their headquarters here in NYC. Then after 9/11 many practitioners and I answered the call to volunteer at the medical examiner’s office providing reflexology sessions for the FDNY, Port Authority Police Department, and cleanup crews. Also, around this time reflexology practitioners got together to volunteer at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases: The Initiative for Women with Disabilities Reflexology Project.
During my 23 years as a reflexologist, I’ve enjoyed serving a wide variety of clients in Spanish, Polish, and English.