After 40 + years practicing reflexology and a lifetime of farming, Brighid O’Brien knows just how busy farm life is, but emphasises the importance of taking the time to prioritise your mental and physical health.
What is reflexology?
The non-invasive and inexpensive therapy works on the feet to positively impact the whole body.
Although reflexology is not scientifically proven for any particular illness; by just using the fingers, a qualified specialist can provide great relief of bodily aches, help balance emotions, induce relaxation and stimulate a better nervous system overall.
The experienced therapist expands: “The belief is that two feet are like a map of the body. Particularly if you look at one foot from a side view, its outline is a replica of the body.”
“So that would indicate the two big toes together represent the head, while the heels relate to the lower body for instance.”
“Each organ and every part of the body has a corresponding pressure point on the sole of the foot. So, when you press on a certain part of the foot you are looking to accomplish three things; relax the target area, improve the nerve signal in between and potentially stimulate the target area,” she explains.
Already in full-time employment as a poultry advisor for ACOT (Now Teagasc), Brighid recalls what intrigued her so much to begin two years of training to qualify as a reflexologist: “I got interested in it first after reading an article in a magazine about a reflexologist in England and thought to myself, well if that works for us, it would surely work for animals too.”
“What crossed my mind was that the vet was getting more out of the calves than we did.”
Although Brighid herself did not pursue the field of animal reflex therapy – as it would have required her to travel to Holland – the treatment is used more so on canines as opposed to livestock.
Who is reflexology for?
With many of Brighid’s regular clients over the years being farmers, she emphasises the importance of looking after your body and recognises the recurring problems: “Not everyone who presents for treatment has sensitivity or tenderness. There is often an old injury.”
“Sometimes people find immediate relief during the session, but more often than not the soreness is aggravated by the treatment first and this may last for a short while, but relief will follow afterwards.”
“Similarly, not every client has an obvious physical complaint. They may be seeking some emotional relief, from grief or other emotions.”
“Farmers are the last to help themselves. They often present with respiratory issues from dusty work conditions. Old back injury from incorrect lifting, or pulling on the farm are very common too. Also, repetitive strain injury in the shoulders, neck or neck, often caused by daily jobs such as milking.” she explains.
While Brighid always advises people to visit their GP first with health concerns, she shares some well-proven tips on how to take better care of your feet on the farm.
“The addition of soft mats to the parlour pit might not be top of your priority list.
But breaking the tension between your foot and the hard surface, with a good mat and proper footwear will give your body great relief.”
“It will help your spine, which is the central nervous system of the whole body and should be looked after.”
Further advice echos the old saying that ‘a change is as good as a rest’:
“Another thing that is very helpful is to have a change of footwear for the yard. Have a second pair of workboots. To change the boots will change the pressure on the reflexes of the feet, which gives the body a break.”
“Excessive or prolonged pressure will aggravate physical problems. It is not something we think about, but it is a preventative, which is always better than a cure,” Brighid concludes.