No more cold feet – reflexology

For people with diabetes, winter can bring many battles, such as cold feet, that don’t need to be fought if reflexology is considered. Fiona Hardie tells us more.

Winter is slowly introducing herself through autumn colours and leaves falling from the trees. Heaters are being hauled out of storage and there is a decided increase in tea and coffee consumption, larger meals, as well as a deep need for thick socks and fluffy boots or slippers.

While this conjures up cosy images of comfort food and crackling fires, for people with diabetes this can spell trouble particularly with those who have peripheral neuropathy, the loss of feeling, numbness, or tingling one gets in the extremities due to high blood glucose levels. Burning soles and itchiness are another symptom of diabetic neuropathy caused by cytokines (proteins released by the immune system to regulate the inflammatory process).

Added to this, the cold weather also slows circulation as we tend to be somewhat more sedentary in the winter months. People with diabetes should definitely not resort to sitting too close to heaters or using hot water bottles which not only dries skin out, but can lead to blisters, ulcers and much worse if they have lost some sensation in their feet. Cooler weather also worsens neuropathy because blood vessels constrict when temperatures drop, resulting in less blood flow to the nerves. This can mean more pain and numbness.


Winter can bring many battles, for people with diabetes, that don’t need to be fought if reflexology as a therapeutic treatment is considered.

Reflexology is a blessing for numbness in the extremities because the reflexes are stimulated, which encourages blood flow to the nerves. This stimulation comes as a result of firm pressure exerted on the soles and tops of the feet, energising the corresponding organs in the body thus removing blockages in this flow of energy. Therefore, numbness is decreased, and mobility increased which lessens the chance of injury to the feet, loss of balance and overall feelings of discomfort. Additionally, swelling, pain, and the burning sensation respond favourably to reflexology treatments.

Reflexology can also work wonders in assisting in the maintenance of healthy blood glucose levels. HbA1c levels which are the average blood glucose levels also tend to rise during winter as exercise decreases and food consumption increases. This can weaken the immune system leading not only to colds and flu but also increases the risk of bacterial skin infections, such as Athlete’s foot.

The previously mentioned reflex stimulation can help in this dilemma. This is because the various glands responsible for producing white blood cells and building our immunity, as well as the organs involved in insulin regulation, such as the pancreas and liver, are stimulated, consequently helping to maintain the desired balanced blood glucose levels.1

Emotional and mental well-being

Beyond the physical, reflexology can have a profound impact on the emotional and mental states that are often accompanied by winter. It offers comfort because in the aforementioned stimulations, serotonin and oxytocin (feel good hormones) are increased.  Moreover, the firm confident pressure of the therapist during the treatment also lends a feeling of reassurance. Overall, a sense of relief is found not only in the extremities, thus rendering reflexology an all-encompassing therapy.

Spotting other health issues

Therapeutic reflexology can be a diabetic patient’s best friend during this cold season as the reflexologist does a thorough inspection of the condition of the nails and feet as this is how we can tell what is going on in the body. Each individual clients’ specific health issues and symptoms are taken into consideration allowing the therapy to be more personalised and efficient in its process.

Reflexology is not simply a foot massage but a systematic treatment that is incredibly powerful in assisting the body in healing itself by bringing about a profound feeling of relaxation during the cold months of winter.


  1. Reflexology Association of Connecticut – 2007


Fiona Hardie has owned her own Pilates studio for 18 years in Bryanston, Gauteng where she also does Bowen Therapy, Therapeutic Reflexology, Acudetox, and Bach Flower Remedies. She treats each client holistically taking into consideration their posture and physical state as well as their mental and emotional well-being. She has a special interest in natural pain management, particularly for diabetes and cancer related issues.