Sole Searching

Pictographs unearthed at the tomb of Ankhmahor, a physician around 2330 BC, show two seated men receiving massages on their hands and feet. Could the ancient Egyptians have been the first practitioners of the pain-relieving—and stress-reducing—remedy known
as reflexology?

Reflexologists work from maps of pressure points on the feet and hands, which, in theory, will stimulate blood flow and nerve impulses that then trigger the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain and nervous system that produce beneficial results, as well as retained toxins. Reflexology is designed to relax and balance the body, as well as stimulate the immune system so it functions at its optimum ability.

Reflexology is often confused with massage. While both treatments use touch, the approaches are very different. Massage therapy manipulates the soft tissues of the body, using specific techniques (for example, tapping, kneading, stroking, and friction) to relax the muscles. Massage therapists work from the outside in; in other words, they manipulate specific muscle groups to release tension.

Reflexology practitioners see themselves as working from the inside out, stimulating the nervous system to release tension.

Lisa Tocci

Lisa Tocci says it takes a great deal of endurance to work on people’s bodies all day. She believes all her hard work will pay off if she can help customers relieve stress and pain. Photos by Grace Gladhill.

Lisa Tocci ’96, a reflexologist at Timothy’s Salon and Spa in Wintergreen Plaza in Rockville, said, “Your body is like a human garbage disposal. Reflexology helps flush out and cleanse the system.” Tocci, who has practiced reflexology for more than six years, also holds a certificate in Thai massage therapy.

Tocci started Montgomery College in pursuit of a radiologic technology degree. She opted to finish with an AA in general studies. During the economic downturn in 2007, the granite counter top installer she was working for went out of business. Tocci says it is ironic that job stress is what initially lured her to a career in reflexology.

Most Americans report feeling moderate to high stress levels, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2011. Money, work (concerns about job loss), and the economy are major sources. Studies now link chronic stress with cardiovascular problems like hypertension, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

Several studies funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health indicate that reflexology may have benefits in palliative care of people with cancer. Studies also show that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, and enhance relaxation and sleep.

“I love reflexology. I started going to Happy Feet [now part of Timothy’s Salon and Spa] about six years ago when my sister passed away. I was so stressed out and I had not been sleeping. During my first session, I felt so relaxed I actually fell asleep,” said Stacie Morton, a high school teacher in Prince George’s County. She said she goes about twice a month, particularly in the wintertime, to reduce the stress of her job.

A wall painting in the tomb of Ankhmahor, also known as the “Tomb of the Physician,” that dates back to 2330 BC. One man is depicted having work done on his foot. Some are convinced that the nature of the therapy being depicted is reflexology and massage.

A wall painting in the tomb of Ankhmahor, also known as the “Tomb of the Physician,” that dates back to 2330 BC. A man is depicted having work done on his foot. Some are convinced that the nature of the therapy being depicted is reflexology.

A recent article in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, suggests reflexology is one of the ways to interrupt the pattern of repetitive stress that people usually have according to their lifestyle. They will operate more effectively with a number of reflexology sessions because the first application will diminish the stress operation and further sessions will improve the body condition. And, reflexology also allows the body to take time off from any stress in everyday life.

Tocci said she takes great pride in helping her customers relieve stress and pain—and even show improvement in pre-existing conditions. “I would like to think that I am helping people avoid more—and costlier—services.” Many other practices combine reflexology with other alternative practices, like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture.

Reflexology treatments at Timothy’s Salon and Spa start at $30 for a 30-minute hands and feet only treatment. A 60-minute signature reflexology treatment, which includes a combination of hand, arm, and foot reflexology and back, shoulder, and neck Shiatsu massage, is $45. Morton says the best thing about reflexology is she does not have to undress. Most people who seek reflexology treatments keep their clothes on, simply rolling up pant legs and shirtsleeves. “I have had massages before,” she said, “but undressing makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Because Morton is such a proponent of reflexology, she frequently purchases gift certificates for her friends and family. “I encouraged my son and his girlfriend and my daughter and son-in-law to try a session. After that, I planned a surprise trip to Timothy’s Salon and Spa for my boyfriend’s birthday. Now, it is our sanctuary.”

—Jill Fitzgerald

Chanh Tran is the owner of Nails by Timothy in Rockville, Maryland.

Chanh “Timothy” Tran’s three businesses in Wintergreen Plaza in Rockville provide full-service hair, makeup, reflexology, massage, facial, and nail treatments. Photos by Grace Gladhill.

Finding Insparation

Downturns in the economy can mean the demise of a small business. But Chanh “Timothy” Tran ’96 found a way to channel stress into success in 2010. During the sluggish economy, he traveled to his native Vietnam, where he treated himself to a session of reflexology. Not only did it prove to be therapeutic, it gave him a idea for a new business. Shortly after his return to the states, he opened Happy Feet reflexology in Wintergreen Plaza on Rockville Pike. “I could see people were struggling,” Tran said, “I thought reflexology was an affordable way for people to manage their stress through soothing massage.”

Reflexology provided a business expansion opportunity for Tran, having opened Nails by Timothy in Wintergreen Plaza in 2000 with two stations and pedicure chairs he refurbished himself. Nearly 16 years—and 33 employees—later, his ventures also include Timothy’s Salon and Spa, which offers full-service hair, makeup, massage, facial, and nail treatments.

Chanh “Timothy” Tran’s three businesses in Wintergreen Plaza in Rockville provide full-service hair, makeup, reflexology, massage, facial, and nail treatments. Photo by Grace Gladhill.In addition to running the three businesses, Tran serves as receptionist and nail technician at Nails by Timothy. “This is a very competitive atmosphere,” said Tran. “I have to consider how skillfully and efficiently each technician works, how to help each technician make a good living, and most important, how to keep my customers, some of whom are walk-ins, happy.” Judging by the robust business and the lack of employee turnover, Tran successfully manages all aspects of the business.

“I just love him,” said Genyfer Archila, receptionist at Timothy’s Salon and Spa. “He is very professional, but he is very devoted to his employees.”

—Jill Fitzgerald

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  1. Lori Marks says:

    You go cous!

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