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Reflexologist 'lends a hand' to easing pain

Reflexologist Katie Engst's "candidates" are people in pain or those looking for relaxation. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

As a licensed practical nurse, Katie Engst worked in a neonatal intensive care unit in California for 16 years.

But she did not see the "outcome" of the newborns. Her young patients would leave the hospital with conditions that were often unresolved for years, she said.

Now, as a certified hand, foot and ear reflexologist, she sees pain reduced or eliminated and a relaxed, rejuvenated patient departing.

"It's gratifying to see the results," she said of the alternative medicine method she conducts at Smart Chiropractic Center.

During her years in California, Engst studied alternative natural methods as part of her continuing education as an LPN. In 1986, she took a course in reflexology, but didn't pursue it because it wasn't recognized in the medical world at the time.

"My family and friends benefited," she said of the "zone therapy" touch techniques that correspond with specific glands, organs and structures in the body.

Two years ago, she headed back to California to complete a three-month course to become certified as a certified reflexologist. She studied with Bill Flocco who was involved with more than 300 studies in China on reflexology.

When thumb or finger pressure is applied to a congested or block nerve ending, it stimulates a nerve impulse, she explained. The impulse travels to a corresponding body area, causing the muscle to relax, blood vessels to open and increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

This allows the body to heal itself, Engst explained. Tenderness, she said, indicates an imbalance in the body.

Reflexology can help neck, back or shoulder pain, heart and lung problems, labor and delivery for pregnant moms, diabetes, circulation and strokes.

The fingers and toes correlate with the top to bottom of the body, she said. Many nerves in the spine relate to different parts of the body.

And points in the ear affect appetite control, sleeping, allergies, depression and other conditions.

"We find the areas that are out of balance," she said. "Reflexology provides benefits to all - from babies to the elderly."

Engst alleviated a friend's chronic neck pain stemming from a car accident. Another patient, who suffered chronic pain from a ski accident, also benefited from reflexology.

"It promotes a great night's sleep," she said.

Engst is available by appointment at Smart Chiropractic Clinic, including evenings, and will make house calls for the elderly or disabled.

She offers a 20-minute reflexology session prior to appointments with chiropractors Tracy Smart and Mark Stenberg, "easing adjustments because the patient is relaxed."