An Interview with Spiros Dimitrakoulas
Spiros Dimitrakoulas is the founder and originator of Orthopedic Reflexology (OR). He is the former President of the Hellenic Association of Reflexology (HAR) and Chair of RIEN 'Reflexology in Europe Network'. His past involvement in both of these organisations has gained Spiros the valuable experience in the recognition, development and growth of reflexology as a modality within Europe. He teaches at Natural Health Science School in Athens Greece, and regularly travels to the UK to deliver his OR courses exclusively at Reflexology Academy. Spiros is returning to London to teach his 3 Day Orthopedic Reflexology Training Course on the 11th, 12th & 13th May 2018.
Back in 2013, in the light of the growing recognition of Orthopedic Reflexology, I thought it would be of interest to ask Spiros the following Questions. This is the interview from that time. Read on and enjoy!
Q: What was your first introduction to reflexology?
SD: I was playing handball at a competitive level back in 1992 when at some point during our training season the team was treated (mostly for myoskeletal sports injuries) by a general physician who integrated reflexology in his general practice. Though I was never injured to the point of experiencing a treatment, the great results on my team players were surprising. This was especially noticeable on my brother who suffered until then from persistent migraines which miraculously disappeared. It came to my attention that the physician needed a driver, and as I was unemployed at the time I became his personal chauffer. After a couple of months, due to him having to attend to an outside emergency, I started doing the preliminary foot procedures on a disappointed waiting client, to keep her "busy". I applied the techniques that I had observed the doctor doing in his treatments. After a while the doctor walked in and was very surprised and pleased by my initiative. He then offered to "train" me, one thing led to another, and I ended up working at his very busy practice until the year 2000 attending to his patients under his guidance.
Q: When, where and why did you study to become a reflexologist?
SD: I became aware of reflexology training courses in 1999. I chose Natural Health Science (NHS) in Athens to pursue my training after evaluating all my options. The NHS school was the best choice, and this is where I have been teaching Reflexology for the last five years. I chose to study Reflexology in order to gain a solid base to be efficient and give the most benefit possible to the clients that trusted in me. Empirical knowledge is valuable but academic is also. As for choosing the profession of Reflexology, it has come naturally to me, I like that without any personal effort people enjoy and appreciate what I love to do. It has changed my life to the better.
Q: Who or what has been your biggest influence and inspiration in your work as a reflexologist?
SD: I would definitely have to mention two exceptional teachers of mine, Physiotherapist Nico Pauly (Belgium - Nerve Reflexology) and Dr. Alexandros Tilikidis (Greece – TCM-Hippocratic Medicine). But it is the clients, the recipients of Reflexology that influence and inspire our work. So the more work, the more inspired I am.
Q: How did Orthopedic Reflexology (OR) originate?
SD: I had known for a long time that Reflexology history, before Dr. Fitzgerald, was either invalid and/or not referenced. The existing history is mostly anecdotal if not a product of imagination. I always wondered if Hippocrates (or other ancient Greeks) had documented the use of what is known today as Complementary Alternative Methods (CAM). It all began in 2007 when studying the Hippocratic corpus I found references to "anatripsis - rubbing" of the feet in order to affect the body. This was topped off by the writings of the Roman Celsus found in the encyclopedia On Medicine (25a.d.). There he clearly describes the practice of "rubbing" the limbs, in order to rid the head and body of "residues". What is also fascinating is that he mentions twice the use of cross reflexes and referral areas which are used broadly by Reflexologists. Maybe this is why we read in Christine Issle's book a quote from Dr. Riley, "The Science (Reflexology) you are here getting into is as old as Egypt. It was known to the ancient Egyptians and Grecians and to ancient Arabia". Inspired by this I started investigating further putting my findings to the test, mostly in the fields of my own work in Sports and Pain Clinics.
Q: How does Orthopedic Reflexology differ from mainstream reflexology?
SD: I do not consider the differing modalities of reflexology separate. OR compliments the existing knowledge by also explaining what is already being done on the feet by experienced Reflexologists. Through this added knowledge the practical application is more focused and refined. For example Dr. Fitzgerald's zones and the Chinese meridians are still there, but next to them are also Hippocrates Meridians. These concepts are "alternative" expressions of the western concept of fascial continuities (myofascial meridians). It does not really matter which school of thought you belong to, we are all working on the same structures, the name just changes. In the OR approach you gain an assessment tool to use; these are the structures of the foot, especially the intrinsic muscles. This area of anatomy has been neglected or not given the appropriate emphasis in our basic training as reflexologists as it is so hard to learn. This is why it was imperative to devise an easy for all to understand training module on these muscles. Obtaining an efficient knowledge of the foot muscles (and bones, ligaments, tendons) guarantees you will effectively work on the "reflexes" because this is where they are located. As reflexologists we already know where the reflexes are, now we know our muscles; all that is left is to apply Hippocrates directions on "anatripsis - rubbing".
Q: Can you clarify on the term "anatripsis - rubbing"
SD: The commonly used term today to describe the manipulation of muscles and connective tissue using various techniques (thumb walking included) is "massage". Remember that Eunice Ingham initially named her method the Ingham Reflex Method of Compression Massage. Because the origin of the word is lost between the French, the Arabians and the Greeks I have chosen to use the word that Hippocrates uses in his corpus and this is "anatripsis". The word "rubbing" is added to clarify; one could use the word friction also. What is worthy of noticing is that there is a common misunderstanding that "anatripsis" means to rub in the direction of the heart, this is partially incorrect. The prefix "ana-"reveals that there is a two directional movement involved.
Q: What are the benefits of integrating Orthopedic Reflexology into general reflexology practice?
SD: All methods promise better results of more work and less strain on the Reflexologist. This cannot be true; it does not work like this for everyone every time. We are all different and we need to find the "Best Reflexologist" we can be. Orthopedic Reflexology fundamentally recognizes the uniqueness of every therapist, of every client and of every individual therapeutic session. Orthopedic Reflexology training encourages and cultivates confidence, so the practitioner can evolve to be the best he or she can be. For example "Spiros the Reflexologist" can become a fairly good "copy" of his tutor but inside him lays the potential to become the reflexologist he is meant to be which is unique to him. Why settle for less?
In OR we gain the historical knowledge through Hippocrates, the Father of western medicine, which has proven extremely helpful when lobbying to Doctors and medical professionals. Knowledge of Hippocrates meridians assists in the initial evaluation of the client, thus in stimulating the appropriate reflexes effectively. OR can be added for around ten minutes to the beginning of a general treatment. This will allow the Reflexologist to approach the reflexes more efficiently and to relieve the feet themselves, resulting in immediate client satisfaction every time.
Q: What is your personal experience of working with OR?
SD: The theoretical background of OR is the solid ground I stand on, this knowledge enables me to successfully promote reflexology to the medical profession. Promoting reflexology in this way has led to several successful initiatives of bringing volunteer Reflexologists into three major hospitals in Greece.
I have two different offices where I sustain successful practices (cities of Athens and Argos). However one of my best experiences in my work was last year as the team Reflexologist of the Diomidis Argous Handball team. You see, though they won the Greek and European championship which was a great accomplishment and got all the attention, for me their achievement meant something else. Sports at a competitive level are very demanding and athletes at this level are exposed to many myoskeletal injuries. Having the opportunity to attend to these athletes in an integrated medical setting taught me many things. First of all due to the limited time for every athlete, I had only ten – fifteen minutes at my disposal to offer a treatment to every player. OR definitely was the element that allowed me to be efficient enough in this limited time frame. In sports, generally practitioners are concerned with the myoskeletal injuries, but what about the organ issues, should they not be worked? In this case they were, and classic Reflexology was also applied. Bottom line, all year the players had many injuries, but not one player lost a single game and the medical costs of the team for that year went down 50% on average.
Q: Has your past involvement with the Hellenic Association of Reflexology and now as the newly elected chair of Reflexology in Europe Network, made an impact on your own work and views as a Reflexologist?
SD: Very much so! Associations are a lot about "politics", simply put. And even though most of the time this involvement offers no benefit to the practical application of Reflexology, it has a lot to offer on personal influence. Through these positions I get to meet and exchange experience with so many different people around the world, their experiences, problems, solutions become mine, and possibly mine becomes theirs. There are so many different approaches to Reflexology around the world; it is great to have access to learn more about them.
In the past it was difficult to be a practicing Reflexologist in Greece, in order for me to assure I will always work I felt I had to do my share to positively expand Reflexology in Greece and build its deserved good reputation. With the valuable presence and participation of my Greek colleagues we have proceeded together in the best direction forward. My ambition now is to do the same on a European level. Boy, do we at RiEN have surprises for you!
On a strictly personal point of view and NOT that of RiEN, I am not satisfied with the way Reflexology education and regulation has evolved in some countries. It seems that the more "officially accepted" it gets, the more regulation and scrutiny it undergoes. However, our simple and safe method is gaining, one pair of feet at a time more acceptance every day, thanks to the passion and commitment of every individual Reflexologist. This commitment is what leads the medical community to take initiatives to integrate Reflexology in their setting and/or conduct research.