The Foot-Body Connection
Jun 28, 2016 04:17PM
by Christel Haase, Ph.d., Certified Reflexologist
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old” states author Jules Renard. The World Health Organization reports that “when it comes to health, there is no ‘typical’ older person.” Some 80-year-olds are as mentally and physically healthy as 20-year-olds while others decline at a younger age. Clearly, many older adults do lead very full and active lives. The ancient practice of foot reflexology offers a valuable contribution to the maintenance of emotional well-being and physical health in the “golden” years.
The art of foot reflexology holds that organs and body systems are mapped to a corresponding region of the feet. The bottom of each foot stores over 7,000 nerve endings (reflex points) which become less sensitive and, hence, less responsive as the body ages. Stimulating and opening neural pathways clears pathways of the toxins which build up and deplete the body of energy and keep organs and body systems from functioning properly. Neural pathways are like muscles, so it’s good to keep them working at optimum level.
Foot reflexology works on a targeted area, activating the body’s natural ability to heal itself without applying pressure directly to the site. Isolating and fine-tuning reflex points with skilled touch alters the experience of pain, improves blood circulation, and supports joint movement. A healthy nerve supply boosts the memory and enhances brain functioning as well as cognition powers.
Reflexology evolved in China about 5,000 years ago at the same time as acupuncture. Even today, footwork is accepted by the central government as a means of preventing disease and preserving health. A common sight in Chinese parks are reflexology foot paths which consist of smooth river rocks (or cobblestones) and stimulate the neurological reflex points on feet. Accordingly, a study on foot reflexology and aging used cobblestone mats to simulate these reflexology foot paths and test cobblestone walking. Scientists found that physically inactive participants aged 60 and over gained significant improvement in mood and physical functioning after walking on the mats. Cobblestone walking not only improved balance and mobility, but also decreased blood pressure. Cobblestone walking reflects the practice of foot reflexology. Both can be viewed as tools that strengthen and heal the body from within.
The pressure applied to reflex points during a foot reflexology treatment session not only provides the benefits of cobblestone walking (natural walking on uneven surfaces) but offers the gift of human touch. Gentle, but firm, controlled pressure utilizing specific finger, thumb and hand techniques is adapted to each client’s comfort level.
Stimulating reflexes gives the client a better awareness of their feet which, in turn, helps with balance and gait functioning. Foot reflexology improves range of limb motion and is beneficial for the relief of osteoarthritic pain, sleep disorders, migraines/headaches, digestive disorders, the numbness associated with diabetic neuropathy; and congestion due to breathing and respiratory issues. It encourages healthy heart functioning by facilitating circulation, thereby enabling nutrients and oxygen to reach all the cells in the body.
Further research indicates that by increasing blood flow to intestines and kidneys, foot reflexology reduces the pain linked with kidney stones. Foot reflexology does not, however, target root causes of disease. It is a complementary modality with the ultimate objective being to reduce stress and release muscle tension which then minimizes the general aches and pains associated with aging. As for chronic conditions, the benefits are compounded when treatments are utilized on a consistent basis.
Whether the golden goal is health maintenance and/or health improvement, less worry and less stress are key. It’s never too late to make better choices.
Christel Haase holds a Ph.D. in Holistic Health and Certification in Reflexology from the International Institute of Reflexology in NYC. Christel has been practicing the Ingham Method of Foot Reflexology for over 11 years.