Reflexology can induce some amazing health benefits for seniors or virtually anyone. People are living longer and not necessarily healthier. Prescription medications are keeping them alive without giving them the quality of life they promise.
This functional medicine practice involves the manipulation of defined pressure points on the feet, hands, lower legs, face, or ears. The theory is that these pressure points correspond to various areas of the body. The application of pressure on these specific points can help to alleviate illness, encourage healing, and release tension by working on lines of energy.
The practice of Reflexology finds its origins in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, India, and China and modern reflexology has its origins in the early 20th-century work of Dr. William Fitzgerald. The findings of Dr. Fitzgerald are that pressure applied to one part of the body seems to relieve problems elsewhere. In the 1930s, nurse, and physiotherapist, Eunice Ingham builds on Fitzgerald’s theory that the body has 10 vertical zones, each ending in a different part of the foot, calling it ‘zone-therapy.’ She develops the first map of the ‘reflexes’ on the foot showing which body parts they connected to. Let’s explore the amazing health benefits of reflexology for seniors.
Health Benefits of Reflexology
Reflexology delivers some wonderful health benefits for seniors that can give the quality of life and longevity they desire. These benefits tie directly into the conditions and diseases seniors suffer from and offer symptom relief and underlying healing. Explore the list of conditions below to decide whether you can benefit from Reflexology.
- General aches and pains
- Anxiety and depression
- High or Low Blood pressure
- Stroke and recovery
- Respiratory conditions
- Migraine and headaches
- Swelling, edema, lymphedema caused by clogged lymphs
- Arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Constipation & Digestion issues
- Cognitive disorders
- Lack of balance and issues walking
Stimulates Nervous System
As we age, our nervous system and nerve endings become less sensitive in many parts of our body like the extremities. Reflexology stimulates over 7,000 different nerve endings on each foot, in a single session. This helps to increase their function and reactivity. This proves to be a great practice for seniors.
Opening and cleaning out neural pathways can help improve functionality and flexibility in many areas around the body. Neural pathways like muscles should be worked out to keep them sharp. The open neural pathways can benefit our central nervous system in a variety of ways. It enhances the brain’s ability to handle inputs more effectively, thereby speeding up our cognitive powers and boosts memory.
Boosts Energy Levels
By aligning the functioning of various organ and muscle systems, reflexology can increase metabolism and energy creation processes within the body. Many seniors suffer from physical health issues that play a role in fatigue. Issues like anemia, dehydration, hypercalcemia, thyroid, and mental and emotional stresses. If you need a boost of energy or are always feeling sluggish, perhaps a reflexology session can help put some pep back in your step!
Increase Circulation and Faster Healing
One of the most well-known and verified benefits of reflexology is the improvement in circulation throughout the body. Many seniors suffer from some type of blood circulation problem. Common ones are varicose veins, peripheral artery disease, and deep vein thrombosis. Reflexology causes blood and oxygen to be cycled through the body more effectively. The more oxygen reaching vital organs, the more functional they become, increasing your metabolism.
Increasing circulation results in faster healing and re-growth of damaged cells. Add the balanced functioning of the metabolism to make cells re-grow faster and wound heal quicker. The pain-relieving qualities of reflexology allow patients to recover faster and with less pain, are willing to get back into routine life.
Insomnia is very common and troubling for seniors. The National Institute of Health reports almost 50% of adults 60 and older suffer from it. Reflexology is known to open neural pathways. Free-flowing neural activity can flood your system with relaxation, inducing a state of calmness throughout your body and mind. In this same vein, reflexology can minimize sleep disorders. Reflexology helps your body get back to its normal, healthy circadian rhythms.
Elimination of Toxins
Seniors experience the weakening of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. This can increase the inadequate emptying of the bladder and incontinence. Incontinence can cause infections of the bladder and urinary tract. Reflexology eliminates toxins from the body, which improves the bladder function and reduces urinary tract issues. This more efficient system of eliminating toxins and other foreign substances protects your body from the various diseases and health conditions that can often arise from a compromised urinary system.
Reduction of Headaches
Most people know Reflexology as a method of eliminating pain. This analgesic treatment can help to reduce the severity of migraines and headache pain. It does this simply by relieving tension in the muscles that can often result in these conditions. Stress headaches caused by psychological factors often manifest in migraine symptoms. Migraines can benefit from reflexology treatments.
Cancer Treatment & Reflexology
Reflexology can ease side effects of treatments, like chemotherapy. Seniors are living longer and cancer occurs more frequently as we age. The single greatest risk factor for cancer is aging. According to many sources, over 60% of new cancers are diagnosed in the 65+ population. Reflexology helps cancer patients get sound sleep by reducing anxiety. It reduces the chances of vomiting and other indigestion issues related to treatment, clears neural channels and increases circulation. As well, reflexology can help slow the spread of cancer, stimulate antioxidant activity, and destroy cancer cells.
Between 2000 and 2002, Controlled reflexology studies between 2000 to 2002, by Hodgson, Stephenson, Milligan, and Associates involve approximately 150 patients receiving cancer treatments. Individuals who have undergone reflexology therapy experienced relief from nausea, constipation/diarrhea, pain, and generalized fatigue. Clients experienced relief from anxiety, depression, and appetite loss associated with cancer treatment.
According to the MS Society, Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world! A study in 2014 by the American Academy of Neurology shows that reflexology reduces nerve discomfort in multiple sclerosis sufferers. A 2015 study demonstrates that therapy minimized fatigue symptoms in women afflicted with the disorder.
A trial involving 150 volunteers in 2002 shows the effects of reflexology on 2 separate groups of subjects suffering from chronic sinusitis. Reflexology treatments are given to one group and nasal irrigation treatments to the other. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, each group experienced the same positive effects.
Reflexology helps to loosen and oxygenate joints, tissues, and muscles and is the perfect treatment for recovering from surgery or in palliative care.
Seniors Should Not Seek Reflexology
As a senior, your reflexologist should always be aware of foot or hand problems. These can range from sensitive skin, fragile bones, problem toenails, bunions, arthritis, reduced circulation, and more. Do not seek reflexology treatments if you are experiencing the following symptoms.
- Recent fractures
- Unhealed wounds
- Active gout
- Osteoarthritis of the hand, foot or ankle
- Vascular disease of the legs or feet.
- Thrombosis or embolism
Reflexology should be a relaxing procedure and your reflexologist should be sensitive to your conditions. Let your reflexologist know about any health conditions to tailor your sessions to your needs.
What Can Seniors Expect at a Reflexology Session
Here is the procedure of what you can expect at a reflexology session. Your reflexologist will take note of your medical history, lifestyle, and general health and use this information to choose the specific areas of the feet on which to work. Patients take off their shoes and socks and can recline in a chair or lie on a treatment table. First, the therapist will usually start by gently massaging the feet to promote relaxation. They may use lubricating oils. They will apply pressure to specific areas of the feet. The pressure may feel sensitive or uncomfortable and it should never feel painful.
Each session lasts 30 minutes to one hour and you may require 6-8 sessions, depending on the issues you are experiencing. Some people like to have regular, on-going weekly or fortnightly sessions.
Reflexology may not be a viable treatment for these or other conditions, it can be for your senior loved one. If you are considering reflexology treatment, talk to your General Practitioner first.
Kelly Ashton, Reflexologist, is a graduate of MacEwan University with training as a Holistic Health Practitioner in the areas of Therapeutic Reflexology, Touch for Health, and Acupressure. She is a 3000 hour Registered Massage Therapist with training in Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (Chikly Institute – Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Dr. Vodder School International-Complete Decongestive Therapy). Reiki has been a passion for 24 years, teaching Reiki, and Reflexology courses for 7 years.