Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Stumble Caught in Time

A famous neurologist once called a footstep "a stumble caught in time". The art of walking takes an enormous amount of communication from our brain to the foot and the foot ot the brain. It also requires the integration of our balance mechanism into this whole process. If this any of this fails we fall. It is that simple.

As we age the communication between our brain and our feet starts to get dimmer. One reason is that shoes have an impact on this information superhighway. If you think of the foot as a sensory organ then a shoe in a sense is a "sensory blindfold" or a roadblock.

Currently there are research projects underway to amp up the signals from the bottom of our feet and from the very complex communication center, the ankle. It is very promising for preventing seniors from falling.

In one approach subconscious signals are sent through shoe inserts to the foot and on up to the brain in one project. The purpose is to keep seniors from falling by simply sending more information. More information means better righting position and better recovery from starting to fall. The translation is simple- less hip fractures, the killer of the elderly.

But falls also involve toppling over so another team is amping up the signals from your ankles. This device wraps around the ankle and "talks" to the brain about your ankle's position in relation to the ground. If you start to tip it feeds more information up the side where the tipping is taking place.

How to do this at home.

Until these devices are perfected there are a lot of things to do.

1) Take that sensory blind fold off or simply translated it means
remove your shoes. This alone amps up the signal from the foot to the brain.

2) Roll the bottom of your foot on a foot roller. A simple foot roller can do worlds of good in reawakening these lines of communication. And the bottom of the foot is the key to staying upright.

3) Add the element of touch and the communication is even richer. Research has shown that partner reflexology can be quite beneficial with patients undergoing chemotheraphy. The reason is simple. We all react very well to human touch.

Go to a reflexologist or find a foot friend to trade sessions with. And there is nothing that can truly measure a mother's touch. Family reflexology doesn't just provide a physical benefit but can be a lasting memory.

4) Rotate your ankles. This affects all four major muscle groups coming down from the legs. It also reawakens this communication hub we call the ankle.

Rotating the ankles moves nerve signals and both blood and lymph fluids through the bottleneck of the ankle. It opens up the traffic jam that occurs here and starts things flowing again.

To rotate your ankles simple rotate your ankles first in one direction then the other. You can use your big toe to draw a clockface in the air if you like but cover both clockwise and counterclockwise directions.

There are a lot more ways to open up these pathways. We will cover them in upcoming blogs. But remember the more information we get from the feet the better chance we have to stay upright into a ripe old age.

Kevin Kunz

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