According to experts at Harvard Medical School, over 75% of us will have a foot problem at some stage. The good news is that foot massage can keep your feet healthy. In this guide, you will learn how it can benefit both your feet and general wellbeing.
Different types of foot massage
Any massage that centers on manipulating the muscles and joints of the foot is classed as a foot massage. However, there are several varieties commonly practiced today:
Indian foot massage
An ancient Ayurvedic technique, Indian foot massage aims to restore Vita, Pitta and Kapha elements in the body. The therapist uses a small hollow bowl made from copper or bronze to massage the feet and lower legs. Practitioners believe that these metals help rebalance the body’s energy.
According to this paradigm, illness arises when the body’s fluids no longer circulate properly through its channels, known as srotas. During massage, the therapist unblocks these channels to improve physical health and general bodily functioning. The massage is usually given on a table.
Thai foot massage
In this form of massage, the therapist aims to encourage the flow of energy, or Sen, through the body’s channels. It is a thorough form of massage that aims to alleviate tension from the feet and lower legs.
Along with their hands, therapists sometimes use a stick to stimulate pressure points on the foot. The stick reduces the strain on the therapist’s hands and allows a more precise massage. The session begins with a general massage to relax muscles and promote greater Sen flow.
Thai foot massage practitioners also draw on the principles of reflexology. Reflexology is an approach to healing that views the feet as maps of the body. Each area of the foot corresponds to another part of the body and can be healed with appropriate stimulation. Thai therapists believe that there are over 7,000 nerve endings in the feet.
For example, the two smallest toes are believed to correspond with the sinuses. Therefore, the therapist would pay special attention to these toes if their client complained of sinus issues. However, this process can work in reverse. A therapist can ascertain the source of a client’s illness by checking for tender areas on their feet.
Chinese foot massage
This treatment begins with an upper body massage. First, the client is asked to sit in a chair. Their back, neck, and shoulders are massaged while their feet soak in a herbal bath. Next, they are asked to sit in a reclining chair with their feet on a stool.
The therapist will then rub some oil or cream onto the foot. Using their fingers and palms, they press and knead pressure points of the feet. In some respects, Chinese foot massage is similar to the Thai variety. Both incorporate reflexology and are used to encourage energy flow.
Chinese foot massage is a vigorous treatment that may be uncomfortable or even painful. However, therapists would argue that some discomfort is necessary to relieve tension and energy imbalance.
After the therapist has finished massaging the feet, they will wrap them in warm towels. The final step consists of a lower leg massage.
How to give a foot massage
In this video, you can learn more about the principles of reflexology and see it in action:
The benefits of foot massage
Most people find that receiving any form of massage is relaxing. It reduces muscle tension and promotes circulation. This makes it a good choice for those who spend a lot of time standing up. However, it induces a state of general relaxation too, and can help regulate sleep patterns. In 2012, a group of Iranian researchers showed that reflexology promotes high quality sleep.
A Japanese study published in 2016 showed that thrice-weekly foot massages lower blood pressure and anxiety. Foot massage can also help people living with serious illnesses. A group of Italian researchers discovered that reflexology can reduce nausea and anxiety in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Foot massage offers short-term relief from anxiety, even in seriously ill individuals, and may improve mental health in the long-term. Foot and lower leg massage can relieve both acute and chronic pain in the back and lower limbs.
The oils and creams used in foot massage also heal dry, cracked skin. People with diabetes benefit from regular foot massage. This is because diabetics can suffer nerve damage and are less likely to notice pain or swelling in the feet. A massage therapist will notice any abnormalities during treatment and alert the client to any potential problems.
Some therapists incorporate aromatherapy into their treatments. The effects depend on the essential oil used. For example, a therapist might mix chamomile and massage oils together for a soothing treatment. For a more invigorating massage, they might choose peppermint or a citrus-scented oil.
DIY foot massage: foot massage tools and machines
A professional foot massage feels great, but you can massage your own feet at home. Most drugstores sell cheap foam rollers and balls of varying sizes and textures. You can use them to rub your feet and apply pressure to acupressure points. Large wooden rollers, which resemble racks and can accommodate both your feet, are also available.
If you have a bigger budget, you can invest in a foot massage machine. They come in lots of different styles, but most work in the same way. All you have to do is position your feet on the massager, plug it in, and switch it on. Some come with preprogrammed massage functions that simulate a therapist’s touch. Others contain heating functions to further soothe tired muscles.
Finally, you can also buy portable foot spas that combine hydrotherapy with massage functions. You can enjoy a warm foot bath while the massage nodes get to work on your feet.
Whether you choose to pay for a massage or do it yourself, you’ll soon benefit from the experience. It’s also a great way to ease yourself into massage therapy. If you don’t feel ready for a professional full body massage, consider trying a foot treatment instead.