From the moment we swing our legs out of bed until we crawl beneath the covers at night, we are abusing our feet. We're standing for hours, wearing shoes that are uncomfortable, or spending hours running or jogging for exercise.
No matter a person's age or weight, everyone has complained about foot pain at one time or another, yet, our feet are largely ignored. We don't take the time to relieve the pain of daily abuse until we've caused some kind of damage that forces us to recognize how much we rely on them.
Healing foot massages are one of the best ways to relieve pain in our feet as well as pamper them. It's like preventative medicine that can keep the feet from becoming hurt, too. The humble foot massage actually began in ancient China and Egypt over 5,000 years ago! The process of massaging a person's foot that dated back thousands of years ago was the basis for the practice of reflexology that was only introduced into the U.S. In 1913.
A simple foot massage can work out the kinks and slight pains in the foot when you're tired or worn out, but reflexology is a different type of massage. It uses pressure in certain parts of the foot to impact a corresponding reflex area in the body. Both have numerous health benefits.
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1. Relieving Stress and Relaxing the Mind
One of the biggest benefits of the foot massage is the relaxation aspect of it. While the primary places a person can feel stress is the neck, back and shoulders, the foot is a location that's overlooked unless they're sore.
People who take care of dementia patients have an extremely demanding and exhausting job, and research concluded in 2013 (1) reported that dementia caretakers who had a foot massage had less anxiety after only 10 minutes of massage.
Research has also proven that patients in critical care wards have had reduced stress and more relaxation after a 5 minute massage.
2. Prevent Injury and Faster Recovery
Sore feet can be relieved with a massage after a long day, but it can also help with injuries and serious joint pain (2).
One of the most common injuries in the feet, especially for runners, is plantar fasciitis. This incredibly painful injury impacts the tendon that runs from the toe to the heel bone. Tightness in the area can lead to serious inflammation and the tearing of the tendon.
Along with plantar fasciitis, there are other injuries that can happen as a result of tight muscles and joints that aren't stretched properly before activity. A foot massage can do much to prevent an injury as well as help a person recover from a painful injury to the foot, too.
3. Reduce Blood Pressure and Associated Health Risks
A serious condition like hypertension, or high blood pressure, can cause heart-related risks. People with hypertension have a high risk of heart attack and stroke.
To relieve this serious condition, many patients are asked to reduce their intake of sodium as well as increase the healthy foods in their diets. Along with diet changes, they're told to reduce stress levels, which can be accomplished with a relaxing foot massage.
A study in Korea (3) reported that after a foot massage patient had improved systolic blood pressure as well as improved triglyceride levels. In other studies, patients with high blood pressure were able to decrease their medications after the continued benefits of massage therapy.
4. Restorative Sleep
Relief of insomnia and restless sleep is another benefit of having regular foot massages, especially those involving the art of reflexology. A foot massage before bed is relaxing and allows the person to prepare themselves for bed.
Those who are planning to massage their own feet before bed should give attention to the reflex that is known as the solar plexus. This zone is one that is said to store much of a person's stress.
It can be found on the top of the foot. Pressing the top of the foot in, you can find the small indented space, which is the solar plexus. This area can be massaged and pressed to release stress for a great night's sleep. You can also try these other acupressure points to help you fall asleep.
5. Pain Relief
While pain relief in the foot after a foot massage is expected, the power of the foot massage can provide other pain relief as well. The relief experienced in other parts of the body can be enhanced when the massage is done using a pain-relieving essential oil.
In a 2004 research study, recent surgery patients had more pain relief when their medication was combined with a foot or hand massage versus those who had medication without the massage.
Even women who had C-sections saw a reduction in pain after surgery when they were given foot massages along with their medication.
6. Migraine and Headache Relief
Massages that follow reflexology principles can do much to relieve headaches and migraines, which are often resistant to simple pain medications. In 2000, research was published that followed 220 patients over 6 months as they were given reflexology massages (3).
In the span of 3 short months, 81% of the patients followed said they had completely healed or significantly reduced their headache and migraine issues. Of the 81%, there were many who took medication for their symptoms. After the massages, 19% said they stopped taking the medication to manage the pain. You can also try these pressure points for headache relief.
7. Reduction of Leg Swelling
Swelling of the legs is often due to retention of body fluids. It will cause the legs and feet to swell considerably, especially when the person is sitting or standing for too long. Pregnancy can cause fluid retention, or edema, too.
The International Journal of Nursing Practice (4) reports in a published journal that women who had edema due to pregnancy saw less swelling after regular foot massages. The study was conducted with two groups and the placebo group had a larger leg circumference overall versus the group who saw results.
Ankle and leg swelling should always be checked by a doctor before assuming that it's due to fluid retention. Serious conditions can cause swelling like kidney or liver disease as well as heart failure.
8. Circulation Improvements
Lack of exercise and sitting all day can lead to restricted blood flow throughout the body. Cold, numb feet and tingling in the toes are often a signal that your body is not circulating blood properly.
Regular foot massages or even using a foot spa massager can reduce the recurrence of tingling or itchy, red areas on the feet or toes due to poor circulation.
9. Reducing Anxiety
In the U.S., anxiety disorders impact more than 40 million adults, which is a little under one fifth of the population.
Many receive incredible benefits from natural remedies like foot massage or reflexology. In a 2002 study, 67 women who were in the midst of menopause were given 9 sessions of a general foot massage or reflexology. They didn't see a difference between groups, but when compared with the control group, the women who received massages had a 50% decrease in anxiety.
Essential oils used in the massage can increase the relief from anxiety symptoms. When added to a carrier oil like almond oil or jojoba, the essential oils can be massaged into the feet to see that anxiety relief increased.
10. Sinus Infection Cure
It might be surprising to learn that reflexology can impact the congestion and inflammation of a person's sinuses. A study found that 150 adults treated with nasal irrigation and reflexology for two weeks showed an equal amount of significant improvement (5).
A staggering 70% of the study participants said they saw benefits from the treatments while 35% said they were able to decrease the amount of sinus medications for their chronic sinus infections.
Steps to Massaging Your Own Feet
You don't need to head to the spa or rely on your partner's generosity when it comes to a foot massage. It can be done quite easily on your own. Find a comfortable chair and gather your materials nearby for the massage.
After gathering your materials, you'll be washing your feet with the soap and washcloth. The water should be as hot as you can handle since you'll be performing the task of being your own heated foot massager.
Begin with one foot at a time. Spend a few minutes washing and rubbing the foot with the hot washcloth and soap. Once both feet are washed, rinse with the second washcloth and dry thoroughly with the soft towel.
While sitting in the chair still, place the golf ball on the floor. Place one of your feet over the ball and use the ball as a massager. Push the ball from the front of your foot to the back. Press down as hard as you can handle to get the best benefit. You can roll the ball in different directions depending on the relief you need. Repeat on the other foot.
You're not finished with the massage. Squeeze lotion or essential oils into your hands and using your thumbs, press into the heel of the foot as you apply the lotion. Massage and rub the sole of the foot from the heel to the toes. Repeat on the other foot.
Wrap your feet in the second dry towel and let the lotion soak into the skin. You can place your feet in the slippers after you're done.
This video is a visual guide to some foot massage techniques you might want to try yourself at home. You can get more tips by reading these massage therapy books.
Here's an infographic on how to build strong and flexible feet with various exercises.
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