After a long, busy day of standing up and walking around, a nice foot massage is something everyone should enjoy. Besides helping you relax, foot massage has many therapeutic benefits for both physical and mental health.
In reflexology, an alternative medicine, foot massage is a crucial component. Your feet have several nerve endings called reflexes that correspond to different systems and organs within your body. These reflexes have therapeutic effects when activated through massage.
In fact, health experts favor foot massage to improve general health. There are many studies that support its benefits for people of all ages.
A 2002 study published in Nursing & Health Sciences highlighted the positive effects of foot massage, noting that it promotes a healthy lifestyle for all age groups and particularly enhances blood circulation, relaxation and one’s own healing power.
For a simple foot massage, you don’t need a professional masseur. You can do it yourself, and the best time is before going to bed.
Here are some of the health benefits you’ll enjoy from a daily foot massage.
1. Improves Blood Circulation
Circulation in the feet is often impaired by tight and uncomfortable shoes that you wear most of the day. Also, the muscles in your feet hardly get any exercise, which contributes to poor circulation.
To improve circulation to the lower extremities, massage is one the best options.
A 10- to 20-minute foot massage before going to bed can greatly improve circulation in the lower extremities. This is very important for diabetics, who are at a higher risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.
This problem occurs when tissues and nerves in the extremities, like the hands and feet, don’t get enough nutrients and oxygen due to poor circulation. This can lead to numbness, tingling and burning sensations.
A 2014 study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation points out that massage improved vascular function in people who had not exercised. This means massage has benefits for people regardless of their level of physical activity.
Restricted blood flow can cause heart and kidney problems, high blood pressure, varicose veins and organ damage in the long term.
2. Promotes Sound Sleep
Day-to-day challenges keep our minds overly active at the end of the day, preventing us from enjoying sound sleep. To help the body unwind and encourage restful sleep, a short foot massage is very helpful. However, a full-body massage before going to bed is ideal.
The whole process of massage stimulates the reflexes along the meridians and promotes the free flow of energy. This offers deep relaxation and helps you sleep soundly.
A 2014 study published in the Iranian Journal of Critical Care Nursing reports that foot massage improves sleep quality in heart patients, and it is highly recommended for improving sleep quality in patients with ischemic heart disease.
3. Fights Stress and Anxiety
Most of us feel stressed or anxious from time to time. Foot massage can help reduce stress and anxiety. It does more than just put you in a relaxed state of mind.
Applying pressure to specific reflexes on the feet creates a response in the nervous system and promotes relaxation. These responses may result in reduced stress and anxiety.
The solar plexus reflex, in particlular, helps relieve stress. To help locate this point, squeeze the sides of your foot together. You will find the point at the center of this scrunched area.
A 2012 study published in BMC Nursing showed that foot massage improved mood, reduced anxiety and lowered blood pressure in long-term care staff working with older people with dementia.
To deal with day-to-day stress and anxiety, foot massage serves as an effective and easy remedy.
4. Alleviates Low-Back Pain
Those who suffer from low-back pain should massage their feet daily before bedtime. Massage should be done using the thumbs to press along the arch of the foot for about 5 minutes.
A 2012 study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research reports that foot reflexology is effective in reducing the severity of chronic back pain. It offers better results than massaging the lower back itself.
Low-back pain can make it difficult to enjoy sound sleep. Once the pain is reduced with foot massage, you can enjoy restful and pain-free sleep.
5. Reduces Foot and Other Chronic Pain
A good foot massage can relax your feet, stretch and soothe the muscles, and reduce swelling that causes pain.
A 2014 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that reflexology was effective at reducing pain and inducing relaxation in people with conditions including whiplash injury and chronic pain.
Another 2014 study by the American Society for Pain Management Nursing reports that foot massage in breast surgery patients was effective in postoperative pain management.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can cause a host of other problems. A regular foot massage can help lower your blood pressure, in turn reducing your risk of other health conditions.
A 2016 study published in PLOS One reports that self-administered aroma foot massage significantly decreased the mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It also reduced the state anxiety score and tended to increase the mental health-related quality of life scores.
7. Prevents Lower-Leg Edema
Lower-leg edema occurs due to an accumulation of fluid in the legs, which results in swollen, painful and stiff legs. Pregnancy and poor blood circulation are some of the common causes of edema.
Edema can make it difficult and painful to move around and even cause sleep disturbance.
While light exercise like walking, swimming or stretching can help a lot, a foot massage will also provide quick relief from the symptoms.
A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice reports that foot massage is effective in treating edema in pregnant women.
How to Massage Your Feet
Unlike many other body parts, you can easily give yourself a foot massage without relying on others. You just need less than half an hour of your time to reap the benefits of regular foot massage.
- Fill a large bowl with warm water and add 2 to 5 drops of any essential oil of your choice.
- Soak your feet in it for 10 to 20 minutes, then pat dry your feet with a soft towel.
- Now, sit in a comfortable chair.
- Rest the sole of your right foot on your left knee.
- Apply some warm oil on your right foot. You can use coconut, olive or mustard oil.
- Rub the oil around while giving your foot a nice massage. Make sure to move your fingers back and forth along the bottom of your foot.
- Once you have massaged the sole, focus on the toes. Squeeze, extend and flex your toes to increase their flexibility.
- Repeat the massage on your left foot.