Our feet do a lot for us. They carry us around all day, bear the brunt of our morning jog and endure countless evenings in uncomfortable and restrictive shoes.
Despite all this, they are usually sorely neglected! A healing foot massage is one way we can treat our feet (or if we are lucky, get someone else to treat our feet!) while benefiting our whole body.
Foot massage dates back over 5,000 years to ancient Egypt and China! Based on these ancient practices, reflexology came about and was introduced to the United States in 1913.
Reflexology involves applying pressure to the feet in order to affect a physical change in the body. Placement of the pressure is based on a complex system of zones and reflex areas that correspond to other parts of the body.
1. RELAXATION AND STRESS RELIEF
Any type of massage can be relaxing, and can help you let go of the stress you are carrying in your body. Many people tend to consider the neck, shoulders and back as the primary places to massage when looking for stress relief.
But a foot massage can be just as effective at easing your worries. 2013 research found that staff who took care of dementia patients – a stressful and demanding role – experienced lower levels of anxiety and better moods after just ten minutes of foot massage.
Earlier research has also found that a five-minute foot massage helped relax and reduce stress in critical care patients; while a hand or foot rub was seen to bring emotional comfort to those grieving the death of a loved one.
2. BETTER SLEEP
Just one of the incredible benefits of reflexology is its ability to help you overcome disturbed sleeping patterns and insomnia.
Massaging your feet before you go to bed will help you relax and let go of the day’s stresses. To enjoy a really deep sleep, pay special attention to the solar plexus reflex which houses a lot of your stress.
The solar plexus can be found if you gently squeeze the top of the foot inward and search for a little dimpled space. Press and massage this area for a blissful night’s rest.
3. IMPROVED CIRCULATION
Thanks to our sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise and restrictive footwear our circulation is often impaired.
Ever endure cold or numb feet? Get a tingling in your toes for no reason? Or perhaps you suffer chilblains. These are all signs of poor circulation in the feet – something which can be greatly improved upon with regular foot massages.
4. LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition that can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
Lifestyle changes – including eating the right foods – can lower your blood pressure levels significantly, as can regularly massaging your feet.
A Korean study found that systolic blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels were both improved following a relaxing foot massage.
Other research discovered that hypertensive patients receiving reflexology treatments specifically targeted at reflexes to reduce blood pressure enjoyed so much improvement in their symptoms that they were able to reduce dosages of their high blood pressure medications while undergoing the massage therapy!
5. INJURY PREVENTION AND FASTER RECOVERY
Massaging the feet can help with joint pain and aid recovery after an injury, as well as reduce muscle soreness.
It can also prevent future injuries such as plantar fasciitis – one of the most common causes of heel pain which sees the thick band of tissue running across the bottom of your foot and connecting your heel bone to your toe becoming painful and inflamed.
Too much standing, running, sports involving lots of jumping or hard landing, being overweight and wearing shoes with inadequate support all put you at risk of plantar fasciitis.
6. ALLEVIATION OF HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES
If you suffer frequent headaches and migraines, give reflexology a go. Specifically, try these six acupressure regions for migraine relief.
Danish research, published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, followed the response of 220 patients to six months of reflexology.
After just three months, 81% of the patients claimed that the foot massages either considerably helped or completely healed their headache problems, and 19% who previously took medication to manage their condition were able to stop taking it!
7. DECREASED FEELINGS OF ANXIETY
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults – that’s just under one-fifth of the population!
Natural remedies for anxiety can be incredibly effective, as studies have demonstrated. In 2002, 67 menopausal women were given nine sessions of either reflexology or non-specific foot massage.
Even though the reflexology was not shown to be any more effective than non-specific foot massage in the treatment of psychological symptoms during the menopause, it still led to a 50% decrease in feelings of anxiety, which surpassed the control group two-fold.
Consider trying some of these essential oils to help relieve anxiety. A few drops added to a carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond oil, and then massaged into the feet can help to alleviate anxiety.
8. NATURAL PAIN RELIEF
Tired and aching feet can always benefit from a foot rub but did you know that the pain-relieving powers of massage don’t end there?
Foot massage can actually kill pain in other areas of the body too – especially when combined with 15 pain-relieving essential oils.
Research from 2004 discovered that patients who had just undergone an operation enjoyed greater pain relief after a hand or foot massage than did those patients who were only given pain medication alone.
More recent research showed that women who gave birth by C-section reported reduced pain after foot massages than those who did not receive the massage.
9. NAIL AND SKIN HEALTH
Regularly using moisturizing natural oils and antimicrobial essential oils on your feet is a fantastic way to ensure healthy, happy skin and nails.
Using coconut oil or almond oil can prevent dry, cracked and painful heels that lead to fissures and infections, as well as stopping thick calloused skin forming. Your nails and cuticles will also stay hydrated.
What’s more, regularly using essential oils like tea tree, lavender or eucalyptus will help you avoid bacterial and fungal infections of the nails and skin, including Athlete’s Foot.
10. CURE FOR SWELLING OF THE LEGS
Swelling of the legs and feet due to fluid retention, called edema, can often follow on from long periods of sitting or standing. It is also common during pregnancy.
A study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice found that pregnancy-related edema was significantly reduced by regular foot massage. In fact, the women in the massage groups had distinctly smaller leg circumferences than did the women in the placebo group.
It’s important to note that leg and ankle swelling can also signal an underlying issue including kidney disease, heart failure, liver disease and more. Always consult your doctor if in doubt.
ibuprofen, the reflexology actually seems to promote healing rather than just pain relief.
11. CURE CHRONIC SINUS INFECTIONS
Inflammation and congestion of the sinuses can also be healed through foot massage. When 150 adults with chronic sinusitis were treated with either nasal irrigation or reflexology daily for two weeks, both groups enjoyed significant and equal improvement.
70% of the volunteers benefited from the treatments, and 35% reported that they decreased their sinus medication because of the treatments.
12. RELIEVE SYMPTOMS OF CANCER, DIABETES AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
The symptoms of a variety of serious medical conditions can be somewhat alleviated through foot massage.
For example, people with diabetic foot ulcers – a major complication of diabetes mellitus – saw a significantly decreased healing time when treated with massage. It is likely this improvement was caused by increased circulation.
Cancer patients enjoyed relief from both pain and nausea when treated to foot massages as part of a study carried out by researchers from the University of Canberra. In addition, breast cancer patients undergoing treatment reported a dramatic decrease in physical symptoms associated with both the illness and the medication, including less shortness of breath and improved energy levels.
Reflexology can also provide relief from the fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis, according to 2015 Iranian research.
HOW TO GIVE A FOOT MASSAGE
While a professional foot massage is a lovely treat, it’s not practical for everyday enjoyment, nor is it necessary to get the benefits. Here is how you can give yourself a therapeutic foot massage for free:
Sitting comfortably, bend one of your legs and rest your foot on the opposite thigh.
Gently rub a natural massage oil (like one of these) into your skin and nails, and massage the whole foot including the toes, arch and heel.
To do a deeper massage, press the knuckles of your hand into your foot and knead it (like it’s a piece of dough)! You can also work the skin and muscles by holding your foot with both hands and pressing your thumbs into the skin.
Then gently pull the toes back and forth or apart to stretch the muscles underneath.
Repeat on the other foot.