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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Health Benefits of Foot Massage and Reflexology

Health Benefits of Foot Massage and Reflexology

Our feet, which bear the weight of the whole body, allow locomotion and do a lot of work. Still, they are the least pampered part of the body. To pamper your feet and keep them strong and flexible, a daily foot massage for a few minutes is good option.

If your feet are aching after a long day, a foot massage can give you much-needed relief. But it doesn’t just feel good. Research shows that it has health benefits, too.

We all know that a short foot massage every now and then can really help us relax, particularly after a long day of standing up and walking around, when our feet tend to swell up. Sure, everyone enjoys it, but does it really have any benefits other than making us feel a bit more relaxed and relieving some of the pain?

Even a brief foot massage can ease stress and perk you up. That’s a good thing, because cutting stress and bosting energy raise the odds you’ll make healthy choices like exercising and eating right.

On the list of indulgences, foot massages are right up there near the top. But who among us regularly treats themselves to a foot massage, save for the occasional pedicure or those of us with very kind partners? Well, let us be your excuse: You deserve foot massages for a plethora of self-care reasons—and a few scientific ones, too.

The many benefits of foot massage include releasing endorphins, lowering heart rate, lowering blood pressure, improving balance, and assisting with mental health problems. To provide a little relief, I’d like to share five benefits from treating yourself to an extra-long foot massage.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Foot Massage?

It’s Good For Your Sex Life

All it takes is some massage oil, a few scented candles and light music to set the perfect mood for a night of passionate lovemaking. A foot massage is a selfless gift to your significant other, it helps them forget about minor annoyances they’ve had to deal with throughout the day and it is a great form of foreplay.

The feet are a great starting point since they can cause mild arousal and offer easy transition to more powerful erogenous zones like the back of the knees and inner thighs.

Foot Massage Increases Endorphins

It is no secret that endorphins are good for us. Whether through exercise or eating chocolate, endorphins act as happiness hormones, robbing us of pain and discomfort and leaving happiness in their wake.

So what does massage have to do with endorphins? Several different studies looked at the specific effects that foot massage had on a variety of patients with a range of conditions. They found a marked increase in the release of endorphins across the board. This release of endorphins is responsible for some of the effects experienced during foot massage. They include an increased feeling of calmness, a decrease in pain and stress, and assistance with managing anxiety and depression.

Put simply, tissue massage, whether of the feet or otherwise, makes you feel good. Massage activates endorphins which circulate around your body and brain, promoting happiness, muscle relaxation and a decrease in pain.

Take Away: Foot massage prompts the release of endorphins, which in turn promote benefits including decreased stress, increased happiness and assisting with pain management and management of some mental health conditions.

Promotes Better Sleep

The benefits of foot massage just before going to bed can help you sleep better. A soothing and relaxing foot massage will help the body unwind, improve blood circulation and relax the nerves. These in turn will encourage restful sleep.

There are certain acupuncture points on your feet that need to be massaged to promote sleep.

Sit upright with your foot in your lap.
Using your thumb, press in and around the large plantar pad of your big toe.
Do this for at least 1 minute on each of the big toes.
Next, massage the bottom of your feet for 10 minutes with warm coconut oil, olive oil or mustard oil.

Improve Blood Circulation

Loosening techniques are the primary foundation of increasing circulation in the feet.

Foot and ankle loosening increases blood flow and facilitates the overall effectiveness of the subsequent treatment, be it massage or reflexology.

The tissues of the foot and the ankle joint are manually worked back and forth as well as side to side in a manner that allows the therapist to assess existing mobility.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

This is one of the most oft-cited benefits of foot massage. For good reason: Not only has massage therapy been shown to reduce cortisol levels (the stress chemicals) by an average of 31 percent for study participants, but it has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine. Another study showed participants’ anxiety levels decreased after the men and women self-administered foot massages three times a week over a four-week period. Anecdotally, this makes sense: Think about your own behavior post-pedicure—don’t you feel more relaxed?

Musculoskeletal Pain Relief.

Whether you’re dealing with injury recovery or just a little maintenance following a hard workout, massage has many benefits for your muscles. These range from stimulating cell activity, increasing range of motion and muscle flexibility to decreasing tensions or restrictions, influencing posture or alignment, aiding neurological and sensory feedback and nourishing damaged cells for tissue regeneration. For all of these reasons and more, massage will lessen symptoms, and foster comfort so you can better use your body the way you want to!

Helps Prevent Foot and Ankle Injuries

Massaging the feet can help with joint pain and aid recovery after an injury, as well as reduce muscle soreness. However, when massage is combined with foot and ankle strengthening exercises and stretching it can prevent future injuries, as well as speed up recovery of existing injuries. A short session three to five times a week will ensure that you minimize the risk of injury. We all have our moments of clumsiness, but a strengthened and flexible ankle and foot ensures that we can avoid unpleasant injuries.

Foot Massage Activates Parts of the Brain Associated with Reward and Pain Control

One particular study looked at the effect that foot massage had on healthy adults by putting patients under an MRI scanner before the researches performed twenty seconds of massage. This study found activation of reward centres in the brain. Interestingly, though both hand and foot massage was used, the reward centres were only activated significantly when foot massage was performed. Activation of the reward centres was tied to the participants’ increased feelings of calm and a decrease in reported stress.

Another study noted activation of parts of the cingulate cortex when three different types of massage (Swedish, reflexology based massage and massage with an object) were applied to the foot.

The Cingulate cortex is responsible for many things, including pain moderation and the association between external events and memory and emotion. Thus, activation in this area of the brain suggests that foot massage may be useful when it comes to modifying the body’s response to pain, and how it responds to certain stimuli.

Take Away: Foot massage affects the brain, targeting both the brain’s reward centres, as well as parts of the brain responsible for pain moderation.

Fights Depression

Foot massage and reflexology can even help fight depression.

According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, receiving soothing hand or foot massages after the death of a loved one can help a lot to deal with the stressful grieving period.

Foot massage provides consolation, helping people to balance the need to grieve and adapt to changes in life.

Certain points on the feet are helpful in alleviating depression symptoms.

For instance, the spot in the center of the big toe, the spot at the center of the ball of your foot or the ball of the foot located under the big toe are associated with emotional stability and mental health.

Massaging these points or applying pressure to them for a few minutes 2 or 3 times a day can help relieve symptoms of depression.

Relieve Backaches

Due to the interconnectivity of the tissues of the body, foot massage may help alleviate some aspects of back pain.

However, that same interconnectivity may also mean that other areas must be addressed, such as the calves and hamstrings.

In reflexology, back pain is addressed by working the inside part of the foot, from the heel all the way up to the side of the big toe.

General Pain Relief

A few studies have been done to show that regular foot (or even hand) massages help people who are suffering from chronic pain or illness. In one, they administered the massages to post-op patients. In another, the study showed that even a five-minute massage helped patients in critical care. Another suggested that the pain relief was the result of an endorphin boost post-massage.

Skin Rejuvenation.

Dry, cracked skin is common with the changing seasons, especially during cold months. The Integumentary System (our skin), is the body’s largest organ. Skin is easy to overlook, and often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Massage actually helps to hydrate tissue with external moisturizer, and (as we’ve discussed above) is a great tool for the movement of fluid throughout the body. Massage also stimulates skin sensory receptors and tissue repair, removes dead cells and enhances texture and tone of skin.

Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure has become fairly common in modern men and women. It can be caused by a number of things such as stress and an unhealthy diet, but in most cases it has no particular cause and is believed to be a result of environmental factors and genetics. A study conducted on healthcare staff working with elderly people suffering from dementia – a job that is highly stressful and both physically and mentally taxing – showed that a 10-minute foot massage session up to three times a week resulted in improved mood, less anxiety and lower blood pressure.

Foot Massage Affects Cortisol Levels (Sometimes) and Stress (Always)

Given the above, it should come as no surprise that massage of all types also influences cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the stress hormone. It causes all sorts of havoc in our bodies – increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety. Foot massage significantly decreases reported stress levels across many different groups.

It goes without saying that a decrease in stress is a good thing – it enables people to go about their days without worry, leaving them with more room to think and concentrate on other things.

This decrease in stress was not a discrete effect – foot massage was found to prompt a decrease in stress in healthy undergraduate students, women with postpartum depression and middle aged women living in the countryside. This was even when the studies found no significant decrease in cortisol.

The fact that stress decreased in all groups (undergraduate student, women suffering post-partumn depression and middle aged women) signifies that while there may be other factors at play, foot massage is still an effective way to decrease stress levels.

Take Away: Foot Massage decreases stress levels . Some studies found only small decrease in cortisol levels associated with this, while some studies found statistically significant decreases in the stress hormone.

Makes Feet Healthier

One easy way to keep your feet healthy and free from all kinds of foot problems is a regular foot massage. It helps stimulate the muscles around your feet, lessens stiffness and even reduces pain in the ankles or the heels.

Plus, a short 5-minute foot massage daily will make your ankles strong and flexible, thus preventing unpleasant ankle and foot injuries.

It has been found that massaging your feet with warm olive oil or coconut oil can give much relief from the pain and inflammation caused by foot tendonitis. Also, it is considered an excellent treatment for heel spurs.

It can even be beneficial to relieve the discomfort associated with burning feet sensation.

Apart from oil, you can also use a foot roller for foot massage. Roll the foot roller back and forth on the soles as well as over the top of your feet for a quick massage.

Systemic Balance

When scheduling a massage, most clients are eager to prioritize their musculoskeletal problems. It’s easy to gravitate toward goals of decreasing aches and pains, and forget that massage will impact more than just our tissue. Studies have demonstrated that massage directly aids almost every system within the body. This includes the cardiovascular system by increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissues (perfusion) and decreasing both blood pressure and heart rate. Massage releases tension in the Gastrointestinal System, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Massage also assists the Endocrine System (which will dive into a bit deeper in the following paragraph) by balancing mood, controlling stress and decreasing anxiety.

Helps With Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis

People with flat feet do not have a normal foot arch due to ligament laxity, which causes the arch to collapse. It can have no major effect on a person, but some people experience foot pain after even mild physical activity due to flat feet. Chronic heel pain can be caused by inflammation or deterioration of the plantar fascia (the connective tissue that supports the arch of the foot). Regular foot exercise coupled with deep massage, where you apply strong pressure on the arch, can help significantly lessen the pain and even cure these conditions.

Foot Massage Affects us Because we are Being Taken Care Of:

A study into the effects of foot massage and reflexology looked at whether advanced cancer participants reported changes in mood when foot massage and foot reflexology was incorporated into their treatment and care. Most participants reported significant increases in wellbeing. The same was found in patients who participated in a study on the effects of foot massage in a critical care ward.

Human beings are social creatures, and we do not operate primarily on the basis of hormones and medications. When someone dedicates time to your comfort, it feels good. This feeling in turn prompts a release of hormones in your brain which creates a positive feedback loop. We feel good because we are being cared for. Thus, we get a release of hormones which make us feel good, and then we associate massage with something that is good for us.

As we saw above, foot massage affects the pleasure centres of our brains, our endorphin levels and decreases stress. While some studies showed statistically significant changes in biology due to massage, there is no way to remove the social aspect of foot massage from the studies. Thus, it is highly likely that while foot massage has its own discrete effects, it is even more likely that the social aspect of foot massage is a large part of that.

Take Away: Being taken care of is a social need, and a significant aspect of receiving a foot massage. Given that many studies reported decreases in stress, pain and anxiety, but could not find statistically significant changes in biological markers to explain this, it is likely that the social aspect of foot massage plays a large part.

Alleviates Edema

Regular foot massage during pregnancy can help reduce the effects of edema, which is swelling in the feet and ankles due to fluid retention. This is very common during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester.

During pregnancy, do not do your own foot massage. It is recommended to get it done by a friend, partner or professional. In fact, it best to get it done by a qualified reflexologist.

Gently massage your foot, starting from the tips of your fingers all the way to your ankles. Massage the front as well as back of your feet.

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A retrograde massage with some warm massage oil is considered highly beneficial. It is done by rubbing from the toes proximally, or toward the knee.

This encourages the fluid accumulated in the feet to return toward the kidneys, where it can be flushed out of the body.

Along with daily foot massage, try to keep your feet elevated whenever possible, take plenty of rest, wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of water and eat well.

Eases PMS and Menopause Symptoms

Many women suffer from symptoms like feelings of sadness, irritability, insomnia, bloating, fatigue, headaches and mood swings during premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

These can be treated with daily foot massage. Even symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and depression can be effectively handled with regular foot massages.

To treat PMS and menopause symptoms, massage the Grandfather Grandson point. It is located on the inner foot, where the big toe meets the foot.

Massage this acupressure point with any warm massage oil and apply steady, firm pressure. Do it for a couple of minutes and then massage the entire feet as well as the legs.

Regular foot massage will surely show a decrease in hot flashes and improvement in sleep disturbances and mood changes.

Foot Massage Decreases Nausea and Vomiting

Barring a big night out, nausea and vomiting generally result from an upset stomach (in which case vomiting is probably the best thing for you), morning sickness, and the nausea and vomiting experienced by people in pain and cancer patients.

Nausea and vomiting is driven by specific mechanisms – activation of the vagus nerve, upset of your inner ear (motion sickness), or activating of dopamine receptors (related to stress). While massage is not going to affect your inner ear, there is some theorisation in studies that massage may affect the dopamine receptors or the vagus nerve.

Evidence for massage’s effect on nausea and vomiting lies in studies that look at cancer patients. 10 minutes of foot massage was used to positively decrease the nausea and vomiting in cancer patients (24), with further studies finding the same.

Vomiting, especially if chronic, can cause a multitude of secondary problems, including dehydration and ion imbalances (an imbalance of the salts in your body). This in turn can put someone in serious trouble – ions control nerve impulses, the beating of your heart and the ability of your muscles to contract. By assisting in controlling both nausea and vomiting, foot massage can help increase quality of life.

Take Away: Nausea and vomiting cause significant issues if left unchecked. Even singular episodes can affect quality of life. Foot massage can provide a way to help control and manage these symptoms, in turn leading to a better quality of life for those who experience these symptoms.

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