Foot massage can be a great way to show someone you care, but it’s unfortunate that few people know how to do this right. I mean let’s face it: who doesn’t want the gift of relaxation?
Foot massage is one of those things on everyone’s bucket list and for good reason! It not only feels awesome physically (think about what your feet are doing all day), but there are emotional benefits too. When we give or receive foot massages – whether from our partners while they’re giving us some loving foreplay action or as part of family bonding time in front of TV – we feel loved, cared for and more relaxed than ever before!
This guide provides basic knowledge and skills that will help you learn how to give the best foot massage like a pro.
Benefits of Foot Massage
If you’re feeling tired and sore after a long day, then maybe it’s time for some foot spa therapy. Besides helping us relax and relieve those aches in our muscles, massaging your feet can also be good for your health! Here are the many benefits of regular massage:
Reduced edema among pregnant women.
Edema or swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet among expectant mothers is a normal phenomenon. It’s the body’s response to the increased level of the hormone relaxin, which basically prepares the pelvic ligaments for childbirth.
The body retains more fluid while the growing uterus compresses the veins, causing the blood to accumulate in the lower extremities.
There are different ways to relieve edema, and foot massage during pregnancy is one of them.
In 2007, a study in Manisa, Western Turkey involved 80 pregnant women who were divided into two groups. The control group received the usual prenatal care while those in the other group each received a 20-minute foot massage every day for 5 days.
After the experiment, they discovered that women who received foot massage had a lower circumference and less edema than those who didn’t.
Lowers blood pressure
In recent years, high blood pressure has become pretty common. The cause is often stress, poor diet, genetics or environmental factors – and it’s not just an issue for older adults either! Place a little pressure on the acupressure points over the sole of your foot to help relieve some tension from there which can build up too much.
Studies have shown that people in high-stress jobs benefitted from regular 10-minute foot massages each week; these resulted in lower blood pressure levels as well as less anxiety and improved moods overall.
In a 2011 study published in the Midwifery, 65 postpartum women from two centers in Taiwan were selected because they all complained of poor sleep quality. Again, they were divided into two–a control group and an experimental group who received a 30-minute foot reflexology at night for five days.
Using Pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI), the authors discovered that those who received foot massage significantly improved their quality of sleep.
Helps in recovery foot injuries
Massage can help an injured foot heal, and it also helps keep the ankle flexible and strong. People who do high-intensity workouts like athletes are more likely to experience injuries on their feet or ankles than someone with a sedentary lifestyle. Regular massage of these areas will not only aid in recovery but may even prevent some types of injuries from occurring at all!
Massage is great for aiding the healing process after injury as well ensuring that your muscles stay healthy, giving you better balance if something does happen to go wrong when exercising, making sure those sore spots get massaged too so they feel just right again soon!
Increased intimacy among couples.
There’s actually a science behind the widespread use of massage–particularly foot massage–during foreplay.
According to Yasuko Kawamura, a California-based author and licensed massage therapist, massage increases the production of oxytocin.
This naturally-occurring chemical is also known as “bonding” or “cuddling” hormone. It boosts sex drive and further increases our desire to be touched.
However, foot massage doesn’t have to be sexual all the time. For non-couples, it can be a good bonding activity, as long as you apply the right touch and prepare a less romantic environment.
Although it won’t totally eliminate it, massage is a good way to relieve pain. In a study published in the August 2010 issue of Applied Nursing Research, Turkish women who had just delivered their babies via C-section were divided into two groups.
The control group received the usual pain interventions while those from the other group all received foot and hand massage for a certain period. Those from the latter group reported a significant decrease in pain intensity.
Improves immune system
Regular foot massage has been proven to be very beneficial for the immune system. Massages increase white blood cells that fight infections and diseases, lower cortisol levels which reduce stress on your body as well as a variety of health issues including high cholesterol or diabetes.
Read also: Best Foot Massagers For Diabetics
10 Tips On How To Give The Best Foot Massage Ever, According To Massage Therapists.
Quickie or Full-on?
Life can be too busy that we sometimes think it’s impossible to squeeze foot massage into our schedules. However, a foot massage shouldn’t consume most of your time. If time is of the essence, a five-minute or even a three-minute massage can do the trick. Remember, you’re not doing a full-body massage that can take up to an hour to complete.
It’s all in the mind.
A foot massage can be the perfect way to relax, but it requires a lot of focus and energy. It’s important that you are in the right mood for giving an effective one or else your receiver will not feel relaxed at all!
A healing touch only comes from a mind fully focused on positive things. Never give massage if you think it’s only a burden or a way to release your own stress.
Clear your mind and intentions. Or better yet, connect with your partner by breathing together. You can do this by putting your hands on your partner and matching your breath with his/hers during the entire session.
Foot massage shouldn’t necessarily be a passive activity. You as the receiver is free to say what massage you prefer, where to apply it as well as how deep or fast it should be.
A good foot massage depends on healthy feedback so the giver must always ask the right questions and the receiver must always reciprocate it with honest answers.
For starters, there are things you must avoid doing when giving foot massage.
Be careful when using your fingers because too light a touch may tickle the receiver, leading to a less enjoyable massage.
Also, avoid massaging over bony parts. A relaxing massage is done on muscles, not bones. Even more painful is bone-on-bone massage wherein you use the bony parts of your body (e.g., elbows) to massage the receiver’s bones.
It’s extremely painful, and may even lead to injuries if you’re not careful.
Not for everyone.
Foot massage is not a one-size-fits all solution to stress relief. While it may be beneficial for some people, in many cases it can make the problem worse rather than provide any kind of benefit at all. For example, if you have an infection or high blood pressure foot massages might just worsen your symptoms and bring on additional pain instead of providing comfort like they would otherwise do.
Remember, if you’re not sure if massage is safe for you, or if you’re suffering from a medical condition, talk to your doctor first.
Preparation is key.
When I was in Nursing school, our instructors always reminded us the importance of hand washing before performing any procedure. This also applies to massage so you can prevent the transfer of microorganisms.
The receiver, meanwhile, should wash and clean the feet because, well, nobody wants to touch dirty feet.
If the receiver is lying on his back, it is recommended to put a bolster or a rolled up towel under the knees to keep the pressure off the lower back.
You can also put a pillow in your lap where the receiver can rest his feet on as you do the massage.
Although you can use massage oils, I prefer lotion because it’s not as slippery. If you insist on using oils, however, choose those that are not too greasy and don’t evaporate too quickly.
I recommend organic oils like olive, jojoba, and grape seed.
Lastly, choose which foot massage technique you will apply. Some of the most popular ones are Swedish, Thai and Shiatsu massage.
There’s also the Chinese-inspired foot reflexology which involves applying pressure on different points of the feet connected to the body organs.
Reflexology focuses on restoring the natural balance of energy in the body (known as “Chi”) and can be done with a foot reflexology chart as a guide. This article focuses on a combination of Thai and Shiatsu.
Read also: 5 Best Massage Tables of 2021
Sight, sound,, and smell.
Apart from preparing yourselves, it’s also important to ensure the environment is conducive to massage.
Turn off your cellphones and have a relaxing music played in the background. Avoid music with distracting lyrics. Choose nature-inspired music featuring the sounds of ocean and river.
Although optional, music stimulates the production of serotonin which is one of the “feel-good” chemicals in the body that help you relax.
Another hormone responsible for sleep and relaxation is melatonin, which is released when you’re in a darker environment. Therefore, keep the room lighting low or use candles to give the place a more spa-like ambiance.
You can also add relaxing aroma through scented candles made with natural ingredients (not the paraffin-based ones that release carcinogenic toxins) and essential oils like lavender, vanilla and rose.
Soak your feet, spa-style.
There’s nothing more relaxing than soaking in a warm foot bath right before the massage.
Foot bath softens the dry and cracked skin on the soles, arches, and heels. It’s optional, but your friends or family will never forget you for giving their feet the ultimate spa experience.
You can make a personalized foot bath at home by pouring warm water into a small tub and adding flowers, marbles and bath salts or essential oils.
If you prefer a Thai foot bath, simply squeeze 1/2 of a lime in a bowl of water and soak your feet in it. Then, take the other half of the lime and scrub it on the bottoms of your feet. This is a good way to remove toxins and soften your feet before the massage.
Another option is to buy affordable home foot spa machines that come with fancier features such as vibration, bubbles, heat and even a waterfall effect. You can also get a hot moist towel and use it to relax the feet before the massage as well as to remove oils and other impurities after the massage.
Read also: Best Paraffin Wax Bath Machine
When I was a Nursing student, we were taught about the importance of body mechanics. It means using your body efficiently when doing certain tasks, minimizing the risk of strain injury.
It helped me avoid having back injuries when lifting patients from a wheelchair or preparing hospital beds.
The same principles apply to massage. More often than not, people who give massage end up having painful thumbs and lower back because they have no idea about body mechanics.
To avoid injuries, always remember these strategies:
- When applying pressure on the soles or arches of the feet, use a “thumb-over-thumb” technique.
- Keep your back straight and let the receiver’s feet rest on a pillow to give you easier access to the areas you will massage.
- Use your body weight when applying pressure on the feet, especially when you’re extending massage up to the calves. This will lift the pressure off your fingers/hands and prevent strain injuries.
- Keep your thumbs in a hook shape when working on the feet. Using straight thumbs when providing massage will only cause pain.
Take it slow.
The longer the massage, the better.
It’s the best way to bond with the receiver and learn more about his/her needs. If you have time to spare, keep the foot massage more relaxing by making longer strokes.
Slowing down is one way of showing you’re not in a rush and sincerely want to give a good foot massage.
Ask the receiver which parts need the most pressure. You can then focus on these areas and massage them repeatedly, depending on the receiver’s preference.
Another way to do it is to divide the foot into small segments and provide deeper, longer massage on each.
Practice makes perfect.
Don’t expect to provide a perfect foot massage at first try.
You can start with a few techniques and use them repeatedly until you become good at them. Afterwards, you can learn more techniques and even advanced lessons about Thai, Shiatsu or Swedish massages.