The fact that it has been around for millennia is a definite indication that it produces many positive results. Whether you are interested in foot massage for the relaxation aspect, or the health benefit, having a foot massage is the most exquisite gift you could give your feet. And, as an additional bonus, you are improving your overall health and well-being.
Foot massage has been practiced for thousands of years in the North American, Asian, African, and European cultures. As with all modalities, over time, each group has taken the foundation of various techniques and applied their unique style. As a result, there are specific types of massages for particular conditions. For example, specific techniques may be designed for use in sports, while other techniques may use trigger point applications, to deep tissue manipulation, combining forms of reflexology. Gentle Touch Therapy applications provide all the benefits without the pain.
Overall, a therapeutic foot massage offers numerous health benefits. When specific areas of the foot are manipulated, and muscles properly worked, it can provide a calming therapeutic effect that aids in lowering blood pressure, increases lymphatic drainage, promotes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, and so much more.
The Origins of Foot Massage
Its origination is somewhat difficult to pinpoint because ancient traditions frequently passed knowledge down among generations verbally rather than preserving the instructions in writing.
However, the Egyptian tomb of physician Ankhamor, dating back to 2500 BC contains wall drawings of medical procedures and hieroglyphic symbols that depict the use of ancient foot massage. These symbols related to various areas of the feet that corresponded to certain parts of the body. These symbols have also been found carved into the feet of 5000-year-old Buddha statues. Then between 300 and 700AD, the use of foot massage became widespread within the American Indian culture for its diagnostic and healing aspects.
Foot massage is also discussed in the 1000 BC medical journal entitled, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, a well-known Chinese classic. There is an entire chapter dedicated to the correlation between specific areas of the feet and life force.
Speculation has prompted that Marco Polo translated a Chinese massage book into the Italian language during the 1300s, which introduced massage and reflexology to Europe.
Later, in 1582, Drs Adamus and A’tatis published a book on reflexology and zone therapy. During the early 1900s, American physician William H. Fitzgerald, MD, elaborated on these zones and wrote an in-depth book describing the vertical zones of the body, and how the application of pressure on these specific zones could help alleviate pain, even during minor surgeries. The extensive work of Dr. Fitzgerald earned him the title “Father of Reflexology.”
In the 1930s, the development of reflexology continued to expand with Dr. Joe Shelby Riley, who studied Zone Therapy, and his employee Eunice Ingham, who was a physiotherapist. Together, they identified the horizontal zones that followed the anatomy of the body and created a map identifying various pressure points on the hands and feet.
Ingham probed sensitive spots on clients’ feet and determined there was a direct correlation between these tender areas and the clients’ ailments. She discovered that intermittent pressure, as opposed to constant pressure, stimulated a healing response in the body.
What Is The Practice of Foot Massage?
There are several advantages derived from foot massage. It has been shown to help reduce pain post-surgery and help support overall healthy well-being. However, a major component of its success is proper application.
Certainly, everyone enjoys a massage. A gentle touch from a loved one can induce relaxation and help reduce stress. In some cultures, massage is used to strengthen a family bond between mother and child or husband and wife.
From the era of the Chinese Han Dynasty and the holistic Indian traditions of Ayurveda, massage has been used for its natural healing aspects, ability to increase stamina, improve circulation, and remove toxins from the body. Even Hippocrates, the Father of Medical Study, stated, “A physician needs to specialize in several things but being an expert in massage is a must.” Granted, these traditions are not all centered on foot massage, though the practices certainly exemplify the overall importance and advantages of massage as a whole.
Top 5 Health Benefits of Foot Massage
Because the feet have over 7,000 nerve endings and connect to various parts of the internal and external body, a well-executed foot massage can address an array of issues. Besides how sensational it will make your feet feel, you can also expect to feel deeply relaxed and calm.
When you consider all the demands our feet endure, they are entirely deserving of a bit of pampering, yet are often the most neglected part of the body. From transporting us to countless places near and far, to supporting the weight of our entire body, we rely on our feet in multiple ways daily.
In addition to supporting the weight of your body daily and tons of force absorbed when walking, running, or jumping, it is quite evident that the anatomy of the foot is quite impressive. Each foot has 50 tendons and ligaments, 26 bones, 250,000 sweat glands, 33 joints, 42 muscles, and over 7,000 nerve endings.
Thus, with the proper amount of pressure applied to ailments correlating to specific areas of the foot, a massage not only feels divine, it is also very therapeutic.
Below are 5 benefits of foot massage:
#1 Increases Sleep Quality: The soothing effects of a foot massage helps relax the mind and the entire body while also reducing pain, all of which promotes relaxation and increases quality of sleep.
#2 Relieves Aches and Pains: Whether you’re suffering from a headache, backache, or have pain in your knees, neck, or hands, you can be assured the nerve endings in your feet connect to those areas of your body. A professional therapist can target areas of the foot and can successfully address these issues during a foot massage session.
It is thought that the brain controls the sensation of pain, known as the Neuromatrix Theory. Essentially, pain is the brain’s way of responding to emotional factors, including stress. When the nerve endings connecting to the central nervous system are addressed during a foot massage, stress is alleviated, which also helps reduce migraines and headaches.
#3 Improves Blood Circulation: That innate tendency to rub your child’s head when he bumps it, or massage your temples during a headache is because when body parts are massaged, blood circulation increases in that area. This is especially beneficial for people suffering from edema, heart issues, kidney problems, or diabetes since these issues are also accompanied by poor circulation and the buildup of excess fluid. Pain and swelling are often the results. The Harvard Medical School researched foot massage and has stated that foot massage helps reduce pain and muscle tension as well as improves circulation. Additionally, a 2010 study conducted at a nursing school in Turkey revealed that pregnant women suffering from edema experienced noted improvement from pain and swelling with daily foot massages.
#4 Fights Depression: There are specific areas of the feet that respond positively to massage and reduce various symptoms of depression.
#5 Reduces Neuropathy Symptoms: Neuropathy occurs in the hands, feet, arms, and legs due to poor circulation and nerve damage, which is often experienced by individuals suffering from edema, obesity, and diabetes. This condition can result in uncomfortable tingling, burning sensations and numbness. Because a foot massage can address specific regions of the body and naturally improves circulation, it has been shown to slow down the progression of neuropathy.
While anyone can give or receive a foot massage, utilizing proper techniques will achieve the most benefit. As with all other forms of massage, these methods can vary from different applications, and in the amount of pressure used.
The experience of receiving a good foot massage does not need to be painful to be effective. Gentle Touch Therapy applies gentle pressure to the overall foot ensuring corresponding areas of the body are being nurtured. This technique promotes a deep state of relaxation and will have you feeling fabulous within minutes. It’s important to have an open dialogue with your therapist about any areas of concern pertaining to your feet. Some people have a high sensitivity to the soles of the feet being touched. An experienced therapist will work around this issue to ensure that you receive the best possible experience from your treatment.