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?
There are a several different massage techniques that all promise certain health benefits. Traditional therapeutic techniques focus on relaxing the muscles and joints; acupressure seeks to improve general health and energy flow by acting upon specific pressure points; aromatherapy uses scented oils and relaxing music to add an additional element of relaxation by acting upon multiple senses; and reflexology seeks to improve internal organ function by massaging specific areas of the foot.
There are many claims, some fairly outrageous, about what a simple massage can do for you, but there is very little evidence to support them. We will take a look at some of the benefits of foot massage that are supported by actual scientific research – benefits that are either immediate or can be seen and felt after a couple of weeks, even with as little as two to three sessions per week.
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1. It’s good for your sex lifeAll 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.
2. Improves circulationDue to a mostly sedentary lifestyle we have become unaccustomed to using our muscles on a regular basis. The muscles in the feet get hardly any exercise and circulation is often impaired by tight and uncomfortable shoes. A 10–20 minute massage session before going to bed can greatly improve circulation in the lower extremities, which is particularly important for people suffering from diabetes.
3. Helps prevent foot and ankle injuriesMassaging 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.
4. Reduces the effects of depression and anxietyLooking at some of the studies that have been done on the effects of reflexology, it seems that this type of foot massage goes beyond simply putting people in a relaxed state for the duration of the massage.
Frequent sessions have been shown to significantly reduce anxiety in cancer patients. The techniques can be learned fairly quickly and can serve as an effective way of dealing with depression and anxiety.
5. Helps with headaches and migraines
A study conducted in Denmark showed that people suffering from headaches and migraines showed great improvement after receiving reflexology treatments. The test subjects stopped taking their medication, and three months after completing their treatments, 65% had reduced symptoms while a small number had been cured. It is believed that those who had reflexology foot massages managed to make additional positive lifestyle changes that may have contributed to their impressive results.
6. Lowers blood pressureHigh 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.
7. Helps with flat feet and plantar fasciitisPeople 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.
8. Helps alleviate symptoms of PMS and menopauseThe most common symptoms suffered during PMS include feelings of sadness and unhappiness, irritability, anxiety, tension, insomnia, fatigue, headaches and mood swings. Most of these symptoms can be alleviated with daily foot massages during this period.
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