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 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.
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.
Improves circulation Due 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.
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.
Reduces the effects of depression and anxiety Looking 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.