Getting a foot massage always feels nice, as does a relaxing reflexology session if you’ve ever had one. Yet beyond the enjoyable nature of these activities, they also provide benefits for your health and wellness.
Both provide therapeutic touch that can involve the feet along with other parts of the body, but the difference is that reflexology focuses on certain points in the body map that coincide with other parts of the body and massage focuses on muscles, joints and tendons in the foot. Here is a list of reflexology and foot massage health benefits:
1. Pain Relief
Therapeutic massage has been associated with pain relief. The many ways it may help include calming muscles and tendons, and potentially getting in the way of pain messages. Regardless of how, it’s easy to notice that foot massage can relieve pain and tension just by trying it on your own feet. Reflexology is also associated with relieving pain.
2. Social and Nurturing Benefits
While you can reach down and massage your own feet with your hands or press on certain points in your foot, you could also have someone else perform these motions, whether you pay a professional for the service or ask someone you know to kindly rub your feet. In either case, having another person provide touch like this can enhance the massage by helping you feel nurtured and cared for. It can give the power of human touch and social interaction that are important to people and our health and wellness. You might even experience the tingly sensation of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) from the physical contact and the sense of being cared for.
Any kind of massage can provide a calming effect, including a foot massage. This is especially true if you relax and ease into the process, ideally closing your eyes to enjoy the sensations and get the full effects. Beyond providing a general sense of calm, massage can relieve stress. A reflexology session can also relax you as another person is touching and rubbing parts of your feet.
4. Stress Relief
Speaking of stress in the previous number on this list of foot massage health benefits, let’s look further into the topic. A literature review found that some research supported that massage has a direct positive effect on health while other research found that even when direct effects were not measurable, participants still had a reduction in self-perceived levels of stress from massage, even just having their foot rubbed for five minutes. So, regardless of whether science always backs up the benefits of massage, it helps people feel less stressed out. This is especially good since continuous stress is associated with a long list of negative health effects.
5. Endorphin Release
Connective tissue massage creates a boost in endorphins, which are those feel-good chemicals that help fight pain. This might be a good reason for at least some of the pain-fighting effects of a good foot massage, in addition to how the massage makes you feel warm, fuzzy and content.
6. Improving Circulation
Therapeutic rubbing of massage can stimulate circulation of fluids throughout your feet and body, helping to promote optimal health and wellness. Reflexology offers the same benefit, helping blood and lymph flow better.
7. Relieving Body Symptoms
Ancient cultures and alternative/complementary health have long believed that reflexology helps to relieve symptoms throughout the body by pressing or rubbing specific parts of the hands and feet. For instance, certain spots on the feet are thought to correspond to internal organs, systems and other parts of the body. There are various theories on how this may work, including by impacting the energy flow throughout the body, the central nervous system or circulation.
8. Cancer Patient Benefits
A study of people with advanced cancer found that massage therapy showed immediate improvements to pain and mood. The study included foot massage among massage in other parts of the body. Also, the study found better improvements to these areas from massage compared to simple touch.
9. Diabetes Patient Benefits
Peripheral neuropathy is a diabetes complication that can impact balance, among other things. Research has supported the idea that Thai foot massage can help improve balance, foot sensation and foot range of motion in this crowd. Positive results were seen after just two weeks of carrying out this massage three times a week for 30 minutes each session.
10. Brain Activity
Both massage and reflexology to the feet have an impact on resting brain activity, with both affecting retrosplenial/posterior cingulate cortices, and Swedish massage also activating subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. Researchers felt as though these findings and further research show the potential for helping mood disorder management.
Some research of reflexology found that it helped reduce anxiety in people. This included patients who were experiencing anxiety due to a health condition. Specifically, foot reflexology sessions of 20 to 30 minutes led to reduced anxiety levels. This is similar to the calming and stress-relieving benefits offered by foot massage.
12. Help With Sleep
A foot massage might help you unwind and get to sleep. Research found that foot massage, as well as facial massage, can help to reduce alertness and bring on sleepiness. When you factor in how massage can provide a state of calmness and relaxation, it seems like part of a good pre-bedtime routine.
13. Prenatal Care and Babies
Massage therapy has shown positive health and wellness effects for mothers who have prenatal depression. It has also helped preterm infants as well as full-term infants. An important benefit is that massage can be gentle and safe, making it a good therapy to use for pregnant women and babies.
14. Health Conditions
Massage therapy is associated with helping a range of health conditions. These include aging conditions like dementia, skin conditions, autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, pain conditions like fibromyalgia and other types of conditions.
15. Quality of Life
People who try massage and reflexology often report improved quality of life from this treatment. This benefit could be for many reasons, including reduced pain and stress relief. These treatments can provide a better quality of life for all sorts of people, including those who are healthy and those with specific health conditions that come with difficult symptoms.
16. Natural Health
Both foot massage and reflexology offer natural health care that is overall considered safe. It is non-invasive and doesn’t use medication. Especially when a gentle form is used, it can be used by a variety of people, even those with health conditions. There may be a few exceptions, such as those with delicate skin. In general, massage and reflexology can be used as complementary therapy in addition to other treatments or as alternative therapy when used instead of other treatments, depending on the situation.
17. Helps Injury
If you have injured your foot, massage therapy can provide muscle relief and circulation that can help it heal and provide pain relief. Reflexology is also associated with relieving injury effects, and it’s possible that finding the right spot on the reflexology map may provide injury healing and relief for other parts of the body.
18. Counteracting Effects of Stress
Stress can negatively affect health conditions that are present. When you use reflexology, it can help stop ongoing stress in the body and specific areas related to the health condition. Counteracting the stress makes way for further reflexology sessions to target the health condition and promote wellness.
19. Body Movement
Reflexology is useful in the maintenance of body movement. It is used to help with dexterity and also the range of motion. It can also help with pain and injury that are impeding body movement and wellness.
One of the great things about massage and reflexology is that you can practice them on yourself. Sure, there are benefits from having another person provide these types of therapy for you, and other benefits from a professional who is knowledgeable in proper techniques. Yet, you can practice self-care on yourself to de-stress, relax and benefit your health any time you want to. This is good because consistency of these treatments may provide extra benefit. Giving your own feet massage or reflexology provides ongoing self-care that fits within any budget, so you’re not restricted from receiving this treatment even if you don’t have the money or it’s not covered by insurance. The best way may be a combination of self-care, asking a loved one for a foot rub and going to a professional for these services from time to time.