A foot spa is a great way to pamper your feet at home without spending a lot of money. It probably doesn’t compare to a proper foot massage at the spa, but it can feel quite relaxing at the end of a long day especially if you have aching, swollen or tired feet.
While a foot spa has plenty of benefits, which we will discuss shortly, it also comes with certain risks. For this reason, there are people who should not use a foot spa, at least not before they consult a doctor.
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What’s A Foot Spa?
If this is the first you are hearing of a foot spa, you’ve been missing out. A foot spa is exactly what it sounds like; a spa for your feet.
A foot spa is an appliance that you use to massage your feet. It has a basin-like enclosure where you add water and place your feet. A built-in heater warms the water, so you can enjoy a relaxing foot bath.
Foot spas also include rollers at the bottom that massage your feet. Many foot spas also have bubbles and jets to further pamper your feet. You’ll also find some with a vibration feature.
Here’s a short video of a foot spa showing the various features and settings.
Note that foot spas are different from foot massagers. A foot massager typically doesn’t have a water bath. Some foot massagers have nodes that knead your feet plus heat. Others are EMS massagers that use electrical pulses to target muscles and nerves in your feet.
Benefits of a Foot Spa
A foot spa helps you relax after a long day. Adding it to your evening routine can help you calm down and get ready for bed.
A foot spa is particularly beneficial if you spend a big portion of your day on your feet, either standing or moving. The combination of the warm water and the massage rollers relieves sore, aching and tired feet.
Here are other benefits of using a foot spa.
- It can help manage chronic or acute foot pain whether from an injury or a health condition like arthritis.
- The heat from a foot spa can help relax stiff muscles in your feet. This can greatly reduce pain and soreness associated with exercise, fatigue and health conditions.
- If you often get swollen feet, a foot spa is one of the best ways to deal with the problem. Check if the user manual allows you to add epsom salt to the spa (as long as the foot spa has no jets that can log, it’s probably safe to add salt). Epsom salt helps bring down the spelling. But even if you cannot add salt, just the massage and the warm water will help.
- A foot spa improves blood circulation in your feet and legs.
Who Should Not Use a Foot Spa
A foot spa is generally safe for a majority of users. They come with multiple safety features including overheat protection, an auto-off timer and well-insulated electronics.
But there are still some risks to certain users. If you are in one of the categories below, consult a medical professional before you use a foot spa or any kind of foot massager.
While a foot spa can be beneficial for people with diabetes — improved blood circulation, reduced pain and tingling etc. — health experts do not recommend it.
Diabetes often causes nerve damage in the feet, leading to neuropathy. This can cause numbness in the feet, making it harder to perceive when you are injured or when something is too hot.
And because foot spas involve the use of warm or hot water, it’s dangerous for diabetics. You may not realise the water is dangerously hot. Even if you set a safe temperature, the foot spa safety mechanism could fail, causing the water to overheat.
The other risk is from the massage rollers. They could easily injure your foot or worsen an existing injury. Foot injuries are a high risk for diabetics since they can become easily infected.
The water in a foot spa makes your skin softer and more susceptible to injury. That’s why even regular foot soaks aren’t recommended for diabetics. It significantly increases the risk of injury and infection.
A regular foot massage by hand is a safer alternative for diabetics. It improves blood circulation, eases pain and relaxes your feet muscles without putting you at risk of injury and infection.
Swollen feet, foot pain, sore feet…these are just a few of the many challenges that come with pregnancy. A foot spa can certainly help reduce the swelling, pain and soreness, but pregnant women need to be extra cautious when using a foot spa.
Prolonged exposure to hot water is a health risk for you and the baby. It can raise the body temperature, which increases the risk of birth defects.
This risk is mostly associated with hot tubs and baths, but a foot spa can also raise your body temperature if you use it for too long.
The other concern with using a foot spa during pregnancy is that it can target certain acupressure points in the feet that can trigger contractions. There isn’t a ton of evidence to support this, but it’s still better to play it safe.
If you’d really love to use a foot spa while pregnant, clear it with your doctor first. If they say it’s okay, take some precautions.
- Use warm, not hot water. Use an external thermometer to check that the water doesn’t get hotter than 38C.
- Use a foot spa for not more than 15 minutes once or twice a day.
- Most essential oils are not safe for use during pregnancy. The few safe ones include lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang, peppermint and tea-tree. Before you use any essential oil, check whether it’s safe.
Do NOT use a foot spa if you have a history of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. The massager can loosen the blood clots, putting your life and pregnancy in danger.
Also avoid foot spas and foot baths in general if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or if you were already diabetic when you got pregnant.
Anyone With Open Wounds
Avoid using a foot spa if you have open wounds, cuts, boil, blister or any broken skin. Not only do you risk aggravating the injury, you could also get it infected.
Definitely don’t use a foot spa if you have an existing fungal or bacterial infection.
Massaging your feet is safer if you have a wound or cut. It promotes blood circulation and faster healing without risking an infection. Just make sure your hands are clean and avoid areas close to the wound.
People With A History of Blood Clots and DVT
Blood clots in your veins form when blood slows down and coagulates into a solid mass. If a clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg, it’s called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
If you’ve been diagnosed with blood clots or have a history of them, do NOT use a foot spa. The massager rollers could knock loose a clot and it can travel to your lungs, causing pulmonary embolism, which is potentially fatal.
Many people have DVT without realising it. But there are some symptoms to watch out for including localised pain and swelling in your feet or legs, swollen veins, warm spots, and redness or tenderness in specific areas of your feet.
If you have any of these symptoms, do not use a foot spa or a foot massager until you’ve seen a doctor.
Who Should Use A Foot Spa?
As long as you are not pregnant and don’t have any of the above health conditions, it is generally safe to use a foot spa.
We especially recommend it for:
- People who spend a lot of time standing or walking. A foot spa will help relieve the pain and soreness at the end of the day.
- People with active lifestyles. If you play sports, hike a lot or go jogging often, a foot spa can help with the occasional stiff or sore muscles.
- People suffering from arthritis of the feet or ankle. Check with your doctor first, but it should be safe to use a foot spa. It will help manage the inflammation, pain and stiffness.
- People who suffer from edema. A foot spa can help bring the swelling down. If it is safe to do so, add epsom salt to the water. Make sure you see a doctor first to figure out what’s causing the edema. It could be a condition that makes it risky to use a foot spa.
- Anyone who wants to exfoliate their feet. A 15-30 minute session in a foot spa softens your feet, making it easier to remove dead skin and calluses.
Note that we’ve not mentioned all the health problems that can cause clotting, neuropathy and other symptoms that can put you at risk when using a foot spa. So as a rule of thumb, if you have a major health condition, consult your doctor before using a foot spa or a foot massager.