It feels amazing to get a foot massage especially after a long day on your feet. But did you know that massaging your feet also has plenty of health benefits? It’s great for your blood circulation, it eases foot pain, and can help with various foot problems.
In addition to your usual foot care routine, I highly recommend a regular foot massage. You can get it once or twice a week at a spa, have someone give you a foot massage at home or do it yourself.
Table of Contents
- What Happens When You Massage Your Feet?
- How to Massage Your Feet At Home
- Using a Foot Massager or Foot Spa to Massage Your Feet
- Is Foot Massage Safe for Diabetics?
- Is Foot Massage Good for Pregnant Women?
- Final Thoughts
What Happens When You Massage Your Feet?
Beyond the nice relaxed feel, there’s a lot that happens under the skin when you massage your feet. This is true whether you use hands or a machine such as a foot spa.
1. Improved Circulation
One of the main things that happen is an increase in blood flow. The pressure from the massage moves more blood through blood vessels. This is especially helpful in getting blood to flow through congested blood vessels.
Massage also raises skin temperature through friction. This warmth causes blood vessels under the skin to vasodilate (widen), allowing more blood to flow through.
Massage also triggers the release of several chemicals, including histamine, that widen blood vessels and increase blood circulation.
An increase in blood flow to your legs has many benefits. It promotes faster healing, it keeps your foot muscles and tendons healthy, it reduces inflammation and so on.
2. Improved Lymphatic Drainage
Massage doesn’t just improve the circulation of blood; it also helps with lymph circulation. Lymph is a fluid that contains white blood cells. It moves through the lymphatic system and is crucial for your body’s immunity.
If lymph fluid doesn’t drain properly, it results in painful swelling and can be especially problematic for people already suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia and diabetes.
Foot massage mechanically moves accumulated lymph fluid to reduce swelling.
3. Reduced Pain and Soreness
We’ve already mentioned how massage improves the flow of blood and lymph, which in turn reduces swelling and pain.
But those are not the only mechanisms through which foot massage can reduce discomfort in your feet.
Foot massage can also relieve pain by relaxing muscles in your feet (the warmth from the massage causes the soft tissue to relax). Your muscles can get tense or stiff from working out too much, sitting for long periods, injury or a health condition like arthritis.
A foot massage is one of the best ways of dealing with the pain or soreness caused by stiff muscles. This is why a massage feels so good after a long day walking or standing.
Another possible mechanism through which massage relieves pain is called the pain gate theory. Researchers think that a massage creates good stimuli in the nerves that overcomes the bad stimuli from the pain.
In other words, a foot massage can override the perception of pain by your brain. This is helpful for people suffering from acute or chronic foot pain.
4. Faster Healing & Recovery
Good blood circulation is essential for healing. It ensures there’s plenty of oxygen and nutrients in the affected tissues.
As we’ve already seen, getting a foot massage is a great way to get your blood flowing. It also improves lymphatic drainage and relaxes soft tissue, both of which also promote faster healing.
There is also evidence that foot massage can help speed up muscle recovery after a workout or a long walk. It does this by reducing inflammation and promoting faster healing of torn muscle tissue.
5. Lower Levels of Stress
A foot massage is not just good for your feet; it’s also great for your mental health. Just 10-30 minutes daily massaging your feet can do wonders for your stress and anxiety.
It does this by reducing stress hormones, triggering the release of feel good hormones and lowering both your blood pressure and heart rate.
So even if your feet are not aching or swollen, you should still massage them regularly.
How to Massage Your Feet At Home
Here are some tips on how to give yourself a foot massage at home.
- Start by washing or soaking your feet in warm water. A 20-30 minute soak is enough to soften your feet. Add epsom salt to the soak to get even softer feet. Epsom salt is also great for itchy, sore or swollen feet. If you are exfoliating your feet, do so while they are still wet.
- Wipe your feet dry and have your massaging oil or lotion ready. Place your foot on the knee of the opposite leg. Apply a generous amount of lotion on your hand and spread it around your foot.
- Use your knuckles to apply sliding pressure on the underside of your foot. Focus on specific areas where you are feeling pain or sore.
- For the top of your foot, rotate your thumbs in circles again focusing on any aching spots. It’ll be easier to do this if you place your foot on a stool.
- Gently pull on your toes and move them back and forth.
- Repeat the processes for the other foot.
If you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t have to soak your feet, but make sure they are clean.
If you are lucky to have someone willing to massage your feet or if you are the one offering a foot massager, here is a helpful video to guide you.
Using a Foot Massager or Foot Spa to Massage Your Feet
There’s equipment you can buy to massage your feet. The most common is a foot spa. This is basically a foot bath that heats water and often comes with vibration and a massage roller or pads. It’s a great choice if you want to combine a relaxing foot soak with foot massage.
You can also get a foot massager. A foot massager offers deep kneading massage, usually accompanied by heat and sometimes vibration for added benefits.
A foot massager is the best alternative if you don’t want to or can’t use hands to massage your feet. It provides a similar deep massage that improves blood flow and relieves pain. The heat function also helps with pain and muscle tension.
Another type of foot massager is an EMS (Electronic muscle stimulation) massager. It sends harmless electric impulses to your muscles. This helps with pain management, muscle spasms, soreness and blood flow.
Is Foot Massage Safe for Diabetics?
Because diabetics have to be extra-careful about their feet, it’s worth checking whether a particular type of massage is safe for you.
Regular foot massage using hands is safe for diabetics. The risk of injury is low and you can apply the amount of pressure you find comfortable. In fact, a foot massage is a great time to do a check on your feet. Look for any scratches, injuries or wounds that you may have missed.
However, when it comes to using a foot spa or foot massager, diabetics should be careful. Manufacturers of these products typically don’t recommend diabetics use them.
That’s because you may not realise that the water is too hot or the message settings too intensive, resulting in injury.
If you have to use a foot spa or massager, use it under the guidance of your doctor or podiatrist. And take extra precautions such as manually checking the temperature of the water.
If you have open wounds or advanced neuropathy, it’s probably best if you completely avoid foot spas and massagers.
Tip: EMS massage seems to be generally safe for diabetics and can even help with neuropathy. But check with your doctor before you get an EMS foot massager.
Is Foot Massage Good for Pregnant Women?
The advice for diabetics also applies generally for pregnancy. Regular hand massage is safe for pregnant women. It’s actually highly recommended to help with swelling, pain and soreness that often occurs during pregnancy.
When it comes to using machines like a foot spa or massager, caution is advised. Make sure the water is warm, reduce massage intensity and cut down your usual massage time in half.
In addition to massaging your feet daily at home, I recommend going to a professional even if it is once or twice a month.
They can offer a deeper and more intensive massage to better relieve pain, reduce swelling and increase blood flow. They can also use different types of techniques and massages to target a particular foot problem such as heel pain or swelling at the top of the foot.