Foot massage techniques and benefits – Medical News
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Foot massage techniques and benefits

At the end of a long day, many people enjoy giving or receiving a foot massage. Foot massage can aid relaxation and may relieve muscle aches.

There are many ways to massage feet that are easy to try at home. This article gives step-by-step instructions for 12 foot massage techniques.

Read on to find out how to massage feet.

12 foot massage techniques

Here are 12 foot massage techniques that a person can use on themselves or another person:

1. Warmup twists

Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Warmup twists are one way to start a foot massage. To use this technique:

  • place the palms on either side of the foot
  • gently pull the right side of the foot forward while pushing the left side back
  • push the left side of the foot back while pulling the right side forward
  • repeat this twisting motion, working the hands from the ankle to the toes

The gentle twisting motion helps warm up the foot in preparation for further massage.

2. Arch rubs

Football massage - Arch rubs - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

People can use arch rubs to massage the underside of the foot. To use this technique:

  • hold the top of the foot in one hand
  • with the fingers of the other hand, rub the length of the arch
  • do this repeatedly, from the heel to the ball of the foot

3. Toe bends

Foot massage - Toe bends - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Toe bends may encourage flexibility in the foot. To use this foot massage technique:

  • hold the heel with one hand
  • bend all the toes on one foot back and forth at the same time with the other hand
  • repeat this movement, gently increasing pressure and flexing the toes to their full range of motion

4. Foot spread

Foot massage - Foot spread - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Food spreading may help the foot expand to its natural width. To use this foot massage technique:

  • hold each side of the foot
  • pull each side of the foot outward
  • repeat this motion, allowing the foot to spread

5. Heel squeeze

Foot massage - Heel squeeze - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Heel squeezes may help relieve tension at the back of the foot. To use this technique:

  • hold the top of the foot in one hand
  • hold the back of the heel in the other
  • repeatedly squeeze and release the back of the heel

6. Knuckle or fist work

foot massage - Knuckle or fist work - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Knuckle or fist work is a way to massage the bottom of the foot. To use this technique:

  • hold the back of the foot with one hand
  • hold a knuckle or full fist on the other hand against the bottom of the foot
  • use the knuckle or fist to knead the bottom of the foot, using moderate pressure
  • repeat this motion, working down the ball of the foot to the heel

7. Thumb work

foot massage - Thumb work - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Thumb work is another foot massage technique that a person can practice on the bottom of the foot. To use this technique:

  • hold the foot with one hand on either side
  • place the fingers on the top of the foot
  • place the thumbs under each foot, on the toe pads
  • use the thumbs to stroke down each toe, using moderate pressure
  • move to the ball of the foot, repeating the downward stroke motion with the thumbs
  • repeat this motion in the arch of the feet and the heel
  • continue for as long as it is enjoyable

8. Pressure points

foot massage - Pressure points - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Pressing points on the instep is another relaxing foot massage technique. To use this technique:

  • use one hand to support the top of the foot
  • use the thumb of the other hand to press and release the top of the instep
  • gradually move down the instep, repeating this pressing motion
  • continue pressing and releasing, down to the back of the heel

9. Achilles massage

foot massage - Achilles massage - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Achilles massage may help relieve pressure on the Achilles tendon. To use this foot massage technique:

  • grasp the Achilles tendon with the other hand, between the thumb and index finger
  • use a stroking motion down toward the heel
  • repeat this several times

10. Top and side circles

foot massage - Top and side circles - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Top and side circling is a simple foot massage technique. To use it:

  • using both hands, support the foot from below
  • extend the fingers and use them to make circles around the ankle on either side
  • using a continuous circular movement, move the fingers around the side of the foot
  • keep circling the fingers, continuing up to the toes
  • pay attention to the space between each tendon

11. Toe massage

Foot massage - Toe massage - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

Toe massage may help relieve tension and cramps in the toes. To use this foot massage technique:

  • hold the base of the foot with one hand
  • with the fingers of the other hand, tug, twist, and pull each toe gently
  • move from the outer to the inner toes
  • repeat several times
  • massage between each toe

12. Finishing strokes

Foot massage - Finishing strokes - Foot Massage Techniques And Benefits

People can use finishing strokes at the end of a foot massage. To use this technique:

  • place the palms on either side of the foot
  • gently pull the right side of the foot forward while pushing the left side back
  • then push the left side of the foot back while pushing the right side forward
  • repeat this twisting motion, working the hands from the ankle to the toes
  • lighten the pressure each time, gradually lifting the hands from the foot completely


Benefits

There is growing scientific evidence for the health benefits of massage.

A 2010 study found that when integrated into acute care, massage therapy may help a person:

  • deal with physical and mental health challenges
  • experience less pain
  • relax
  • manage emotions
  • sleep

Research from 2018 found that the use of hand and foot massage in clinical settings can reduce anxiety and improve vital signs for patients.

Also, a 2016 review suggested that healthcare professionals recommend massage therapy over no treatment as a pain management option.

Foot massage vs. reflexology

Reflexology is an alternative therapy that involves putting pressure on specific parts of the foot. It is not the same as a regular foot massage.

Advocates of reflexology believe that putting pressure on the foot can heal unrelated problems elsewhere in the body.

There is anecdotal evidence that reflexology can be soothing, but researchers note that many systematic reviews have found little strong evidence to support its effectiveness.

Even if scientific evidence does not support reflexology, the practice can be relaxing, as it is a form of foot massage.


Foot massage tips

There is no one way to carry out a foot massage. Different people prefer different techniques. A person may want to test many techniques and learn what feels good for them or someone else.

Before getting started:

  • soak the feet in warm water, with or without a few drops of diluted essential oil
  • pat the feet dry with a towel
  • rest the feet on the towel
  • spread massage oil over the foot, up to the ankle

Here are some general foot massage tips to use as a guide:

  • Pay attention to parts that feel sore: Work on sore areas for longer, with as much or as little pressure as feels comfortable.
  • Pay attention to parts that feel good: If it is enjoyable, a person can continue.
  • Avoid injuring the thumbs: Do not use so much pressure that the thumbs start to hurt. Use the strength of body weight, not muscles in thumbs, to apply pressure.
  • Avoid using pressure that is too light, as this may tickle.
  • Focus on one foot at a time.

Risks and considerations

Before starting a foot massage, check the feet for:

  • cuts
  • bandages
  • athlete’s foot

Other preexisting foot conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy, may also affect whether or not a person should have a foot massage. Certain conditions may make parts of the foot sensitive to pressure.

Pregnant women and those at risk for blood clots should seek medical advice before having a massage of the lower legs.


Summary

Foot massage is an accessible home treatment for tense or aching feet. The practice may also help a person relax and unwind, supporting their overall sense of well-being.

The 12 techniques in this article are a basic introduction to foot massage. People can seek further instruction from professionals or see a massage therapist.

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