While a foot massage feels lovely to the person who is getting it, there is more merit to the exercise than providing comfort. A study conducted in 2010 aimed to outline the health benefits of massages. The results concluded that massage therapy helps the receiver to manage emotions better, sleep, experience reduced pain, and deal with various mental and physical challenges.
Based on further research conducted in 2018, people in clinical settings experienced improved vital signs and reduced anxiety when foot massages were applied to the mix.
There is no denying that foot massages are incredibly beneficial. However, the effect can be lost if they are not conducted properly. You don’t need to be a professional masseuse to get it right, but there are some basics that you should get down before you go through with the process. Not only can the information here help you to give a better massage, but it can also help you to explain what works as you receive one.
Like most massage types, you don’t just jump into the foot massage. It’s essential to get through a few preliminary steps to help the person to get relaxed and to make things more conducive to the upcoming process.
Before the massage begins, the feet should be soaked in warm water. You may put a minimum amount of essential oil in the water, but this is not necessary. This process allows for relaxation, removal of dead skin, and improving the cleanliness of the feet before things get started.
Next, remove the feet from the warm water and pat dry with a towel. It’s crucial that you don’t rub the towel along the feet, as you don’t want to get lint or pieces of thread involved in the mix. You may then lay the towel down and have the massage recipient’s feet rested on the same.
Finally, it’s time to get some massage oil into the mix. You need only apply the oil onto the foot area from the ankle down.
What to Focus On
Remember that this is more than just a rubbing session. When it is over, the person who is receiving the massage should feel better than he/she did before it started. This is made possible through relaxation and mechanical responses, and it is imperative that you stimulate both in all you do.
The first important thing in achieving this is sore points. Tension and soreness tend to go hand in hand. Physical strain and stress can build in muscles and tissues, which results in pain. As a foot massage is being done, it is essential for communication to flow.
This open trading of information allows the masseuse to know what areas should get the focus. As the massage progresses, and the receiver begins to relax, the number of stress hormones produced decreases, which allows tissues and muscles to feel better progressively. As a masseuse, it’s essential to pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues to identify these sore areas.
The next point to note is the other side of the spectrum. Sore areas typically generate pain when they are initially massaged. With enough focus and a balanced touch, the pain should gradually decrease. However, there are also areas that elicit pleasure from the person receiving the massage. While these areas are not necessarily in need of significant attention, a part of creating a relaxation response is stimulating those areas.
Therefore, spend a little time on those areas that feel good, so you can trigger the mental and physiological responses that you need throughout the massage.
Do not make the mistake of trying to split your focus, as you may end up achieving nothing. You do need to massage both feet, but don’t try to focus on both at the same time. Pour all your attention into a single foot, and when you are done, you can work on the other. This gives each the time and attention to detail that is needed.
Your pressure is another critical part of the massage. Sometimes, people are afraid to apply too much pressure as they don’t wish to cause pain. While this is understandable, you also don’t want the pressure to be too light, as it does nothing for the underlying tissues.
There is no singular measure of the right amount of pressure, but the masseuse and the person receiving the massage can put the puzzle together cooperatively. Remember that pain tolerance varies from person to person, which means that comfort levels are not set. Once the communication described earlier is in play with attentiveness and respect, it shouldn’t be tough to find the sweet spot.
Finally, massaging is not a thumb strengthening exercise. Many people pay way too much attention to placing intense pressure on areas using the thumbs. While your thumbs may be going through the motions, it is your bodyweight that you should use to generate the force that you need.
Now that the fundamentals have been covered, the only thing left is the execution. There are several techniques that you can use when doing a foot massage.
The first and one of the most basic is known as a warmup twist. This is typically used as a starting exercise to prepare the feet for the rest of the session. Place your palms on both sides of the foot, then pull the left side as you push the right side. From there, you switch the left and right positions, as you alternate in a slow controlled motion.
Thumb work is the next technique. Again, you begin by holding either side of the foot. Your fingers should be on the top while your thumbs remain on the soles. All you need to do is stroke down from each toe while applying pressure. This pressure must be moderate, based on the recipient’s pain tolerance.
Finally, there are finishing strokes that can be used to wrap things up. This also begins with placing your palms on both sides of the foot. Just like the warmup twists, start alternating pushing and pulling each side. The difference, however, is that as you do this, you move your hands from the ankles to the toes. Each subsequent pass should be completed with lighter pressure than the last until you wrap things up.
Note that there are many other massage techniques and types that can be used, so feel free to do some research, get creative, and remember to communicate.