Foot massage is an effective method to alleviate or decrease foot pain. Dr. Christopher Chiodo of Harvard University, in his book "Foot Care Basics," includes massage as one of his recommended ways to relieve foot pain, adding that the massage can be done by hand or with a mechanical device. Although you can give yourself a foot massage, it is ideal to have someone else perform the massage so that you can achieve maximum relaxation during the experience.
Overuse and Fatigue
When your feet hurt after a long hike or from standing all day on a concrete surface, fatigued and overworked muscles are the usual problem. Foot massage helps to deal with the problem by increasing the circulation to bring nutrient-rich blood into the area, enhancing lymph fluid movement to remove irritating cellular waste products, and relaxing tense muscles that may be contracted to protect weak areas. A combination of both long, surface strokes and short, deep pressure strokes can effectively reach most of the problematic areas in the feet.
When foot pain becomes chronic, lasting over a longer period of time, with no noticeable improvement, you may be experiencing an orthopedic problem with the bones, nerves, tendons or ligaments in your foot. Consult with a physician or podiatrist to identify the exact problem and causes and discuss whether foot massage would be an appropriate treatment. Often, through improved circulation, massage can create conditions that enable the body to heal itself. Deep tissue massage styles, such as neuromuscular therapy, provide precise treatment directed at specific structures in the foot to decrease nerve and muscle pain.
Sudden onset of foot pain may be the result of an injury. After consulting your physician to rule out any broken bones or other acute damage, consider using foot massage to help alleviate the pain and swelling. Begin by massaging near the outer edges of the injury site, not directly on it. As the sensitivity lessens and you are able to apply pressure closer to the injury, use light circular friction strokes to help keep the circulation moving and avoid scar tissue buildup.
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Ancient Styles of Foot Massage
As communications improve worldwide, ancient styles of massage are now becoming more familiar to a wider audience. Khun Margaret, editor of Welcome to Chiangmai-Chiangrai, says Thai foot massage combines elements of physical massage with energy work and reflexology-style energy points to alleviate patients' foot pain. The Kansa Vakti style of foot massage originated in India and uses clarified butter, or ghee, to provide massage based on Ayurvedic tradition. This style of massage encompasses both the foot and lower leg, teaching that pain in the foot is often related to leg muscles.
Reflex Zone Massage
Reflexology is a type of foot massage that is predicated on the concept that the thousands of nerve endings in the soles of the feet are also associated with other organ systems and areas of the rest of the entire body. Therefore, it is believed that stimulation of the nerve endings in the feet will have an impact on the related tissues elsewhere. This style of massage usually involves static pressure on specific points on the foot rather than stroking or rubbing as with other styles. Kevin and Barbara Kunz, reflexology practitioners and authors of many books on the subject, list relief from foot pain and also from pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body as benefits of receiving reflexology.