The Top 10 Health Benefits Of Foot Massage And Reflexology
Your feet can take a lot of physical abuse throughout the day from being stuffed into different shoes, walking around, and carrying your weight each day can make them tired and achy. Pampering your feet can help make them feel better while also aiding in your daily health. Foot massages and the practice of reflexology can help your tired feet while also promoting your complete health and well-being.
This ancient practice has been practiced for centuries throughout different cultures across the globe and is still used as an alternative therapy in the modern world. Here are the top 10 health benefits of foot massage and reflexology to show you just how helpful this practice can be for you along with your daily healthy habits.
What Is Reflexology?
Sometimes called zone therapy, reflexology is an alternative therapy where putting pressure on specific points on the feet in order to elicit different responses in different parts of the body. It is based on a pseudoscientific theory that relates different parts of the body to different specific points on the foot. It was popularized in ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations and came back into use in the 1900s in the Unites States with different physiotherapists using it to get a better understanding of the nerve cells in the extremities.
It was introduced in the US, specifically, in 1913 by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald who was an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Along with Edwin F. Bowers, they claimed that putting pressure on certain parts of the feet (and hands) and somewhat of an anesthetic effect on different parts of the body. The idea behind this theory was further modified in the 1930s and 40s when a nurse/physiotherapist named Eunice D. Ingham mapped the body into different zones corresponding to the feet.
According to her research, the body should be divided into 10 equal zones with five on the right side of the body and five on the left side of the body. It was Ingham, actually, who gave reflexology its name. Ingham’s theory was further built on my Laura Norman who developed the more modern methods and techniques of reflexology.
While there are physical medical studies to support the idea of reflexology, there are also spiritual beliefs that go along with the practice. It is believed by some that the natural flow of energy or a person’s life force (Qi) can be blocked or interrupted in the body due to environmental factors like stress, poor diet, and similar things. By relieving these things through reflexology, you can unclog your system so your Qi can flow freely.
This release is meant to relieve pain and stress in the body while also promoting healing throughout. From a more scientific and biological perspective, reflexology is believed to possible balance your nervous system by releasing different chemicals (like endorphins) to relieve pain, improve circulation, and reduce your stress. That being said, more studies are needed for professionals to back up these claims.
It is a safe, external, and natural practice that is meant to better your quality of life through massage therapy without the aid of oils or lotions in order to stimulate the nerves in your body. The idea here is that the nerves branch off to different organs or glands in your body which will trigger their proper function. The points that are usually focused on are the ankles, the soles of the feet, the toes, and the upper portion of the foot.
Pressure should be applied with the thumb, fingers, or hands and not massage tools or things like that. This is because the direct nerve stimulation is necessary for the massage to work properly with the corresponding organ or gland. Reflexology can impact the following:
- Trigeminal nerve
- Cerebellum/brain stem
- Hypertension points
- Thyroid gland
- Parathyroid gland
- Celiac plexus
- Genital gland
You can use a proper foot massage on the different parts of your feet in order to elicit different responses in the aforementioned parts of the body. All you have to do is use your thumb, fingers or your hand to massage the specific area. Sometimes the relief is instant while other responses require multiple massages for longer periods of time in order to notice any positive effects.
This not only promotes well-being but is also relaxing and feels pleasant, especially if you’re on your feet a lot during the day. While you can go to professionals who offer reflexology or massage therapy, you can also learn how to massage your own feet at home to benefit from the practice. It’s best to use a reflexology chart to make sure that you’re stimulating the right nerves for the right parts of the body.
There has been some research done on foot massages and reflexology that have determined that the massage promotes circulation in the body which can help with different issues in the body including:
- Reducing stress/anxiety
- Increasing clarity and calmness
- Distributing nutrients throughout the body
- Reducing aches and pains in tired muscles
There are also specific things that reflexology is said to help. Most of these claims have been backed up by research studies and clinical testing but further research needs to be done on the ancient practice in order to see what it can truly do for the human body and mind.
The Top 10 Health Benefits Of Foot Massage And Reflexology
While the surface benefits of a foot massage are a pleasant feeling and general relaxation, the theory behind reflexology is that specific parts of the body can be targeted to relieve different issues. Here are the top 10 health benefits of foot massage and reflexology that you can take advantage of.
#1. Arthritis Relief
Results have shown that reflexology can help treat osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis. A 2013 study actually showed that when done properly the practice can be as useful as pain medication with people feeling around 40% less pain than they felt before.
#2. Increasing Circulation
Massages, in general, can stimulate circulation in your body by improving blood flow to the extremities. This can help nutrients, as well as oxygen, move through your system. Improved circulation can help you battle inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
#3. Depression Relief
When practiced properly, reflexology can stimulate your nerves and help unclog your system to help relieve anxiety and depression. Double check your reflexology chart and try a foot massage to help relieve some of your anxiety or depression when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
#4. Manage Fatigue/Improve Sleep
As a foot massage relaxes your body, you can expect to feel less fatigued and get a better quality of sleep. It can also help you manage stress which will generally help you sleep better.
#5. Faster Healing
The belief is that the increased nerve activity that is stimulated by reflexology along with the improved circulation encourages healthy cell regeneration. This can help wounds and other problems heal faster.
#6. Healthier Feet
Obviously, a foot massage will be beneficial to your feet. The muscles in your feet will be stimulated and you’ll notice a relief in pain and tension. The increased circulation can help with any swelling, too.
#7. Hypertension Relief
A 2004 study has shown that reflexology has a positive impact on your blood pressure. The study showed that proper foot massages can decrease your systolic blood pressure when done two times a week for six weeks.
#8. Migraine Relief
One of the more known benefits of reflexology is its ability to help relieve migraines and headaches. Clinical trials have shown that proper massages can help reduce the pain of headaches as well as some pain relievers.
#9. Nausea Relief
An Australian study done on reflexology showed that patients who were experiencing nausea along with pain recorded a reduction in their nausea after being treated with reflexology. More impressive than the reduction was the fact that it was an almost instant relief.
#10. PMS Relief
Most women can relate to the aches, pains, and bothersome feelings of PMS. Reflexology can help battle back against mood swings, anxiety/irritability, muscles aches and tension, headaches, and fatigue that can set in during that time of the month. Studies have shown that the proper practice of reflexology can be as effective as ibuprofen for PMS symptoms.
These are just the top 10 health benefits of foot massage and reflexology. There are plenty of other benefits that you can expect once you try out reflexology for yourself.
Now that you have a better understanding about reflexology and foot massages including how to do it on your own, you can practice it on your own and take advantage of the top 10 health benefits of foot massage and reflexology at home whenever you want. Follow proper procedures and, as always, run any treatment program passed your doctor if you run into any issues, questions, or concerns.