What is a Reflexology Foot Massage?
Reflexology has been used as a healing technique since ancient times. Wall carvings on ancient Egyptian tombs from 2,500 BC show physicians massaging patients’ hands and feet, while Chinese doctor Wang Wei applied manual pressure to patients’ feet in the 4th century BC.
Reflexology is a type of foot massage that involves applying pressure to particular areas of the foot to target specific body regions. The technique is based on the principles of bodily interconnectedness and qi. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), qi is the body’s vital energy flow.
When the qi is blocked, it can lead to health issues such as muscle pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a weakened immune system. Reflexology practitioners massage the feet to unblock the qi to specific body systems to improve energy flow and alleviate illness.
There are currently two other proposed mechanisms by which reflexology foot massage for relaxation can improve health.
Western medicine states that the feet connect to the rest of the body via complex nerve systems. Triggering the nerves in the feet can alleviate muscle and fascia tension to increase blood flow to specific body areas. This boost in circulation floods the area with the nutrients the tissue needs to heal itself.
Another mechanism suggests that illness is due to the build-up of uric acid in the body. This mechanism indicates that excess uric acid forms crystalline structures in the foot nerves. When a massage therapist applies pressure, it manually breaks up these crystals to eliminate pressure and tension.
The Foot-Body Connection
During a foot massage for relaxation, your massage therapist presses and rubs the areas of your feet corresponding to the locations of your body that are experiencing discomfort or illness. Foot massage therapists use a specialised chart that maps out the connections between the areas of the feet and other body parts and systems.
A reflexology map reflects the position and structure of the body’s systems. The tips and pads of the toes correspond to the brain, head, ears, eyes, throat, and sinuses. The ball of the foot matches the chest, including the lungs and shoulders; however, only the left foot has a reflex point paired to the heart.
The curved foot arch contains reflex points that match the digestive system, while the edge of the inner arch corresponds to the curvature of the spine. The heel has reflex points for the small intestine, sciatic nerve, lower back, and knee.
What are the Benefits of Foot Massage for Relaxation?
There are several benefits to receiving a relaxing foot massage, including stress relief, improved circulation, and a healthier immune system.
When you experience stress, it triggers a cascade of hormonal and neurochemical reactions that lead to increased body tension. This tension can also manifest in your feet, affecting numerous connected body systems, from digestion to immunity.
A foot massage alleviates built-up tension by gently kneading hyper-contracted muscles and fascia, encouraging them to release.
Poor circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by prolonged standing, peripheral artery disease, varicose veins, or obesity. Symptoms of poor circulation include tingling, numbness, coldness, discomfort, and muscle cramps. It can lead to fatigue and low energy levels and increase your heart disease and stroke risk.
A relaxing foot massage can help increase circulation in the legs and feet, moving blood towards the heart.
Techniques Used for a Foot Massage for Relaxation
In addition to general lymphatic strokes and circular rubbing movements, your therapist will use four specific techniques during a foot massage. These foot massage techniques activate reflexology points and improve blood circulation and energy flow.
Thumb walking involves applying sustained pressure to a certain area on the soles of the feet (plantar aspect). Then, the therapist releases the pressure, extends the thumb, and moves it slightly further up on the foot.
Finger walking uses a similar technique to thumb walking but is primarily used on the top and sides of the feet. The therapist uses their thumbs to support the bottom of the foot while finger-walking across the top.
Hook and backup
To access the deeper layers of tissue, your therapist may use the hook and backup technique. This technique allows therapists to reach hard-to-access reflex points such as the pituitary, pineal, ileocecal valve, appendix, and sigmoid colon.
After thumb walking to the affected area of the foot, the therapist applies pressure using the flat part of their thumb placed at a 90° angle to the foot.
Using the fingers to support the opposite side of the foot, the therapist will contract their thumb back towards their palm.
Rotation on a point
This foot massage technique is valuable for smaller reflex points like the diaphragm, solar plexus, and adrenal glands. The therapist finds the reflex point and applies direct pressure with the thumb. Then, they rotate the foot using the other hand to intensify the pressure.
Relax and Unwind at Wayne Massage
At Wayne Massage, our foot massage therapists are highly experienced in reflexology techniques to alleviate discomfort, help you relax, and improve your health.
We offer massages from 30 to 150 minutes, so you can relieve tired, aching feet during your lunch break or enjoy a full foot pampering session. Call to book a relaxing foot massage today.
Reflexology for Relaxation
Foot Reflexology Chart: How it Works, Potential Risks, and Benefits
Reflexology Terms & Techniques