Your feet are precious, don’t you think? They carry you from one place to another, allow you to carry out your life’s work, and do a day of work themselves. But how often do we make time to care for them? There are multiple steps we can use to care for our feet, and today we will be sharing why a daily foot massage is a worthwhile tool to add to your self-care practice.
Bringing Our Attention to the Feet
Your feet may feel tiny when compared to your thighs, legs, arms, torso, but they contain 25% of all the bones in your body. Each foot of ours carries half of our body weight when it lifts off the ground. Our feet are quite sensitive. According to foot.com, the bottoms of our feet have more sweat glands and nerve endings per square kilometer than any other area of our body.
Some of our jobs may involve a lot of standing, which can cause very sore feet. According to foot.com, standing can cause more strain than walking because only a few muscles in the feet are responsible for holding us up for longer periods of time. While we walk, our feet use different muscles, and they get some break.
It’s no wonder that our feet grow to their largest by the end of the day. The health of these bones is vital. When the bones of our feet are out of alignment, it affects the alignment of the bones in the rest of the body too. According to statistics, 75% of Americans and Canadians are expected to face some challenges with their feet at least once in their lifetime.
Feet Affect Our Health and Give Us Signs About Our Health
According to podiatryinfocanada.com, experiencing foot problems can lead to headaches, indigestion, lower back pain and a misaligned spine. They also share how our feet can give us signs about where our health is going. Certain signs on our feet can signal our bodies developing “arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders”. That makes moving our awareness to our feet that much more necessary.
As we age, the need to give tender attention to our feet increases. As the rest of the skinon the body ages, so does the skin on our feet. According to foot.com, starting in our 30s, “natural fat pads made of collagen and elastin” decrease. With the increasing lack of cushioning, our feet can experience more pain unless we give them attention (like massages and proper footwear).
Why Massage Our Feet?
Our feet have more nerve endings (per square foot) than any other part of the body. Our nerves are what allow our bodies to sense pain, temperature, make sense of different surfaces, and more. So it’s no wonder that we want to soothe our nerves on our feet by giving them a massage after a long day of work! Our feet even contain nerves that can signal to our brain to reduce the pain; to trigger them, we want to apply moderate pressure while massaging.
Massage can help relieve pain from conditions including arthritis, plantar fasciitis, as well as sore feet. According to arthritis.org, research shows that regular massage can help with arthritis symptoms by easing stiff muscles, increasing the range of movement, and reducing pain. Massage can also help alleviate the painful symptoms of plantar fasciitis, which affects about 10% of the US population.
Tips from Harvard Medical School on How to Massage Feet Safely
Is it that “time” of the month? Foot massages can help with the symptoms of not only menopause but also PMS. You don’t even need to do it for too long if you are short on time. Even 5 minutes can make a difference.
In one scientific study, just 5 minutes of a foot massage was noted to relax the body, which they measured through physiological changes in the body. The 5-minute token of care was able to decrease the message receiver’s heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, bringing the body into a more relaxed mode.
Also according to arthritis.org, scientific findings note that receiving a massage influences how our body makes the hormones related to blood pressure, anxiety, heart rate, and other vital signs in a positive way, having a holistic effect. No wonder a massage can leave us feeling so good!
Other research experiments support this understanding of a massage’s benefits. Research shows that massages can help with pain control and stress relief. According to arthritis.org, a good massage can lower how much of the neurotransmitter substance P (which can increase sensations of pain) our bodies produce. According to the field of reflexology, taking care of our feet through touch techniques affects the rest of our body (even our organs) too!
Reflexology: Fact or Fiction?
Reflexology is a field of massage therapy which goes by the belief that certain points and areas on bodies such as hands, feet, and ears are connected to specific organs and systems; stimulating these points or areas with touch can affect the health of the connected organs and systems. According to the Reflexology Association of Canada, reflexology has its origins in India, Egypt, and China from many many years ago. Dr. Wm. Fitzgerald introduced pre-reflexology to the West in 1913, and it has evolved since then to what we know as reflexology today.
Is there evidence behind reflexology? Reflexology is a controversial topic even amongst scientists. There has been researching done by scientists that can support the benefits of reflexology, though more thorough research needs to happen before its benefits are more widely accepted.
Scientific Research Supporting Reflexology
Meet Barbara and Kevin Kunz, who according to Reflexology Research Project are, “internationally recognized authorities in the field of reflexology”. According to Reflexology Research Project, they have reviewed 168 research studies from over the world (21 countries) that show it to be 93% effective. According to their review, research done has noted that reflexology can affect specific organs, improve symptoms associated with their illness, and also as we went through before, decrease pain and anxiety while increasing relaxation.
It can be hard to imagine how a point on our body can affect a particular internal organ. However, according to research done in Austria, a foot reflexology session can increase blood flow to the kidneys and intestines. Another Korean study also supports this concept of reflexology being beneficial for the kidneys.
Massaging the feet can be a very relaxing activity. It’s great to massage them before sleeping, as they are probably most tired by that point. The relaxing effect of a massage can allow for better sleep and sweeter dreams. The better circulation of blood can also help our bodies better do their nightly duties as we sleep.