Techniques for Foot Massage
Getting a Foothold . . .
Our feet take a daily beating. They bear our full body weight every time we stand and with each step we take, and they put up with things like poor footwear, improper body mechanics, and hard walking surfaces. It's clear that they deserve a little TLC now and then.
Foot massage can be done for relief or relaxation, for love, for fun, or just because! Grab someone's foot and start rubbing today! : )
Anatomy of the Foot
- Toes - we usually have five on each foot. They are small and have one joint in the toe itself, and one joint attaching it to the foot. Be careful with the toes, they are delicate.
- Ball - the pad on the bottom of the foot, just before the toes. It's the meatiest part of the foot. It has some flexibility.
- Arch - the support system of the foot, almost like a tension bridge. This can be a sensitive area, prone to stress and inflammation. Be careful when beginning to massage this part, and get feedback.
- Heel - the bony end of the foot, it takes a lot of impact while walking. Gentle massage is indicated, since there is little muscle here.
- Ankle - the joint that attaches the foot to the leg. There are bony prominences on each side, which are very delicate and prone to bruising. It is surrounded by ligaments and tendons.
- Foot - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikipedia offers an in-depth look at the foot and it's anatomical layout and structure. Along with the anatomy, Wikipedia outlines history, myths, customs and culture that revolve around the foot.
- Wash your hands. Ask the recipient to wash and dry their feet.
- Place a towel under their feet.
- Choose a balm or cream. Oil is gooey and lotion absorbs too fast.
- Begin by sitting facing the soles of their feet. Place your hands such that your fingers are on the top of their foot and your thumbs are on the pad. The first strokes should be firm enough not to tickle, but light enough that they don't hurt. Remember, feet are bony.
- Travel up and down the foot. Fingertips are going from the base of the toes to the front of the ankle and back, and thumbs are going from pad to arch and back.
- Now concentrate on the pad of the foot. This area can usually withstand a bit more pressure. Use your thumbs to work in circular motions.
- The arch of the foot can usually take light-to-moderate pressure. It's an easy area to see. Again, use your thumb to work in circles or an up/down stroke with the emphasis of the pressure on the up.
- Standing to the side of the foot, grab it with both hands and gently "wring" it out like you would a wet washcloth. Again, fingers should be on the top of the foot and thumbs on the bottom.
- Coming back to your starting place, gently work between the bones on the top of the foot. There isn't much space in there, but all you have to do is let your fingers glide in the space.
- Now for the heel - again, circular motions with the thumb. Be sure to get the back of the heel as well by gently lifting the foot, placing the back of the heel in your hand, and letting your hand glide toward you. This makes a nice hand-over-hand technique.
- The toes will be wanting some attention as well. Again, be gentle. You don't really want to place your whole finger between toes for fear of disjointing or splitting the skin. Simple use the palms of both hands to give them a light rub, and then gently pinch each toe between your index finger and thumb and pull up with a gliding motion.
- A lovely finishing touch is to work on the sides of the ankle. With one hand on each side, use your fingertips to work small circles around the outside of the bony area.
- Return to the first stroke technique for the finale. You want to start and finish with the warmth of your hands contacting the foot.
Foot Massage Video
- How to Give a Foot Massage
This article gives step-by-step instructions for a basic foot massage. There are clear pictures of the techniques. Check out the tips, supplies, warnings and related links.
- Foot Massage Techniques
The "Learn Foot Massage" website offers a wealth of information, starting with charts and pictures and ending with various types of foot massage. The glossary lists various positions of the foot, as well as medical conditions.
Things to Remember
- You don't have to follow the outlined steps in that exact order - do what seems comfortable.
- Be sure to file down your fingernails - even the slightest scratch will detract from your massage!
- If you stand to give the massage, it will be more natural to place your thumbs on the top of the foot and your fingers on the bottom - be careful with the pressure from your thumbs, it can be very uncomfortable on the bones of the feet.
- If you are massaging older or "seasoned" feet, you actually might want to use an oil. Older skin is more prone to tearing, and any resistance offered by a cream or lotion may not be a good thing. Oil can provide a safe glide. Don't use too much, or you won't be able to accomplish anything for the slipperiness.
- Paper-thin skin is especially vulnerable to injury or tearing. If the skin is thin, use gentle pressure techniques instead of gliding strokes.
- Breaking contact with the foot will take away from the massage. If you have to apply more balm, scratch your nose, or shoo away your cat, be sure to maintain contact with the foot. Even if you simply rest the foot on your forearm, maintaining contact will make your massage more memorable.
Everyone's tolerance to pressure is different. Ask frequently throughout the massage, especially when you are moving on to a different part of the foot or are beginning a new technique.
- Easy signs that the pressure is not right might include: flinching, tightening of the muscles in and around the foot, withdrawing the foot, holding their breath, or giggling.
Foot Massage Lesson by Health-Choices Holistic MassageSchool
Adding the "Extra Touches"
- Use scented lotions or creams. Try a warming oil.
- Offer to wash their feet for them before you begin the massage. A foot spa is handy for this, or use a pan of warm water with foot salts or a touch of bubble bath.
- Include the calf in the massage. Be sure that you always rub up toward the knee. Strokes should fall short of the back of the knee - there are several nerves and veins back there that should be left alone.
- When working on the lower leg, be sure to also stay away from the shin bone. The muscle tissue lies to the sides of the bone.
- If using oil, towel off the foot afterward. Don a warm, fuzzy sock or footie to maintain the warmth and comfort.
- Warm the oil or lotion before applying it to the foot. You can purchase oil or lotion warmers, or just use your hands to create the heat.
- Trade foot massages! What better way for two people to barter!?
Things to Avoid:
A contraindication is a circumstance under which a medical condition may be worsened by a particular treatment. Below is a lost of contraindications for massage.
There are certain medical conditions that should not be massaged:
- Fractures - self explanatory. Don't make fractures worse.
- Sprains - sprains need a certain amount of time to heal before massage should be applied.
- Dislocations - again, don't make them worse. Joints that are not intact need time to heal, and manipulating the structures around them might make them worse.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis - rheumatoid arthritis is in constant inflammation, and massage can make this worse. There may be stages of RA or certain times or conditions when light massage might be ok, but proceed with care.
- Severe Neuropathy (contact your MD) - if you can't feel pressure well, massage might be harmful if it's too aggressive and you can't tell.
- Numbness or tingling (contact your MD) - again, if you can't feel the touch, the pressure, etc., then you can't tell when massage is too aggressive.
Plantar Fasciitis - there are varying degrees of this condition. If you have a severe case and are in an inflammatory stage, massage may not help. If it's a new case and is very mild, massage might be helpful. Ask your physician or podiatrist if you have questions.
There are certain medical conditions that you should massage around:
- Bruises - bruises are tender, and healing. No need to make them more colorful.
- Calluses - given the hard nature of calluses, direct pressure can be uncomfortable. The same goes for bunions and corns.
- Varicose Veins (if there are too many, then avoid the massage altogether) - direct pressure to an unstable vein is never a good idea, and can be quite painful.
Contraindications to Massage
- What are the Contraindications to Massage
MassageNow.com shows us the basics in contraindications to foot massage, and dissects them into total, local or medical aversions with a note to advise to check with your doctor.
MassageLane.com published a comprehensive list of contraindications to massage in general. Every massage therapist should check over this list with their clients, and you should do it at home too.
- Contraindications to deep bodywork
At Advanced-Training.com, this article outlines the reasons that deep body work might be avoided. The listing is well laid out, each medical condition defined and the contraindication described.
Links to Geriatric Massage
- Massage Therapy For Seniors - massage treatment for elderly, senior massage
Massage Therapy 101 talks about the senior body during massage and the considerations to take, such as technique, positioning, duration and benefits. Geriatric massage can be explored through this site.
- Geriatric Massage Therapy
Benefits of massage for senior citizens.
- Comfort Touch
MassageTherapy.com discusses the comfort of touch. The Comfort Touch technique is explored here, along with training, precautions, applications and principles. Read about one therapists' experience with this technique.
Booties for your Footies
Ergonomics in Massage
- Always keep a straight back while doing body work. If you feel that you are slouching, your shoulders are rounding forward, or a general discomfort throughout your back, you might want to realign.
- Avoid overextension of any of your joints, all the way down to your wrist and fingers.
- Hands, and especially thumbs, can get tired during massage. Pace yourself, change positions and techniques frequently, and stop to stretch if you must.
- Sometimes a sitting stool is really handy for massage. There are some massage techniques that require standing, and others that don't.
- Ergonomics for Bodyworkers
Find out how proper ergonomics during massage delivery can prevent injury. This article lists risk factors, tools, techniques, the dynamics of seated vs. standing bodywork, and hand tools that can save your body.