Around 2,500 years ago, a Chinese physician named Jivaka Komarabhacca created a complex system of massage that eventually ended up in Thailand somehow. From there it was passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next and is still in practice today. When the Thai alphabet was developed under King Ramkamhaeng’s rule, learned scholars began to record all aspects of Thai society including healing practices like massage therapy. Unfortunately, many of the records were destroyed when Ayuthaya, Thailand’s capital, was captured by the Burmese in 1776. All that was left was what was engraved on the walls of Wat Poh, one of Bangkok’s most famous temples.
Today, many different types of massage have been developed in Thailand based on the ancient teachings, the foot massage being one of them. The foot massage is one of the most interesting of those developed because of the fact that the application must be exceedingly accurate as it is based on the location of the nerves. The Thai believe that each part of the foot has a direct link to parts of the body such as vital organs and systems. Applying pressure in certain areas of the foot therefore affects their corresponding parts. Since its creation, foot massage has adapted hands as well and has become widely known as reflexology.
Foot Massage Techniques
There are many different techniques that almost every foot massage therapist/reflexologist uses and they are as follows:
- Sweeping and Rubbing. Many foot massages start with a gentle, rhythmic rubbing of the foot’s surface to create warmth and an increased supply of blood.
- Thumb Walking. The thumbs are probably the strongest fingers and are used to loosen the tendons along the edges of the foot and to apply firm, direct pressure to tense areas.
- Toe Rotation. The toes can be very sensitive and should be handled with care. Gentle squeezing while rotating and pulling them upwards and outwards is a technique commonly used for the toes.
- Kneading. Kneading is done by forming a fist with the hand and using the knuckles to press and rotate across the sole of the foot from heel to toe, and back.
- Cupping. This technique is more of a cool down and is just a simple squeezing up and down motion of the entire foot with one hand, while cupping the heel with the other.
Foot Massage Benefits
The benefits of a good foot massage are innumerous:
- Pressing and massaging the base of the fourth toe helps to heal heart conditions
- Firmly pressing and massaging the base of the second toe influences the lungs and encourages better breathing
- Massaging between the third and fourth toe relaxes strained and tired eyes and helps to improve vision
- Stretching and pulling the big toe relieves pain from sinusitis
- Rotating pressure at the ball and middle of the foot eases stomachaches, and heals the kidneys, bladder, and the entire excretory system
- Applying pressure to the heel has healing effects on the lower back area
- Stretching and rotating the ankle is therapeutic for the reproductive tracts
- Stretching the knuckles of the toes backward improves posture
- Massaging the top of the foot between the first and second toed relieves inner ear pain, while massaging between the fourth and fifth toe eases chest pains
- Kneading the inner and outer edges of the foot is beneficial to the spine
- Pressing and gently massaging the soft spot beneath the anklebone reduces pain from the sciatic nerve and cleanses the body of bacteria and toxins by stimulating the lymphatic system
With so much rotating, pressing, pulling, stretching, and massaging, the soft tissues become relaxed and invigorated and so does, quite literally, the foundation of your being.