Santa has already come and gone, so the new mark as to whether or not you've been good over the past year—and especially to your significant other!—is whether you're getting a foot massage for Valentine's Day.
Of course, as you'll see, there are different types of massage techniques—and not all are equally enjoyable.
(So perhaps a better indication of how your significant other is feeling is the kind of massage you receive.)
Let's get you ready for the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday with a quick look at why foot massages can feel so awesome, then follow with some tips for how you can give one.
Your feet contain some of the hardest working muscles in your body. When compared to other muscle groups, however, they are rather small. In fact, most of them are less than half-an-inch long!
Now, the reason these small-but-mighty muscles work so hard is because they must account for the tremendous amounts of force we all place on our feet every day. Remember, you can put up to four times your bodyweight on the landing foot with each step you take. Given the fact you might take 10,000 steps in an average day—and that number is much higher (along with greater force loads) for runners—it adds up quickly.
Hopefully, you can see how it's so easy to overuse the muscles in your lower limbs.
One of the numerous problems that can develop in your feet as a result is a buildup of lactic acid. Lactic acid is basically a byproduct created when muscles exert energy. When this byproduct builds up in the muscles, it will cause them to cramp - and foot cramps can be downright immobilizing!
Massages can play a big role in getting rid of the toxic environment caused by excessive lactic acid buildup. This is done when a masseuse (amateur or otherwise) rubs muscles and tissues using strokes that lead away from the area.
For example, when massaging the Achilles tendon, you want to glide along the tendon in a long motion toward the heart (and up into the calf). You can then proceed to massage the calf muscle in the same direction.
Now, massage techniques can be clearly used to pump fluids and away from muscles and connective tissues, but they can also direct additional blood towards them. Why would anyone want that, though?
Well, if you're an athlete gearing up for competition, you may want to do the opposite of what we were just describing prior to your race or game. Increased bloodflow can be beneficial to your feet when they have to work harder!
Going back to massages for overworked feet, there are other benefits besides the removal of lactic acid.
A good massage can serve to relax muscle fibers. They can also reduce scarring! This is important because scar tissue can become painful, in some cases even pressing against nerve tissue and leading to neurologic pain.
When massage therapy is being performed to address overuse injuries or issues, the whole length of affected muscles should be massaged. The tenderness is typically present in the entire muscle, but it is likely most tender in the "muscle belly."
Whereas Santa brings coal for bad boys and girls, an upset Valentine might use a brutal massage technique like Graston or Rolfing methods. In these kinds of massages, the actual intent is to try and damage tissues so they can heal.
Sometimes, this entails the use of tools.
Although these techniques might lie somewhere between less-than-pleasant and outright painful, there are definite benefits to these kinds of massages. In the Graston technique, connective tissues and muscle fibers are stretched, while at the same time scar tissue can be broken down. Rolfing technique focuses on improved function of the body and long-term alignment by manipulating soft tissues.
So, they might not feel good, but they can do good.
To give an effective massage, start with low pressure and gradually build it up. Once at an appropriate level—not too hard, but not too gentle either—hold for about 30-50 seconds.
The amount of pressure applied during a massage session will depend on factors like how damaged or fatigued muscles are and tolerance of the person receiving the massage. (A good masseuse needs to be able to read the person to make sure an appropriate amount of pressure is being used!)
If you find a trigger point—and these can include specific, isolated muscles (indicated by a knot)—have the person receiving the massage take a deep breath while the area is being worked. Once you are done, they will let out a big sigh of relief.
You may wish to use a lubricant while performing a massage, and a great option to consider is almond oil. Of course, there are any scented and unscented types of oils that can also work quite well.
Regarding locations that can receive the most amount of relief, you may find the plantar fascia, abductor halluces, foot arch, and the small muscles at the base of the toes (between the metatarsals) will receive the greatest benefit.
Another area you might want to target is where the first metatarsal bone meets the midfoot bones. (There is a deep, bony lump at this point.)
The plantar fascia running along the underside of the foot attaches to many tiny muscles, which is why it feels so good to have this particular tissues massaged - something to keep in mind when giving your valentine his or her foot massage!
Keeping the spirit of Valentine's Day in mind, show your feet some love this year by making sure you come see us as soon as problems develop. Remember, almost all medical conditions—including injuries and ailments in your lower limbs—are most easily resolved at their earliest stages. If you're suffering from foot or ankle pain, we can help- so give us a call at (317) 545-0505.