Foot Massage and Reflexology Benefits

There are many research studies that have reported benefits from foot massage, reflexology, and acupressure. However, the quality of these research studies has varied greatly, and until we have results from good-quality studies on large groups of people, it's hard to say definitively what benefit, if any, foot manipulation has on health.

Hands massaging a foot
Mike Harrington / Getty Images

Overall, it is generally accepted that these therapies can provide some benefits and have little to no side effects. Researchers are not sure how the therapies work. Learn more about some of the conditions that can benefit from foot massage, reflexology, and acupressure.

Foot Ulcers

Trying to heal diabetic foot ulcers is often difficult and takes a lot of time. A research study found that compressed air massage decreased the time it took to heal diabetic foot ulcers.

The authors suggest that it may work by improving local circulation and that it has the potential to be used to supplement standard surgical and medical treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.

Cancer Patients

Massage, reflexology, and acupressure have been used as complementary therapies to traditional medical treatments in patients who have cancer.

Many research studies have shown benefits such as decreased anxiety, pain intensity, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in patients who have cancer.

Post-Op Pain

After surgery, it is not uncommon for patients to have pain. In another study, foot and hand massages were given to post-operative patients. The study found that pain scores, heart rate, and respiratory rate decreased. It should be noted that during the study, the massages were given one to four hours after participants took their pain medications, so this could have affected the results.

Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is hardening and narrowing of the arteries and it can lead to decreased blood flow. Acupressure has been shown to increase blood flow. A research study in patients who had peripheral arterial occlusive disease (decreased blood flow in their lower legs) showed that acupressure increased the blood flow in the patients' lower legs.

If you have vascular disease, it is possible that the pressure can cause vascular damage, so this might not be a safe treatment approach for some people.

Aging

Sometimes hitting middle age can cause a decline in certain aspects of health. A research study involving middle-aged women showed that self-reflexology decreased depression, perceived stress, and systolic blood pressure, and helped strengthen their immune systems.

Menopause

Many physiological and psychological changes take place during menopause. In a research study comparing reflexology to a foot massage, there was no difference in the amount of benefit of either one in helping with the symptoms of menopause. Both reflexology and foot massage helped to decrease anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and night sweats in women during menopause.

High Blood Pressure

A research study looked at the benefits of reflexology on blood pressure, cholesterol, and life satisfaction. They found that reflexology helped lower systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic blood pressure. Life satisfaction was improved significantly as well. Overall, blood cholesterol levels did not show improvement.

Amputations

People with leg amputations often suffer from phantom limb pain. A research study looked at reflexology and its possible benefits for people who had experienced a leg amputation. The study found that reflexology of the foot and hands helped decrease the intensity and duration of phantom limb pain. This was a pilot study, so it was small and had only 10 participants.

A Word From Verywell

Foot massage, reflexology, and acupressure use different methods of applying pressure in a systematic way to achieve therapeutic benefits. There isn't strong evidence that these techniques can improve health, but many people are happy with the results. If you want to try it, get your doctor's approval in advance and make sure you go to a licensed professional. After your treatment, you can decide whether it makes you feel better and whether you want to go back for additional treatment. Keep in mind that your health insurance might not cover the cost of these interventions, and you might have to pay out of pocket. However, check your policy—some health plans cover the cost of complementary therapies like foot massage, reflexology, and acupressure for certain conditions.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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