It’s no doubt many more of us are living much more sedentary day-to-day lifestyles, particularly in the age of desk jobs and technology economies where we aren’t mobile, except to go to the watercooler or the restroom. Edema has had a field day as a result of this transition in work environments. Pair that with naturally occurring reasons for some people to experience edema, and you’ll be searching for quick and comprehensive relief of swelling in the feet and ankles. Enter foot massage and Reflexology to the rescue. How can you take advantage of this therapy? We’ll walk you through it.
What is Edema?
We will talk about a specific type of edema and a specific area of the body in this article. But the quick answer to what edema is: it is swelling brought on by excess fluid being trapped in the tissues of the body.
Edema within this article is essentially swelling that occurs in the ankles, calves, and feet that become painful as excess fluid is retained and pools, thanks to gravity in the lowest part of the body. The swelling and inflammation caused by fluid retention cause discomfort and tenderness.
What is reflexology?
Some would say reflexology is an unproven methodology, even if it does pre-date western medicine. Some would say it’s a pseudoscience based on a few anecdotal stories of success. For those who have used reflexology, and specifically those who have utilized foot massage and reflexology to solve problems far beyond the feet, it’s almost impossible to convince them that it’s not proven. What it is, is a concept that certain points on the body are interconnected to other parts of the body, and applying proper pressure on those points can alleviate acute symptoms and even have a positive impact on chronic concerns.
It is finally getting the type of scientific backing that has legitimized other practices in the past 150 years and brought them into the mainstream. There are now thousands of clinical studies with tight controls that show efficacy in the treatment of major medical concerns with reflexology. For the scope of this article, reflexology will refer to pressure massage on the feet to help with edema.
Do I need to pinpoint specific parts of the foot to benefit from foot massage?
Of course not. If you’ve ever had a legitimate foot massage, you know they are all excellent when a genuine effort is made. The dense collection of nerve endings means you can feel even minimal pressure easily on the foot, and this pressure can improve blood flow which stimulates the surface of the skin and brings oxygen to the area. This is all very good when trying to counteract edema, especially in the lower extremities.
If properly assessed and implemented, reflexology can be incredibly helpful in combating edema in the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Absent the knowledge or ability to carry out reflexology treatment, you will likely be best served with a combination of a machine-based, automatic therapy (like a foot massager), and using your hands to find the spots that need specific treatment by feel. If it’s tender, you can improve the way it feels with manual manipulation - listen to your body.
Why is foot massage so good for edema?
While you can do certain things to reduce the effects of edema and prevent long-term problems brought on by chronic edema, foot massage can have immediate effects. For instance, you can reduce salt intake, which will in the intermediate and longer-term, help to reduce the chance of excess fluid retention. You can elevate the feet to try to get an artificial draining of the pool of fluid. Both of these are effective in their different ways, though the salt reduction is a long-term process; foot elevation is a temporary solution. Foot massage is both immediate, and it can have lasting benefits.
Here’s a clinical study that shows the efficacy of foot massage for edema treatment brought on by pregnancy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7201824/). Another CLinical study shows important information as well (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46379861_Effect_of_foot_massage_to_decrease_physiological_lower_leg_oedema_in_late_pregnancy_A_randomized_controlled_trial_in_Turkey).
Foot massage also feels good, and gives an improved quality of life, while helping to relax the individual. Furthermore, foot massage can change the mental state, relieve stress, and soothe achy feet and lower legs caused by other variables in combination with edema. It just makes sense.