Monday, September 24, 2007

Asian Foot Massage

In parts of Asia, reflexology and acupuncture points are incorporated into foot massages. They are frequently called "Foot Reflexology."

On Saturday I received such a treatment: 25 minutes of the lower legs and feet. The therapist started the session by applying Vaseline to my left foot and leg, all the way to the knee. Then she used long massage-like strokes with her hands from my ankle to my knee over and over for 90 seconds or so. She used her knuckles to "knead" my foot then traced the tips of my toes with her thumbnail. With her fingers around the base of each toe she twisted the toe and pulled up the toe snapping off with her fingers. I was not surprised by this technique, in fact it is one I am familiar with from the Rwo Shur method of reflexology used several years ago in a workshop I attended. The quick snapping off of the fingers draws the toe up and usually has a "pop" sound made when the fingers come off. If you are experiencing sinus congestion, tooth aches, jaw pain or headaches this move can be very sensitive and sometimes painful.

Another familiar technique the therapist used was the deep, knuckle pressure to the arch area which represents the digestive system, particularly the small intestines, in reflexology. This is also a common site for plantar fascia pain as the connective tissue here is stretched off the calcaneous, the largest bone in the foot also known as the heel bone. The therapist crouched at my feet and leaned her entire body weight into her knuckles as she dug very deeply here. She watched my face to make sure it was not too deep. Being an avid barefooter I carry little callusing over the heels so yes, this area was rather sensitive! Her pressure over the soft indentations between the heel and ankle bone would be too deep for someone ovulating, menstruating, pregnant or in the early post-partum period.

She used the same strokes and techniques on my right foot, as well as the Vaseline up to the knee. Towards the end of the session my therapist turned around, leaned over my feet and used her fists to pound into the soles. Imagine the same feeling of running on a hard surface such as the concrete sidewalk or paved road. This was invigorating for the feet. She proceeded to take the pounding up my calves, which I found uncomfortable and later found some bruising, and some brisk chopping motions with the outside of her hand to the calves and thighs.

Overall it was a fun experience but I saw several points that put the practitioner and client in a difficult, perhaps ethical, position. There was no client intake form for me to fill out and the practitioner spoke such little English she did not inquire of any health conditions or concerns. Anyone with circulatory issues, neuropathy (numbness), or diabetes would be contraindicated for a session like this. Also anyone that is pregnant or could be pregnant would want to avoid receiving this kind of pressure in a foot therapy.

If you're up for trying this and have no health complaints such as above, and can tolerate very deep pressure, I encourage you to go for the experience. You can find at least one location in Boston's China Town, and there are a few options for those in the 'burbs.

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