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How to Give a Foot Massage and When to Avoid One


As any professional therapist will tell you, there’s no right or wrong way to give a foot massage. However, there are some situations where one shouldn’t be administered. Here are some contra-indications, as well as instructions to give a foot massage.

Contraindications: When NOT to give a foot massage

Acupressure, Reflexology, and Shiatsu are commonly used by professional therapists, and all involve manipulating pressure points located in the foot. Amateurs may be using any of the aforementioned modalities without realizing it. However, these pressure points affect other parts of the body, thereby presenting numerous reasons for not giving a massage. Some of these contra-indications are:

◊ Pregnancy – though there is little research on the subject, many professionals advise against any type of massage during the first trimester.

◊ Cardiovascular conditions, heart diseases- consult a doctor first.

◊ Cancer – consult a doctor first, is best to have massage given by a professional therapist.

◊ Thrombosis, phlebitis, varicose veins, and odema – massage can cause swelling or injury to veins.

◊ Fever, infection, or contagious disease – never massage an infected area, or if a person has a fever or contagious disease.

◊ Cuts, open sores, bruises, unexplained lumps- cover any cuts and open sores on your hands or person’s feet with a dressing. Consult a doctor regarding unexplained lumps. Bruises should be avoided due to tenderness.

Steps to Giving a Foot Massage

  1. Clean and dry feet. Then get the foot used to touch by gently holding the foot without any pressure or movement.
  2. Lightly stretch the foot by holding the heel in one hand while first pushing the toes away from you, then pulling them toward you. Next, gently rotate the foot in both directions.
  3. Apply lotion to entire foot with sweeping motions.
  4. Hold foot with both hands, and slowly start applying pressure with thumbs and fingers as you move up and down the foot. You may use your fist or knuckle on the bottom, as long as it doesn’t hurt the receiver.
  5. Use your thumb and fingers to strip the muscles in the foot, by gliding your hand up and down the foot.
  6. Grasp each toe and gently rotate it ten times in each direction. Then put your fingers in between the toes (like holding hands) and hold position for about fifteen to thirty seconds.
  7. Finish the massage by carefully wiping off any excess lotion.


“Pregnancy Body Massage and Contraindications.” WebMD – Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2012. <>.

“Contraindications of massage.” Virtual Sports Injury Clinic – Sports Injuries, Treatment, Exercises, Sports Massage. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2012. <>.

“Massage Therapy, Massage – Precautions/ Contra-Indications, Therapeutic Massage.” Alternative Medicine, Complementary Medicine, Integrative Medicine, Mind-Body Medicine, Herbs, Nutrition. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2010.

“NCBTMB: Glossary: therapy & techniques.” The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2010.

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