You might not think much about your feet while you’re young, but taking care of aging feet is another story. Changes in your foot structure, loss of muscle mass, and age-related problems can be tricky — but the good news is that foot massage for seniors can help.
Not only can foot massage benefit your overall health, but it can also be easy and affordable to add to any senior’s self-care toolkit.
Whether you’re caring for an older person or are aging yourself, here are six remarkable health benefits of foot massage for seniors, complete with tips to help you get started.
Taking Care of Aging Feet
As you get older, a lot can change in your feet.
The average person walks 75,000 miles in a lifetime — and all this walking can lead to changes in the bones, tendons, and muscles that support our feet’s structures.
How? According to UCLA Health, foot ligaments and tendons lose springiness over time. As a result, it can lead to a decrease in the foot’s arch. This is why you might start to notice your feet “flatten” or lengthen with age.
Beyond that, the pads of your feet can lose fat and muscle over time, leading to less shock absorption (and more foot aches) as you get older.
Common Foot Problems in Older Age
The wear and tear of everyday life — combined with age-related changes in the feet — can come with common challenges for seniors. These include:
- Arthritis in the form of toe and ankle pain, which is especially common in those older than 45.
- Bunions, which are bulging bony bumps that can form on the outside of the big toe.
- Diabetic foot conditions, such as neuropathy.
- Plantar fasciitis and heel pain, which can happen due to long-term strain and damage to the foot ligaments.
When To Talk to Your Doctor
It’s always important to talk to your doctor about foot problems in older age, especially if you notice pain that lasts longer than a few days, swelling, or any other unusual changes in your feet.
In addition, it’s essential to see a health professional right away if you have extreme tenderness, warmth, or signs of an infection. You should also seek medical help if you have diabetes and notice discoloration or wounds that don’t seem to be healing.
With your doctor’s help, you can choose the right treatments and remedies to keep your feet in healthy shape. Plus, you can work together to decide whether foot massage could be right for you.
What Are the Benefits of Foot Massage for Seniors?
With the proper techniques, foot massage for seniors can make a big difference in a person’s well-being and quality of life. Its potential health benefits include:
1. Soothing Pain Associated with Arthritis
Foot massage can be a useful tool for supporting blood flow and relieving pain from arthritis. While it isn’t a treatment or cure, it can certainly bring some relief to tired, achy feet at the end of a long day.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a handful of studies have suggested that massage may help soothe pain from knee osteoarthritis.
In addition, a small study looked at the effects of a daily, 15-minute hand massage in 22 participants with hand or wrist arthritis. The participants also received a once-weekly massage from a therapist, who taught them how to self-massage the right way.
Remarkably, the results showed that their new massage routine led to an improvement in pain and grip strength during the four weeks.
2. Relieving Heel and Plantar Fasciitis Pain
When it comes to foot massage for seniors, another noteworthy benefit is its ability to ease heel and plantar fasciitis pain.
In a 2019 study, researchers looked at the effects of three different manual therapies on plantar fasciitis pain. They found that both cross friction massage and stretching helped participants soothe pain and improve ankle range of motion.
3. Easing Ankle Pain and Discomfort
As you get older, your feet aren’t the only areas that are affected by long-term wear and tear. Your ankles can become more prone to pain, too.
Arthritis, tendonitis, and other changes in these joints tend to become more common with age. The good news is that many foot massage techniques target the ankles, too.
For instance, a massage therapist might use gentle friction around your Achilles tendon to help promote blood flow and warm the muscle tissue. As a result, it could help soothe ankle pain and stiffness that can come with getting older.
4. Relieving Stress and Anxiety
Since aging can mean facing problems and life changes that you’re not always prepared for, it’s key to prioritize mental health as you get older. This means finding ways to practice self-care and manage stress — and foot massage can be an easy, accessible way to do so.
In a 2022 randomized controlled trial, 70 postmenopausal women tried foot massage to see how it could impact their quality of life.
Not only did the foot massage improve sleep and reduce fatigue, but it resulted in the women reporting lower levels of anxiety by the end of the study.
5. Improving Mood and Mental Well-Being
Because foot massage for seniors can help reduce feelings of stress, it can also be a great mood booster, too.
By helping older adults get some much-needed relaxation, it can lead to a boost in endorphins and feelings of well-being. Beyond that, a foot massage from a therapist, nurse, or other healthcare provider can help seniors reap the benefits of a healing touch.
In other words? It can help foster a sense of connection — which is one of the most important ways to stay well in older age.
6. Can Bring a Short-Term Circulation Boost
As you age, it can become more challenging for your heart to pump blood evenly throughout your body. And for certain people, this can sometimes lead to cold, numb feet and toes.
But here’s some good news: Thanks to massage’s ability to warm up the muscles and manually encourage blood flow, it can be a useful way to give yourself a much-needed circulation boost.
Plus, it can also help the body move into “relaxation mode” — which can promote healthy blood flow as a whole.
What Are the Best Types of Foot Massage for Seniors?
There are endless ways to reap the benefits of foot massage for seniors. You can try a variety of hands-on techniques, invest in a home massage tool, or even ask a loved one to help. But what about visiting a professional massage therapist?
Older people may find it beneficial to see a professional if they have specific issues they want to address in their feet, such as plantar fasciitis or heel pain. It can also be a great tool for those looking for ways to invest in their self-care.
If you decide to schedule an appointment, here are a few types of foot massage your therapist might offer:
Swedish Foot Massage
Swedish foot massage is a relaxing modality that uses gentle, gliding strokes. The techniques used are meant to encourage circulation and pain relief in the soft tissues of the feet.
In a session, your therapist might use a mix of:
In general, Swedish massage is meant to be relaxing and soothing, without using intense pressure. This means it can be the perfect choice for those just starting out with foot massage, or those who prefer a lighter touch.
Reflexology is a type of foot massage focused on pressure points. These points are believed by some to be connected to other systems in the body.
Reflexology sessions are usually 30-60 minutes long, and may start with your reflexologist asking a few questions about your health concerns and goals. From there, they’ll apply oil or lotion to your feet to reduce friction. Then, they’ll use moderate, sustained pressure to stimulate different points in your feet.
Many people find these sessions to be incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating, leading to pain relief, a reduction in stress, and better overall well-being.
Hot Stone Foot Massage
Hot stone foot massage involves using smooth, heated river stones for deep relaxation and pain relief.
Before a session, the therapist will warm the stones in a special heater. Once they’re ready, they’ll use a combination of hand and stone massage techniques to knead and relax the feet.
For seniors looking to try foot massage, this added warmth can be an excellent way to find even deeper relief. This is because the heat can help encourage healthy blood flow, all while loosening up stiff, achy muscles.
3 Hands-On Techniques for Home Foot Massage for Seniors
If you’re in a pinch and want to try foot massage at home, there are many DIY techniques that can help.
To start, it’s best to smooth a drop of lotion or oil on the bottom of your feet. Next, have a seat in a comfortable chair, and cross one leg up over your knee. (If you find this position uncomfortable or difficult, don’t hesitate to ask a loved one for help with the massage.)
Then, you can get started with a few of these simple foot massage techniques:
Knuckle glides are an incredibly easy way to work deeply into the tissue in the arches of your feet. Here’s how:
- Start by balling your hand into a fist.
- Align your knuckles just above your heel.
- With moderate yet gentle pressure, glide the knuckles up along the arch of the foot.
- Continue for 1-2 minutes. Then, repeat with the other foot.
Alternating Thumb Twists
Alternating thumb twists can help you gently stimulate the feet, encourage blood flow, and relieve foot muscle pain. To try this technique:
- Wrap both hands around your feet, with your thumbs pointing up toward your toes.
- Starting near the bottom of your foot, lightly squeeze your right hand to create pressure.
- Then, glide your right thumb out from the center of your foot.
- As you move your right thumb outward, begin to do the same motion with your left thumb.
- Continue this kneading motion all the way up the foot.
- Repeat for 2-3 minutes, or as long as it feels good to you.
- Optionally, you can end the massage by lightly bending and kneading each of the toes for a few seconds.
Circular Thumb Work
Thumb work can help you massage more deeply into the soles and heels of the feet, which can carry unexpected tension in older age. Simply:
- Begin to massage your heel with the tip of your thumb. Use moderate pressure and circular motions for 10-20 seconds.
- Continue to repeat this motion up the arch and sole, taking extra time on any areas that feel especially tense.
Should You Try a Home Foot Massager?
Beyond using hands-on techniques, foot massagers can be another excellent alternative for giving yourself a relaxing massage at home. But what kind is best for you, and how you can decide on a model?
Types of Foot Massagers
If you’re in the market for a foot massager, chances are you’ll see a few different types to choose from. Two main options you might come across include:
- Shiatsu foot massagers, which use plastic balls to knead the feet, usually in circular motions. These can be relaxing, but those with delicate feet can sometimes find them a bit rough.
- Oscillating foot massagers. These use a combination of vibration and oscillating motions to knead, massage, and stimulate the feet. These typically come with multiple pressure settings, so you can customize your massage to your comfort level.
Tips for Choosing a Foot Massager
While you’re searching for a home foot massager, here are some tips to help you choose one that’s high-quality:
- Look for one that’s FDA-certified and physician-recommended. If you have one in mind, you can also check with your doctor to see if they think it could be a good fit.
- Pick a device with multiple speed and pressure settings. This way, you can adjust your massage intensity as needed, whether you’re looking for a relaxing bedtime massage or deeper foot work.
- Opt for a highly-reviewed option. When in doubt, reading about others’ experiences can help you get a feel for the quality and relief that you can expect from a home foot massager.
Risks and Precautions of Foot Massage for Seniors
Massage is safe and soothing for many — but in the cases of injuries or certain medical conditions, you might need to wait, adjust your approach, or avoid it for the time being.
Remember to check with your doctor first if you have:
- Bone or cartilage loss due to osteoporosis or arthritis
- Open wounds, infections, broken skin, or bruising on the feet
- A recent injury such as a sprain, broken bone, or tear
- A history of or symptoms of blood clots, such as pain and swelling in the leg
- Any medical conditions that haven’t been approved by massage for your doctor, including but not limited to neuropathy, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, kidney disease, and more
Other Tips for Caring For Your Feet as You Age
Foot massage for seniors is one excellent way to care for your feet as you age — but what other tools and lifestyle changes can make a difference?
To keep your feet in tip-top shape as you get older, here are some of the best steps you can take:
- Practice good foot hygiene by changing your socks daily, washing your feet regularly, and applying lotion or moisturizer as needed.
- Choose shoes with extra support for aging feet. In some cases, it can also help to talk to your doctor about orthotic inserts to cushion and protect your feet while you walk.
- Stretch and move your feet often to encourage mobility, strength, and blood flow.
- Don’t hesitate to visit your doctor or podiatrist whenever foot concerns come up.
The Bottom Line
Foot massage for seniors can bring a cascade of health benefits to the aging body — and it doesn’t only impact your feet.
From soothing joint pain to improving circulation and easing stress, foot massage is one of the most powerful remedies to add to your routine as you get older. And the good news is that there are many accessible, affordable ways to get started.
With the guidance of your healthcare team, you can try home massage techniques, ask a loved one to help, or even invest in a restorative, expert-trusted tool like the MedMassager MMF07 foot massager.