Your feet contain some of the hardest working muscles in your body. When compared to other muscle groups, however, they are rather small. In fact, most of them are less than half-an-inch long!
Now, the reason these small-but-mighty muscles work so hard is because they must account for the tremendous amounts of force we all place on our feet every day. Remember, you can put up to four times your bodyweight on the landing foot with each step you take. Given the fact you might take 10,000 steps in an average day—and that number is much higher (along with greater force loads) for runners—it adds up quickly.
Hopefully, you can see how it’s so easy to overuse the muscles in your lower limbs.
One of the numerous problems that can develop in your feet as a result is a buildup of lactic acid. Lactic acid is basically a byproduct created when muscles exert energy. When this byproduct builds up in the muscles, it will cause them to cramp – and foot cramps can be downright immobilizing!
Massages can play a big role in getting rid of the toxic environment caused by excessive lactic acid buildup. This is done when a masseuse (amateur or otherwise) rubs muscles and tissues using strokes that lead away from the area.
For example, when massaging the Achilles tendon, you want to glide along the tendon in a long motion toward the heart (and up into the calf). You can then proceed to massage the calf muscle in the same direction.
Now, massage techniques can be clearly used to pump fluids and away from muscles and connective tissues, but they can also direct additional blood towards them. Why would anyone want that, though?
Well, if you’re an athlete gearing up for competition, you may want to do the opposite of what we were just describing prior to your race or game. Increased bloodflow can be beneficial to your feet when they have to work harder!
Going back to massages for overworked feet, there are other benefits besides the removal of lactic acid.
A good massage can serve to relax muscle fibers. They can also reduce scarring! This is important because scar tissue can become painful, in some cases even pressing against nerve tissue and leading to neurologic pain.
When massage therapy is being performed to address overuse injuries or issues, the whole length of affected muscles should be massaged. The tenderness is typically present in the entire muscle, but it is likely most tender in the “muscle belly.”
Whereas Santa brings coal for bad boys and girls, an upset Valentine might use a brutal massage technique like Graston or Rolfing methods. In these kinds of massages, the actual intent is to try and damage tissues so they can heal.
Sometimes, this entails the use of tools.