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Foot Massage Tutorial and Anatomy (Full Video + Transcript)


Hey it's Jesse from Sage Bodywork and today I wanted to show you some foot massage techniques that use a method you might not have ever thought of before.

And don't worry, none of these techniques will have you using your thumbs like windshield wipers which I know from experience hurts at the end of the day.

[Intro Music]

Today's little secret is adding movement to the massage that you're doing, so as we massage the foot we're going to be taking it through its range of motion for each joint, from the ankle to the tarsals to the metatarsals to the toes.

And by adding movement we're affecting the deep joint capsule of the foot as well as having a significant neuromuscular impact.

So we're gonna work head to toe, the first joint we're considering is the ankle joint or the talocrural joint. The two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and the fibula, come together and grip the ankle like a wrench.

So we have the talus right here, that's the actual bone that it's gripping, and the talus is a highly mobile bone... so if you want to find this joint we're going to see where the ankle naturally bends: above that is leg bone, below that is tarsals or the talus. I want my fingers only on the talus. I'm going to bring the foot into a slight bend, or dorsiflexion, and then lean back just a little… and as I lean back I'm tractioning the talus away from those lower leg bones, and opening up the ankle joint or the talocrural joint.

So we have three techniques that we can do from this one position here. The first would be simply to bend the foot, create that traction, lean back, and hold…and this traction is going to be a deep stretch for that joint capsule all of the ligaments and connective tissue deep within the ankle joint get a nice stretch.

We can also hold this traction, lean back, neutralize it, (maintaining the bent position of the ankle)... Repeat a few times and create a nice rhythm doing that which will end up creating a jostle all the way up to the head. So this is a nice technique for connecting the foot to the head. But even as that jostle becomes full body I want my intention to stay right here in the ankle joint and it's just a very small opening and closing of the joint right here.

Ankle Mobility is really important for how we stand, walk, run, and when our ankle doesn't want to move we end up suffering at the knee, the hip, the spine… So really no matter what issue your client is presenting with it's worthwhile to check in with the ankle and help it open up.

So we have our steady traction, we have our opening and closing jostle, the third technique you can do in this position is to create that traction and then bend and straighten the ankle and as we do this we're rolling the talus through its full range of motion with some extra breathing space created from that traction… and by doing that we're going to help work out any sticky spots deep inside that joint capsule where these three bones connect.

It’s important as you come out of that traction you want the foot to be in a neutral position. so I'm not, you know, doing traction in all these crazy bent twisted places, but I’m neutra;, dorsiflexed, and then leaning back to make traction.

So moving on from the talus we have other tarsal bones. In front of the talus we have a jumble of little bones that are kind of designed like an old stone bridge so they're very cuboid and they link the ankle joint down to these long bones of the foot. There's not a ton of movement here but it does enable a lot of the pronation and supination movement of the foot so that's what we're really going to play with and as we play with that we will bring in some soft tissue work.

What I'm going to do is have my thumb be neutral, place it here, and then as I pronate and supinate the foot with my other hand I'm rolling the soft tissue on the plantar surface of the foot onto my thumb and creating pressure that way so this hand is really not working that (this hand isn't working that hard either, but it is the one creating the pressure just by bringing that foot onto my thumb). So that lets me protect my thumb as I do this. And by playing with pronation and interesting neuromuscular conversation with the foot because we're bringing in movement.

Some people are going to have a lot of pronation and supination, other people you'll find are going to be really locked up so it's just a matter of feeling how this foot wants to move and encouraging whatever movement you find. In her case she's quite flexible and has healthy movement here.

Behind the talus is the heel bone, the calcaneus. We do have movement at the calcaneus too but it's more significant for all the myofascial tissue anchoring on it, so we have all the plantar fascia anchoring on the front here and the calf itself comes down through the Achilles tendon and attaches to the heel bone here… so that would be a different video talking more about soft tissue work.

Okay, in front of fun of tarsals are the metatarsals. Much like the hand these long bones connect our ankle to our toes. The tarsals are going to have a part in pronation/supination, and flexion/extension, and also in between each toe we're going to have movement… in between each metatarsal we can do the scissoring motion to encourage these bones to move as individuals as well.

When we look at the foot consider how it makes contact with the floor we can see we have a tripod here. The foot has a tripod, we have three points of contact with the ground. And the reason it's formed like a tripod is so that when we step, it can absorb the impact, and when we lift our foot off the ground it can bounce back. So that springiness really helps absorb impact from running and walking and lets us maintain our joints for longer.

So we really want to promote the springiness when we're doing our soft tissue work so as I'm working on the on the muscles and connective tissue of the metatarsals here I can think about bringing the foot into a spring, bringing everything together, and then letting it be long… springing it like this.

As I'm doing this I'm hearing, I'm feeling, a little bit of crunchiness, a little bit of clicking… so as long as my client isn't showing discomfort I'm just going to try to work through that.

So all this work I'm thinking about increasing the arch of the foot, bringing it together letting it spring up.

Another movement or range of motion we can play: with the knuckles represent where the metatarsals meet the phalanges and right now it's pretty much a flat line, but they do have the range of motion to bend. So I'm going to press my thumbs into the center here and go all along the length of the metatarsals and really encourage this foot to take on a rounded shape.

If we ask ourselves how do the toes move, of course they straighten and bend, and they might not get quite as much of that as they want these days in our shoe-wearing society, but I'm still not going to spend a lot of time doing this in a massage… instead what I might do is grasp here where the phalanges meet metatarsals to stabilize that, and then grasp the toes and take them into a rotation. So if I were to just focus on the big toe here, I'm trying to move it as much as I can without pushing past resistance. And I'll go both directions and this can feel surprisingly nice.

A lot of times as I do this I'm providing a little bit of traction away from the foot, so a little bit of this leaning back, but my goal isn't to like pop the toes. it's just a little bit of traction so we get some length and engagement.

So after all that massage hopefully your client's feet are feeling really great and healthy and springy and light and revitalized… and hopefully your thumbs are feeling pretty good too and not as tired as they might normally feel after doing a long foot massage.

Honestly our feet get compressed all day long as we walk so there's only so much value to going into the soft tissue and pressing it down even more.

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