Why Do Foot Massages Hurt So Much?

Some Love Them, Some Despise Them!

If you were to ask me about foot massages 2 years ago, i’d have probably told you how much I detest them! Unlike regular massage, foot massage is something you start to enjoy with time. It’s one of those things that starts off as being incredibly uncomfortable, but over time it gets much better (or at least it’s supposed to!).

It’s interesting to see how some people absolutely love foot massages, while others can’t stand them!

But why is it that foot massages hurt so much for the beginner rookie? And to dig even deeper what does this pain/discomfort signify? Let’s break it down below!


Is There A Reason Foot Massages Hurt?

There could be several reasons why you’re experiencing pain during a foot massage. I’ve listed  some of the main ones below!

#1 Because They’ve Never Been Massaged Before!

When was the last time you gave your feet some TLC? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably never! It’s only when something starts to hurt do we stop to pay attention to that thing. As we’ll see later on in this post, the feet are an underrated part of the body that deserve more attention!

Here’s your fact of the day: did you know your foot has more than 200,000 nerve endings!? (Source: FeelYourFeet)

That’s a wild fact right!? It took me a while to digest as well. If you’re someone whose never had a foot massage before, then it makes sense that stimulating the muscles and nerve endings could cause all sorts of weird sensations. Unfortunately pain and discomfort are part of that list!

Discomfort & Pain Are Typical For First Time Foot Massages!
Discomfort & Pain Are Typical For First Time Foot Massages!

If you’re someone who gets regular foot massages, you’ll recall your first foot massage experience pretty vividly. Like most, there was probably some form of discomfort or pain you may have felt. But over time and as you continued to receive more massages, this pain quickly melted away and was instead replaced by more soothing and relaxing sensations.

I still recall my very first foot massage. It was a couple years ago when I was visiting the beautiful nation of Thailand. Whenever I travel, I always end up walking on average at least 10 km a day. Not only does it feel great from a physical standpoint, but there’s also a beauty to exploring new terrain on foot!

Whilst walking the busy street of Khao San in Bangkok, the nearby foot massage stalls/vendors looked too good to walk past. Plus my achy feet were demanding some rest! So I retreated into one of these outdoor shops, unlaced my boots and sunk into a comfortably cushioned chair. What followed next were moments of extreme discomfort and pain!

If You're In Thailand, You Must Try This!
If You’re In Thailand, You Must Try This!

As discomforting as the experience was for me, it was also just as difficult for the masseuse. I could sense her frustration at the sudden spasms and involuntary kicks I’d make every so often. As much as I disliked the overall experience, I still wanted to give it a couple more shots because everyone seemed to continuously rave about foot massages!

And so I did…..

The next 5-10 sessions got better and better over time, and since then I’ve grown to really enjoy foot massages.

#2 Because There Might Be Something Bigger Going On!

Ever heard of the term reflexology before? According to Healthline,

Reflexology is a type of massage whereby different amounts of pressure are applied to the hands, feet, and ears.

Since our discussion is centered around the feet, we are only going to be talking about foot reflexology i.e. application of pressure to various parts of the feet. The general idea with foot reflexology is that various parts of the body can be stimulated directly from one’s foot. For example, if you had issues with your sinuses, you could stimulate specific areas of the toes (typically the central area of each toe) to help relieve congestion.

Foot Reflexology In Action!
Foot Reflexology In Action!

How does this all relate to foot pain anyways?

If you’re experiencing foot pain during a massage, it might be as a result of something else going on in your body. Now before we go any further, I’d like to say that the information presented in this post should only be used for informational purposes. I am not a doctor, nor am I claiming to be!

When you experience isolated pain during a foot massage, it might indicate that something is wrong with that particular part of the body. Should you immediately start freaking out? No I wouldn’t say so! If it were me, I wouldn’t ignore it but I also wouldn’t dwell over it too much either. I’d probably end up paying a quick visit to my family physician to get some tests done.

It’s always best to get things checked out than to second guess for the rest of eternity!

#3 Because Your Masseuse Is Applying Way Too Much Pressure!

Heard the saying “no pain, no gain”? It’s become a rather big misconception in the world of massage. While there are an incredible number of awesome, highly skilled therapists who truly understand what massage is all about, there are unfortunately just as many (if not more) poorly trained therapists out there.

Not Necessarily True For Massage!
Not Necessarily True For Massage!

If you’re unlucky you’ll end up with one of these types of therapists who think that massage is only effective if it hurts the heck outta the patient!

This philosophy/mindset that massage must hurt in order to be effective is absolute bollocks. Now i’m not suggesting that “light baby” strokes will yield the same results as a deep tissue session! I’m simply saying that a good therapist should be able to gauge how much pressure is required and then adapt to the patient’s needs accordingly. Here’s an interesting article from PainScience about pressure in massage therapy. Well worth a read!

Back to foot massages….if your therapist is pressuring and squishing the heck outta your soles and toes, then yea it’s definitely likely to hurt! More importantly, it’s got nothing to do with you or your feet!

That’s why finding the right therapist becomes all that more important. I’ve said it plenty times in several of my posts, but i’ll say it again:

Every therapist has his/her own style, his/her own healing touch, his/her own strengths/weaknesses!

And this is why it’s so important to try out as many therapists as you can. Once you have, then you’ll know which therapist can provide the best therapy for your body specifically.

Massage is like food in many ways; you gotta try different restaurants to know which food/cuisines you most enjoy. Same with massage, you gotta try different establishments, different massage types with different therapists to see what works best for you!

I hope this post gave you some context around why your feet may hurt during massage. Before I conclude the post, i’ll end by saying:

If the pain is unbearable, there’s absolutely nothing wrong in asking the therapist to stop!

It’s not rude and even if it were, you have every right to. It’s your body after all! Good luck and may you be blessed with a gazillion awesome foot massages! I’ll see you next week!

About Eve

Just an average bloke intrigued by massage and its incredible benefits. Oh, did I mention I also own a massage chair? More on that in the blog posts!

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