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Unexpected benefits of leg massage

by Sonia Chartier, on 21 November 2016, Circulation, Healthy legs - varicose veins
leg massage

co-written by Rick Olazabal, BSc, BN 

If you’re a frequent runner or a very active person—whether an athlete or not—you would understand and appreciate the therapeutic benefit of physical therapy, which includes stretching and massage.

For those of you who aren’t as active as you’d like to be, don’t fret, you can still benefit from therapeutic – or relaxation – lower limb massages.

How leg massage can be beneficial?

Your legs keep you standing all day long. To do so, a variety of muscle have to work in concert to keep you up. Because there isn’t a second heart in your feet, the pumping action of blood returning back to the heart is left to muscle contraction. So the more you walk, the more your calves, for example, will pump blood upwards. If you’re sitting down for too long, this pumping action is impaired. Over time, this takes a toll on the health of your veins and circulation. Similarly, if you’re standing up all the time, because blood has to be pumped against gravity and against pressure, some blood vessels can be damaged.

If you’re a smoker, your diet is high in processed carbohydrates, sugars, and bad fats, then it is likely that your blood pressure and cholesterol are high—these will work against you and can lead to serious damage of the blood vessels of your lower limbs, and will make your heart have to work much harder. So while there are many benefits to leg massages, it is important to start with—and maintain—lifestyle modifications.

Some benefits of leg massage:

  • Improve blood circulation: first, determine why the circulation needs increased. If you suffer from a circulatory or heart condition, discuss massage therapy with a physician so you know whether your circulatory system can withstand the pressure of massage and greater blood flow.
  • Lymphatic system: the lymphatic system carries excess fluid (and cells of the immune system) back into circulation (back to the heart). Theoretically, lymphatic massage could help improve certain circulatory aspects of the cells of the immune system. Because this also affecting the circulatory system, make sure to check with a doctor should you have an underlying health condition (e.g. cancer, blood, heart problems, etc.)
  • Postural alignment: massage can relax and loosen leg muscles that are sore by bad posture, allowing your body to position itself in its natural form can help reduce pain and improve range of motion.

Which essential oils can be used to favour blood circulation?

I’m not sure if there have been specific scientific studies looking at this, but empirical trials, experience and educated guess suggest that warming oils lead to dilation of superficial blood vessels, thus bringing blood, nutrients and oxygen to the area. “Cooling” essential oils give the sensation of cold application  – perceived by superficial sensory nerves.

These oils can also help with circulation and with the relaxation of smooth muscles-this is the principle behind vapour rub. When your chest feels congested you’re coughing, or your nose is all stuffed up…applying some of it on the chest can help you breathe better and relieves some of the pain.

Massage oil recipes

If you wish to get experimental and make your own massage oil, go right ahead! However, employ a couple precautions to avoid skin irritation or chemical burns. First, use a little bit of the oil (more isn’t necessarily better); secondly, use a neutral “base” oil like grape seed oil,coconut oil or ghee. Stir the mixture together (you can add more than one essential oil), and apply to the skin, massage the area. There are some oils with cooling sensation (e.g. peppermint), and others that are warming (e.g. ginger).

Massage oil recipe for tired legs:
10 drops of rosemary essential oil
10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
5 drops of cypress essential oil
5 drops of thyme essential oil
2 tbsp of grape seed oil

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