Dogs barking? Learn how to give a Chinese foot massage

Dogs barking? Learn how to give a Chinese foot massage

You could become the most popular pair of hands in your street, with this rapid guide on giving a perfect stress-relieving foot rub

Shanghai is pedestrian-friendly, but sometimes exploring the ‘Hai on foot can take a toll on even the best of walkers. Thankfully, one of the most venerable Chinese healing traditions, the art of foot massage, is alive and well in Shanghai. 

For those looking to master the arts, check out the Shanghai TCM University, which offers both long and short term programs in massage. For the casual armchair masseuse, here are a few basic tips to make sure your feet don’t fail you. 

TCM foot massageStep no. 1: Prepare the steaming water. A good foot massage starts with soaking the feet in warm water for about 10 minutes. Steaming water is often mixed with Chinese medicinal herbs, essential oils or bath salts. Peppermint or lavender oil is preferred by many. 







TCM foot massage, soakStep no. 2: Soak the feet in water.“The foot is very important in Chinese medicine. Good circulation throughout the body is essential,” says Isaac Epstein, a student at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Because the foot is the lowest part on the body, the circulation can become stagnated, leading to disharmony. Soaking the feet is used to increase blood flow and to help the person relax.”





TCM foot massage, creamStep no. 3: Rub cream on the feet and wrap with towel. Pictured: Ms Luo. “Applying a moderate amount of cream or oil adds to comfort and ease," says Ms Luo Yuting, a professional foot masseuse with six years experience. “Rub your hands together so they’re warm to avoid discomfort. I like mineral oil since it is not absorbed in the skin, and it wipes off cleanly. Lube up both feet, then wrap one foot in a warm towel and massage the other.”






TCM foot massage, sleep slotStep no. 4: Massage the bottom of the feet, the "sleep spot". “The first step, after soaking the feet and adding oil, is to use the knuckles to massage the soles,” says Ms Luo. “Each spot on the sole of the foot corresponds to a part of the body. This one spot [see photo] helps people sleep better,” she adds.







TCM foot massage, toesStep no. 5: Massage the toes.


“The toes represent the head,” explains Ms Luo as she massages. “After massaging the soles, I pull each toe and rub in between. This can release a lot of stress and help with headaches.”








TCM foot massage, sidesStep no. 6: Massage the sides of the feet.


“Massaging the sides of the feet can help relax the spine and the shoulders. It should be massaged after the soles of the feet and the toes and both sides of the feet should get equal attention for balance and harmony.”







TCM foot massage, mr fanA difficult decision: Foot versus body massage. Pictured: Mr Fan. “As people get older, they should get a foot massage more regularly,” explains Mr Fan, a frequent massage customer. “It helps me sleep, it helps my appetite and my general sense of wellbeing. I get a foot massage every week, and I think it’s preferable to a whole body massage.”







TCM foot massage, EpsteinPictured: Isaac Epstein. “If done correctly, an overall body adjustment can be achieved with the foot massage,” says Epstein. “Not only can it be used for treatment purposes, but a skilled masseuse can actually use foot massage for diagnostic purposes, pointing out internal disharmonies of which the person might not have been aware.”






TCM foot massage signSign on wall: 千里之行始于足下, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” “Chinese medicine is an accumulation of over 2,000 years of healing knowledge and experience,” Epstein adds. “Herbs and needles have slightly changed over the years, but massage is the one thing that is the same as it was before. The techniques we have today are still being used because they are effective. Otherwise they would have disappeared.”






Want to do a Chinese foot massage at home but don't have the equipment? Guangdong Lu (between People's square and near Fujian Zhong Lu) has all the supply stores you need. For essential oils, stop at the Herb Store (52 Fumin Lu, near Julu Lu 富民路152号, 近巨鹿路, +86 21 5403 4458). For those looking for more reflexology points, download this chart.