New Study Finds That Foot Massages May Help Ease Sleep Issues And Menopausal Symptoms

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If you happen to be a woman that’s in the menopausal years that tend to suffer from poor sleep quality and increased anxiety, we have some good news! A new study recently published in the Menopause journal shares that having a foot massage can help ease the adverse effects that come with this hormonal change in the female body.

Transition Into Menopause Brings Physical Changes

It’s important for women to know that as they get closer and go through menopause, there is a decrease in the hormone estrogen, which can cause a number of health challenges, such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and other sleep disruptions, as well as sexual dysfunction and even vaginal dryness.

Menopause Issues Impact Mood While Sleep Issues Add to Fatigue

According to the North American Menopause Society, menopause also causes some mood changes, which puts midlife women at higher risk of such problems like mood swings, depression and anxiety. Plus, when sleep issues cause insomnia and night sweats, it can lead to brain fog and fatigue as well.

Foot Massage Can Promote Relaxation and Improve Sleep

In a review that was published in JAN (Journal of Advanced Nursing) in 2020 found that “foot reflexology produced significant improvements in sleep disturbances.” There have been some studies which suggest that massage helps relieve chronic pain, like the pain associated with arthritis.

In a new 2022 study, it looked at menopausal women in particular to see whether foot massages can truly affect one’s anxiety, sleep, and sleep.

The study had 70 postmenopausal female participants from a village in Northern Turkey. The research team split the group of women in half, with the participants being randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the control group. The experimental group was given a 20-minute foot massage, 10-minues per foot, once every day throughout the week by the same researcher. As for the control group, they were not given any form of intervention at all.

The results showed that the experimental group had improved fatigue and anxiety symptoms, while also reporting to sleep at least an hour more during the night as compared to those in the control group.

They Recommend Incorporating Massage and Reflexology in Women’s Care

As a result, the researchers recommend using foot massage as “an alternative treatment method in addition to pharmacological methods in the treatment of complaints, such as anxiety, fatigue, and sleep disorders, which are common in menopause. Furthermore, it is recommended that nurses and midwives who provide care for postmenopausal women integrate foot massage into the care they offer by taking advantage of appropriate training programs involving foot massage.”

Significant Results Despite Small Sample Size

President of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia, Christopher Winter, MD – who was not part of the study – shared that the sample group in this study was quite small. Regardless, he also added, “But setting that aside, if I get a group of people who feel like they are sleeping more than another group, that is pretty meaningful. Since this data was taken by self-report, it may not be about sleeping more but experiencing it in deeper way, which is very significant.”

It’s Possible That All Types of Massage May Help

However, Winter happens to be the author of the book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, and explained that there’s a possibility that any type of massage before going to bed is probably helpful. He said, “Looking at women in midlife, I would think having your feet, shoulders, or head massaged before sleep is probably very relaxing.”

Are Their Benefits to Self-Massage or Is It Better To Have Someone Else Massage You?

In the study, the masseuse used thumb pressure application which uses swiping, rubbing, patting, and squeezing movements. More studies need to be done to see if there is a difference in the result between doing self-massage or having a masseuse actually massage you. It’s possible that a portion of the beneficial effects of the massage come from having someone else massage you rather than having to massage yourself. But if you want to learn how to massage properly or have a partner learn to massage you effectively, you can check the website of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, Massage Therapy, which provides instructions on five different methods, as follows:

  1. Ankle circling: Rotate your foot at the ankle.
  2. Sole rubs: Rub the bottoms of your feet from toe to heel in firm strokes.
  3. Toe stretches: Stretch the toes back and with the other hand, gently slap the sole with open hand or closed fist.
  4. T-shape fan: Press thumbs into the bottom of your heel, press upwards, and then fan outwards as you reach the toes.
  5. Thumb circling: Knead your soles with circling motions of your thumb.

Hormone-Free and Easy Intervention Treatments Worth Trying

As explained by medical director of the North American Menopause Society, Stephanie Faubion, MD, in a press release, “Sleep disturbances, fatigue, and anxiety symptoms are common during menopause. This small study in Turkish women shows how a simple, inexpensive intervention such as foot massage can improve these bothersome symptoms in postmenopausal women. Although additional study is needed to confirm these findings in other populations of postmenopausal women, there is little downside to recommending foot massage as a nonhormone option to help relieve symptoms.”