Health Benefits of Barefoot Compression Therapy Powerful Bodywork by Joel Hillman


The majority of pain most people suffer from is soft tissue related. The body’s response to this pain is to tighten up or contract around an injury. After a while, we forget how to let go. Barefoot Compression Therapy, also known as Barefoot Deep Tissue Bodywork, is direct applications of pressure into a muscle in order to release muscles and promote healing. Here's how it works:


As compressions fire the stretch reflex, hypertonic muscles relax. Pressure applied by foot or hand stretches spindle cells and triggers a reflexive contraction. This contraction protects the muscle from being over-stretched and is followed by general relaxation of the muscle.


Compressions initially constrict muscle fibers and capillaries and metabolites (byproducts of muscles doing work) are eliminated. Momentary reflexive tightening of the muscle (the stretch reflex) compresses venous and lymph channels. This tightening forces metabolites out of muscle tissue and prevents tissue irritation caused by the stasis of lactic, hyaluronic and carbonic acids.


Compressions release histamines that dilate capillaries so that increased cellular nutrition results. Compressions cause local ischemia (pressure to blanching) and when released, this “emptying” causes a return flooding of blood into the treated area. The dilation of the arterioles and capillaries is caused, in part, by a histamine release. This increased arterial blood flow, evinced by superficial redness (hyperemia), feeds and oxygenates at the cellular level. The histamine release is caused by the irritant* effect of the compressions. The ischemic compressions also activate the ‘reserve’ capillaries that enhance cellular nutrition.

*Note: Regarding histamine release, all massage strokes (despite how good they feel) are irritants.


Compressions release acetylcholine prompting faster nerve-firing results. Acetylcholine formation following compression massage intensifies the contractility of skeletal muscles. Acetylcholine concentrates on the neuromuscular junction and facilitates fast action potentials – a real boon for pre-event sports massage. This action can also play a role in relieving spasticity.


Compressions accelerate healing as procollagen fiber formation is stimulated. Mechanical stimuli repetitively applied to the place of injury is able to increase collagen production by the stimulation of fibroblasts functions and by attracting new cells from neighboring areas. The correct orientation of collagen fibers is an equally important element.

Turchaninov, Therapeutic Massage: A Scientific Approach 1. Note: Dr. Turchaninov compiled and analyzed recent scientific research studies as to pressure’s effect on cellular and sub-cellular levels. We highly recommend Dr. Turchaninov’s Medical Massage, Vol. 1, 1998 and Therapeutic Massage: A Scientific Approach, 2000.


Active or passive post-compression stretches improves circulation and capillarization. Stretching creates a mechanical effect on the myogenic tone of vascular walls. This results in a vasoconstriction during the stretch that changes to a vasodilatation when the stretch is released. Turchainov reports research that noted up to a 30% increase in blood circulation in passively stretched muscles. This stretching also results in increased capillarization.


Compressions stretch and distort the ground substance of deep and superficial fascia – increases range of motion and tissue rejuvenation and delays senescence. Prolonged compressions heat, stretch and energize ground substance. The extra energy (primarily in the form of heat) is absorbed by the ground substance. It transforms this fascial component from 'gel' (a semi-solid state) towards 'sol' (a more fluid, youthful form).


Pain-free movement is achieved when ischemic pressure inhibits and eliminates trigger points. Pressure to blanching at the trigger point creates a local hypoxia followed by a reactive hyperemia. Micro-circulation is restored and the trigger point is eradicated. Micro-hemorrhaging also eventuates in increased metabolic function.


Prolonged deep compressions result in vagal tonus and parasympathetic dominance that creates an altered mood (hypnogogic trance) and an improved healing state. Mechanical compressions of Ruffini nerve endings transduce endogenous morphines and other neurotransmitters of altered states.

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