Do You Have to Be A Massage Therapist to Practice Ashiatsu?

6632470867_c939222cd4_mThere are a few people who have not had prior professional massage training contact me about learning ashiatsu and taking an ashiatsu course. These are people who have seen videos, pictures, or demonstrations. Others are those who have just experienced the benefits of ashiatsu.

Often the inquiries come from those who are already involved in the health care/wellness field (i.e. personal trainers, Yoga and Pilates instructors/practitioners). Maybe you are one of them. You wonder if just taking an ashiatsu course is all you need to do in order to work on the public, family, or friends.

Today, in order to protect the public from unqualified practitioners, most states regulate the practice of massage therapy. Massage therapy is defined typically by these states as “the manipulation of soft muscle tissue.” So, those practicing massage therapy, or manipulation of soft tissues, without appropriate education or license, are subject to high fines and legal action.

Ashiatsu falls under the scope of practice of massage therapy. Ashiatsu massage practitioners manipulate the soft tissue with their feet instead of their hands. So, in order to practice ashiatsu, you need prior professional massage training and a license (if required in your jurisdiction).

My ashiatsu training course is a continuing education course for massage professionals. It only reviews massage contraindications and basic anatomy; then introduces barefoot massage technique. Like all other continuing education courses, it is not an entry-level professional massage training.

If you want to become an ashiatsu practitioner, you need to complete massage training first (most states have a minimum of 500-1000 hour requirement). This will give you the foundation you need before ashiatsu training.

There is one exception to this rule. Ashiatsu training can be appropriate for other licensed health care professionals, such as chiropractors and physical therapists, if manipulation of the muscle or soft tissues is legally part of their professional scope of practice.

If you have any other questions about ashiatsu training or certification, you can email me:

[email protected]

Photo Credit:The quiet librarian

When Not To Get An Ashiatsu Massage ~ Contraindications

7403337650_8f590c807b_nMassage therapy is safe and appropriate for most of the general population. But there are certain times when one should skip the massage temporarily, or be sure to inform their massage professional about a localized condition so that area can be avoided. Massage professionals call these times when an area of the body should be avoided, or when a massage should not take place “contraindications.”

What about ashiatsu? Are there different contraindications for this massage technique that you should be aware of before trying it?

Massage Contraindications

All normal/typical massage contraindications still exist for ashiatsu. Below is a list of general contraindications (when you should not get a massage), and some are localized contraindications (when just a certain area needs to be avoided during the massage). This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Broken bones or Fractures
  • Advanced diabetes (when signs of neuropathy exist)
  • High Blood Pressure, HBP, Hypertension (if unstable or uncontrolled)
  • Hemophilia or other blood/clotting disorders
  • Current use of blood thinners
  • Phlebitis, Thrombosis, DVT, Active blood clot
  • Contagious conditions or infections (Colds, Flu, or Contagious skin conditions)
  • Acute injuries (bruises/hematomas)
  • Any unexplained swelling
  • Any recent surgery (e.g., back, abdominal, hip, knee, or eye surgery)

Ashiatsu Contraindications

Ashiatsu can be light to deep pressure, but because of the deep compressions/strokes that some clients request, the following unique contraindications exist.  Again, this list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Implants (such as pace makers or breast implants)
  • Frail individuals
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy (or possible pregnancy)
  • Varicose veins
  • Protruding or ruptured discs
  • Kidney disorders

If you have a condition that you think would affect your ability to get a massage, or an ashiatsu massage, discuss your concerns with your practitioner when making an appointment or before your massage. Your massage practitioner may just need to use a different technique during the massage, or avoid a certain area. When in doubt, they may have you obtain permission/clearance from your health care provider.

If you are healthy and looking for a unique, therapeutic massage experience to ease stress and relieve muscular pain, schedule an ashiatsu massage. Enjoy!


Photo Credit borispumps

Contraindications for the Ashiatsu Practitioner

2882341645_0cbf0bbed0_mAs massage professionals, we frequently discuss the contraindications for our clients. But, there are also times when ashiatsu is contraindicated for the massage practitioner. Your health and safety affects your client’s safety and health.

Because of the unique physical demands of ashiatsu, practitioners should be in good physical condition. If you are considering ashiatsu training, here is a list of a few acute and chronic conditions and situations that may temporarily or permanently keep you grounded (on the floor). Some conditions or situations may require you to modify your table or balancing bars.

Ear infections (possible dizziness), any symptoms of dizziness, or balance disorders

Ashiatsu requires the practitioner to have a good sense balance. Balance helps practitioners maintain foot and pressure control. For those practicing on an elevated massage table, dizzy spells could result in injury from a fall off the table, or onto your client.

Neuropathy of extremities

The foot is able to “feel,” or assess, muscle tension and dysfunction just like the hands. Those with decreased sensation in their feet/foot should not practice ashiatsu.

Any contagious infection

As with any form of massage, practitioners should take necessary precautions when contagious infections are present. For ashiatsu this includes fungal/viral/bacterial infections of the foot (including Athlete’s foot).

Cuts or open sores on the foot or heel

Treat your feet like your hands. Just remember, the foot in much harder to bandage than the fingers and hands. I have not looked, but I am not aware of nitrile gloves for the foot.


Standing on a table or stool can be dangerous, pregnant or not. And yes, you can do most things while pregnant that you did before you were pregnant. The problem is that during a pregnancy, the change in the center of gravity makes women more prone to falls. One of the most common injuries during a pregnancy occurs from falls. Falling off a massage table could be devastating to mother and baby. Even early in a pregnancy, bouts of morning sickness, nausea, and dizziness can make ashiatsu challenging. For some, the added weight on a massage table is also a concern.

On the other side, practicing ashiatsu can take some of the load off a practitioner’s changing body during a pregnancy. This is a personal decision that you should discuss with your health care provider.


Adjustments/modifications can be made to keep you and your clients safe, in business, and happy. Making the table much lower, using floor mats, shiatsu tables, and lower portable bars can eliminate the risk of falls.

As with any condition, contact your health care provider if you have a question, or talk to your colleagues. Explain your unique massage method and any concerns you have that might affect you and your clients safety and health.

Looking for client contraindications? Visit here.


Photo Credit:  three_sixteen


Ashiatsu: What it is (and isn’t)

Maybe you have seen or heard the term “ashiatsu”.

Your massage therapist or spa started offering it, or a friend / family member recently raved about it.

You might be a massage therapist and have been hearing colleagues talk about the benefits of this technique for both you and your clients.

Whoever you are – you’re curious now, and you want to learn more about ashiatsu.

There are a few other modalities (massage techniques) people commonly confuse ashiatsu with. If it is not a Swedish, relaxation, or deep tissue massage, then what is it? Today, let’s clear this up and talk about somethings that ashiatsu is not.

Ashiatsu is not Reflexology

“Oh, ashiatsu. That is where they massage your feet, right? Yeah, I’ve had that before. My feet felt great afterwards.”

Tony Barrientez - ReflexologyReflexology is based on a theory that areas of the feet correspond to certain areas of the body. During a reflexology (or zone therapy) session, the practitioner applies pressure to specific points on the feet, hands, or ears. Reflexologists believe applying pressure to these specific points on the foot will bring physical change to the corresponding part of the body.

Ashiatsu is quite different. During an ashiatsu massage, the therapist uses their feet to massage the client. The feet are massaged too, but with the practitioners feet. With the exception of the face and stomach, the massage practitioner can use their feet anywhere they use their hands.
[Read more…]

Can your feet “feel” like your hands?

During massage training, I am sure your instructors said this at some point:

You will learn to feel muscles, tissues, swelling, or dysfunction.

Your palpation skills will improve with time and practice.

We were all cautiously reassured.

And they were right. Those skills did eventually develop and improved.  Palpation skills really do take time and practice.

So what about your feet? [Read more…]

Ashiatsu: It is not backwalking; Its a massage.

In order for your ashiatsu practice to be successful, you will have some educating/explaining to do. If you have been a  massage therapist for a while, educating clients is something I am sure you are used to doing by now.

When you say you are going to massage your client with your feet, some clients will automatically assume that you are going to be walking on their back (or that you have gone mad). Some clients instantly associate your feet on their back  with memories of when they were kids and walked on their parents back, or when they laid on the floor and asked their own children to walk on them.

As we know, this common misconception is not ashiatsu.

They will not be laying face-down on the carpet.

You will not be “cracking” their back, or walking on them.

Ashiatsu is a massage.

[Read more…]

I Drew The Short Straw

When I was in massage school many years ago, I remember our business teacher said “she drew the short straw” and was going to have a talk with us that day. What that meant is that she got to have that uncomfortable conversation with the class about things that could happen during a massage. Things that can happen which are totally innocent on the part of a male client, or something that maybe signals you to believe a client could be inappropriate. Okay, you understand where I am going with that, right?

Moving on…

So, today I am drawing the short straw. Mostly because I want to keep people off your massage table that are looking for something other than a therapeutic ashiatsu barefoot massage. [Read more…]