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Chinese Foot Massage 101: It'll Knock You Off Your Feet

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I must be a glutton for punishment. Not only do I frequent the Korean Spa, I often spring for cheap, sub-par treatments at Chinese Foot Massage places. While I'm lying there suffering, I wonder why I had amnesia concerning the torture I endured the last time around. Probably because they cost 25 bucks.

The place near me offers a 60 minute combo that, along with the foot reflexology, includes a full-body massage. The treatments all take place in a giant, dimmed room lined with rows of La-Z-Boy-style recliners. So you're all in it together (and fully clothed). This is just fine and poses zero issues unless one of the following (likely) disturbances occurs:

  • coughing
  • snoring
  • farting
  • clueless patrons using their outside voices
  • massage therapists answering personal cellphones
  • your husband giggling uncontrollably at the pan-flute rendition of any Elton John song
  • they are simultaneously holding a meet-up for beginning jugglers

It's worth noting that these no-pain-no-gain treatments are strictly choreographed. There is no deviation from the routine. For example, try asking them to go easy on your sacrum and you'll be met with a blank-eyed stare and confused nod. Or try stopping a therapist mid-move ("Ooh! Too hard! That hurts!") and your protest will likely elicit laughter. Followed by firmer pressure.

The start of the session requires you to sit and drape your upper body over two pillows placed in your lap. These pillows look plush and fluffy until you put any pressure on them whatsoever, at which point they offer the support of a tortilla. So essentially, you're laying your belly on two tortillas while your back gets pummeled by a couple of pointy Chinese elbows. While there is massage happening, there is tremendous personal effort being spent to remain upright. And avoid pulling something. This is a real treat for the nervous system. The signature moves used by therapists in this portion of the hour include:

  • Twist And Shout
  • You Gotta Lotta Nerves
  • Spinal Tap
  • Digging For Clues
  • 沃爾坎火山死亡夾子 (The Vulcan Death Grip)

When you do get to finally enjoy the thrill of prostration, they swaddle you in a scratchy towel and proceed to work their way down your body. Starting with your head and face, you'll enjoy:

  • Say Goodbye To Your Blowout
  • Lice Ain't Nice
  • Smell My Fingers
  • Human Q-Tip
  • You Look Better With Dimples

Next, they traverse the arms and legs where you'll experience such popular moves as:

  • Whack-A-Mole (the skin lesion, not the subterranean mammal)
  • Thigh-Master And Servant
  • Knee-Deep In My Full Body Weight
  • I Work My Fingers To Your Bones
  • Armageddon A Big Tip After This

After this routine, your entire head is smothered with a towel, Guantanamo-style, in preparation for the anticipated denouement. About now, you may be wondering why all these establishments have "Foot" in their name and yet the foot-rubbing portion only lasts one-fifth of the hour. Not to worry, you'll only ponder this for mere moments before your tattered nervous system shuts down, rendering you temporarily unconscious. Hence, there is no recorded history of any foot massage being administered to any person at any Foot Massage Place. Ever. Legend has it, this is the time when the therapists practice their juggling.

This article first appeared on the blog Joeycake