Add as bookmark

Reflexology: Helping to Alleviate Migraines and Headaches

by Lynne Booth(more info)

listed in reflexology, originally published in issue 175 - October 2010

Hand reflexology is especially helpful for migraine, and all headaches, especially as there are several options for discreet self-help. Reflexology is an holistic therapy based on the application of pressure, primarily, but not limited to specific areas on the feet hands or ears, which aims to cause a physiological response in the same area of the body. Many different situations can cause a headache including bowel disorders, intolerance to certain foods, stress, travel, light and strong sun, the menopause or PMT, as well as structural problems causing musculo-skeletal issues. The Reflexologist will work other specific areas of the hands or foot to support the problem such as the bowel, neck or eye reflexes as well as targeting the spinal reflexes, including lower lumbar and pelvic reflexes. Stress is a common factor in headaches; pressure on the adrenal reflexes can help to calm the body and reduce an adrenal rush.

Hand Chart - VRT Dorsal and Palm Reflexes
Hand Chart - VRT Dorsal and Palm Reflexes

Many clients over the years have come to see me in the hope of curing severe headaches and in some cases reflexology has been successful in alleviating some or all or the symptoms. However, there have been certain individuals who are extremely difficult to help for a number of reasons. I remember finding the ileo-cecal valve and digestive reflexes very tender on the foot of a young man and asked if there was any correlation between what he ate and the increase of severe migraines. It appeared that he would often have a blinding headache after eating a lot of cheese. He would often say that a little bit of cheese never did him any harm and that may have been the case, but he was reluctant to limit himself to small portions. He seemed content that reflexology helped him to cope with the symptoms rather than the possibility that he could eliminate them by cutting out cheese altogether for a while and allowing the body to de-toxify and heal itself. There is a lot of truth in the old adage "One man's meat is another man's poison".

Another client began feeling better generally after 6 reflexology sessions and her headaches were less frequent or severe. As her health and energy had improved considerably I enquired if she had stopped the proprietary analgesics she had been taking daily for years. She replied that, although she was feeling better, she did not want to risk the headaches returning so continued to take the same medication. Gradually she found the courage to trust in her health and it was only then did she begin to reduce the pain killers. It is the role of a practitioner to firmly advise a client to move from their perceived comfort zone into better health and life-style, but however prescriptive one wishes to be, the therapist has to sometimes work a slower pace to avoid alienation.

Method - Self-help for Migraines and General Headaches

  • Work the neck reflexes situated at the base of each thumb (or big toe) in a pinching movement using your index finger or thumb to relax the muscles and relieve stress;
  • Finger-walk the reflexes up the medial side of the thumb (or big toe) to ease the cervical spine;
  • Work the lower lumbar spine and pelvic reflexes to ease tension from the entire body;
  • Press the adrenal reflexes to balance the body: either to lower an adrenalin rush or to boost a sluggish system;
  • One of the most holistic reflexology techniques is the VRT Diaphragm Rocking which is an excellent release for headaches or insomnia. See instructions below.
  • Pinch each centre of thumb nail, nail-on-nail and hold for 30 seconds to balance the body and conclude the treatment. It is also helpful to hold third nail on third nail.

Migraine Headache Case Study 1 by Lynne Booth

Lucy, aged 27, came for VRT and reflexology after suffering fortnightly debilitating headaches. She was very stressed and her shoulder reflexes were tender. Her bowel reflexes were also tender to the touch and I asked her if she suffered from constipation or irritable bowel, but she said she had no problems. Her neck, head, lumbar reflexes were also extremely tender, so I treated these as a priority, plus Diaphragm Rocking and stimulation of the adrenals for stress reduction. As I worked the transverse colon reflexes, she said her abdomen had "gone warm", which suggested to me that the body was treating this as a priority condition. I asked her again if she might be constipated, as this was the indicated via the reflexes, "Certainly not", she replied, "I go regularly about every 4 days!" This is an interesting example of how the Reflexologist was guided to the root cause of the problem via the reflexes. A toxic bowel is often the source of headaches, and Penny's overall condition rapidly improved once she addressed the need for drink more water and to add more fibre to her diet.

Migraine Headache Case Study 2 by Lynne Booth

I was called to a woman in her twenties who was lying in a darkened room with such a debilitating migraine that she could not move or bear any light or noise. She had also been violently sick and felt very nauseous. I ascertained from her family that she had suffered from these headaches periodically and had even been hospitalized on very strong pain killers. There was no question of vertical, or even conventional, reflexology at first, so I just gently held her toe nail, nail-on-nail, for several minutes. VRT Nail-working, where the central pituitary point is gently pressed, is a simple and profound technique which seems to direct energy where the body most needs it. Soon she spoke and said "The cluster is diminishing". I then began to gently work her toes and spine and worked each hand, firstly holding her thumb nails and then worked her hands. I stroked the stomach and digestive reflexes to ease the nausea, and after 20 minutes left her sleeping soundly. Within in an hour she had no head pain or sickness and got up, showered, had some dry bread and water and reported that she felt totally energized and recovered. This was indeed the case as the migraine symptoms did not reappear. In previous migraine attacks the woman had been confined to bed for days, so the rapid return to normality was exceptional for her and exceptional in my experience regarding an almost instant response.

Diaphragm Rocking
Diaphragm Rocking

Self-help VRT and Diaphragm Rocking - a profound hand and foot reclining technique for stress, headaches and insomnia. Self-help VRT and Diaphragm Rocking was originally developed to help correct poor sleep patterns, relieve stress and treat or prevent jet lag. It is also very helpful in easing headaches and helping regulate breathing.

Try it for yourself.


Lightly place your thumb on your right palm approximately 2.5 cm below the base of the gap between your index and middle fingers.

Keeping your arm and lower hand still, slightly curl your fingers over your thumb and rock them back and forwards slowly, i.e. each rock would last as long as it roughly takes to count " 1 and 2 and 3 and 4". Use either of the hand positions illustrated.

Repeat this movement 10 to 15 times on each hand before bed or when you wake up in the night and cannot get back to sleep.

It can be used in stressful situations at any time. As little as 5 rocks per hand can calm the emotions.

Book References

1. Booth, Lynne. Vertical Reflexology. Publ Piatkus Books, London. ISBN: 0-7499-2132-3. 2001.
2. Booth, Lynne. Vertical Reflexology for Hands. Publ Piatkus Books, London.  ISBN: 0-7499-2319-9. 2003.


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Lynne Booth

Lynne Booth BA (Hons) BRCP IIR ART (regd) Hons HMAR began studying reflexology for over 22 years and went on to train with the International Institute of Reflexology (Original Ingham Method). She has a private practice and also runs a reflexology clinic at a 400-resident St Monica Trust in Bristol as well as a clinic for professional Championship footballers. The research, development of VRT and the small medical study were conducted at the Trust in the early to mid-1990s. She frequently presents VRT at conferences internationally and Lynne and VRT Appointed Tutors have taught VRT courses in the UK and internationally to over 8000 qualified reflexologists. Lynne is the resident reflexology columnist for Positive Health PH Online Journal ( ). In 1998 Lynne was awarded an ART (Advanced Reflexology Techniques) fellowship for services to reflexology and in 2008 The Association of Reflexologists (AoR) also gave her an Honorary Fellowship. In 2011 the respected Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine gave Lynne the prestigious Highly Commended ICNM award for Outstanding Contribution to Complementary Medicine.  Her best-selling book Vertical Reflexology was published by Piatkus Books in September 2000 and Vertical Reflexology for Hands was published in 2002. The highly acclaimed Vertical Reflexology DVD was produced in 2008. For more information on VRT, practitioner courses or the nearest available VRT practitioner contact Booth VRT on Tel: +44 (0)117 962 6746;

top of the page