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Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT) for Sports Injuries

by Lynne Booth(more info)

listed in reflexology, originally published in issue 134 - April 2007

Reflexology and Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT) are a powerful combination when working with sports and other acute injuries such as a sprained ankle, Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) or over-stretching in a yoga class. These techniques are also very helpful, as a preventative measure, to anyone who exercises in the gym, swims occasionally, or enjoys a good walk, for example. I have used this method successfully over many years with clients, and other Reflexologists who use VRT have reported similar good results. The hands are equally as responsive as the feet, and I use a combination of hand and foot Reflexology in all treatments.

What is VRT and Does it Work?

Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT) is a unique Reflexology technique that I have discovered and developed since the early 1990s.[1] A five-minute VRT treatment on the weight-bearing hand or foot dorsal reflexes can accelerate the healing response of the body. This treatment can be given in its own right, as first-aid, or as a brief part of a conventional Reflexology session. It has now become part of mainstream Reflexology and thousands of Reflexologists have learnt these techniques on authorized courses. My new research has concentrated on Hand VRT and the unique way of working a grid system of reflexes on the nail. A Reflexologist can now work very precisely, nail-on-nail, to access the whole body through the dorsal (top) reflexes of the hands and feet, and by lightly touching the nails themselves. New nail charts and instructions for all self-help and practitioner Hand Reflexology are described in my book Vertical Reflexology for Hands.[2]

VRT is also very useful as a preventative treatment, and many people report that they have had a lessening or cessation of repeated aches or pains following a few minutes of daily self-help. I conducted a small, medically supervised study regarding pain and mobility issues in elderly chronically ill residents in a Home for the Elderly. In that study over 60% reported increased mobility and decreased pain following 7 weekly treatments.[3] A therapist gave her son, an accomplished amateur rugby player, regular VRT for minor and more serious injuries throughout a season. She reported that he had experienced less pain, on-going injuries or time off than in any previous year. In this article, I look at methods and examples of treating injuries or minor injury problems, including self-help between treatments, as I am sure this is one of the most powerful ways of accelerating recovery. In a small survey I conducted in the workplace in 2002, six employees who had suffered a chronic health problem for 6-12 months including Repetitive Strain Injury, were given one half-hour Reflexology/VRT treatment a week for 4 weeks.[4] They were asked to work three priority reflexes, for example, neck, lower lumbar and hip on their weight-bearing hands for two minutes twice a day for four weeks. After one month all six people reported an 80-100% improvement in their chronic condition. These exceptional results encouraged me to give clients, including sports persons, a short specific homework sheet of instructions. Many VRT practitioners now give their clients a routine homework schedule, indicating three key reflexes to be worked twice daily for approximately three minutes in total.

Vertical Reflex Therapy can take the Reflexology process one step further when the feet (or hands) are in a weight-bearing position. Some deeper reflexes can only be located when a person is standing. With VRT, all reflexes, including those on the plantar, can be accessed three-dimensionally through the dorsum as well. There are 7000 nerves in the feet, and a plausible and anatomical explanation for VRT’s efficacy is that the nerves on the passive hands and feet are naturally desensitized, but as soon as a hand or foot becomes weight-bearing, then the nerves become sensitized. As the reflexes used in Reflexology must work on some nerve impulse between the foot and, for example, a particular organ, it must follow that the sensitized reflexes must be capable of sending a stronger impulse to an organ, gland, muscle or vertebra.

An interesting secondary aspect has emerged from the application of VRT and Foot Reflexology. Several athletes, tennis players and joggers have reported that, not only do they feel invigorated by a brief Reflexology session, but their feet feel physically better because they have had a very precise form of stimulation and massage over a period of 30-45 minutes. This fact is equally pertinent for all persons, as our feet are the key to our mobility. I feel much more attention should be paid to the maintenance of the feet themselves, and this should include flexing exercises, more chiropody and the use of orthotics when appropriate, as well as Reflexology. I am surprised that so little attention is paid to the feet generally compared to the many treatments, training and exercises that rightly target the muscular/skeletal system and nutritional health. The feet and ankles should be given greater attention and priority for optimum performance.

A few years ago, on a long-haul flight, the young male passenger next to me was nursing a bandaged arm, having recently fallen while cycling at speed. He was a professional cyclist who had competed in the Olympic Games. I treated his hand reflexes for ten minutes, both passive and weight-bearing, and he soon fell into a very deep sleep. On waking an hour later he remarked that he had rarely slept so deeply and felt he now had less pain and a little more mobility in his arm. It was interesting to work on such a super-fit person as every key reflex responded very specifically and quickly.

Commence All Reflexology/VRT Treatments by Working the Pelvic/Lumbar Spine Area

I recommend commencing treatment for all muscular/skeletal injuries from a fixed starting point which comprises working the hip, pelvic and lower lumbar spine reflexes first to adjust and balance the entire body, prior to specifically targeting the reflex points connected with the injury. This has proved very successful, and I use this premise for adjusting the entire body via the pelvis as a blue-print for all my Reflexology/Vertical Reflex Therapy treatments. Most manual therapists recognize the maxim that structure governs function, hence the need to first make corrections to the lumbar spine area in the belief that once stability returns to the lower part of the body, then the glands, organs and muscular and skeletal system throughout the body are in a better position to respond.

Case Studies

Female, Aged 45
The female office administrator suffered from long term repetitive strain injury (RSI) in her right arm. Her shoulder and right hand were stiff and painful when her hand was held in a lateral position; this had become a chromic condition. There was a suggestion that her chair and desk were too high, causing her to work at an uncomfortable angle. She reported painful knees that clicked, possibly due to early signs of arthritis. She also had a sprained right ankle. After four weekly thirty-minute VRT/Reflexology sessions she felt a 90% improvement in her neck, arm and shoulder in terms of reduced pain and increased mobility. Her sprained ankle responded positively to VRT immediately and became less painful. Her knees did not improve, but she felt she benefited overall from the treatment.

Jogger, Aged 20
The young man had sprained his left ankle running that morning, and his foot had been immersed in ice immediately before I saw him. He experienced considerable pain and could not put full weight on his foot, and walked slowly on tiptoe. I worked his right foot standing for a minute, then his left weight-bearing hand. Next he lay on the couch and I spent about twenty minutes working his passive left wrist on all the referral reflex ankle points. I moved his wrist in a gentle clockwise and anti-clockwise movement. I then worked the left weight-bearing hand again with VRT. He was immediately able to fully weight-bear his left foot and walk relatively normally with greatly reduced pain. At no time did I touch his left ankle at all. This was an exceptional result.

Female, Aged 36
A woman virtually crawled into the treatment room and was bent double and unable to straighten due to a very painful sciatic condition affecting both legs, that had commenced that morning. VRT was applied at the beginning and end of a conventional treatment. Two VRT techniques, Diaphragm Rocking and a form of lymphatic stimulation were also applied. During the conventional treatment, as the right hip area was worked, she let out a gasp and said that it felt as if someone had reached into her chest and given it an almighty yank! On completion, she stood up very gently and straightened slowly with no pain. She was able to move quickly round the room, then sat in a chair and crossed one leg over the other to put her socks on, which she had not been able to do previously.

Male, Aged 82
An elderly man was treated for a chronic arthritic neck condition. His neck had gone into spasm that morning, and he wore a surgical collar with his chin almost touching his chest. His doctor had prescribed very strong anti-inflammatory medication which was making him feel nauseous. He was treated with brief VRT and Diaphragm Rocking which he found quite tender, and reported feeling various unusual sensations in his body. He then slept for several hours, got up, and removed the collar, saying that, although he still felt a slight ache, there was a tremendous improvement. He was given another brief ‘first aid’ VRT treatment that evening and was advised to exercise his neck only gently. His enthusiasm in showing everyone his instant mobility could have been counterproductive, and he was strongly advised not to keep demonstrating his newfound mobility, in case he strained the newly relaxed muscles that supported the cervical spine.

Male, Aged 24
A professional footballer had suffered for three weeks with fluid on the right knee and was limited in mobility by the pain, inflammation and swelling. This problem had recurred regularly over four years and was diagnosed as a torn posterior collateral ligament with the suggestion of an operation if it did not improve. He was unable to run and his exercise in the gym consisted of upper-body work. I worked his knee reflexes, hip and leg reflexes as well as the pelvic and sacral reflex area around the heel. I concentrated on the nerve innervations around the L3 reflex for the knee itself. I treated various lymphatic reflexes to help to stimulate the draining of the fluid. The day after his treatment, his knee swelled more than ever and became acutely painful. He worked the knee reflexes on his hand several times daily to help drain the knee. By the next day the swelling had almost completely diminished, and within days he resumed training. A year later he telephoned me from his new club in northern England to say he had been unable to play for three weeks due to the above problems recurring for the first time in twelve months. I treated him again and the above pattern repeated itself and within one week he played for forty-five minutes in a match with no adverse effect.

Male, Aged 17
A youth had badly hurt his lower back three weeks before when he felt a muscle contract while stretching in the gym. He had then been unable to exercise at all. I treated him for 3/4 hour, and by the end of the session he had considerably less pain and was able to bend and move. He was able to resume training a day or two later. I taught him some VRT self-help techniques on the foot for the lower lumbar reflexes whenever his back became painful. He also worked his passive hand in bed at night, as he was awoken by the muscular pain if he lay at a certain angle.

Female, Aged 75
A female pensioner, a good amateur tennis player, underwent a total left mastectomy including removal of the under-arm lymph nodes. Although her arms were strong and pain free, she experienced swelling and tightness in the armpit which meant that she could not raise her arm. The neck and thoracic spine reflexes were targeted as well as synergistic VRT (simultaneously working the identical hand and foot reflexes) on the lymphatic, shoulder and arm reflexes. She achieved greater movement immediately, and within four treatments: over a period of twelve weeks, she was playing tennis again with no restriction in her arm.

In the case of the tennis player, it is important to note that within four weeks of Reflexology treatments, she had no real pain and much greater movement in her arm and wanted to play tennis at that point. In theory this could have been possible and she was able to resume normal activities with virtually no discomfort, but I was insistent that she gave herself longer for the scar tissue to heal and for the muscles and ligaments to strengthen so that she would not overstrain her arm playing a strenuous game. VRT is a very powerful technique and has been known to produce instant results, but the increase in mobility and decrease in pain does not mean that the organs, muscles or glands have been completely restored at once. The VRT/Reflexology has possibly accelerated the healing processes but the body will still take time to heal at a cellular level.

What has been very interesting over the years is that many people, after a single treatment, are immediately able to walk and stretch further, and that this mobility continues while the body strengthens in a permanent way over a period of time. In the case of serious or chronic conditions the above comments and cautions are very appropriate. In acute injuries such as sport, VRT can help to correct or accelerate the healing in a very short timescale and, as there is no long-term degeneration, the person can very quickly resume their activities. For example, a youth had strained his neck during a knock-about with a ball. He felt his muscle go into spasm and was still in considerable pain after physiotherapy when I treated him a couple of hours later. Working the foot and neck reflexes synergistically caused him to feel immediate warmth in his neck and by the end of the half hour treatment he was able to move his neck freely again with no pain and the problem did not recur.

When treating sports and minor injuries, especially when VRT is used, it is recommended that the client’s range of mobility is tested prior to, and after the Reflexology treatment, so the therapist and client can monitor any immediate change and the client also has a bench-mark to work towards when applying self-help VRT on their hands between treatments. VRT and Reflexology are excellent complementary therapies to work alongside allopathic medicine, Massage, Physiotherapy or Osteopathy. Whatever the condition, chronic or acute, Vertical Reflex Therapy can work on a subtle level enabling the body to accelerate its innate healing processes.


1.    Booth, Lynne. Vertical Reflexology. Piatkus Books, London. ISBN: 0-7499-2132-3. 2000.
2.    Booth, Lynne. Vertical Reflexology for Hands. Piatkus Books, London. ISBN: 0-7499-2319-9. 2003
Short Studies
3.    Booth, Lynne. Small VRT Study on Pain and Mobility Issues in a Residential Home for the Elderly. June 1997
4.    Booth, Lynne. VRT and Reflexology in the Workplace Study. July 2002.


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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;


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