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How Effective is Reflexology for Headaches?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Reflexology is a massage therapy which employs touch, massage, and pressure on special pressure points on the hands and feet to relieve pain and illness throughout the body. Different studies have shown reflexology for headaches to be both effective and ineffective. The mainstream medical establishment typically does not feel there is any relationship between the manipulation of pressure points used in reflexology for headaches and relief of headache pain. Some doctors do concede that reflexology for headaches does relieve stress, which can trigger tension headaches and may therefore be beneficial. Several other studies, conducted primarily in Denmark where reflexology for headaches is commonly used, show that reflexology for headaches does reduce pain reports, use of pain medication and, in some cases, cuts down on the number of headaches.

The ineffectiveness of reflexology to relieve the pain of headaches or prevent headaches has been documented in several studies. In most of these studies, patients with a history of migraines or tension headaches were treated with reflexology for several weeks or months, and at the end of the treatment there was no statistically significant improvement in headache pain or the number of headaches that occurred. When discussing the use of reflexology for headaches, doctors often like to emphasize that no training is required and there is no licensing needed to practice reflexology, yet reflexology fees are often akin to what a medical doctor would charge per hour.

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There are also many studies which have shown improvement in headache relief with treatments of reflexology. Several studies treated patients with established migraine headaches problems with reflexology for a few weeks, and at the conclusion of the studies the patients reported a reduction in their headache pain, the number of headaches, and a reduced need for pain medication. In many of the studies, reflexology caused patients to make positive changes in their lives, such as switching to a healthier diet, losing weight, and increasing exercise levels, something the patients were not motivated to do when just dependent on pain medication.

Tension headaches, sinus headaches, and migraines are serious health concerns. If someone suffers from any of these problems, a doctor should be seen to be certain that the headaches are not a symptom of a larger problem. When a more serious health concern is not involved, trying reflexology for headache relief may be worthwhile. Reflexology for headaches may reduce stress levels, leading to fewer headaches or allowing for a lower dose of pain medication.

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