Migraine is a severe headache which frequently occurs over one side of the head only. It is characterized by throbbing and associated with one or more of the following symptoms: sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, and dizziness. Flashes or patterns before the eyes may precede the headache. Women are twice as likely as men to experience these headaches, and some evidence suggests that migraine headaches are inherited. They can recur at intervals ranging from one day to several years.

IMG 0086_2At the onset of a migraine headache, blood vessels within the head constrict. This may cause a decrease in blood flow to the surface of the brain. A dilation of blood vessels of the head and scalp then occurs, setting off a chain of reactions that result in the headache. Evidence indicates that decreased localized brain metabolism initiates the attack and that the initial decrease in blood flow is a response to the lowered metabolic demand, rather than due to constriction of blood vessels. Among the biochemical changes associated with migraine is a reduced level of enkephalins, the brain's pain-relieving chemicals.

Hormone-level changes (such as those experienced by women during menopause or menstruation), endocrine imbalances, and stress are considered precipitating factors of migraine headaches in susceptible individuals. Several treatments have been successful in helping migraine sufferers. These include medications such as ergotamine tartrate, which thwarts the excessive expansion of blood vessels and aborts the acute attack; and propranolol, which stabilizes blood-vessel tone and prevents subsequent attacks. Biofeedback techniques have also proved useful.

Migraines are very often associated with tension and stress, both physical and emotional, and can be triggered by other factors such as hormonal imbalance. The relaxation effect produced by Reflexology, Thai Foot Massage, Reiki and Indian Head Massage can be very beneficial to reduce stress and tension and help prevent attacks. Additionally, reflexology promotes balance and normalisation of the endocrine system which controls hormone levels in the body. This can be particularly helpful for women who suffer with migraines associated with the menstrual cycle.

By the National Board of Health Council, Denmark, 1995

This study aimed to ascertain the effectiveness of reflexology on migraine and tension headaches. Two hundred and twenty patients presenting with headaches as their primary problem were treated by 78 reflexologists over a three-month period. A consultant doctor diagnosed the type of headache before the study began. Patients completed a diary once a month prior to treatment and during the treatment time. Questionnaires were completed by the patient at the beginning and end of the series of treatments, and three months after the end of the series. Qualitative interviews were conducted at the end of the treatments. Results: 16% reported that they were cured, 65% said that reflexology had helped, and, 18% were unchanged. Conclusion: reflexology can help both tension and migraine headaches in a significant number of patients.

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"Foot reflexology is defined as massage of zones on the feet which correspond to different parts of the body. A medline-search yielded no literature in the field of foot reflexology. Indications for and results of foot reflexology have been extrapolated from case-descriptions and two pilot studies with small samples. One study (Lafuente et al.) found foot reflexology to be as helpful to patients with headaches as medication (flunarizine), yet foot reflexology was fraught with fewer side effects than medication. In a second study (Eichelberger et al.) foot reflexology was used postoperatively on gynaecological patients. The intervention group showed a lesser need for medication to enhance bladder tonus than did the control group. The literature describes foot reflexology as enhancing urination, bowel movements and relaxation." Foot reflex zone massage (Kesselring A, Institut fur Pflegeforschung, Bern.)

In a blind random trial, (Lafuente) "examined 32 patients between the ages of 15 and 57. There were 25 women and 7 men randomly assigned to two groups. One group was given a placebo and received reflexology treatments two times a week for two or three months, The other group received Flunarizin treatment (a selective calcium entry blocker with calmodulin binding properties and histamine blocking activity that has been effective in preventing migraines) and massage of a non -specific area twice a week for 12 sessions. patients were evaluated at the end of the study and again three months after the study. It was concluded that the reflexology treatment was at least as effective as the Flunarizin treatment and may be classified as an alternative non-pharmacological therapeutic treatment that would be particularly appropriate to those patients that were unable to follow pharmacological treatment."

(Testa, Gail W., "A Study on the Effects of Reflexology on Migraine Headaches" August 2000 (http://members.tripod.com/GTesta/Dissertationall.htm)

Lafuente A et al (1990). Effekt der Reflex zonenbehandlung am FuB bezuglich der prophylaktischen Behandlung mit Flunarizin bei an Cephalea-Kopfschmerzen leidenden Patieten.Erfahrungsheilkunde. 39, 713-715.

Heydenreich A., Institution: Abteilung Neurologie, Wilhelm-Pieck-Universitat, Rostock, "Treatment of migraine with controlled reflex methods and stimulation therapy," Schweiz Med Wochenschr Suppl, 62: 88-93 (1994) Authors: [Review] [0 refs] [German] Zeitschrift fur Arztliche Fortbildung. 82(24):1247-9, 1988.

MeSH Terms: English Abstract; Female; Flunarizine/therapeutic use; Foot*; Genital Diseases, Female/surgery; Headache/therapy; Headache/drug therapy; Human; Massage/methods*; Postoperative Complications/therapy; Reflexotherapy/methods*; Urination Disorders/therapy




Results of study: 19% of headache sufferers ceased taking medication following reflexology work. According to a large nationwide research study undertaken in Denmark, reflexology treatment has a beneficial effect on patients suffering from migraine and tension headaches. The study was conducted at the Department of Social Pharmacy, The Royal Danish School of Pharmacy in co-operation with five reflexology associations. 220 patients participated with treatment being given by 78 fully trained reflexologists across the country. in cooperation with five different reflexology societies FDZ (Danish Reflexologists Association), LNF (National Forum for Natural Healing), SFFF, (Association of Scandinavian Reflexologists), SAB (Union of Complementary Therapists) and OZ (Union of Reflexologists). The project description was approved by the National Board of Health's Council concerning complementary treatment and the project was financed by the Ministry of Health, Director and Mrs. E. Danielsens's Fund together with Pool and Lottery Funds distributed by the Ministry of Education.

Headaches remain the most common health problem amongst the adult population and it has been estimated that they are the reason for the loss of three million working days every year. Reflexology is renowned for its ability to help relax and calm patients and for this reason it was considered an interesting therapy to study for the treatment of tension headaches and migraine.

Of all the patients who took part in the study, 90 percent said that they had taken prescribed medication for their headaches within the month prior to the commencement of the study and, of them, 36 percent had experienced side effects from the medicines. 81 percent of the prescribed medicine in the acetvlsalicyclic acid and paracetamol group was taken at least twice a week and 72% of the stronger migraine medicines were taken at least once a fortnight which indicates that the majority of the patients were suffering from moderate to severe symptoms. 34 percent had taken medications for ailments other than headaches.

Three months after a completed series of reflexology treatments, 81 percent of patients confirmed that reflexology had either cured (16%) or helped (65%) their symptoms. 19 percent of the patients re-ported that they had been able to completely dispense with the medications they had been taking before the study.

The reflexologists also found that there was a strong link between headaches and the gall bladder, stomach, bladder, and endocrine hormone meridians. At the end of the study the patients who benefited from the treatment showed less stress on the reflex points for the ovaries, small intestine, bladder, stomach, liver and kidneys than they had experienced on their first treatment. The likelihood of successful cure was found to be greatest for: a) those patients whom the reflexologist found no stress on the reflex zones of the uterus or gall bladder, and b) younger patients who had suffered from headaches for a short period of time.

Brendstrup, Eva and Launsø, Laila, "Headache and Reflexological Treatment," The Council Concerning Alternative Treatment, The National Board of Health, Denmark, 1997



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