Reflexology for Neck Pain

Neck pain - either chronic or recurring - is a very common problem. Reflexology may provide quick relief, particularly for neck pain caused by stress. Reflexology is a specialized type of massage for relieving pain and inducing relaxation, which been practiced for thousands of years.

Reflexology is based on the concept that areas or zones and pressure points or reflex points on the feet and hands correspond to specific parts of the body. Applying gentle pressure to a particular point stimulates and relieves pain in the corresponding body part. Foot reflexology can be particularly useful for releasing painful tightness in the neck and relieving tension and stress.

How Is Reflexology Used to Relieve Neck Pain?

Reflexology is most often practiced on dry feet, without massage oil or lotion, but it can also be practiced on the hands or ears. The thumb and fingers slowly massage the feet or hands, applying localized pressure to specific reflex points. The thumb walk is the most common reflexology technique. The outside edge of the thumb is slowly moved over the relevant areas of the foot or hand. The finger walk is similar but uses the edge of the index finger. The hook and back-up technique puts steady pressure on a single point. The thumb is placed on the reflex point and then grabs the point by pulling back slightly. When reflexology locates a tender spot on the part of the big toe corresponding to the neck, applying pressure to this spot can relieve the tenderness in the toe and neck pain. Rotation can also put pressure on a single point and is often used for tender spots.

A single finger is used to put pressure on small points on the hand. Working the sides and bottoms of the fingers helps to relax tight neck and shoulder muscles to relieve pain.

Where Are the Reflex Points for Neck Pain?

Neck pain often involves the cervical spine - the seven vertebrae of the neck. The most important reflexology points for relieving neck pain are those associated with the cervical vertebrae, the tops of the shoulders, and the solar plexus.

Reflexology points on the feet that correspond to the neck include:

  • The spinal reflex areas are located on the medial or inside edge of the foot.
  • The medial side of the right foot corresponds to the right side of the spine.
  • The medial side of the left foot corresponds to the left side of the spine.
  • The medial edge of the foot nearest the big toe corresponds to the cervical spine.
  • The lowest parts of the toes on both the tops and bottoms of the feet correspond to the neck.

The shoulder areas are located toward the outside of the balls of the feet. The tops of the shoulders correspond to a line along the tops of the feet just below the toes. The solar plexus points are toward the inside bottom of the balls of the feet.

Neck pain is also treated using the sacral point, located on the lower medial edge of the foot, and the spine zone on the middle medial edge. Other foot reflexology points that are worked for neck pain include the adrenal gland and the diaphragm, as well as all of the points on the tops and bottoms of the toes.

Reflexology points on the hands that correspond to the neck include:

  • The lower two joints of each finger on the back of the hand.
  • The areas between the fingers on the back of the hand.
  • The inside of the thumb on the back of the hand.
  • The middle joints of the fingers and thumb on the palm side.

The shoulder tops correspond to points just above the knuckles of the four fingers of each hand, the outside edge of the palm side of the smallest finger, and the thumb-side edge of the index finger of each palm. The solar plexus points are located on the palms between the first and second fingers.

Is Reflexology Safe?

Reflexology is noninvasive and is generally considered to be safe. However caution is advised when practicing reflexology during pregnancy.

Reflexology should be avoided if the person:

  • Has an infectious disease
  • Has undergone recent surgery for a malignant tumor
  • Has wounds, burns, or infections on the feet
  • Has deep-vein thrombosis or phlebitis
  • Is intoxicated from alcohol or street drugs
  • Uses strong pain medication daily

Is Reflexology Effective?

Many people find reflexology both relaxing and an effective method for relieving neck pain. The mechanism of action of reflexology is not understood, although it may involve stimulation of nerve endings. Nevertheless, a 1996 Chinese study found that individuals with cervical spondylosis (spinal degeneration and deformity due to osteoarthritis) or neck stiffness had a higher clinical cure rate when treated with foot reflexology than with traction.

Finding a Reflexologist

Finding a professional reflexologist will provide the most effective results for the treatment of neck pain. Many reflexologists will teach their clients how to practice reflexology techniques on their own or with a partner, to allow supportive treatments between sessions. It is also possible to provide self-care for minor cases of neck pain. While you may not have the detailed knowledge of a trained professional, reflexology charts can help guide you to provide some relief. You can practice by massaging the soles and tops of the feet and the palms and backs of the hands, paying special attention to tender spots.

Additional Resources
Relaxation for Body and Mind” from

Reflexology Research also provides additional information on various aspects of Reflexology.

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