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Does Soaking Your Feet in Hot Water Relieve Migraines?

If you suffer from migraines, you know the level of pain and frustration they bring. Recently, more and more people on TikTok and other social media claim there's a very simple trick to reduce the symptoms: soaking your feet in hot water. The truth is, there are many ways to treat migraines, including taking pain relievers and magnesium, but the effectiveness of these methods varies from person to person and case to case. So, is soaking your feet in hot water something that can help those who suffer from this problem and haven't found a solution? Let's explore this topic with the help of medical experts and see if it can really work.

The New Trend – Soaking Feet in Hot Water to Treat Migraines

The advice to soak your feet in hot water when suffering from a migraine went viral on TikTok back in September 2023. According to this tip, you should sit on the edge of the bathtub with your feet in hot water. Various TikTok users have tried this trick and posted their own videos, reporting that it indeed works. They recommend soaking your feet in a basin of hot water without risking burns and waiting until the pain subsides.
soaking feet in warm water
"Four minutes ago, my eyes were shaking, and I couldn't see properly," says Andrea Adar, a TikTok user who tried the trick while suffering from a migraine. She added at the end, "I am grateful to the person who shared this trick on TikTok because I think you changed my life."
Like the next video, this trick has become an internet sensation:

What Do Medical Experts Say About This Trick

Like anything else shared on social media, such tips can be nonsense aimed at garnering as many views, shares, and likes as possible. However, experts suggest that this trick might indeed help reduce migraine symptoms – there's just not enough research to prove it. "It might work for some people," says Dr. Amit Sachdev, Medical Director in the Neurology Department at Michigan State University. "I've heard from some of my patients that they do this," says Dr. Medhat F. Michael, a pain management specialist at Orange Coast Medical Center in California. "Some of them say it helps them."
Nevertheless, despite the personal stories of TikTok users and patients, there is no real evidence supporting this treatment. The only research related to it was conducted in 2016, involving 40 participants who regularly suffered from migraines and were divided into two groups. Both groups received regular medications for migraine treatment, but only one group also received hydrotherapy treatments, in which the participants soaked their feet and hands in hot water and massaged their faces with ice for 20 minutes daily
woman holding ice bag to her face
After 45 days of the study, researchers found that people in the hydrotherapy group experienced less pain than the participants in the control group. The results are promising, but since it's such a small number of people, more studies need to be conducted on the topic. "We're always open to new ideas," says Dr. Kiran Rajneesh, a pain specialist neurologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "However, as a doctor, I must be rigorous before encouraging new treatment methods and lifestyle changes."

Why Does This Method Work?

It's not entirely clear why soaking feet in hot water helps treat migraines, but experts have a few hypotheses. The first, as Dr. Michael explains, is that this action helps quickly circulate blood from the head to the feet, reducing the pressure on the blood vessels in the head. This is also how TikTok users explain the phenomenon. Another possible explanation is offered by Dr. Rajneesh, who says that nerve signals transmit pain, as well as touch and temperature. "By activating these nerves in the feet, it might be possible to reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain, thus reducing the pain experienced by the patient," he explains.
Dr. Michael adds that soaking feet in hot water mimics the sensation of being in a hot bath, which generally relaxes. "When you have a migraine attack, you're very stressed," he says, and soaking feet in hot water helps relax the body, thus slightly reducing the pain. Additionally, it may be that the hot water simply helps distract from the migraine pain, and the doctor explains it simply: "The central nervous system likes distractions when there's pain."

This Is Just One Method to Relieve Migraine Pain

"Studies may not have proven the effectiveness of this method, but it seems worth trying," says Dr. Sachdev. However, there is still a danger in using water that's too hot, so it's highly recommended to ensure you use water at a safe temperature that won't harm you. "Don't soak your feet in boiling water – it can cause burns," says Dr. Michael.
Given all this, it certainly seems like a potential tool for dealing with migraines, but there are many others worth trying in parallel, such as the LI-4 pressure point, which also emerged as a trick posted online for dealing with the persistent pain. Don't forget that there are also pain relievers that can be very effective. Ultimately, you have to choose what works for you, remember to drink plenty of water, avoid loud noises and bright lights, get proper sleep, and avoid excessive caffeine. Dr. Michael recommends not relying solely on home tricks. "It's better to take pain relievers as early as possible to shorten the duration of the migraine attack, rather than dragging it out and making it last for hours," he says.


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