TikTok’s Hot Foot Soak Trend: A Novel Migraine Cure or Social Media Mirage?

Amidst a sea of over-the-counter remedies, a hot foot soak trend on TikTok claims to provide a reprieve for migraine sufferers. 

With a slew of testimonials, we explore the potential science backing this social media spawned migraine cure.

The realm of migraine remedies is vast, yet a novel method stemming from the social media juggernaut TikTok has piqued intrigue. The TikTok migraine cure encompasses a simple routine of immersing one’s feet in hot water, touted by many as a beacon of relief amidst the storm of migraine discomfort.

Historical Resonance and Modern-day Adoption of the Tiktok Migraine Cure

The practice of immersing feet in hot water for migraine relief finds its roots in the broader domain of hydrotherapy, which has historical precedence across cultures. In recent times, this practice has resurfaced on social media platforms like TikTok, garnering both public and scientific interest. There is some scientific exploration into the efficacy of hot foot soaks for migraine alleviation:

Historical Context

The tradition of using hot water for therapeutic purposes, known as hydrotherapy, has existed for centuries across various cultures. The historical use of foot soaking for migraines is limited, but hot water’s general relaxation and pain relief benefits are well-documented.

Modern-day Adoption and Studies

A small study published in the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice in 2016 revealed that migraine sufferers who soaked their feet and arms in hot water (along with taking NSAIDs) experienced fewer disabling headaches compared to a group that only took medication over a six-week period​​.

Some sources suggest that hydrotherapy, which includes practices like hot foot baths, could potentially alleviate the frequency and intensity of headaches, though conclusive proof is lacking​​.

The Science Behind the Tiktok Migraine Cure

Hot foot soaks have been explored in various scientific studies for their potential benefits on health, apart from migraine relief. 

Sleep Quality and Body Temperature

A study found that a warm footbath before bedtime can facilitate heat dissipation from the body core to the periphery by dilating peripheral blood vessels. This process leads to a decrease in core body temperature. It also leads to an increase in distal (hands and feet) temperature, which is associated with better sleep quality and shorter sleep latency. 

The study particularly examined the effect of a warm footbath (40°C water temperature, 20-min duration) on body temperature and sleep in older adults. It significantly increased and retained foot temperatures, elevating core temperatures slightly, but did not alter sleep quality in both good and poor sleepers​​.

Psychological Facet: The Placebo Effect of the Tiktok Migraine Cure?

The placebo effect is a well-documented phenomenon. It happens when people experience real improvement in their condition from treatments with no therapeutic value. This occurs because they expect it to work, triggering physiological responses like endorphin release.

When it comes to hot foot soaks or other similar remedies for conditions like migraines, the placebo effect could play a significant role. Here’s a breakdown of how this might work:

Expectation of Relief

Engaging in a hot foot soak might trigger a placebo response, fuelled by positive expectations from testimonials or reviews.

Pain Perception Modulation

The warmth of the water can indeed have a soothing and comforting effect, which may modulate the body’s perception of pain. This physiological response could intersect with the placebo effect, enhancing the perceived relief.

Feeling of Proactivity

Taking proactive steps to address migraine symptoms, such as engaging in a hot foot soak, can provide a psychological boost. Feeling proactive and in control can be empowering and may contribute to a person’s overall sense of well-being, which could, in turn, influence their perception of pain and relief.

Personalised Approach to Migraine Treatment

The diverse range of responses observed in individuals undergoing this treatment highlights the intricate and multifaceted nature of migraines. It highlights the pressing need for a personalised approach to migraine treatment. Specifically, one that is tailored to each patient’s unique needs and guided by healthcare providers who can navigate this complexity. 

By recognising and addressing the individual variations in migraine experiences, we can strive for more effective and targeted treatments that improve the quality of life for those who suffer from this debilitating condition.


  1. Sujan, M., Rao, M. R., Kisan, R., Ashok, A. H., Nalini, A., Raju, T., & Sathyaprabha, T. (2016, January 1). Influence of hydrotherapy on clinical and cardiac autonomic function in migraine patients. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice; Medknow.
  2. J. (2023, October 24). TikTok Users Say Hot Foot Baths Relieve Migraine Pain. But Does It Actually Work? – Healthcare Communications Network. Healthcare Communications Network.,this%20has%20not%20been%20proven
  3. Liao, W. C., Wang, L., Kuo, C. P., Lo, C., Chiu, M., & Ting, H. (2013, December 1). Effect of a warm footbath before bedtime on body temperature and sleep in older adults with good and poor sleep: An experimental crossover trial. International Journal of Nursing Studies; Elsevier BV.
  4. Ozdemir, F. A., & Can, G. (2021, June 1). The effect of warm salt water foot bath on the management of chemotherapy-induced fatigue. European Journal of Oncology Nursing; Elsevier BV.
  5. Sung, E. J., & Tochihara, Y. (2000, January 1). Effects of Bathing and Hot Footbath on Sleep in Winter. Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science.
  6. Yang, H. L., Chen, X., Lee, K. C., Fang, F. F., & Chao, Y. P. (2010, November 1). The Effects of Warm-Water Footbath on Relieving Fatigue and Insomnia of the Gynecologic Cancer Patients on Chemotherapy. Cancer Nursing; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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