Brazilian Toe Massage – to help someone relax or get back to sleep after a nightmare

The Brazilian Toe Massage

What is it? Why is it? When do you use it?

Rex Myers, reflexologist


The Brazilian Toe Massage was discovered being used in Brazilian hospitals to sedate patients. It could sometimes put people to sleep deep enough to perform surgery on them when no anaesthetics were available!

As to why it is called “toe massage”? This is not really known, as there is no massage involved. The technique consists of holding the toes in a certain order and in a certain way. I have been taught this technique in several advanced reflexology courses and it has always been called “The Brazilian toe Massage”. Perhaps “the Brazilian Toe Hold” sounded too much like a wrestling grip. A more appropriate name in my humble opinion would be “The Brazilian Toe Technique”.

You use this method when you want to relax somebody or help a child back to sleep, say after a nightmare.

a)      Place thumb of right hand on underside of the person’s middle toe of the left foot, then place middle finger of the same hand on top of toe, holding lightly. At the same time, place thumb and finger of left hand similarly on their right foot. It is important that you hold the toes gently – about as much pressure as you would need to stop a sheet of paper from slipping through your fingers.

Hold this position gently until one of the following occurs:

1)      Three minutes have elapsed

2)      Either toe jumps or twitches

3)      An even, synchronised pulse is felt under both toes. Sometimes the pulse will be felt under one toe and then the other or will be felt under both toes but not synchronised. In this case, wait until they synchronise or until the toe kicks or twitches or the three minutes have elapsed. (It is not necessary for both toes to twitch or kick. As soon as this happens to one toe it is time to move. However it is very necessary that the pulses are synchronised on both feet before you move to the next toe.)

b)      Move thumbs to the next toe outwards toward the little toe while using your third finger, that is the next one out towards your little finger. Movements on both feet should be synchronised. Hold this position as before.

c)       Move thumbs out to the little toe while using the little fingers of each hand. Again hold this position as before.

d)      Move thumbs to toe adjacent to the big toe while using the first finger (next to the thumb). Hold as before.

e)      Move thumb to big toe while using both first and second fingers on top of toe. Hold as before.

f)       At this stage, remove hands and do not touch the person again as the body is now balanced and they will be very relaxed if not asleep.

In my experience it is seldom necessary to wait for the arbitrary three minutes as usually the pulses are felt or the twitching or kicking of the toes takes place before this time.

It is important that you do not touch the toes adjacent to the one you are holding so hold your spare fingers out of the way.

“The Brazilian toe Massage” is suitable for use on its own (very effective for calming children who have had nightmares) or at the end of a massage or reflexology treatment. If it is necessary to use this treatment to calm a very nervous person, let them rest for 15-30 minutes before beginning other treatments. Touching the body again immediately after balance has occurred will cause the system to become unbalanced again. The calming effect will then be short-lived.

How does it work?

I have never been told, however I will mention two possible theories.

Firstly, Dr Fitzgerald, the originator of zone therapy, discovered that the body can be divided into ten zones (five on each side of the body) along its length, with five zones to a toe and the corresponding finger on the same side of the body.

Dr Fitzgerald stated that applying pressure to the extremities could cause anaesthesia in other parts of the zone. Holding these finger-to-toe positions possibly allows the zones to go to sleep one after the other and thereby allows the body to balance.

The other theory is related to the ancient Chinese yin-yang theory from which acupuncture and Qi Gong have their origins. According to yin-yang theory, the fingers of each hand have positive and negative charges, the first finger on the right hand being positive, then next three negative, positive and the little finger negative. On the left hand the first finger is negative and the next three positive, negative and positive,, while both the thumbs are neutral. When the hands are put together in the prayer position, the charges are all cancelled out.

Thus when we hold the toes in the manner described, we have the middle finger of the right hand negative (-) in contact with the middle toe of the left foot (+), the middle finger of the left hand (+) in contact with the middle toe of the right foot (-), which completes a circuit through the body and allows a balance to take place.

The most important point to remember is that this technique does work and worked very effectively. Just try it once and you’ll agree.

Another benefit of this technique is that after you have used it, you will feel quite relaxed yourself and after you have used it several times you will be well aware of energy flows within the body even if you have never noticed them before or even have doubted their existence.