Reflexology’s Past


   Reflexology as become popular & an accepted form of alternative therapy in the west cost, this method has been around for a very long time. No 1 really knows precisely how old reflexology is, although there R substantial evidence to suggest that it may have been used as long ago as 5,000 yrs. The art of reflexology appears in several forms among many ancient cultures including Egypt, China, Russia & Japan. In these & other settings, manipulating the feet to restore balance to the body was a recognized healing technique. Some experts believe that reflexology in a more familiar form dates back to the 4th Century B.C. when it originated alongside the ancient Oriental practices of shiatsu & acupuncture. North American Indian medicine men manipulated & stimulated the feet as a part of their healing practices, too!  The most concrete evidence of the practice of reflexology in ancient culture was the discovery of a wall painting in the “Tomb of the Physician”, Ankhmahor, located in Saqqara, an ancient burial ground of Egyptian pharaohs. This Egyptian wall painting was dated 2330 B.C. & showed hand & foot reflexology. Another ex. Of Egyptian footwork is a pictograph of soldiers having their feet tended on a military campaign during the battle of Qadesh during the reign of Rameses II.

    It seems that the ancient Egyptians were very much a “barefoot society,” & these pictographs show the attention that they paid to their feet. More importantly for the evaluation of modern reflexology, the Egyptian believed that the human body was a symphony of vibrations, & that the internal organs form an intricate orchestra. They also believe that these organs could be “played’ by manipulating points on the feet. Even the Roman Emperor Octavain, who noted that Mark Anthony rubbed Cleopatra’s feet at dinner parties: Cleopatra lived from 69 B.C. to 30 B.C., this statement about a public display of foot massage indicates that a reverence toward feet have the whole of ancient Egyptian civilization. While the origins of reflexology R ancient, explorations into the scientific basis for reflexology began more recently in Sweden, England, Russia, & Germany. In Sweden around 1834, Sir Heinrik Link, the man who introduced Swedish massage to the world, observed that pains originating in certain organs were associated with surfaces on the skin, yet the surface location & the pain seemed wholly unconnected. In the 1890s, Sir Henry Head, a knighted research scientist & medical doctor in England, discovered zones on the skin that became hypersensitive to pressure when an organ connected by nerves to this skin was infected or diseased. He demonstrated the neurological relationship that exists between the skin & the internal organs by mapping areas of reflex zones on the back, which became known as Head Zones.

 Around the same time, Russian doctors Ivan Pavlov & Vladimir Bekhterev were exploring reflex response / responses in the body Pavlov developed the theory of conditioned reflexes. This theory states that there is a simple & direct relationship between a stimulus & a response. He found that almost any stimulus could produce a corresponding conditioned response. So, the Russian perception of reflex therapy evolved from the notion that an afflicted organ is actually receiving the wrong instructions from the brain. The goal of Russian reflex therapy is to interrupt these instructions & even potentially rewrite them!!! In addition in other countries, Germany was also researching the possibilities of treating disease with massage. Dr Alfons Cornelius observed that pressure to specific areas of the body triggered muscle contractions, changes in blood pressure, variations in warmth & moisture in the body, as well as directly affecting the mental state of the patient. It is believed that in 1893, Dr. Cornelius had recovered from an infection at a spa, he noticed that massage was helpful to the recovery process In 1902, he published a manuscript called Pressure Points, the origin & Significance, which explained how massage could be applied to “reflex zones” to effectively relieve pain & disease.

In 1913, Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose, & throat surgeon who had been studying in hospitals in Vienna & London, returned to the US & introduced reflex therapy to the West. Dr Edwin Bowers, a skeptical medical critic & writer, investigated Dr. Fitzgerald’s claims & found the discoveries so exciting that he jointly co – authored a book on this unique therapy. In a text published in 1917 entitled Zone Therapy or Reliving Pain at Home, Fitzgerald & Bowers noted that pressure to specific parts of the body could relieve pain & improve the functions of certain organs of the body. For his research, Fitzgerald applied pressure using tight elastic bands to the middle of the each finger, or small clips that he placed on the fingertips. He found that pressure applied to the fingertips could create a local anesthetic effect from the hand, arm, & shoulder, all the way up to the face. Dr. Fitzgerald was actually able to perform minor surgical operations using only this method. In a early experiment. He was even able to demonstrate that a needle could be inserted into a patient’s face painlessly, if he applied pressure to the appropriate reflex area on the patient’s hand. In developing this theory, Fitzgerald divided the body into 10 equal & vertical zones, ending in the finger & toes, which corresponded to the # of each we have. Fitzgerald found that pressure on 1 part of a zone could affect everything else within that zone. Therefore, reflex areas on the feet & hands were linked to other areas & organs of the body within the same zone. By exerting pressure on a specific part of the body, Fitzgerald could predict which parts of the body would be affected.


This new theory provoked much interest & cynicism, & Dr. Fitzgerald was under much scrutiny. Nevertheless, his theory on zone therapy was a success, & in April 29 1934 newspaper article entitled “mystery of zone therapy Explained,” the theory was proven to the world. The article recounts how a famous opera singer approached Dr. Fitzgerald & explained that she was having trouble reaching her high notes. Throat specialists had been unable to diagnose or treat the problem. After examining her fingers & toes, Dr. Fitzgerald traced the problem in her voice to a callus on her right big toe. He applied pressure to the toe for a few moments & the singer observed that she no longer felt pain there. The article stated: “….The doctor asked her to try the tone of the upper register. Miraculously, it would seem to us, the singer reached 2 tones higher than she had ever done before.”

   In the 1930’s, Dr. Joseph Shelby continued Dr. Fitzgerald’s work along with Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist who was intrigued with zone therapy, has been credited as the person who further developed & refined zone therapy into what is now known as foot reflexology. In her “trial & error” method, Ingham taped cotton pads over tender areas on her client’s feet, & then had her clients walk around while she watched for telltale reactions in the corresponding body part. Ingham studied the connection between areas that she stimulated on the foot & associated problems in the client’s organs & glands. She observed that congestion or tension in any part of the foot mirrors congestion or tension in a corresponding part of the body. Thus. When you stimulate the toes there is a related effect in the head, & treating the whole foot can have a relaxing & healing effect on the whole body. Inghams theory, which most modern reflexologists still accept as gospel, is that there are energy channels in the body that get blocked by stress & toxins, & when the appropriate area of the foot is manipulated, those channels can be unblocked, allowing the body to regain it’s natural equilibrium.

         Ingham brought her findings to the public & published 2 books, Stories the Feet Can Tell (1938) & Stories the Feet Have Told (1963). In order to promote & preserve the “Original Ingham Method of Reflex-ology,” she later founded The International Institute of Reflexology, which is currently run by her nephew, Dwight C. Byers. Eunice Ingham practiced & taught reflexology throughout the US until the age 80.

  In 1961, physiotherapists objected to the word “therapy” in the name “zone therapy” & consequently, the name “reflexology” was adopted. However, the name “reflexology” was considered illegitimate until another renowned women in the field of footwork Mildred Carter, published her book, Helping Yourself with Foot Reflexology, in 1970. When this book was 1st released, the U.S. Postal Service demanded that the publisher stop all publication of the book because they claimed that the material represented the practice of medicine without proper license. Fortunately, the publisher’s attorneys successfully defended the book & from then on, the name “reflexology” could be used to describe the practice of footwork & reflex therapy. Science then, other names have been adopted for the practices of foot reflexology including pressure point massage, compression massage, point pressure massage, & Vita – Flex. In Europe & some other parts of the world, the names zone therapy, reflex zone therapy, & reflex-other therapy R still used.


Reflexology Today


Recently, research studies have been conducted around the world, which validate the effectiveness of reflexology on a wide variety of conditions. As a result, reflexology is quickly being embraced for its provisions of enhancing health, profound relaxation, & pleasure, coupled with its inherent simplicity & harmless nature.

  The professional practice of reflexology has been recognized by the national government & integrated into the mainstream provision of health care in 4 Countries: China, Denmark, Japan, & the United Kingdom. In China, where reflexology is accepted by the central government as a means of preventing & curing disease & preserving health, over 300 research studies have shown reflexology provided some improvement to 95% of the over 18,000 cases covering 64 illnesses studied. Chronic conditions seem to respond especially well to reflexology. In Denmark, Japan & the United Kingdom, reflexology has been incorporated into the employee health programs of several large corporations, saving each company thousands of $ annually in sick leave benefits. As massage therapy (usually seated massage) is slowly being incorporated into many corporations here in the U.S., we can only hope that reflexology will soon make its way into offices as an effective employee benefit.

Reflexology is one of the most popular & rapidly growing methods of alternative healing. From nail salons to airport lounges to shopping malls to street fairs, reflexology is offered as a way to ease your aches, pains & worries away. It’s an easy, quick therapy that can affect the entire body, & U don’t even have to take your clothes off. & the best thing is that U can do it your self!!!!


Source of reference: Hands on Feet by Michelle R. Kluck


Brought to U by