A Brief History of Reflexology
Reflexology is used to apply pressure to certain points in the ears, hands, and feet. Reflexology must be practiced by a trained reflexologist, who can use this pressure application to treat emotional and physical health issues through points that correspond to different systems and organs in the body.
While reflexology may not be a prescribed medical treatment, it is used by millions worldwide as an alternative therapy to support treatment for more serious diagnoses, including diabetes, chronic headaches, kidney failure, asthma, cardiovascular conditions, PMS, and even anxiety.
Reflexology: Where It All Began
Therapeutic reflexology can be traced back as far as the ancient Egyptian days. Historians have found references to reflexology inscribed in a physicianâs tomb in Egypt, providing brief mention of the alternative health treatment.
The early practice of reflexology as a health and wellness therapy was thought to have originated 5000 years ago in China. At the time, the Chinese relied on pressure points located in the feet to stimulate healing throughout the body. Further diagrams have been uncovered to support early reflexology use in the hands and feet in other areas of Asia, including Japan and India.
Reflexology finally became popular in the US when introduced by ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Fitzgerald, along with Dr. Bowers, in 1913. Dr. Fitzgerald supported reflexology because he believed that the use of pressure points could work as natural pain relievers in the body, similar to anaesthesia.
Further references on how reflexology can be traced throughout history include:
- Reflexology Association of Australia: Reflexology practices in ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Native American Indian cultures.
- International Institute of Reflexology: History of reflexology dating back to 4000 BC in China.
- Fertile Reflex: Reflexology practices introduced to the Western world at the turn of the 20th Century.
- Natural Therapy Pages: Modern reflexology developed by Dr. William Fitzgerald.
- Reflexology Rugby: Reflexology in history used for healing without medication or surgery for more than 5000 years.
- Whispering Willows: Evidence of reflexology used in Saqqara, Egypt, in 2330 BC.
- Holistic Local: Early reflexology practiced in Africa, North America, Europe, and Asia.
- Universal College of Reflexology: Reflexology according to ancient Greek legend in 200 AD.
- Pilates 4 Fitness: Scientific reflexology research in London in the late 1800s.
- Canterbury Reflexology: Reflexology in ancient Egypt, India, and China.
Zone Therapy for the Hands and Feet
Dr. Fitzgerald was said to develop a rudimentary form of reflexology in the US called Zone Therapy. Through extensive research, Dr. Fitzgerald discovered that placing pressure on fingertips and the tips of the toes would have an effect on a parallel system or organ in the body.
Reflexology was then called Zone Therapy since Dr. Fitzgerald divided the body into 10 separate zones from head to toe. Reflexology pressure was applied with elastic bands on the tips of fingers and toes and used as holistic anaesthesia to perform minimally invasive surgery.
At the time, Fitzgeraldâs methods were controversial, to say the least. More information about reflexology zones can be found here:
- Energy Balancing: Zone line and organ relationship throughout the body.
- California Digital Library: Zone therapy; or, Relieving Pain at home by Dr. William Fitzgerald.
- Modern Institute of Reflexology: Reiterative reflexology foot chart.
- Byron Bay Wellness Centre: Reflexology zone charts for top, inner, outer, and bottom of feet.
- Reflexology Association of Australia: Interactive reflexology zone chart for top and bottom of feet.
- Ivy Rose Holistic: Reflexology chart for plantar surfaces of the feet.
- DK Books: Free, interactive maps and widgets containing reflexology charts.
The Mother of Modern Reflexology
Taking the lead from Dr. Fitzgerald, Eunice Ingham, otherwise known as The Mother of Modern Reflexology, built upon the Zone Therapy foundation created by Fitzgerald. With prior experience as a physiotherapist, Ingham believed that reflexology could be proven more effective when used on the feet as opposed to the hands.
Ingham theorized that the feet mirrored the body. Based on her concepts, she created a body map with corresponding pressure points throughout the feet. In order to spread her teachings, Ingham travelled throughout the US for roughly 30 years to teach her new reflexology practice to medical professionals, as well as non-medical therapists.
This modern form of reflexology became known as the Ingham Method and serves as the foundation of Zone Therapy in the Western world today. The theories of Ingham are fully supported and practiced through the International Institute of Reflexology.
The ultimate purpose of reflexology developed by Ingham and pioneered by Fitzgerald was to serve as a non-invasive health and wellness treatment. Reflexology is known to provide the following health benefits when practiced properly:
- Increased circulation
- Stress relief
- Improved immunity
- Boosted energy levels
- Reduced fatigue/insomnia
- Improved digestion
- Chronic pain relief, including sciatica, toothaches, and headaches
- Allergy, eczema, and asthma relief
- Hormonal balance
In order to practice the healing therapy of reflexology, you must become licensed as a practitioner. Numerous reflexology courses are available through accredited organizations and professional associations that include:
- American Reflexology Certification Board: Enforcing strict reflexology testing standards for reflexologist professionals since 1991.
- Reflexology Association of America: Providing reflexology professionals with a code of ethics and strict standards in practice since 1995.
- Reflexology Association of Australia: Offering practitioners the opportunity to receive a certificate in clinical reflexology.
- The Australian School of Reflexology: Established in 1990 to provide various levels of reflexology training, including specialized facial reflexology.
- The Australian School of Reflexology and Relaxation: Established in 1985 to provide students with a holistic learning environment to learn the history and current practice of reflexology.
- Perth School of Reflexology: Students can receive a recognized qualification in reflexology, including a certificate in clinical reflexology.
- Modern Institute of Reflexology: The first state regulated and approved private occupational school for reflexology in America, established in 1952.
- The American Academy of Reflexology: Providing courses in foot, hand, and ear reflexology, as well as continued education.
Depending upon the state and country, a reflexologist may or may not be required to be licensed in order to practice. Clients should check a reflexologistâs qualifications and certifications before undergoing treatment to receive the safest and most effective therapy possible.