The History of Reflexology

Here is a very abreviated version of the history of reflexology.


The first evidence of a reflexology type therapy dates back to 2500 BC with inscriptions in ancient Egyptian tombs. It is believed that a form of pressure therapy existed around that time and was used as a preventive and therapeutic medicine.

It seems the therapy evolved slowly over time with one interesting reference in roughly 700 AD when Marc Anthony worked on Cleopatra's feet at dinner parties. (We’re not sure if this is advisable today, unless you have togas and lots of grapes.)


In addition to the Egyptian evidence, there is also knowledge of reflexology practice in ancient India. They took it with them as the Buddhist monks then migrated to China, Japan, Tibet and Vietnam, where a form of foot massaging and healing has been traced.


We may never know of reflexology's true origin, but it is safe to say that a form of reflexology has been practiced for many centuries, and featured in many cultures.


Modern History of Reflexology

The modern history of reflexology can be traced to Europe and Russia starting in the late 19th century.


British physicians and researchers discovered that applying a stimulus to the body produced a response for one part of the body to influence the other.

Russian physician and Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov followed this "reflex" research and developed the theories behind the dynamics between the brain and body reflexes.


Vladimir Bekterev coined the word "reflexology" in 1917. His findings showed that an organ became “ill” because it received the wrong instructions from the brain. Touching certain points on the foot could interrupt these commands and prompt the body to behave in balance with the brain.


Dr. William H. Fitzgerald (The Father of Reflexology)

A Connecticut based Ear, Nose and Throat specialist; Dr William Fitzgerald took the reflex process one step further by creating the first mapping of the longitudinal zones of the body.


This "Zone Theory" research discovered that the application of pressure on specific zones within a body not only relieved pain but in the majority of cases also relieved the underlying cause.


"Humanity is awakening to the fact that sickness, in a large percentage of cases, is an error - of body and mind" "Relieving Pain At Home” 1917


Dr Eunice D Ingham (The Mother of Reflexology)

Fitzgerald's work was developed with the help of Dr. Shelby Riley, but it was Riley's assistant Eunice D. Ingham who advanced their theories through treating hundreds of patients in the early 1930s, concluding with confidence that the reflexes on the feet were an exact mirror image of the organs of the body. Her findings were published in 1938 in the book "Stories The Feet Can Tell."


Once the book was published, Dr Ingham travelled for the rest of her life, attracting thousands of people in search of treatment for ailments that hadn't been solved by traditional medicine. Her successful treatment, discussion and teachings on the virtues of reflexology were the catalyst for the industry to grow into the size it is today.



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