History of Reflexology

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Posted by Mia Ponzo | Posted in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Natural Health | Posted on 26-02-2014

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History of Reflexology

Reflexology Chart

Reflexology (which is a treatment that consists of manipulation of the reflexes of the feet and hands) has been around since long before recorded history. There is evidence of it being practiced in many different cultures from all parts of the world, showing that it didn’t have its beginning in any particular place, but in many remote places at around the same time.

            The first recorded knowledge that we have about reflexology comes from ancient Egypt, dated to be around 2300 BC.  There are paintings and drawings of what seem to be healers treating people on both the hands and feet in a way extremely similar to the manner in which reflexology is practiced at the present time! In fact the tomb that this painting was found in was called the physician’s tomb. The tomb was specifically that of an ancient medical practitioner called Ankhmahor. Also, the Native American tribes knew about using pressure points on the feet as a treatment for disease, which was passed to them through the ancient traditions of the Incas. In Hawaii, too, a form of reflexology has been practiced since before their written history. From ancient Egypt the practice of reflexology was carried to ancient Rome. In ancient Greece, there were amazing health spas where reflexology (among other things) was available as a treatment to the clientele.

Reflexology Atlas

From old time Japan, from around 690 AD, a lot of evidence has been found showing the practice of reflexology (or something very similar) was practiced there. In fact there is a statue of Buddha that was found in what has become known as the “medical teaching temple” that has symbols all over an upturned sole of his foot, showing the reflex points. Its practice has been known in Africa, China (for which there is evidence dating its use to even before the Egyptians: 4000 BC), and other Oriental locales. Ancient India was known for its knowledge of maps of the reflexes of the feet as well, although their theories vary slightly from what we know in the present, the Asian Indians had made detailed “maps” of the feet, with all the bodily organs clearly mapped and drawn as they are in the body.

The Complete Reflexology Tutor

Sometime during those centuries after the heyday of reflexology its use declined practically to the point of extinction. So called “modern medicine” took over in most places in the world, until toward the end of the 19th Century some researchers in Europe and Asia (specifically the UK, Russia and Germany) began to take a look into the connection between points on the outside of the body and bodily organs. Then, at the beginning of the 20th Century, a doctor by the name of William H. Fitzgerald started to look into a theory that he had about the body being divided into zones with each of these zones being connected. He also stated that in these zones certain “reflexes” were located. He further went on with this theory with his hypothesis that if certain places on certain zones were manipulated there would be a corresponding location in the body that could be numbed and pain relieved.  This was considered to be helpful in two ways: first of all for use during medical procedures, such as dentistry, and second of all, for people who suffered from chronic or acute pain. Soon it was also discovered that this manipulation of the reflexes didn’t only relieve and numb pain, but it actually relieved the disease or ailment itself! This was an important discovery, and was the beginning of the practice of modern reflexology.

Reflexology and Associated Aspects of Health

At around the same time Dr. Fitzgerald worked with another doctor by the name of Dr. Shelby Riley, who furthered the use of zones in zone therapy and refined the use of the map of the feet and hands. With him was a physical therapist by the name of Eunice D. Ingham.  It was she that did the detailed research and mapping of the actual reflexes on the feet and hands and set forth the actual practice of reflexology as we know it today. In the 1930’s she began treating people with this amazing drug free treatment, and in 1938 she published the first book about reflexology. This book was called “Stories the Feet Can Tell”. She subsequently published another book called “Stories the Feet Have Told”.  These books and her method were somewhat of a sensation, and she began to teach others how to use the method. It was through her students that the practice of reflexology spread to Canada and England, finally going all around the world. 

Reflexology Art and Science

In 1970 a lady called Mildred Carter wrote a book called “Helping Yourself with Foot Reflexology”, which was challenged by a lawsuit as to whether or not it was legal to even use the term “reflexology”, which, up to that point, was considered illegal (as a form of practicing medicine without a license). The courts overturned the legality of such a claim, and thereafter reflexology was fully legal to practice and teach in the USA (other countries had not banned it openly). It was through the huge sales of Ms. Carter’s book that reflexology became better known in the USA and other places.

Reflexology Set

Eunice D. Ingham died in 1974, leaving her legacy behind her, which has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly in the last 20 years or so. This was particularly because of the efforts of Ms. Ingham’s nephew Dwight Byers, who established a school of reflexology and published important books on the subject, thereby establishing reflexology as a bona fide complimentary medical treatment

            Since that time a great deal of research has been conducted about reflexology and this research is extremely promising. In the UK right now, reflexology is even covered under the health system, and in the USA, Denmark and Japan private insurance covers its use as a medical treatment. The amazing thing is the high rate of success with reflexology. Studies in China found that the use of reflexology provided relief to more than 95% of the patients studied, and this study was done on over 18,000 cases! More and more studies are being done all the time, and the results of these studies are nothing short of amazing.

The Original Work of Eunice D Ingham

            ***(At the present time reflexology is practiced in close to every country in the world, including Kuwait. There are several practitioners here, but it is important to note that there are many types of treatments that go under the umbrella of reflexology, and most of the people in Kuwait who practice are not doing medical or clinical reflexology, but actually doing esthetic reflexology, which is like a glorified foot massage. So, make sure that if you are suffering from a medical ailment that you go to professional clinical reflexology treatments and not esthetic ones, which won’t do much for your problem.)

And for those of you who just like massage… here is a chair that does it all for you right in your home… of course this is not like real reflexology, which is always done by hand (don’t go to reflexologists who use wooden prodders or anything else like that.. )… but this is the next best thing to the real reflexology massage.

Reflexology Massage Chair




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