History of Reflexology

HistoryReflexology is by no means a new therapy.

There is evidence that a form of pressure massage was practiced in both China and Egypt as far back as 4,000BC, when it was recognised for its therapeutic effects and as a means of helping to prevent diseases. Paintings on the walls of the tomb of Ankhmahor, an Egyptian physician who lived around 2,300BC, show patients receiving foot and hand massage.

A form of reflexology is also thought to have been used throughout history in many other cultures including Indian, Japanese and American Indian. In Europe in the Middle Ages, 'zone therapy' was practiced which would later form the basis of modern-day reflexology. 

In the 19th century, neurology became a key area for scientific research, and findings during this time helped unravel some of the science behind zone therapy and reflexology. In particular, in 1898 Dr Henry Head discovered that when internal organs were diseased, patches of skin linked to these organs via nerves became sensitive to pressure, revealing that disturbance of an internal function is often reflected in the outer body.

The development of modern reflexology is attributed to Dr William Fitzgerald, a Laryngologist, who discovered that by applying pressure to points on the hands or feet you could bring about an anaesthetic effect on another part of the body. In this way, he was able to build up a map of the body that divides it into 10 zones with corresponding connections throughout the body. Together with Dr Edwin Bowers, he published a book on zone therapy, effectively introducing the idea to the USA in the early 1900s.

The idea of zone therapy was developed by a few others in the early 20th century, and Dr Joseph Shelby Riley and his wife Elizabeth soon produced the reflex zone map of the feet, showing specific reflex points and their corresponding body parts. Riley's assistant Eunice Ingham continued his work and developed new techniques for working the reflexes and further refined the reflex map of the feet. She was a key figure in developing and promoting reflexology and lectured widely during her lifetime, as well as producing several key texts.

In 1966, Doreen Bayley, a student of Eunice Ingham brought reflexology to Britain and set up the first reflexology school in the UK. Eunice Ingham's work is now continued by her nephew Dwight Byers, who also set up the International Institute of Reflexology.

In 1984, the Association of Reflexologists (www.aor.org.uk) was set up to represent reflexologists across the UK. As well as ensuring its members are trained to the highest standards it is also the 'voice' of the profession and aims to increase awareness and acceptability of the therapy amongst health care professionals and the public.

Soul Survivor!


The sessions have helped me enormously.

Lisa D / Surrey

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