Reflexology History

Reflexology history will be explained in this web page.

The history of reflexology is filled with gaps.

Certain cultures including those in India, Japan, China and Europe have left traces of foot treatment.

Reflexology History in Egypt

The oldest documentation of the use of Reflexology is  found  in Egypt,  in the tomb of Ankhmahor at Saqqara.

The hieroglyphs in the above scene reads: "Don't hurt me". "I shall act so you praise me".

Ancient Egypt declined rapidly after 1000 BC.  Finally it was conquered and added to the empire of Alexander the Great.  In all likelihood, the practice of Reflexology migrated slowly to Greece, Arabia and then on to Europe through the Roman Empire.

Reflexology History Around the World

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The art of Reflexology was not only known in Egypt but it was also known 5000 years ago in ancient India.   It was probably taken by Buddhist monks to China.

American Indians extensively used Reflexology to control pain and disease.

Foot massage was mentioned in the Nei Ching.  It was included within acupuncture and moxibustion.

Marco Polo returned from China (1275) in the flowing reports of the highly civilised county, which he called Cathay.  Marco  Polo translated  the Chen Lau Chin Chingo, where there is evidence  of the introduction of Chinese massage techniques to the west.

Dominican and Franciscan missionaries traveled to China at the same time.  So Reflexology could have come to Europe as a result of church missionaries, or both.

During the Middle Ages (400-1400) very little creative work was conceived.  Education was under the dominance of the church.

Medicine made little progress and was practiced mainly in the monasteries.  They grew herbs for use as medicine.

In the second half of the 14th century, there was an increase in the number of scholars who were not clerics. 

Reflexology History And The Renaissance

Patrick's own Reflexology diploma recognized internationallyPatrick's own Reflexology diploma recognized internationally

During the Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci also contributed to medicine. He was the first to draw accurate pictures of the human anatomy from cadavers.

The scientific study of human behavior began in the mid 1800’s.  Research indicates that the scientific basis of Reflexology has its roots in early neurological studies conducted in the 1890’s by Sir Henry Head of London.

Head worked with Nobel Prize winner, Sir Charles Sherington. Sherington's work on  the  reflex action  of the nervous system greatly influenced  modern  physiology.

In Germany massage techniques were developed in the 1890's that became known as reflex massage.

Dr.  Alfons Cornelius was probably the first to apply massage  to reflex  zones,  after  an illness he was treated in  a  spa.   He published his manuscript in 1902:

"Pressure points, their origin and significance". He charted out pressure points all over the body.

Dr Fitzgerald

Dr. Fitzgerald

Dr. Fitzgerald trained in Vienna in 1902 and upon his return to the U.S., he became head of the Nose & Throat Department of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.

Apparently around 1909 Fitzgerald discovered Zone Therapy.

"Six years ago I accidentally discovered that pressure with a cotton tipped probe on the muco-cutaneous margin of the nose gave an anesthetic result as though a cocaine solution has been applied.

I further found that there were many spots in the nose, mouth, throat and on both surfaces of the tongue which, when pressed firmly deadened definite areas of sensation.

Also that pressures exerted over any bony eminence on the hands and feet or over the joints, produced the same characteristic result in pain relief. I found also that when pain was relieved the condition that produced the pain was most generally relieved. 

This led to my mapping out these various areas and their associated connections, and to noting the conditions influenced through them. This science I have called zone therapy". 

Dr. Fitzgerald

10 zones

Fitzgerald began research into the use of zone therapy and used it on his patients.  He divided the body into ten longitudinal zones.  By working anywhere in a zone, everything in the zone was affected

In  1915, the article "To Stop that Toothache Squeeze Your Toe", published in Everybody's Magazine written by Dr. Edwin  Bower, first  brought Dr. Fitzgerald's work on zone therapy  before  the public.

It cannot be said that Fitzgerald's theories were enthusiastically received by the medical profession. In fact, his attempts  to teach some therapy to his fellow physicians met with strong opposition.

Dr. Joe Shelby Riley

Dr. Joe Shelby Riley  of  Washington D.C.

One physician who did believe in Fitzgerald's work was Dr. Joe Shelby Riley  of  Washington D.C. 

Dr. Riley used this method extensively in his varied practice for many years.

He carried the techniques out to finer points and made the first detailed diagrams and drawings of the reflex points located on the feet.  

He added to Fitzgerald's longitudinal zones, eight horizontal divisions that also cover the body.  His first book "Zone Therapy Simplified" was published in 1919.  Riley developed a hooking technique.

Eunice Ingham

Eunice Ingham

During the early 30's, Eunice Ingham worked with Dr. Riley as his therapist in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Her contribution to Reflexology has been profound.  She separated work on the reflexes of the feet from zone therapy in general, although she continued to use the term. 

Later she called her work compression massage and finally settled on the use of the word "Reflexology".

Eunice made two major contributions:

She found that alternating pressure rather than having a numbing effect stimulated healing.

One early technique Ingham used was to tape wads of cotton over tender spots on the feet, the theory being that the client could continue to stimulate the reflexes and hurry the healing process along as he or she walked about.

Though the clients got better, Ingham soon discarded this technique when she realized this over stimulated the reflexes, which brought about some reactions.

With encouragement from Riley and other drug-less doctors, she took her work to the public and the non-medical community.

Eunice realized that lay people could learn the proper Reflexology techniques to help themselves, their families and friends, even if they could not diagnose or treat a specific illness.

Over the years, Eunice was called upon by the drug-less community to speak at conventions.  She shared her techniques and knowledge with physiotherapists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and chiropractors.

In  1938 her research resulted in the book "Stories Feet Can Tell". She went on to write 3 more books: Zone Therapy & Gland Reflexes in 1945 which was later revised, enlarged and printed as Stories the Feet Have Told.

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During this time she traveled up and down the East Coast giving seminars. The seminars were unique. Her method of instruction was to demonstrate and lecture as she worked on the health problems of those who attended. She died at the age of 81 (1974).

Her legacy continues under the direction of Dwight Byers her nephew. Dwight Byers founded the International School of Reflexology in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Doreen Bayly trained with Eunice Ingham in 1965 and brought this therapy into England.

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