History of reflexology

Working the hands and feet is an ancient art that dates back to a variety of cultures. The earliest evidence of hand and foot massage was discovered in the tomb of Ankhmahor in Egypt, the tomb dates back to approximately 2330BC. The ancient Chinese worked the hands and feet to help maintain good health. They developed traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which incorporated acupuncture, acupressure and other therapies and exercise which is based on the medical text Huang-di Nei-jing, or the inner classic of the Yellow Emperor. This text is thought to have been compiled between 300 and 100 BC.

Fundamental to TCM is the theory that ones vital energy or life force runs through 14 main meridians / channels in the body, 12 of these either begin or end in the tips of the fingers and toes. Massage to these areas stimulates and re balances the flow of energy encouraging harmony in the body. There is also evidence of working the hands and feet to improve health in traditional Ayurvedic medicine which was developed in India and considered the oldest recorded system of healing dating back approximately 5000 years. In addition to this the importance of massaging the hands and feet for good health was used by Native American and African tribes.

In the 1890’s Sir Henry Head (1861-1940) an English neurologist discovered certain areas of the skin reflected the state of specific organs. These areas were known as zones. Sir Charles Scott Sherrington (1857-1952) completed work in neurophysiology paving the way for our understanding of the nervous system and reflexes. Reflexology was introduced in the United States by Dr William Fitzgerald (1872-1942) and Dr Edwin Bowers in 1913 who were the founders of zone therapy as its known today. It was modified in the 1930’s and 1940’s by Eunice Ingham (1889-1974). She took Dr William Fitzgerald’s theory of zone therapy and used it to map the body into reflexes on the feet to develop modern reflexology. In 1966 Doreen Bayley trained with Eunice Ingham and then introduced reflexology to the United Kingdom.

Reflexologists do not claim to cure, diagnose or prescribe, therapists aim to work alongside traditional healthcare, GP’s and other professionals to promote health and well being.