The History of Reflexology

The History of Reflexology

The History of Reflexology – Modern-day reflexology often draws comparisons to acupuncture and acupressure, and while they do share some similarities and roots in Eastern medicine, the histories are quite different. As ancient as many other modern complementary medicine options, reflexology’s roots extend back into the B.C. centuries.

The call to work on the physical body so as to bring about optimal healing and balance through bodywork and energetic shifts date back further than you might imagine. There are tomb drawings, some from ancient Egypt, that show what appears to be Egyptians sharing in the practice of hand and feet massage. It seems as if reflexology, or at the very least, hand and foot massage, began as early as 2,300 B.C. 

It’s hard even to fathom what times were like back then – but it would make sense that they found healing through the simple methods of bodywork and reflexology. 

The idea that everything is connected, some more clearly and pertinently than others, within the body and its energetic layers is not new. Rather, it has existed for centuries. Reflexologists think that micro sensations, such as a tug on a toe, can induce healing through a macro space, such as organs in your digestive system. Again, these ideas are hardly new. Only their popularity could be considered ‘new.’

Modern Happenings

A lot (to say the least) occurred between the time of the ancient Egyptians and our modern societies. Still, reflexology powered through all the changes and shifts. One of the major concepts that reflexology is based on is Zone Theory – the idea that the body can be divided into ten longitudinal zones, with five on each side. 

Within these zones, there are notable connections that can be seen through the effects of reflexology. Zone Theory dates as far back as 1,500 A.D. So, while not as ancient as basic hand and foot massage, it came about in time for the concept to meld with energy work.

In the early 20th-century, Dr William Fitzgerald supposedly said, “To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe.” Dr Fitzgerald was an ear, nose, and throat doctor. So, reflexology began in the medical world but was shifted off to the side of complementary medicine over time. Less time was required with conventional medicine. Plus, it brought in more money.

The Namesake

Where did reflexology get its name? Well, you can thank Eunice Ingham. Ingham was a physiotherapist working with Dr Joe Shelby Riley and his wife. Dr Riley became interested in Zone Therapy. Eventually, he introduced the concept to Ingham. She deserves the credit for mapping the foot and hand charts, which are now well-known and widely used today. 

How did she create the maps? She studied first-hand the reactions to sensations through work and research in hospitals and with numerous patients. It was Ingham who eventually named reflexology – the science of reflexes. The name stuck!

Thanks to Eunice Ingham, reflexology was brought back to life and maintained by her students and clients. She paved the way for the United States to cultivate a growing and thriving reflexology field.

Across the pond, in England, Doreen Bailey brought Ingham’s reflexology to her world. It took time, but eventually, it became popular and was seen as a reliable method of healing.

Down The Road

Over time, as reflexology grew in popularity and became less vilified, research, monetary support, and authorized reflexologists grew correspondingly. As time goes on, reflexology will likely only continue to grow. Eventually, it might be as accessible and known as the wildly praised acupuncture. 

For now, it remains a lesser-known practice. But, for those who know its benefits, it stands as a pillar of their health through its complementary medicine offerings.

Jayne Bennett

Aromatherapist, Alternative Health Practitioner

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