Reflexology can be traced back to the ancient civilisations of Egypt, China, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the subcontinental India with evidence of it’s practice through the ages spreading to North America, Europe, Japan and Russia.
Of these historic reference points, the oldest tangible documentation of foot therapy can be found in the ‘Physician’s Tomb’ of Ankhm’ahor in Saqqara, Egypt thought to date back to c. 2330 BCE. Amongst a number of medical situations inscribed in hieroglyphics on its walls there is one distinct scene portraying seated figures appearing to receive foot therapy with the hieroglyphs stating “Make these give strength” or “Don’t hurt me” and “I will do to thy pleasure, sovereign” or “I shall act so you praise me” depending on the interpretation.
Historical sources connected with Reflexology can also be found in a wide variety of locations; paintings on the foot of a statue of the Hindu god Vishnu in India and the writings of the classical Greek physicist, Hippocrates. However, the association with ancient China and the theory of ‘Qi’ and ‘Ch’i’ systemised within Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a more direct link to the specifics of blockages, meridians and energy imbalances. In China and other Asian countries, local rural practitioners still perform the Rwo Shur method of reflexology.
Generally accepted as one of the pioneers of modern reflexology, Dr William Fitzgerald, a laryngologist from New England, was inspired in the early twentieth century by the therapeutic practices of local Native American tribes and of the research into the functioning of the nervous system encountered on trips to Europe. Dr Fitzgerald began experimenting and developed a system of ‘Zone Therapy’. It was Fitzgerald’s belief that energy lines ran through the body characterised by ten longitudinal lines. This theory formed the basis of a published work, ‘Zone Therapy, or Relieving Pain at Home’, co-written with a colleague, Dr Edwin Bowers in 1917.
Perhaps most notable of subsequent proponents of modern reflexology is Eunice Ingham, often referred to as the mother of reflexology, who built on Fitzgerald’s theories. Ingham developed a compression technique using fingers and thumbs working primarily on foot reflexes, published two works; ‘Stories the Feet Can Tell” and ‘Stories the Feet Have Told’ in 1938 and1963 respectively. Over her years of research and development, Eunice carefully mapped out the reflexes of the feet as we know them today.
Since those early pioneers, reflexology has become a very popular form of professional holistic therapy with a wealth of benefits. An ancient practice which has stood the test of time.