The History of Reflexology
Reflexology is a non-intrusive complementary therapy which has been practised for thousands of years. The hieroglyphic (shown above) comes from the tomb of an Egyptian physician called Ankhamahor. It depicts work on the hands and the feet and has been dated to 2500BC.
Many eminent scholars have contributed to the development of how reflexology is practised today including Sir Henry Head, an English neurologist who, in 1893, provided evidence to the existence of a neurological relationship between the skin and internal organs. Prior to this, Marshall Hall who was an English Physiologist described some of the major functions of the spinal cord that function as independent reflex arcs in his paper on the theory of Reflex Action. Dr Alfons Cornelius discovered that pain quickly disappeared by actually working on the painful areas and this pressure point massage of the body continued to develop in Germany by Elizabeth Dicke. She called her technique Connective Tissue Massage and used this to work on circulatory and pathological conditions as well as being used as a tool for diagnosis by doctors in Germany.
At the beginning of the 20th century Sir Charles Sherrington and Edgar Adrian shared the Nobel Prize in 1932 for their work on the response of the nervous system and how it adjusts to stimulus dependent upon the size of the nerve rather than the strength of the stimulus.
Dr William Fitzgerald developed a new system based on his belief of the existence of ten zones running from the top of the head to the tips of the toes and found that applying constant direct pressure on particular points of a zone could create an anaesthetising effect on another part of the same zone. He used his findings as an alternative to traditional anaesthetics. Reflexology was known as 'zone therapy' because of this until the early 1960's. Dr Edwin Bowers who, as a medical critic and writer, was originally sceptical of Dr Fitzgerald's claims. However, following his own research into Dr Fitzgerald's work became a supporter and they jointly authored the book "Zone Therapy". Dr Joe Shelby Riley developed the zone therapy theory further by creating diagrams of reflex points on the feet, hands and ears.
Eunice Ingham (1889-1974), was an American physiotherapist who worked with Dr Riley. She developed and publicised the use of reflex techniques and re-named her original 'Compression Massage' as 'Reflexology'. She took reflexology to the general public and through her books, "Stories the feet can tell" and "Stories the feet have told" became known as the 'Mother of Reflexology'. Her nephew, Dwight Byers continues to teach on the 'Original Ingham Method' to this day.
More recently, Doreen Bayly, who also trained with Eunice Ingham brought reflexology to England in the 1960's. Henne Marquardt trained as a nurse in the UK and tried to disprove Eunice Ingham's claims as they made no sense to her. However, when she replicated Ingham's techniques she got the same results as were described in Ingham's books. She still practises and trains Reflexologists in Germany today.
Reflexology therefore is based on the theory that every organ and system of the body can be mapped to different points not only on the feet, but also on the hands and ears which you can see by clicking on the interactive maps below. Reflexology should not be confused with massage because Clinical Reflexologists, such as myself, are trained to use special techniques and gentle manipulation with their hands to identify and work areas which may show an imbalance, for example, in the form of tenderness. Pressure on these areas can activate nerve endings that lie on specific reflex points and then communicate with the corresponding part of the body and guide it towards a state of homeostasis and self-healing in order to function well.
In my role as a Reflexologist, I do not offer a diagnosis for suspected medical illnesses and any treatments you have which are tailor made for your individual needs, are not designed to replace medical interventions. However, reflexology can and frequently does, work alongside the medical professional's advice being very 'complementary'.
What Conditions Can Reflexology Help?
Our bodies are amazing and are designed to cope with a certain amount of stress; you may have heard the term "fight or flight" which refers to the adrenalin rush we experience if faced with a stressful or threatening situation. Once the threat has gone, our bodies are designed to return to their natural, calm state. However, what if we are continually exposed to stressful situations which is becoming more and more common? Our bodies are no longer able to return to a homeostatic, balanced state. NHS Choices suggests that we may develop stress-related symptoms which can affect us mentally, physically and emotionally.
If you are feeling
You may well be experiencing some of the many symptoms of stress.
What Benefits can be Expected?
As mentioned, Reflexologists do not claim to cure conditions but most people treated with reflexology, be it foot, hand or ear notice improved sleeping patterns and an improved sense of well-being and relaxation. They may feel that issues or health complaints they had before no longer exist and they are more in-tune with their body. Reflexology will, in addition, provide an opportunity for you to take time out to really think about yourself, your health and your needs. Please read the comments in the Guestbook section from satisfied clients.
back to top