Brief Overview

Reflexology is an ancient healing art that originated in China and Egypt about 5000 years ago B.C.

A painting from Egypt is the evidence of the oldest documentation depicting the practice of reflexology.

This pictograph was dated around 2500-2330 B.C. It was found in the tomb of an Egyptian physician Ankmahor at Saggara.

Definition: Reflexology

Reflexology is based on the science that there are energy points on the hands and feet that correspond to each gland and organ. By using thumb and finger pressure on the various points, the nerve endings are stimulated, circulation in that particular area is improved, energy is released and balance is restored in the body.

The result of this stimulation causes:

  1. The circulatory system to rise.
  2. Activation of the immune system so it is more capable of taking care of uninvited bacteria and viruses present in the body.
  3. A deeper state of relaxation that brings about a shift in the brain from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting healing.

History of Reflexology

The knowledge of Foot Reflex Therapy has been investigated by some curious minds of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The development and study of Reflex Therapy was done by the pioneering Europeans and Americans who laid the foundation for Reflexology as we know it today.


According to Harry Bressler's book, Zone Therapy, throughout Europe, a form of Reflexology was known and practiced in the fourteenth century. In the centers of Europe, Pressure Therapy, was well known and practiced by the working classes of these countries. A book about Zone Therapy was published in 1882 by Dr. Adams and Dr. A'tatis.


In 1898 Sir Henry of England discovered that areas on the skin became hyper sensitive to pressure when an organ, connected by nerves to this skin region, was diseased.


The Russians have studied reflex and pressure points from a physiological and psychological point of view since the late 1800s. They have scientifically tested the effect of Reflex Therapy on patients with a variety of problems and have found Reflexology to be an effective complement to traditional medicine.

The American Influence

For generations, the Cherokee Native Americans of North Carolina have appreciated and applied the practice of reflex-point work on the feet. They have used this technique as a healing art and acknowledge the importance of the feet in maintaining physical, mental and spiritual balance. They also acknowledge that working on the feet is a very important part of a sacred healing ceremony - the feet are connected through one's spirit to the earth, thereby to the whole universe, and the energies that flow through it.

Dr. William Fitzgerald, known as the founder of Zone Therapy, was born in Connecticut in 1872. He studied medicine and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1895. Dr. Fitzgerald worked with Dr. Bressler who had explored the possibility of treating organs with pressure points.

Inspired by Dr. Bressler, Dr. Fitzgerald went further and explored Pressure Point Therapy on his own. He found that if pressure was applied to the fingers, it would create an anesthetic effect on the hand, arm and shoulder, moving to the jaw, face, ear and nose. He used tight bands of elastic on the midsection of each finger and small clamps on the tips of the fingers. By doing so, he was able to manage minor surgical operations. Dr. Fitzgerald found that by dividing the body into 10 zones, with each finger and toe falling into one zone, effects each correlating area.

Imagine a line drawn through the center of the body from each toe to the top of your head, running through the arm into each fingertip (see diagram). The zones have equal width and extend through the body from front to back. When pressure is applied to any of the zones on the feet, it affects the particular zone throughout the entire body including the organs and glands that are located in that zone. Dr. Fitzgerald also discovered, that by applying pressure with a cotton-tipped probe to the mucous membrane of the nose, an anesthetic effect resulted, as if cocaine had been applied.

Fitzgerald and his theories were not openly received by the medical profession. One Colleague, Dr. Riley, used Fitzgerald's theories in practice together with his wife and they further refined the diagrams of reflexology.

Eunice Ingham

Eunice Ingham was Dr. Riley's assistant and was probably the person who made the greatest contribution to modern Reflexology today. Ingham kept researching and developing Reflexology and it was through her that Reflexology truly came into its own. She separated the theory of the zones into a whole diagram on the feet representing a map of the entire body.

She worked on the feet using the zones and their related areas of the body. She also worked from her new diagram and she became so successful that her reputation spread and she is recognized as the founder of Reflexology. She traveled throughout the U.S. for over 30 years and taught her method through seminars, books and charts.

Ingham wrote the following books:

Stories Feet Have Told
Stories Feet Can Tell

To this day her legacy continues under the direction of her nephew, Dwight Byers, who oversees the International Institute of Reflexology in St. Petersburg, Florida.



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