Print this page Close print preview

Reflexology History


In Egypt between 2500 and 3000 BC evidence in the physicians tomb shows hieroglyphics of the physician
applying pressure with his hands to the soles of his patients foot.

In India, a country whose history has largely been shaped by religion, the feet were thought 5000 years ago to symbolize the unity of the entire universe. The Sanskrit symbols depicted on the feet of Buddha were seen as expressions of a higher reality.

By l00 A.D. Buddhism had spread to China, and by the hands of the monks so did reflexology. Reflexology was practiced in China 4000 years ago as part of acupuncture and moxibustion. It is described in the Chinese medical text, the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, where it is called the Examining Foot Method. A Japanese monk studying in China is given credit for introducing reflexology to Japan upon his return home.

We cannot determine the exact relationship between the ancient art as practiced by the early Egyptians etc. and reflexology as we know it today but in the last few centuries many people have pioneered, developed and built the solid foundation for reflexology as it is currently practised.

The first book ever to be produced was in 1582 by two European doctors. Dr. Adamus and Dr. A. A'tatis . This was based on zone therapy. A short time after, another book was published by Dr. Bell who lived in Leipzing. It was thought that at this time, many middle Europeans were using some form of pressure therapy.

The actual word "Reflexology" was coined by a psychiatrist in Russia, a country where reflexology was recognized first in the late 1800's for its psychological benefits. The Russians, beginning with Drs Ivan Pavlov and Vladimir Bekhterev, had been exploring reflex responses in the body for nearly a century when in the 1890's knighted research scientist and medical doctor, Sir Henry Head demonstrated the neurological relationship that exists between the skin and the internal organs.

In the early 1900's when returning to the United States from Vienna, it is believed Dr. William H. Fitzgerald was introduced to Reflex Therapy, and has since earned himself the recognition as the modern originator of reflexology in the USA.

Dr. Fitzgerald discovered a very interesting fact, that the application of pressure on the zones not only relieved pain but in the majority of cases also relieved the underlying cause as well. The same result is experienced through reflexology today, which is based partially on Zone Theory.

Dr. Shelby Riley, M.D. worked closely with Dr. Fitzgerald and developed Zone Theory further. It seems that he added 8 horizontal zones across the hands and feet, together with the longitudinal zones and thus determined individual reflexes according to Zone Theory, he also began using hook work.

Today research studies are conducted all around the world, which are validating the effectiveness of reflexology on a wide variety of conditions. Chronic conditions seem to respond especially well to reflexology. In China, where reflexology is accepted by the central government as a means of preventing and curing diseases and preserving health, over 300 research studies have shown reflexology provided some improvement to 95% of the over 18,000 cases covering 64 illnesses studied. In Japan and Denmark, reflexology has been incorporated into the employee health programmes of several large corporations saving each company thousands of dollars annually in paid out sick leave benefits. With such a rich history it is no surprise that reflexology has continued to evolve. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in hands-on healing techniques such as reflexology as people become disenchanted with surgery or drug-based methods common to traditional Western medicine.

Simply put, what people today are rediscovering is that Nature has always provided us with the means by which to heal ourselves and maintain good health.