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Origins of Reflexology

The art of reflexology is believed to be thousands of years old with the ancient Chinese working the hands and feet some 5000 years ago to maintain good health and prevent disease. It is believed the Egyptians used therapeutic massage of the feet and hands as depicted in the wall painting  from the tomb of Ankmahor, a respected physician, around 2500-2300 BC. The massage of hands and feet was also evident in ancient Indian practices such as Ayurvedic medicine and within native American and African tribes.

Reflexology is based on the theory that the body can be divided into zones and that imbalances in one part of the zone can be addressed by working another part of the zone. this was first written about in the 16th century by Doctors Adamus and Atatis.

In the 1890s, English neurologist Sir Henry Head discovered that certain areas of 'zones' of the skin reflected the state of specific internal organs and Sir Charles Scott Sherrington pioneered work in neurophysiology to give an understanding of the nervous system and reflexes. 

Modern reflexology dates back to the work of ear nose and throat surgeon, Dr William Fitzgerald. He discovered that the body could be divided into 10 longitudinal zones and that he could alleviate pain in one area of a zone by applying deep pressure to another area of the zone, usually on the hand. This 'Zone Therapy' was further developed by an American physician Dr Joseph Shelby-Riley and his wife Elizabeth. And so to the mother of modern reflexology, Eunice Ingham.

Eunice Ingham worked with Dr Riley and expanded on Fitzgerald's theory of zone therapy discovering that once you place the 10 zones of the body onto the feet you can place all the organs and structures of a specific body zone onto the corresponding zone of the foot. Eunice Ingham developed the 'foot-maps' of the body that form the basis of reflexology today. In 1966, Doreen Bayley who trained with Eunice Ingham, introduced reflexology to the United Kingdom and the therapy has continued to develop and evolve ever-since. Reflexology is now available in some UK NHS trusts to help support people through certain illnesses and treatments, most notably cancer care.

The fundamental concept of reflexology is that the feet and hands are mirrors of the body and that through applying pressure to specific points on them, the body can be restored to homeostasis or balance. 

"See to the feet my friend and you have seen to the body"  Outo, Japanese mythology