The origins of Reflexology evidently reach back to ancient Egypt as evidenced by inscriptions found in the physician's tomb at Saqqara in Egypt. The translation of the hieroglyphics are as follows: "Don't hurt me." The practitioner's reply: "I shall act so you praise me."
We cannot determine the exact relationship between the ancient art as practiced by the early Egyptians and Reflexology as we know it today. Different forms of working the feet to effect health have been used all over the ancient world.
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The Zone Theory was the precursor to modern Reflexology which began with Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. whom Dr. Edwin Bowers, M.D., encouraged to publish the many articles he had written on the subject of Zone Analgesia. In the forward to their combined book, "Relieving Pain At Home" published in, 1917, he wrote, "Humanity is awakening to the fact that sickness, in a large percentage of cases, is an error - of body and mind" . How true this has proved to be. Dr. Fitzgerald, was an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist working at the Boston City Hospital, as well as at St Francis Hospital in Connecticut.
He called his work Zone Analgesia where pressure was applied to the corresponding bony eminence or to the zones corresponding to the location of the injury. He also used pressure points on the tongue, palate and the back of the pharynx wall in order to achieve the desired result of pain relief or analgesia. He was responsible for formulating the first chart on the longitudinal zones of the body.
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 the Zone Theory. Dr. Shelby Riley, M.D. worked closely with Dr. Fitzgerald and developed the Zone Theory further. It seems that he added horizontal zones across the hands and feet, together with the longitudinal zones and thus determining individual reflexes according to the Zone Theory. He, like Fitzgerald, espoused continual pressure on the reflex or point of contact.
Eunice D. Ingham, a Physical Therapist, worked closely with Dr. Riley and was fascinated by the concept of Zone Therapy and started developing her foot reflex theory in the early 1930's. She had the opportunity to treat hundreds of patients where each reflex point of contact had been carefully and thoughtfully checked and rechecked until with all confidence she was able to determine that the reflexes on the feet were an exact mirror image of the organs of the body. Dr. Riley encouraged her to write her first book entitled "Stories The Feet Can Tell" where she documented her cases and carefully mapped out the reflexes on the feet as we know them today.
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This book was published in 1938 and was later translated into seven foreign languages which spread the benefits of Reflexology way beyond the borders of the United States. The confusion between Reflexology and Zone Therapy started at this point because the foreign publisher changed the name of Eunice's book, "The Stories The Feet Can Tell" to "Zone Therapy" and in some parts of the world it is still thought of as Zone Therapy. However, there is a distinct difference between the two therapies. Zone Therapy relies solely on the zones to determine the area to be worked, whereas Reflexology takes the zones as well as the anatomical model to determine the area or areas to be worked.
After the publication of her book, Eunice Ingham found herself on the program at many health workshops. She traveled around the country giving book reviews. Only sick and dilapidated people attended these book reviews/workshops where she would teach people by working on them and discuss their particular health problems. As these sick people, whom everyone else had given up on, got better, the word spread and Reflexology became better known amongst the medical fraternity as well as lay people.
In the late 50's Dwight Byers started helping Eunice Ingham at her workshops. In 1961 Dwight Byers and his sister Eusebia Messenger, RN joined their Aunt Eunice teaching at workshops on a full time basis. Seven years later they became responsible for the continued teaching of Reflexology under the banner of The National Institute of Reflexology. In the mid 70's Eusebia retired and Dwight Byers formed The International Institute of Reflexology®, where the theories and techniques of Reflexology were further refined.
Eunice Ingham died in 1974 at the age of 85 still thoroughly convinced that Reflexology could aid in easing the suffering of mankind. She was on the road with that message until the age of 80. Eunice Ingham's undisputable contributions to the world of Reflexology are as follows:
- The discovery that the reflexes on the feet are a mirror image of all the organs, glands and parts of the body - the charted map of the reflexes according to the anatomical model.
- The alternating pressure, has a stimulating effect on the body rather than a numbing effect as demonstrated by Dr. Fitzgerald.
- Bringing Reflexology to the public and the non-medical community, as well as Naturopaths, Chiropodists, Osteopaths, Massage Therapist and Physiotherapists.