Reflexology is a body-work therapy that induces relaxation and helps to restore balance within all levels of the recipient, facilitating self-healing. Although reflexology is usually associated with the feet, feet or hands may be treated with equivalent effect. Treatments take the form of gentle tissue manipulations and should be relaxing, not painful.

History of Reflexology

There are indications of the history of reflexology stretching far into antiquity in the form of illustrations, texts, and artifacts. These show that at least some form of manipulation of feet was done in the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, India, Japan and Russia. Unfortunately, little is known about the attitudes, theories, or even the names given to such practises during those times.

There are also accounts of the massage or manipulation of feet being performed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Harry Bond Bressler argued that a form of reflexology was practised across the European social classes during the 14th Century. It is also claimed that the Florentine Sculptor Cellini (1500 - 1571) used pressure on hands and feet to relieve pain. A book about this was published in 1582.

Modern Reflexology emerged in the United States during the early years of the twentieth century and was initially known as 'Zone Therapy'. In 1913 the American surgeon William Fitzgerald (1872 - 1942) described a system of zones on the hands, feet and tongue that he said were related to other parts of the body.

Medical journalist Dr. Edwin Bowers recommended that Fitzgerald's method be termed 'Zone Therapy'. Subsequently, other American medical doctors, incl. George Starr White and Joe and Elizabeth Riley also wrote books on the subject. Fitzgerald extended this work and publicised it by teaching courses and seminars on the subject.

Eunice Ingham was an American Massage Therapist / Physiotherapist who studied zone therapy under the supervision of Dr. Joe Riley. She went on to become the main pioneer of modern reflexology (though zone theory remains the basis of foot reflexology and is usually incorporated into treatments). During the 1930s Eunice Ingham refined 'Zone Theory' into 'Foot Reflexology'. She published two books, "Stories the Feet can Tell" in 1938, and "Stories the Feet have told" in 1963. In 1966 Doreen Bailey, a former student of Eunice Ingham, returned to England from America and became the pioneer of Reflexology in England.

There are also many modern contributors to the field of reflexology. These include Ann Gillanders, see No Mean Feat: The Autobiography of Ann Gillanders. Chris Stormer's analysis of how to interpret aspects of different parts of the feet, as outlined in 'The Language of the Feet' is now well-known, and a standard text used by many reflexology tutors. Inge Dougans is also known for her work concerning the interrelationship between reflexology (specifically the reflex points/zones) and the meridian lines usually associated with Chinese medicine, as described in her book 'Reflexology: A Practical Introduction', 1998. First Published in 1992 as 'The Art of Reflexology'.

Most authors of Reflexology books include descriptions of routines they personally have developed during their own experience of giving reflexology treatments.

What does a Reflexology Treatment involve?

A reflexology treatment usually begins with a consultation during which the practitioner asks the client a series of questions about how the client is feeling and about his or her medical history and any medical conditions he or she has. This is an opportunity for the reflexologist to ensure that there are no reasons why it would not be sensible for the client to receive a reflexology treatment that day (e.g. if feeling unwell, perhaps due to onset of flu / measles / mumps or another disease or medical condition). It is also an opportunity for the client to ask any questions he or she might have about reflexology and what to expect.

Assuming all is well, the reflexologist will then invite the client to make him/herself comfortable, usually on a therapeutic couch or reflexology chair. The practitioner will then check the client's feet for any injuries or infections before proceeding. If any reason is found why either or both feet cannot be treated with reflexology (such as broken skin or bones, or contagious skin conditions, for example) then the reflexologist may offer to treat the corresponding hand instead, the effect in terms of reflexology being the same.

The actual treatment often consists of a short relaxation of each foot, followed by a more thorough reflexology treatment of each foot, followed by a short completion routine on both feet simultaneously. Many people fall asleep, or at least enjoy a period of deep relaxation during their reflexology treatment.

Timing varies but a standard treatment may have a duration of about an hour, though shorter treatments for children, the elderly, and in corporate environments are not uncommon.

Following the treatment itself, the reflexologist may invite the client to get up slowly when he or she feels ready to do so. It is good practice to check that the client is well and awake enough to drive home or otherwise move onto their next task. It is also usual for reflexologists to invite feedback about the treatment, answer any questions, and encourage the client to drink a glass of water immediately after the treatment.

Further Information about Reflexology

Introductory reflexology courses are available from many local colleges. For a personal introduction to this subject and to meet like-minded people who have similar interests find out what is available in your area.

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