Reflexology is a therapy that dates back for thousands of years. The oldest known documentation of reflexology is a pictograph that was found in the tomb of an Egyptian physician at Saqqara, near Cairo, which depicts patients having treatments done on their hands and feet.
The more modern form of reflexology was first pioneered by an ear, nose and throat surgeon by the name of Dr William Fitzgerald (1872-1942). Dr Fitzgerald was the founder of Zone Therapy, which was an earlier form of reflexology.
He discovered that exerting pressure on the tips of the toes or fingers caused corresponding parts of the body to become anaesthetised. From this, Dr Fitzgerald divided the body into ten equal zones, which ran from the top of the head to the ends of the toes. By using tight elastic bands on the middle sections of the fingers, or using small clamps on the tips of the fingers, minor surgery could be carried out with no further anaesthetic agents required.
However, reflexology as we know it today was pioneered by a woman called Eunice Ingham (1889 – 1974), or the mother of modern reflexology. Eunice Ingham was a physiotherapist working in a doctor’s practise using the zone therapy developed by Dr Fitzgerald. Ms Ingham thought, however, that it would be more effective to be practised on the feet rather than the hands. After extensive research, she developed the map of the entire body on the feet – where one point on the foot corresponds to a certain part of the body. By using acupressure or massage techniques on these points, a positive effect is created in the corresponding body part.
Eunice Ingham spent 30 years travelling around America teaching her reflexology first to medical staff, and then to non-medical practitioners. Modern Western reflexology uses the charts and theories developed by her and now called the Ingham Method.