There is no consensus among reflexologists on how reflexology is supposed to work; a unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one’s Reflexologists divide the body into ten equal vertical zones, five on the right and five on the left. Concerns have been raised by medical professionals that treating potentially serious illnesses with reflexology, which has no proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of appropriate medical treatment.
Practices resembling reflexology may have existed in previous historical periods. Although its origins are not well documented, there are reliefs on the walls of a Sixth Dynasty Egyptian tomb (c. 2450 B.C.) that depict two seated men receiving massage on their hands and feet.
In the book Medicina Libri octo, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, influenced by Hippocrates writes, “Much more often, however, some other part is to be rubbed than that which is the seat of the pain; and especially when we want to withdraw material from the head or trunk, and therefore rub the arms and legs.” This reference leads to the conclusion that reflexology is Greek in origin.
Reflexology was introduced to the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872–1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and Dr. Edwin Bowers. Fitzgerald claimed that applying pressure had an anesthetic effect on other areas of the body.
Reflexology was modified in the 1930s and 1940s by Eunice D. Ingham (1889–1974), a nurse and physiotherapist. Ingham claimed that the feet and hands were especially sensitive, and mapped the entire body into “reflexes” on the feet renaming “zone therapy” to reflexology. Ingham’s theories are prominent in the United States and United Kingdom, although modern methods also exist.
Reflexology is similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that it works with the body’s vital energy through the stimulation of points on the body. However, acupuncture/acupressure points do not always coincide with the reflex points used in reflexology.
Reflexology and acupressure are both “reflex” therapies in that they work with points on one part of the body to affect other parts of the body. While reflexology uses reflexes that are in an orderly arrangement resembling a shape of the human body on the feet, hands, and outer ears, acupressure uses over 800 reflex points that are found along long thin energy lines called meridians that run the length of the entire body.
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(Note: The above information is taken from a number of readings, presentations, and discussions over a number of years.)