Most ancient cultures had some form of foot therapy. The Native American Indian cultures, Egyptians and Chinese independently developed methods which were all based on the same principle. In Ancient Egypt dating around 2500BC, there are hieroglyphics on the tomb wall of Ankmahor a famous physician documenting a type of massage on the hands and feet. In Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish traditions shoes are always removed when entering into a Holy space. Feet have always had a special significance biblically. The Chinese have used pressure on acupressure points as a healing method for over 5000 years. Centuries and social change saw much of these techniques lost to time.
Reflexology as we know it today began as a theory called Zone Therapy, conceived by a throat and nose surgeon Dr. William Fitzgerald in the USA in the early 1900s. He had discovered a Chinese method whereby applying pressure to one part of the body created an anaesthetic affect on another part of the body. He did extensive testing and developed a map dividing the body into 10 longitudinal zones; 5 either side of the midline. Everything in each zone is connected so pressure on the head at one end will affect a toe on the other. This demonstrates the meridians of energy used in acupuncture and the interrelationship between all the different parts of the body.
In 1930 a US Doctor called Dr. Jo Selby Riley, alongside his wife began with Dr. Fitzgerald’s findings. They were joined by their assistant in their research, a Physiotherapist called Eunice Ingham. Through much testing they began concentrating on the hands & feet understanding their sensitivity. Eunice Ingham travelled all over the US, adapting her methods and teaching her findings of this new Foot Therapy. Later re-naming the therapy to ‘Reflexology’. Ingham, took the concept further by researching positioning and effects of certain points ultimately leading to an anatomical map of the body being overlaid onto the foot. In 1938 she published her works in “Stories the feet can tell” and later followed with another book “Stories the feet have told”.
Reflexology finally came to the UK in 1960’s with one of Ingham’s students a lady called Doreen Bayley.