The origins of Reflexology evidently date back to ancient Egypt as shown 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 response:- ” 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 affect health have been used all over the ancient world. Dr. Riley maintained that this form of healing spread from Egypt via the Roman Empire.
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 made use of the following tools: elastic bands, clothes pegs, and aluminum combs, on the hands, surgical clamps for the tongue, nasal probes and a regular palpebral retractor for the pharynx, 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.