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Reflexology is an art and a science that views the feet, hands, and ears as maps that represent the entire body.  Reflexology is an effective, touch-based modality in which specific thumb and finger techniques are used to stimulate “reflexive” points.  In this manner, a Reflexology session can provide deep relaxation, improve circulation, and create overall stress reduction in a gentle and non-invasive way.


American physician William Fitzgerald, credited with being the father of zone therapy, is not the beginning and end to our history. Research indicates that the history and scientific basis of reflexology actually links Russia, the United States, England and Germany. It includes pioneering work by medical doctors, knighted physicians, and Nobel Prize winners. At present, not enough is known to determine with certainty the exact history of reflexology. The story is filled with gaps, but it has been established that cultures including those in India, Japan, China and Europe have left traces of foot work. Since no early written record has yet been discovered, the earliest evidence of the practice of reflexology is found in the form of pictures or statues. The oldest possible documentation of the use of reflexology was found in Egypt… about 5,000 years ago.

American doctor William Fitzgerald is usually credited with being the founder of reflexology in 1912.  Zone therapy, as it was called then was known in Europe as early as the 1500’s so Fitzgerald can perhaps re-discoverer of the modality that would become reflexology. Fitzgerald can be credited with the woodcut of the body divided into ten zones, establishing the reflexology zones. From 1915 into the early thirties the subject of zone therapy was controversial, but did meet with a certain amount of success with doctors and dentists as form of pain treatment during dental work and an aide to speed recovery.

One physician who did believe in Fitzgerald’s work was Dr. Joe Shelby Riley of Washington, D.C. Riley, who was personally trained by Fitzgerald, was one of the most untiring developers and practitioners of zone therapy. Riley’s work with reflexes and zones also included the ear.

During the 1930’s Eunice Ingham worked with Dr. Riley as his therapist in St. Petersburg, Florida. Eunice made two major contributions. Her first was that she found alternating pressure, rather than having a numbing effect, stimulated healing. Secondly, with encouragement from Riley and other drugless doctors she took her work to the public and non-medical community. For forty years she lectured and traveled back and forth across the United States. She wrote three books in the process. Today, the International Institute of Reflexology… is run by Ingham’s nephew, Dwight Byers.

(This history has been excerpted from Reflexology: Art, Science & Historyby Christine Issel. Used by permission of the author.)

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