Reflexology is a body-work therapy that induces relaxation
and helps to restore balance within all levels of the client,
hence facilitating self-healing processes. This therapy is usually associated with the feet but feet
and/or hands may be treated with equivalent effects. Treatments
take the form of gentle tissue manipulations and should
be relaxing, not painful.
History of Reflexology
It is known that the history of reflexology stretches far
into antiquity because illustrations, texts, and artifacts
show that, in at least some form, manipulation of feet for
positive purposes was practised in the ancient cultures
of China, Egypt, India, Japan and Russia. Unfortunately,
however, relatively little is known about the attitudes,
theories, or even the names given to such practises during
There are various accounts of the practise of massage/manipulation
of the feet being performed across Europe during the Middle
Ages. Harry Bond Bressler argued that a form of reflexology
was practised across the European social classes during
the 14th Century. It is also claimed that the Florentine
Sculptor Cellini (1500 - 1571) used pressure on hands and
feet to relieve pain. A book about this was published in 1582.
Modern Reflexology emerged in the United States during
the early years of the twentieth century and was initially
known as "Zone Therapy". In 1913 the American surgeon William Fitzgerald (1872 -
1942) described a system of zones on the hands, feet and
tongue that he argued were related to other parts of the
Medical journalist Dr. Edwin Bowers recommended that Fitzgerald's
method be termed "Zone Therapy". Subsequently,
other American medical doctors, incl. George Starr White
and Joe and Elizabeth Riley also wrote books on the subject.
Fitzgerald extended this work and publicised it by teaching
courses and seminars on the subject.
Eunice Ingham was an American Massage Therapist/Physiotherapist
who studied zone therapy under the supervision of Dr. Joe
Riley. She went on to become the main pioneer of modern
reflexology (though zone theory remains the basis of foot
reflexology and is usually incorporated into treatments).
During the 1930s Eunice Ingham refined 'Zone Theory' into
'Foot Reflexology'. She published two books, "Stories
the Feet can Tell" in 1938, and "Stories the Feet
have told" in 1963. In 1966 Doreen Bailey, a former student of Eunice Ingham,
returned to England from America and became the pioneer
of Reflexology in England.
There are also many modern contributors to the field of
Reflexology. These include Ann Gillanders 
. Chris Stormer's analysis of how to interpret aspects of
different parts of the feet 
is now well-known, and a standard text used by many Reflexology
Tutors. Inge Dougans is also known for her work concerning
the interrelationship between Reflexology (specifically
the reflex points/zones) and the Meridian Lines usually
associated with Chinese Medicine .
Most authors of Reflexology books include descriptions
of routines they personally have developed during their
own experience of giving reflexology treatments.
What does a Reflexology Treatment involve?
A reflexology treatment usually begins with a consultation
during which the practitioner asks the client a series of
questions about how the client is feeling and about his or her medical
history and any medical conditions he or she has. This is an opportunity
for the reflexologist to ensure that there are no reasons
why it would not be sensible for the client to receive
a reflexology treatment that day (e.g. if feeling unwell,
perhaps due to onset of flu/measles/mumps/ etc.). It is
also an opportunity for the client to ask any questions
he/she may have about reflexology and what to expect of
Assuming all is well, the reflexologist will then invite
the client to make him/herself comfortable, usually on a
therapeutic couch or 'Reflexology Chair". The practitioner
will then check the client's feet for any injuries or infections
before proceeding. If any reason is found why either or both feet cannot be
treated with reflexology (such as broken skin or bones, or contagious
skin conditions, for example) then the reflexologist may
offer to treat the corresponding hand instead, the effect
in terms of reflexology being the same.
The actual treatment often consists of a short relaxation
of each foot, followed by a more thorough reflexology treatment
of each foot, followed by a short completion routine on
both feet simultaneously. Many people fall asleep, or at
least enjoy a period of deep relaxation during their reflexology
Timing varies but a standard treatment may have a duration
of about an hour, though shorter treatments for children,
the elderly, and in corporate environments are not uncommon.
Following the treatment itself, the reflexologist may invite
the client to get up slowly when he/she feels ready to do
so. It is good practice to check that the client is well
and awake enough to drive home or otherwise move onto their
next task. It is also usual for reflexologists to invite
feedback about the treatment, answer any questions, and
encourage the client to drink a glass of water immediately
after the treatment.
Further Information about Reflexology
Introductory reflexology courses are available from many
local colleges. For a personal introduction to this subject
and to meet like-minded people who have similar interests
find out what is available in your area.