Reflexology is an ancient form of healing. Although its exact origin is unknown, there is evidence through detailed texts and illustrations of the treatment of diseases through the manipulation of feet and hands. It is known that in China it has been practiced for more than 4.000 years. History shows that it was also practiced by the Egyptians c. 2500 BC and by the Mayas during the pre-Hispanic Age. In North America, the Cherokees practice some type of foot therapy applying pressure. They used small wood sticks to work on the reflex points in order to unlock the energy paths and restore balance in the body.
Some authors mention certain pressure systems applied to hands and foot that seem to have been used as therapeutic techniques by Centro European doctors in the Middle Ages. We even find references to Benvenuto Cellini (1500 – 1571), a Florentine sculptor and goldsmith who used these procedures to relieve its rheumatic pain.
In the early 20th century, an American physician named William Fitzgerald, following the observations of Dr H. Bressler on the possibility of influencing the human body through the reflex zones, argued that certain body parts corresponded with others. To test this hypothesis, he anesthetized a body part proceeding then to exert pressure on it. Thus, he verified that the anaesthesia was also acting on its correspondent reflected area. He concluded that certain areas of our foot are related to other body areas. Later on, he used these fundaments to diagnose and treat diseases. This process led to the so-called zone therapy.
In the 1930s, a nurse and physiotherapist named Eunice Ingham developed body maps in foot that included specific points of the body reflex areas. It was then when it was renamed as Reflexology.
Human body is interconnected by numerous nerves and energy channels. All the organs and anatomical parts of our body have a corresponding reflex zone in another specific area of our body. Reflexology uses feet and hands to make treatments. This concept is also used by the auriculoacupunture (reflex points located in the ears) and iridology (iris diagnosis).
Reflexology is a holistic alternative therapy that aims to treat diseases and ailments, prevent, and provide pleasure and comfort. Reflexology treatments are done by stimulating certain points, with a pressure or a light massage in the corresponding area of feet or hands, in order to achieve a distance effect. Duration and frequency of these treatments depend on whether the symptom or pathology is in an acute or chronic condition.
Manipulations performed on feet should not be confused with “foot massages”: reflexology works on the specificity of the points to stimulate, according to the pathology or symptoms. Nevertheless, this treatment is often supplemented with an overall foot massage.