The History of Reflexology

As seen in this picture, Reflexology dates back to ancient times with references to working on the feet in many civilisations throughout history.  However, reflexology as we know it today, has its roots in the medical profession.

In 1893, Dr Henry Head, an English neurologist, wrote about what became known as ‘Head’s Zones’ and proved the neurological relationship between the skin and the internal organs. Dr Alfons Cornelius, a German doctor, published ‘Pressure Points’ in 1902 following his studies into working the ‘sore spot’ of the body and the resulting healing in that area. These works developed and inspired other medical professionals including Sir Charles Sherrington and Edgar Adrian who went on to win the Nobel prize for their work on the nervous system and its response to stimulus.

Dr William Fitzgerald, an ENT specialist,  looking for an alternative to anaesthetics, developed a new system called ‘’Zone Therapy’’ based on the principle that there are ten zones of the body running from the top of the head to the tips of the toes and fingers. He discovered that ‘’direct pressure upon any part of a particular zone can have an anaesthetising effect on another part of the same zone.’’ He went on to map out zone areas on the feet establishing ‘’Zone Therapy’’ the name by which reflexology was known until the early 1960’s.

Dr Shelby Riley refined this work and made diagrams of reflex points on the feet as well as putting it into practice and working on his patients hands, face and ears.

Eunice Ingham, an American physiotherapist who was taught Zone Therapy by Dr Riley, focused and renamed her technique from Compression massage to Reflexology. She took her work to the general public and taught them to treat themselves and it was at this point that it parted company with the medical profession.

Although its success was acknowledged following substantial anecdotal evidence, there was more money and less time involved in writing a prescription.   Dwight Byers is the nephew and student of Eunice Ingham. My tutor Allison Walker, Contemporary Reflexology College, was taught by Dwight Byers himself.