The modern practice of Reflexology is thanks to the work of two 20th century medical doctors and a physiotherapist. American Dr. William Fitzgerald, an ear nose and throat specialist promoted The Zone Theory after he found patients recovering from surgery seemed to have less pain when painful points on their feet had been pressed. Dr. Fitzgerald proposed that the human body could be divided into ten equal sections along its vertical plane from head to feet. From this was born the first chart on longitudinal zones of the body. A colleague, Dr. Shelby Riley, expanded the Zone Theory by adding horizontal zones across the hands and feet. But it was a physical therapist, Eunice D. Ingham, in the 1930’s who carefully mapped out the reflexes on the feet as we know them today, combining the reflex areas with the glands, organs and other parts of the body to cover the physical anatomy.
Practitioners of reflexology apply gentle pressure to bear at select points on the feet and hands. The feet alone have roughly 7,200 nerves in each foot and with Reflexology, nerve endings are stimulated beginning communication between these nerves and the reflected organs or glands. Endorphin chemicals in the body are then released enhancing a sense of well-being, relaxation and harmony. Effects from a treatment session may be felt immediately, soon afterward or up to two days later.
The foot zonal therapy enshrined by Eunice Ingham is the most popular form of reflexology in the West but it is not the only form. Some reflexologists use the Chinese meridian system, the organic system and the organic-joint system. Within the last few years, a new form of Reflexology has gained increasing acceptance, made popular by John Cross, Scottish physiotherapist and author. Cross has incorporated the energy centers or “chakra” centers of Ayurvedic Medicine of India with the traditional reflex charts created by Ingham. Using a light, gentle touch at these reflected chakra points on the feet and hands coupled with healing intentions, Cross maintains this significantly enhances the practice.
Whilst it is recommended that reflexology treatments are administered by trained, certified practitioners to attain maximum benefit in alleviating chronic or acute health issues either alone or in collaboration with other therapies, there are a number of books available to teach oneself reflexology. Wall posters and charts showing the reflex areas of the feet and hands are readily available for purchase by anyone wishing to expand their knowledge and experiment for themselves on how to stimulate reflex areas and benefit from this healing art.