Reflexology is a gentle non-invasive treatment generally carried out on the feet. It is based on a theory that the body is represented as a mirror image reflecting every organ and representing it through a series of reflex points. Using precise thumb and finger techniques while working on these specific points releases tension and helps the body to seek its own equilibrium.  This encourages the clients own healing systems to activate, and restores the free flow of energy throughout the whole body, and so promotes sustainable relaxation and wellbeing. Some similarity exists between Reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine including the zones and meridians. Therapists believe that crystalline deposits of waste products, usually calcium and uric acid concentrate around the reflex points providing the therapist with a ‘peculiar’ feeling at that particular point. By working on these points it helps to break down the deposits and encourages elimination and stimulates circulation.

Brief History of Reflexology

The ancient healing art of Reflexology has been known to man and practiced by many diverse cultures for many thousands of years. Although its origins are unclear it is thought to have been first practiced by the early Chinese and Egyptian peoples so its roots probably lie in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapies such as acupuncture, or shiatsu. The first documented evidence that such a therapy was practiced was found in a tomb in Saqqara in Egypt, dating back to 2330BC.

4,000 years later, in 1582 two books on zone therapy were published in Europe by eminent medical physicians from Leipzig, Germany, Dr.Adamus, Dr.Atatis and Dr. Ball. It was not until the early 20th Century that Dr. William Fitzgerald (1872 – 1942) introduced this therapy to the West. A medical graduate from the University of Vermont, he specialised in ENT. He worked alongside Professor Politzer, and Professor Otto Chiari in Austria whose works are known wherever medical textbooks are read, and in the ENT hospital in Central London, before returning as Senior ENT Consultant at St. Francis Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut. It was here that he developed his concept and introduced the ancient art of Zone Therapy to the medical world.

He discovered that by applying gentle pressure to certain points it generated an anaesthetic effect enabling him to perform minor surgery without anaesthetic. Along with a colleague, Dr. Edwin Bowers they published a joint paper in 1917 identifying the 10 longitudinal zones of the body and charted the various organs within these zones.  Another colleague, Dr. Joseph Shelby-Riley took particular interest in the theory and he introduced the horizontal zones in 1920. Eunice Ingham (1889-1974) a physiotherapist, developed his theory further by identifying the precise zone pathways. She believed that the body responded to pressure on defined areas and observed that congestion or tension in any part of the foot mirrored congestion or tension in a related part of the body. Doreen Bailey brought Reflexology to England and she set up a training school in 1968. Nicola Hall subsequently brought Reflexology to Ireland in the early 1980’s.

Reflexology is acknowledged to be one of the most popular holistic therapies available throughout the world today, and considered to be the most powerful aid to relaxation and alleviating the effects of stress on the body.


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