The History Of The Reflexology Foot Massage

Chinese foot pressure therapy was first brought to Europe by the Italian explorer Marco Polo and other missionaries who traveled to China in the 1200-1300s. However, the first European texts about the pressure therapy were born in the late 1500s. These texts detailed the method of Zone Therapy which helped relieving pain with applying pressure to different zones of the body.

In the 1890s, a German Physician Dr. Alfons Cornelius discovered that applying pressure to the sensitive areas of the body mitigates pain and redounds a healing process. The way he practiced pressure to cure people became known as “reflex massage” in Germany that time.

Around the early 20th century in the Unites States, Dr. William Fitzgerald researched Zone Therapy and used devices for applying pressure to anesthetize each area of the body for minor surgeries. Dr. Joe Shelby Riley who studied together with Dr. Fitzgerald, worked out further details – he was the first who created an accurate chart of the reflex areas found on the feet and hands. Instead of using tools, he developed a manual technique to apply pressure.

A physiotherapist, Eunice Ingham, who worked in Dr. Riley’s office was interested in the Zone Therapy and with the encouragement of the doctor, she investigated the relationship between the feet and the whole body. She examined the sensitive points in her clients’ feet and observed the correlation between the sore areas and the clients’ ailment. As a result, she realized that intermittent pressures stimulate a healing response in the body. She developed a therapeutic method, called “thumb-walking” and drew a detailed map with all the reflexes of the feet and hands. She worked on and tested her method on hundreds of clients and researched how her technique allays their illnesses. She traveled across the United States for thirty years teaching reflexology, published two books and today, the International Institute of Reflexology still carries on her work.