Like a lot of other holistic approaches to healing, the roots of reflexology can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. It eventually spread from Egypt to the Roman Empire.

The first modern form of reflexology was known as Zone Therapy and was developed by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald M.D. and Dr. Edwin Bowers M.D. in 1917. Zone Therapy used different tools to apply pressure to zones of the body corresponding to the site of the pain. Upon doing this, they discovered not only was the pain resolved, but the underlying cause of the pain was also relieved. They were also responsible for creating the first charts depicting the longitudinal pressure zones of the body.

Zone Therapy was further developed by Dr. Shelby Riley, M.D. who discovered there weren’t just longitudinal pressure zones, but also horizontal zones which included the hands and the feet.

Zone Therapy was further developed by Dr. Shelby Riley, M.D. who discovered there weren’t just longitudinal pressure zones, but also horizontal zones which included the hands and the feet.

Reflexology was developed from advances of Zone Therapy and thanks to physical therapist Eunice D. Ingham. In the early 1930’s, she developed her foot reflex theory which showed reflexes on the feet were a mirror image of the organs in the body. The major difference between Zone and Reflexology Therapy is Zone Therapy dealt with pressure on specific zones only to determine the area to be worked on. Reflexology looks at both zones and the anatomical model to determine the appropriate area on which to focus.

After discovering the reflexes, Eunice Ingham was asked to speak about reflexology at various workshops. From there, the Institute of Reflexology was developed and has flourished since.

What is Reflexology and How Does It Work?

Reflexology is a form of manipulation of pressure points in your hands and feet to help relax, stimulate and reduce stress to organs, glands, and other parts of the body. It is believed this type of stimulation can help alleviate and prevent various conditions. It is not a replacement for other treatments, but when used in conjunction with them, it is a recipe for relief for many people.

Your hands and feet are reflex maps with certain areas corresponding to every body part. When pressure is applied to those specific areas, a signal is sent from the nervous system to increase circulation and muscular functions to the corresponding area. This reaction reduces stress on this part, and this allows for less wear and tear and more healing.

The points you press on are called reflex points. There are reflex points for every part of your body on your hands and feet. No matter where your discomfort, there is a reflex point on your hands and feet where pressure can be applied to relieve the symptoms.

The deeply relaxing nature of reflexology allows the body to release tension and stress that can build with everyday life. It is proven that stress can have a negative impact on our body’s ability to function at optimal levels. Reducing this stress makes the body more balanced, and this allows for healing on mental, spiritual and physical levels.

Everyone Can Benefit

Reflexology is not just for someone who is suffering from a severe medical condition. Because of its technique of reducing stress to help resolve the body’s balance, reflexology can be used in wide range of situations.


During labor women who were given foot reflexology were shown to have reduced pain, and it stimulated their labor. The amount of time these women were in active labor was reduced compared to women who did not receive reflexology.

Women who continued to receive foot reflexology after birth had more success nursing and their supply of milk was greater.

Women’s Health

Much like birth, foot reflexology was proven to help reduce painful PMS symptoms in 95 percent of all women. Likewise 40 percent of menopausal women found foot reflexology completely relieved their symptoms while 47 percent found that their symptoms where significantly reduced.

Men’s Health

Probably one of a man’s biggest fears as they get older is the inability to perform sexually. Reflexology has been found to be 87 percent effective in men who experience impotence and 100 percent effective in those that experience other sexual dysfunctions.

Another medical condition that plagues men as they get older is enlarged prostate problems. The use of reflexology has effectively reduced the size of a man’s prostate gland.

Getting Older

We all get older, and as we age our bodies don’t work as efficiently in many aspects of life. Reflexology can help combat the aging process and keep us feeling younger longer.

After age 30, the body’s metabolism and production of digestive enzymes slow down. The combination of these two things can lead to poor digestion and numerous digestive ailments. Foot reflexology improves the blood flow to the intestines stimulating better digestion. Patients suffering constipation problems who received foot reflexology showed a quicker bowel transit time. However, even those who weren’t suffering from constipation responded to the foot reflexology and saw more productive bowel movements.

Moreover, foot reflexology was found to be more effective than prescribed drugs when treating painful or imperfect digestion. Again it increases blood flow to the area, and this increased flow helps relieve stress. This reduction in stress allows for less wear and tear which ultimately leads to more healing.

In addition to digestive issues as we get older, there is a rapid increase of older individuals’ doing kidney dialysis to combat kidney failure. As it does for the intestines, foot reflexology increases blood flow to the kidneys. This stimulates the kidneys to work more effectively.

High blood pressure seems to be a staple of getting older. Reflexology helps the mechanism of the heart which regulates blood pressure. When reflexology was used, the heart was better able to maintain lower blood pressure.

Lastly, the aches, pains and stiffness that come with aging don’t have to be a part of everyday. When stimulating reflex points, the increased blood flow helps reduce the wear and tear, resulting in less stiffness and pain. Those suffering from arthritis who received reflexology found decreased pain and stiffness and were able to do things they hadn’t done in years.

More Pain Relief

One of the more painful ailments is kidney stones, often considered the closest thing to the agony of giving birth. When reflexology was used on patients experiencing ureter and kidney stones, not only was their pain reduced but passing these stones was quicker.

Tooth pain can be one of the more agonizing pains we experience and unfortunately a trip to the dentist can be days away. Using reflexology was shown to help relieve tooth pain in 66 percent of patients, and in 26 percent their symptoms were completely eliminated.

Migraine headaches are an ailment that affects a large percentage of the population. Nineteen of people who were forced to take medication for their headaches and used reflexology were able to stop taking the medication altogether. It was also found to be just as effective as Flunarizin treatment (a common prescription medication for migraine sufferers). Therefore those who are unable to take medical treatment were referred to reflexology.

Often headaches are brought on by increased stress levels in our daily life. As explained before, this increased stress that doesn’t allow for proper healing. Applying pressure to the appropriate reflex points increases the circulation and reduces the stress thus reducing the pain associated with the headache. Therefore reflexology isn’t just for the migraine sufferer; it will help even those who get the occasional headache.

Quality of Life

Whether it’s a chronic illness, increased life stress, or general daily aches and pains, reflexology can help improve everyone’s quality of life. It has been proven effective in helping appetite, breathing, concentration, constipation, diarrhea, mobility, mood, nausea, sleeplessness, tiredness and more. The bottom line is when we physically feel good, we improve mentally and spiritually. This improves our quality of life.

Although reflexology isn’t a cure, it is a tool, that when used in conjunction with medications, healthy diets, and exercise, can improve your life.

Who Can Perform Reflexology?

Reflexology can be performed by a certified reflexologist, but it can also be performed by you or a member of your family.

If you decided to use a reflexologist, is important to note they are not medical doctors, and no formal training is required to practice reflexology. There are training centers where they can be certified; the most well known is the International Institute of Reflexology in Florida.

When looking for a reflexologist, check to make sure they have received a minimum of 200 hours of certified instruction. Look to see if they are board certified by the American Reflexology Certification Board. This is voluntary for reflexologists but if they are certified through this program, it requires them to obtain continuing training and education

A session with a reflexologist will begin by taking a brief medical history to determine the origin of your problem. You will then be asked to lie on a table or sit in a comfortable chair and take off your shoes and socks.

At this point the reflexologist will use pressure, movement and stretches to manipulate the reflex points that correspond with the affected body part. Sometimes they use oils, however, they often use a dry technique.

Make sure they are working within your comfort zone. The process should not be painful, and it should be relaxing. Communicate to let them know if something is uncomfortable.

A session can last 30 minutes to one hour, and at the end you should feel relaxed. Make a note of how you felt at the end of the session, and communicate that to your reflexologist for future sessions.

If you choose to try and learn reflexology on your own, it can be done by you or a member of your family. We recommend getting hand and foot maps showing the reflex points and the corresponding body parts. Make sure whoever is performing the reflexology is listening to your comfort levels; the pressure should not be excessive or painful.

Printable Chart or View Larger

Printable Chart or View Larger

The key to getting a positive response from reflexology is consistency. In China they do reflexology once a day for six straight days in two-week intervals. They’ll make note of the response they received and then repeat the intervals as needed. The response to this consistency has been extremely positive.

You can perform reflexology anytime, anywhere, as long as you know where the appropriate reflex points are.

Response to treatment can be seen after one or two sessions. Immediately following a session, it is not uncommon to experience some nausea, tiredness or what may seem like a worsening of your condition. This is temporary and part of the healing the process. For the most part following a session you should feel relaxed and a sense of well-being.