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Facts About Reflexology

(By Gail Testa, Ph.D.)

  Reflexology is an ancient method of using the thumb and fingers to apply pressure to reflex points on the feet and hands that correspond to all organs and glands of the body. Stimulating these reflexes improves circulation and many health conditions. Reflexology has been practiced for thousands of years. The earliest known origins of reflexology date back to over 5,000 years ago in Egypt where illustrations of a practitioner performing reflexology on a patient were found carved on the wall of a tomb. Other evidence of reflexology has been seen in India, approximately 5,000 years ago. A carving of "The Feet of Vishnu" shows symbols on the bottom of the feet. Although the actual meaning of these symbols is unknown, the placement of the symbols corresponds too closely with what is known today as many of the reflex areas for specific organs and glands of the body to be merely a coincidence.

Reflexology has been practiced over the years in various forms. In the 19th century doctors and scientists examined it seriously. Over the next 100 years, reflexology developed into an accepted practice around the world.

In 1913 Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat surgeon, introduced this therapy to the West. He noted that pressure on specific parts of the body could have an anaesthetizing effect on a related area. Developing this theory, he divided the body into ten equal and vertical zones, ending in the fingers and toes. He concluded that pressure on one part of a zone could affect everything else within that zone. Thus, reflex areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone. A colleague of Pavlov, V. M. Bechterev coined the term reflexology in 1917.

In the 1930's, Eunice Ingham, a therapist, further developed and refined the zone therapy into what is now known as foot reflexology. She observed that congestion or tension in any part of the foot mirrors congestion or tension in a corresponding part of the body. The points on the foot represent reflex areas that correspond to parts of the body. The feet can be seen as a map of the body with the right foot representing the right hand side of the body and the left foot the left side. Reflex areas are to be found on the soles, the top and sides of the feet. The skilled application of pressure to specific points on the feet by a trained reflexologist can ease stress and tension and restore balance to the body.

In the 1950s reflexology faced opposition by the American Medical Association (AMA), who tried to make it illegal by claiming practitioners were practicing medicine without a license. Although reflexology stills finds opposition today from the medical community, it has continued to thrive as an alternative or complementary treatment to traditional medicine.

Reflexology is a simple, natural and harmless way to health. It can be used to obtain relief from all kinds of conditions from general stress to specific disorders often where conventional treatment has failed. It can also be used to maintain good health, to build resistance and to prevent illness. Health problems may be detected before they become serious. Mental and physical tension is released, a state of relaxation is induced and energy and vitality abound. The healing art of reflexology brings about the restoration of harmony and optimum health.

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