Did you know there are 7,200 nerve endings on the bottom of each foot? No wonder that most of us love walking barefoot in the sand! We long to take off our shoes at the end of a long day and if someone offers a kindly foot rub, we are so happy. We have evidence that over 4,000 years ago, pressure on the bottom of the feet was used as medicine in Egypt, India and China.
As we know it today, reflexology was popularized by Eunice Ingham in the 1930’s. She was familiar with work done by a Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, head of the Ear, Nose and Throat department at Boston City Hospital. Dr. Fitzgerald had been successfully using “zone therapy” to reduce pain in his patients. His work focused on reflex points in the hands, but Eunice discovered that working with reflex points in the feet was much more powerful. She worked on people’s feet for many years, noting tender spots on the feet and their connection with issues in distant parts of the body. She was able to create a “map” of the body on the foot and to successfully treat many people who sought her help. In 1938, she published her initial experiences in Stories the Feet Can Tell. One of her early clients was her nephew Dwight C. Byers, who went on to found the International Institute of Reflexology, which still teaches “The Ingham method.”
Reflexology profoundly reduces stress and tension in the body, improves blood and lymph circulation, improves nerve function, and facilitates the release of toxins. It boosts the immune system, and helps the body take in nutrients and eliminate wastes. It works beautifully in concert with many other natural health therapies.
There has been extensive supportive research on reflexology, including the 1996 China Reflexology Symposium Report. Dr. Wang Liang analyzed 8,096 clinical cases and found reflexology to be highly effective in 48.68% of cases and effective in improving conditions in another 44.95%.
Reflexology has been found to be helpful with reduction of stress, pain, and nausea, and in improving bowel function, circulation, immune function and sense of well being.
The hand has a “map” of the body on it, similar to the one found on the feet. Although not as powerful as foot reflexology, hand reflexology may sometimes be more practical in certain situations where you wish to treat yourself.