This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Reflexology is a technique in which pressure is applied to specific points on the feet (and sometimes the hands) to promote relaxation and improve overall health. Proponents of reflexology believe that the foot surface contains a coded map of the entire body and that particular points on the feet correspond to particular organs, glands, and body systems. Pressing these points with the fingers and thumbs is thought to encourage healthy functions in the corresponding areas of the body.
The precise origins of reflexology are obscure, but ancient illustrations and other records reveal that Chinese, Indian, and Egyptian peoples worked on the hands and feet to foster good health.
Modern reflexology grew out of a technique known as "zone therapy," which was developed in the early 1900s by American physician and ear, nose, and throat specialist William H. Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald claimed that applying gentle pressure to specific areas on the hands and feet could trigger health benefits in corresponding "zones" of the body.
In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham, a physical therapist and a colleague of Fitzgerald, took the therapy, further postulating that working on just the feet (not the hands) was the best way to affect the health of the rest of the body. Ingham contributed a crucial tool to the discipline: She drew up detailed "maps" of the feet that showed exactly how particular parts of the foot relate to other body parts. She found, for example, that the toes correspond to the head and neck; that the balls of the feet reflect the lungs, heart and chest; that points on the right foot relate to the right side of the body and that points on the left foot relate to the left; and so on. Charts based on her maps are still used by reflexologists today.