Reflexology dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and China and was also used by Native Americans.

US doctor William H Fitzgerald pioneered modern reflexology by developing a system of zone therapy in the early 1900s. He claimed that applying pressure to reflex points for each zone could influence the function of organs, glands, bones and muscles within that part of the body.

Eunice Ingham, a US physiotherapist, expanded his work in the 1930s. She developed a system using reflex points on the feet to treat all parts of the body. Her system has been widely adopted.

* Vacuflex reflexology uses vacuum pump boots and suction pads to stimulate the reflexes.
* Metamorphic technique emphasises prenatal influences and uses light circular movements on the feet, hands and head.

What’s involved?

A reflexology treatment involves direct pressure, small rotations and caterpillar-like movements on all parts of the foot and sometimes also the hands or ears.

Certain points are more tender than others. This is taken to indicate a build-up of crystalline deposits under the skin and imbalance in the corresponding organ or body part.
What’s it good for?

Reflexology is thought to break down the crystalline deposits, remove blockage in nerve and energetic pathways, improve blood supply and aid detoxification.

Little research has been carried out on the therapy, but a high success rate is claimed in the treatment of many common ailments including stress, pain, menstrual problems, digestive problems, headaches and insomnia. It’s also a useful self-help technique.
Further information

If you’d like to learn more about reflexology and its uses, the following organisations and publications may help:

Association of Reflexologists
27 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3XX
Tel: 0870 567 3320

The British Reflexology Association
Monks Orchard, Whitbourne, Worcester WR6 5RB
Tel: 01886 821207

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reflexology by Frankie Avalon Wolfe
ISBN: 0028631870

Reflexology: A Way to Better Health by Nicola Hall and Jim Howden
ISBN: 0717130959

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Stephen Hopwood in April 2009.