History Of Reflexology The Ingham Reflexology Method

Reflexology massage is a drug-free treatment that involves applying pressure to the body’s reflex points to promote relaxation and healing. Located primarily in the hands and the feet, reflex points correspond to specific glands and organs, as well as other parts of the body.

The pressure applied during reflexology treatment is believed to send signals through the nervous system, resulting in reduced stress and pain relief. Today, many people count on reflexology massage for relief of pain, stress, headaches and more.

Ancient and Modern History of Reflexology

Footwork practices are thought to have existed in Egypt as early as 2300 B.C., and in ancient Japanese, European and Chinese cultures, as evidenced by artifacts depicting foot and hand work. Different accounts of foot work being performed in Europe in the 14th century also exist, but modern reflexology began as “zone therapy” in North America in the early 20th century.

In 1913, William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat doctor, came up with the idea that zones on the hands, feet and tongue correlated with other body areas, and that pressure on these zones could relieve both pain and the underlying cause. He called this therapy “zone analgesia” and developed the first chart of longitudinal zones of the body. Shelby Riley, M.D., worked with Dr. Fitzgerald to further develop the zone theory by adding horizontal zones on the hands and feet.

Eunice Ingham and Reflexology

Eunice Ingham, an American physical therapist, studied zone therapy with Dr. Riley. In the early 1930s, she began developing a foot reflex theory by documenting the reflex points on the feet of hundreds of her patients. Her first book, “The Stories the Feet Can Tell,” was published in 1938, and mapped out the foot reflexes that reflexologists use today.

Ms. Ingham began traveling across the United States teaching her Ingham method, sparking interest in the field of reflexology massage. As people began to use the Ingham method and see results, a group of reflexology enthusiasts emerged. Eunice Ingham’s reflexology work continues to shape the practice today.


International Institute of Reflexology. (n.d.). History of reflexology. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://www.reflexology-usa.net/history.htm

Reflexology Guide. (2010). History of reflexology. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://www.reflexologyguide.org/history-of-reflexology.html

Reflexology Research. (2009). What is reflexology? Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://www.reflexology-research.com/whatis.htm