Many people believe that the practice of reflexology has been around for thousands of years. Reflexology in its current form, however, is a fairly recent phenomenon. In the 1930's Eunice Ingham, widely known as the mother of reflexology, produced the foot maps that are still widely used in teaching today. Eunice introduced the application of pressure to various parts of the foot, believing them to have a corresponding part within the body. This was applied using a variety of thumb, finger and hand techniques. Eunice discovered that by massaging or applying pressure to these reflex points, the corresponding body part was actually being worked on, and relieved of symptoms.
Over the next few decades reflexology often came under scrutiny, with a lack of scientific evidence leaving many people in the medical field to consider its effects as nothing more than a placebo. Fortunately for us reflexologists, there are now tens of thousands of case studies to refer to that indicate the efficacy of our treatments. The leading light in this research in my opinion is Dr Jesus Manzanares, a surgeon based in Barcelona who is also a reflexologist. Dr. Manzanares uses EEG scans, and over 70,000 case studies to illustrate the reticular core of the brain stem as the common pathway from the feet to internal organs of the autonomic nervous system. This type of evidence is seeing reflexology move away from the realm of the spa or the beauty salon, in to more clinical environment.
For me, the practice of reflexology is the perfect meeting place for science and art. There is undoubtedly a science to learning the reflex points, and understanding the intricacies of the human body, but each reflexologist will then develop their own way of working. This allows each practitioner to develop techniques that are unique to them, and will provide them with the tools to re-asses their client's needs each time they see them. We are incredible, complex beings, and our needs can change on a daily basis. The art of reflexology is to bear in mind all of the scientific knowledge we have amassed, but to keep that mind open to whatever we are presented with when we have someone in front of us.
I am reminded on a daily basis how fortunate I am to be working in a field I love, and after more than a decade practicing reflexology, I am still constantly amazed at the effect it has on people.