Perhaps it even came about after our primitive ancestors ran and walked in bare feet over uneven ground resulting in tender areas on their feet which resulted in healing in their bodies.
The origins of reflexology are believed to date back at least 5,000 years ago. Many ancient Chinese books talk about techniques that are similar and sometimes identical to modern reflexology. Eg. they practiced the “Examining Foot Method”. There are also many references in an ancient text called The Great Yellow Emperors Medical Book (The Inner Cannon, The Classic of Internal Medicine. It has a few names depending on where you look)
The information in this text is still used by Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners all over the world today.
In 2,330 BC, there was found in an Egyptian tomb of Ankhmahor (second in charge after the king) a mural of the people practicing something that looks an awful lot like reflexology. One man had his feet receiving reflexology, another his finger Underneath the picture is this writing.. (rough translation) the patient is saying “do not cause pain” and the physician replies “I will give you only pleasure”
A German physiologist, Johann Unzer was the first to use the word ‘reflex’ in 1771. In the 1890s Europe saw an explosion of medical and scientific discoveries especially in the neurological field, two notable researchers in the UK were Sir Henry Head and Sir Charles Sherrington. The term ‘reflex massage’ was used.
In 1902 Dr. Alfons Cornelius produced a paper showing the effectiveness of certain sensitive spots on the body, he discovered that this caused other changes to occur, including changes in blood pressure, temperature, and the patient’s mental state.
Dr. William Fitzgerald upon his return to America working as an ear, nose and throat specialist in the early 1900s was intrigued by the fact that at times he was able to carry out minor operations without the patient feeling much pain. This led him to map out the zones on the body. The theory is that parts of the body found with a certain zone will be linked with another by the energy flow within the zone.
During the 1930’s Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist working with Dr. Fitzgerald, further developed reflexology by finding that the feet and hands were especially sensitive and mapped out the entire body into ‘reflexes’ on the feet. She taught her methods traveling through America for over 30 years and wrote 2 books “Stories the Feet Can Tell” and “Stories the Feet have Told”.
She is instrumental in spreading Reflexology to the western world. There is now an International Institute of Reflexology which was formed in the mid-1970’s