Just as in acupuncture, there are reflexology points throughout the body including the hands and feet. Reflexology is based on zone theory. There are thought to be ten energy pathways in the body, five on each side running down the body from head to the toes. These are known as "zones" and pass through the shoulders, down the arms to the fingertips.
Zone therapy was first practiced in the United States in the early 1900’s. One of its early practitioners was a Dr. William Fitzgerald who learned about it in Europe and used it extensively in his practice. In 1917 he wrote Zone Therapy, or Relieving Pain at Home. Years later, a physician, Dr. Joe Shelby Riley, read Fitzgerald’s book and encouraged his staff to learn more about it. One of his physiotherapists, Eunice Ingham, noticed positive effects of the treatment, especially when applied to the patient’s feet. She mapped out the feet and spent years fine tuning her technique. She found that by applying pressure to various parts of the foot healing would accelerate. She believed that all organs and glands were represented at the feet. She spent many years documenting her approach and teaching Reflexology. She wrote two books on the subject and is considered by many to be the founder of modern Reflexology in the U.S.
Zone theory states that any blockage of the subtle zone energies affects all the organs and glands present within that zone. While these energy blockages are small the net effect is sometimes great. Illness in one of the zones imbalances the entire system and the rest of the body tries to compensate. Stress and exposure to toxins can prolong this imbalance.
The anatomical position of the feet and the effect of gravity combine to result in the accumulation of toxins in and around the feet first. Calcification of the circulatory system (arteriosclerosis) begins in the feet due to this accumulation of toxins. This is thought to affect the energy flow in the nervous system which in turn affects all the organs of the body since each organ and gland is represented at the feet. As calcification becomes greater, it puts pressure on these nerve endings which upsets the communication between various parts of the body. This communication is essential to maintain harmony and balance within the body.
The nerve endings in the feet are reflex points for the body and pressure at these reflex points sends signals to the corresponding organs and glands, acting as a wake up call.. Using the body’s own innate intelligence, these signals will help speed up an underactive body part or slow down an overactive body part restoring harmony. Systemically, reflexology reduces stress by bringing the body into a deep state of relaxation. Many people enter a trance-like condition of relaxation which is highly therapeutic.