The oldest documentation depicting the practice of reflexology was discovered in the tomb of an Egyptian physician, dated around 2500 BC. Within this tomb were found many medically related paintings and this example below is what is believed to be the earliest example of reflexology.
Reflexology symbols are also thought to be recorded on the feet of statues of Buddha in India and later China. The Chinese classic, the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which was written around 300 BC, has a chapter on "Examining Foot Method" and is the beginning of discussions in print about the connection of life force and points and areas on the feet.
It is believed that Marco Polo translated a Chinese massage book into Italian in the 1300s, thus introducing reflexology and massage to Europe. In 1582, a book on an integral element of reflexology called zone therapy was first published in Europe.
Several tribes of North America used pressure to the feet as a form of healing. Native American tribes believe that the feet are important because you walk upon the earth and through this your spirit is connected to the universe. Our feet are out contact to the earth and the energies that flow through it.
Modern reflexology is based on an ancient form of therapy and it started to develop in the United States by William Fitzgerald, M.D., in 1920-30. He found that the application of pressure to one part of the body could create a response in another. This reflex relationship was found to lie within certain longitudinal zones of which there were ten in the body. Fitzgerald called his work ‘’zone analgesia’’.
Physiotherapist Eunice Ingham further developed Fitzgerald's zone therapy into the practice that is known today as reflexology.
During the 1930s, Ingham used zone therapy and concluded that applying pressure to the feet yields the best results to the body. She also asserted that it is better to vary the amount of pressure applied and that greater benefits than just pain relief occurred from applying pressure to the feet. This method forms the basis for most reflexology practised around the world today.