(Investigator 81, 2001 November)

Reflexology otherwise known as Zone Therapy, is thought to have originated in China over four thousand years ago, and paintings found in the tomb of Ankhanahor situated just outside of Cairo testify that it was used by the Egyptians around 2,500 B.C. In modern times, an American physician Dr William Fitzgerald laid the foundation of what he called Zone Therapy, theorizing that the body was divided into ten vertical zones and if pressure is applied to a particular finger it would produce an analgesic effect in a corresponding part of the body within the same zone as the finger, a principle not dissimilar to Acupuncture.

In the 1930s, two advocates of Zone Therapy, Dr Joe Shelly and Eunice Ingham, reasoned that since the zones ran throughout the body, some areas may be more effective than others. Concentrating on the feet, a sensitive part of the body, they mapped out the entire body in relation to them. They considered each zone to be a channel for the life energy (called chi' in Oriental medicine) as are the meridians in Acupuncture. This culminated in the founding of the International Institute of Reflexology in 1970.

It is claimed that by applying pressure to points on the soles of the feet with the thumb and forefinger and massaging vigorously, it has a stimulating effect on the entire zone including the organs and muscles that lay along it. Further, that the nerve endings are unblocked and stimulated thus helping the glands and organs to operate at their optimal level and helping the body to function more effectively.

While it is admitted by practitioners that the actual physical mechanism which controls the zones is not fully understood, patients testify that they find the treatment relaxing and invigorating.

Unfortunately, Reflexology has been shown to be based on an erroneous principle similar to other pseudo-medical diagnostic techniques, such as iridology, phrenology, and acupuncture – that the feet, irises, bumps on the head, or selected arbitrary points on the body, are a map of the complete anatomy, each organ, gland and part of the body having its corresponding reflex. This is particularly noticeable when one compares the various alternative health systems and finds that the alleged locations of specific body organs varies considerably from system to system.

In Seiketsu for instance, the point corresponding to the heart is located at the base of the little finger nail; in hand reflexology in the palm of the hand just below the base of the index and second fingers; in foot reflexology, on the ball of the foot, and the meridian point associated with chakras is said to be located on the inside of the left wrist. It would appear from this lack of agreement that alternative health systems also use alternative anatomy systems!

While there is little doubt that a massage, whether it be of the foot or any other part of the anatomy, can be a pleasant and relaxing experience inducing a general feeling of well being, there is no evidence to support the claim that this type of massage is therapeutic or can cure anything.


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(From: A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age, Harry Edwards)

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