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What is Reflexology?

Foot work practices have existed throughout the history of humankind. Remnants of foot work practices span time and place from the Physician's Tomb in Egypt of 2300 B.C. to the Physicians Temple in Nara, Japan, of 690 A.D. The authors have labeled this pattern as a form of archetype or archestructure. Archetypes are "symbolic image(s)...without known origin and they reproduce themselves in any time or in another part of the world--even when transmission by direct descent or 'cross fertilization' through migration must
 be ruled out" Jung, C.G., Man and His Symbols, Dell Publishing Co., 1968, p. 58). "An archestructure can now be defined as a felt or perceived function or structural feature of the nervous system, projected or unconsciously acted out in the lifestyle or the beliefs, customs, and social structures of the individuals concerned or of whole communities" (Gooch, S.F., Total Man, Ballantine Books, 1972 p. 299).
The modern history of reflexology is rooted in research about the reflex in Europe and Russia 125 years ago. The idea that a stimulus applied to the body produces a response was utilized as a therapeutic tool by British physicians and researchers who applied heat, cold, plasters, and herbal poultices to one part of the body to influence another. While such uses did not take root in the medical communities in the United States and Great Britain, the furthering of such ideas for therapeutic use continued in Germany and Russia throughout this century.
Russian physicians of the early 1900's followed the reflex research of Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov to create reflex therapy. Their basic idea, to influence reflexes and thus brain-organ dynamics, survives as a medical practice today. to physician- researchers, such as Vladimir Bekterev who coined the word "reflexology" in 1917, an organ experiences illness because it receives the wrong operating instructions from the brain. By interrupting the body's misguided instructions, the reflex therapist prompts the body to behave in a better manner. Conditioning of better behavior is achieved by the application of a series of such interruptions.
American physiotherapist Eunice Ingham kept alive a specific practice, that of foot reflexology. She accomplished this by traveling around the country teaching groups of people, perpetuating a grassroots enthusiasm for the subject in the United States. A community of reflexology users emerged. Legal questions were raised about the practice of medicine without a license. Ms. Ingham's book of 1945 ascribed the workings of reflexology to the nervous system. The revised work published in 1954, deleted any such mention. the explanation of the workings of reflexology took on metaphorical terms that were to color the practice for decades to come.
The term reflexology itself was considered illegal until a legal skirmish over the publication of Mildred Carter's book Helping Yourself with Foot Reflexology in 1970. The U.S. postal Service asked that the publisher cease and desist publication of the book on the grounds that it consisted of the practice of medicine without a license. The publisher's attorneys successfully defended the publication of the book Subsequently the word could be used to describe one's practice; it was also used in the titles of books. The idea became widely disseminated as Mrs. Carter's book sold one million copies and became one of the best-selling titles ever for the publisher.
In the following quarter century, the idea gained informal sanctioning in the United States on a community level. Since then, practicing reflexologists have emerged, some 30 reflexology books have been published, and the number of magazine articles published has climbed by 500 percent since 1982. Television appearances by reflexologists have increased by 500 percent since 1988.

From: Understanding the Science and Art of Reflexology, Kevin and Barbara Kunz,Alternative and Complementary Therapies, April/ May 1995, p.183-186

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