What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a manual therapy originated in the Japanese tradition for the purpose of providing relaxation and treatment for various health conditions. It has its base on the traditional Chinese Medicine. Shiatsu in Japanese means "finger pressure" and thus the therapist uses finger touch, pressure and manipulative techniques to help the body heal naturally adjust the physical structure of the body into the exact desired way and maintain the balance in the flow of energy.

Shiatsu for Relaxation

TokujiroNamikoshi (1905-2000) was known to establish the Shiatsu College in 1940s and he is also credited to for inventing the modern shiatsu that is practiced today. There are various forms and types of the shiatsu massage depending on the main focus they have viz, some focus on the acupressure points, while others aim towards the body as a whole, or on the path through which the energy flows, still others focus on the Five Element system of the Chinese tradition or the macrobiotic approach. Today the mostly practiced forms of shiatsu are:

  • Zen Shiatsu
  • Macrobiotic Shiatsu
  • Healing Shiatsu
  • Namikoshi Shiatsu
  • Movement Shiatsu
  • Hara Shiatsu.

In spite of the variations, the main focus on natural healing remains same in all the forms.

Benefits of Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a non-invasive technique and many people these days opt for it. Once you have taken a session, you are sure to go again to re-experience the effects. The founders of the techniques and many practitioners believe that it has both a preventive and a healing effect. Shiatsu is used to treat various musculoskeletal, digestive, internal and emotional problems in the mind and body. Shiatsu is used to treat chronic conditions like:

  • Joint and muscle stiffness
  • To stimulate better digestion
  • Stimulate skin healing and rejuvenation
  • Neurological problems
  • Prementrual Syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Stress and anxiety disorders
  • Reduce Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Pain in lower back, joint and neck region
  • It has immense effect on women who are pregnant.

The effect of shiatsu might also vary from calming or a sedative effect to stimulating depending on the specific requirement of the patients and the goal of the session.

However, whatever it is, shiatsu will take the stress out and also help you in relaxing, the biggest benefit that you can get from any other therapy.

Relaxation: The Shiastu Process Explained

Right after 6 weeks of conception, a baby develops the reflex action to touch much before the other four senses develop. The theoretical framework of shiatsu is based on the concept that a touch which is compassionate and supportive provides healing effects, while an abusive touch can be extremely damaging for the individual both physically and mentally. Thus a shiatsu massage helps in healing the mind and body.

The technique along with the environment in which it is done provides a peace of mind and body and thus has a long-lasting relaxing effect.

The sessions are individualized and thus a practitioner always starts with taking a detailed history of the present problems and why you want the therapy session. This helps the practitioner in devising a plan of work for the individual and from there on the process of relaxing the mind and body starts.

Shiatsu includes various manual massage techniques like pressure, kneading, tapping, stretching and soothing for reaching the vital Ki (Qi or Chi in Chinese) in the body. Once the areas where there is a deficiency of the Ki is found, the practitioners focuses on bringing back the specific amount of Ki required in that area. If an area is found to have excess of Ki, the practitioner helps in deviating and distributing it to other areas of the body which has a deficiency.

Once the tensions in the body is reduced and also the Ki is channelized in a free-flowing way in the body, the individual attains a state of extreme relaxation and comes out of the discomforts.

Precautions to Be Taken While Doing Shiastu

If you think of visiting a shiatsu therapist and take a session, talk to the doctor first and you must keep the following points in mind.

  • Do not go for a shiatsu session if you have a skin disease, open wounds or rash.
  • Do not take a session immediately after a radiation or chemotherapy, or surgery unless your doctor has prescribed so.
  • If you have osteoporosis, it is very important to consult your doctor before taking the therapy.
  • People with thrombosis or problems with blood clotting or those with a heart problem, consult the doctor.
  • Women who are pregnant should always ask the doctor before going for any therapy session and the same holds for shiatsu. If possible go to a certified pregnancy massage therapist for shiatsu sessions.
  • Avoid having heavy meals before a shiatsu session.

One important thing to remember is that shiatsu should never be done over cuts, wounds that have not healed, inflamed skin, hernia, tumor and recent fractures.

Research Evidences on Effectiveness of Shiatsu

Although, much high quality researches has not been conducted, a 2008 study in Europe on 948 people studied the effects of shiatsu in reducing muscle and joint related problems and problems with body structure, to reduce stress and tension and also to reduce low energy and tiredness. The study concluded that the clients confirmed moderate levels of improvement in their symptoms displayed over 6 months; 1/3rd of the clients confirmed to have changed their lifestyle due to shiatsu after 6 months; somewhere between 16-22% of clients reported to have reduced their conventional medicine intake and 15-34% reported to have reduced their medicine intakes in general. Thus this confirms that shiatsu has a definite impact in improving the health status, however further studies are still required to establish the reliability and validity of the studies.

Many cancer patients opt for shiatsu sessions as they believe that shiatsu session helps them in coping better with the symptoms as well as the side effects of the treatments. In spite of lack of research evidences, the client feedback clearly establishes the effectiveness of shiatsu in providing relaxation and promotes faster healing in patients.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: April 7, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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