What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a type of massage therapy that was primarily developed in Japan. With its name derived from the Japanese term for “finger pressure,” it involves applying pressure to specific points on the body. While shiatsu has roots in traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it’s now commonly practiced throughout the world.

How Does Shiatsu Work?

Shiatsu is Traditional Chinese Acupressure. Practitioners of shiatsu apply pressure using gentle manipulation and stretches to specific points of the body in order to assess and treat various conditions. Shaitsu uses the same Channels and Meridians found in TCM Acupuncture.

By stimulating these points, such therapists promote the flow of vital energy (also known as “chi”). According to the principles of TCM, blockages in the flow of chi can contribute to a wide range of illnesses.

Uses for Shiatsu

Shiatsu is often used to relieve stress and protect against stress-related health issues. Shiatsu is also said to increase energy, promote recovery from injuries, and stimulate the digestive system.

Safety and Side Effects

While shiatsu is generally considered safe when done by a qualified professional, certain individuals should take caution and consult a physician before receiving shiatsu. For example, there’s some concern that shiatsu may have harmful effects in pregnant women, patients who have recently undergone chemotherapy or radiation, and people with such conditions as osteoporosis, heart disease, and blood clotting disorders.

Additionally, shiatsu should not be performed directly over bruises, inflamed skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent fractures.

Shiatsu should also be avoided immediately after surgery, and by people with infectious skin disease, rash, or open wounds.

Additional Tips

  • The treatment is done on a low massage table.
  • Unlike other forms of massage, with shiatsu no massage oil is applied, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment. You may be asked to bring comfortable clothing to wear.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before the shiatsu.
  • If it’s your first time at our clinic, please arrive at least 10 minutes early to complete the necessary forms. Otherwise, arrive 5 minutes early so you can have a few minutes to rest and relax before starting the shiatsu.

What Does Shiatsu Feel Like?

When performing shiatsu, the therapists use their fingers, thumbs, and/or palms in a continuous rhythmic sequence. The finger pads are used to apply pressure throughout the treatment, and each point is typically held for two to eight seconds.

In some cases, the pressure points stimulated during shiatsu may feel tender. Those receiving shiatsu often describe this tenderness as “good pain,” but it’s important to alert your therapist if you feel discomfort or pain during your treatment. Your therapist can then adjust the pressure to make shiatsu more comfortable for you.

The Benefits of Shiatsu

Research on the health effects of shiatsu is fairly limited, but there’s some evidence that it offers certain benefits.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2008 suggests that shiatsu may help reduce stress and alleviate fatigue. In a survey of 633 people who had recently completed six months of shiatsu treatments, the study’s authors also found that shiatsu may help ease symptoms associated with muscle and joint problems.

Some research also indicates that shiatsu shows promise in the treatment of certain pain-causing conditions.

In a pilot study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics in 2013, for instance, eight weeks of twice-weekly shiatsu sessions appeared to reduce pain intensity and improve sleep quality in patients with firbromyalgia.

Furthermore, a small study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing in 2001 found that shiatsu may help relieve pain and anxiety in people with lower back pain.