An Overview of Shiatsu

Shiatsu is Japanese massage involving the application of pressure to the body of the patient using fingers, thumbs and palms. Similar to other therapies that use manipulation, the purpose of massage in shiatsu is to stimulate the body by freeing blockages that prevent the qi from reaching affected areas.

Shiatsu combines the same knowledge used in acupuncture and other pressure based traditions with Western knowledge of physiology and anatomy in a non-invasive therapy that helps improve organ function and promotes physical well-being. It's a government regulated therapy that is part of the Japanese national health care system and has been since 1964. In the United States, it's becoming more widely used as a treatment for a number of ailments.

Evidence In Favor
There has been research done on shiatsu and other pressure based body-massage therapies that suggests the following uses:

  • Nausea, motion sickness
  • Controlling post-op nausea, motion sickness and morning sickness
  • Improving sleep quality in elderly and health adult patients
  • Relieving lower back pain
  • Relieving post-operative pain nearly as effectively as intravenous pain medication
  • Headaches - self-administered acupressure may relieve or prevent migrains
  • Bedwetting in children - parent administered micro massage at particular acupressure points have been shown to be effective in preventing bedwetting
  • May aid in weight loss, obesity
  • May reduce menstrual pain

Other preliminary research indicates that shiatsu may be beneficial in:

  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Facial spasm
  • Palliative care in progressive diseases
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Labor pain
  • Asthma (quality of life)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Drug addiction

Vigorous shiatsu massage may cause some injuries, including nerve damage, bruising, and other adverse effects. Shiatsu may not be a suitable treatment for everyone, and like most other alternative therapies, critics point out that despite the amount of research demonstrating positive outcomes, much of it is in poorly designed studies that render the results less than persuasive.

Shiatsu and other pressure based massage therapies offer promising relief for many medical conditions, particularly those related to stress. They seem to be most effective in controlling and/or reducing pain, and promoting well-being and health.


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