Shiatsu Massage and It’s Benefits

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When we have back pain or joint aches we often settle for self treatment like using Voltaren or taking pain relievers. While this is welcome relief, there’s nothing but sheer agony when that bliss wears off! This is where alternative therapies like shiatsu may help.

Shiatsu is a drug-free natural therapy, which is growing in popularity around the world, especially as people become more and more aware of how dependent they are on big pharma! This traditional Japanese practice involves the targeting of pressure points to help heal errors of the body. In fact, ‘shiatsu’ literally translates to ‘finger pressure’ in Japanese.

Go with the (chi) flow


Shiatsu is often misjudged as another massage style, but in reality it relies on a combination of Western and Eastern practices. Specifically, shiatsu combines principles similar to chiropractic care and the concept of energy flow (‘chi’) from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  Furthermore, similar to other complementary therapies like ayurveda and reiki, balance within the body is fundamental to shiatsu practice. Imbalance occurs when chi isn’t flowing properly or there are blockages. Proper assessment and treatment can help restore balance.

Shiatsu practitioners treat the body as a self healing organism and try to help it restore balance. In order to achieve this, practitioners apply pressure along ‘meridians’, which are energy channels that connect the surface of the body with your internal organs. Practitioners concentrate on links within the body and take a full body approach to treatment. In this way, practitioners are able to help :

  • relieve pain
  • assist with injuries
  • alleviate stress or anxiety
  • facilitate recovery from illness

How shiatsu helps

Shiatsu therapy helps with a range of conditions including chronic illnesses. In fact, people consult shiatsu practitioners for anything from musculoskeletal pain to insomnia and headaches to fibromyalgia and so much more.


Interestingly, shiatsu practitioners can recognise subtle changes that indicate  an imbalance even prior to symptoms appearing. As a result, shiatsu practitioners can also be consulted when you are seemingly at optimum health and wellbeing. This preventative approach aims to prevent imbalance and is a common principle across a number of complementary therapies where ‘dis-ease’ and disease are treated.

There are a number of client perceived health, wellbeing and economic benefits to shiatsu treatment. according to a study spanning across the UK, Spain and Austria. These include:

  • positive experiences after initial treatment. Participants reported feeling energised and balanced
  • a change in symptoms over a six month period
  • reduced dependence on pharmaceuticals
  • ‘significant success’ in treating musculoskeletal conditions, stress and tension
  • less sick leave taken because of illness
  • lifestyle changes resulting from treatment

Study participants also claimed that their shiatsu practitioners met their expectations, were trustworthy and skilled.

Achieving equilibrium – 1st session

According to experienced shiatsu practitioner, Gerald Heutink of Sunbear Shiatsu, shiatsu treatment starts with a succinct TCM diagnosis of tongue, pulse and abdominal area palpation. Questions on diet, lifestyle, exercise and medical history are also asked at the start of your first session.


You should wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing to your session. Unlike other modalities, you will typically lie on a padded mat or futon at floor level. Some practitioners conduct sessions in a seated position. While shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’, actual treatment may involve gentle pressure applied via the thumb, fingers, elbows or knees. It can also involve a number of techniques like kneading, palming, stretching, soothing and tapping. According to the Shiatsu Society, touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques are used to balance the body’s energy flow by adjusting it’s physical structure.

Shiatsu aims to increase circulation, detoxify your body and relieve pain. As such, you may feel tired, relaxed or energised after your session. To give your body time to recover, you should rest, stay hydrated and not undertake any strenuous activities.

Can you or someone you know benefit from shiatsu treatment? Share this valuable information using the social media links above!

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Melati is a journalism graduate who loves the power of words. She is passionate about mindfulness and laughter. Her biggest weakness is reality TV.

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