What Is Shiatsu Massage Therapy

By Jessica Fuller / March 10, 2016
What Is Shiatsu Massage Therapy Img

Shiatsu is an ancient form of healing through touch. It originated in Japan and when translated means ‘finger pressure’. It’s a way to support the body’s natural healing process whatever stage of life you’re in. It’s a system of healthcare that works with the body’s own energy, and is very effective at treating a lot of mental and physical issues.

It’s not intended to be a replacement for traditional medicine. But it does offer a strong supporting role, as a well as having it’s own stand-alone benefits. By learning more and understanding, what is shiatsu, you open yourself up to more healing potential.

What Is Shiatsu

You can look at shiatsu as a form of massage therapy. It does involve a therapist using their hands to stimulate and work on parts of your body and free up the flow of energy.

It’s not incredibly difficult to learn how to perform basic shiatsu. There are a lot of techniques and a great deal to learn about the human body, pressure points, breathing exercises and body posture.

Shiatsu is similar to acupuncture in the way it stimulates certain pressure points on the body to release and channel the body’s energy, known as Ki or Qi (pronounced as ‘chi’).

These techniques are very calm and relaxing, yet able to make huge changes. The client becomes aware of where they were holding tension in their body and and will feel a physical and emotional release through the therapy.

Shiatsu Meridians and Massage Techniques

Shiatsu meridians are used in the same way as acupressure and acupuncture. There are also physical hands-on techniques that can be used to work out pain in the joints and muscles. Massage techniques like effleurage and petrissage strokes are used.

The techniques will vary depending to the needs of the client. Sometimes very light strokes are required, while other situations require firm techniques to work out hard and stubborn knots and tissue pains.

A complete session will include controlled breathing and visualization exercises. As well as working through some stretching and posture alignment. There are a lot of elements to a complete shiatsu therapy session. All designed to work on the body’s well-being, on several levels. It’s not just a physical process, there are a wide range of emotional and mental benefits to the treatment.

Shiatsu Massage Therapy Setup

Benefits of Shiatsu Massage

Although it has deep roots that tie back to Japan. Shiatsu as a form of massage therapy has only been widely practiced across the western world since the 1970’s. The benefits of using shiatsu as a healing system became apparent and have been continually developing over time.

The benefits of shiatsu massage include:

  • Improves the body’s circulation
  • Reduces the effects of depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Speeds up the recovery process from muscular injuries
  • Restores the body’s natural energy flow
  • Helps to correct posture and solve back issues
  • Helps resolve insomnia and sleeping issues
  • Reduces the symptoms of internal issues such as IBS, sickness, pains
  • Treats viral infections, sinus problems and respiratory problems

How Does Shiatsu Work?

All the various elements of shiatsu work with the body. Breathing, stretching, meridians, they are all methods to increase the health and well-being of the client. In eastern medicine these elements are treated a lot more seriously than in the western world. They put a lot more belief in these forms of alternative medicine as ways to treat health issues.

Our minds and bodies are connected. So working on the body, works on the mind too. This is why shiatsu is so effective as helping both the mind and body. For example, if we have poor posture we will see an effect on our emotions.

Touch is a powerful sense that opens us up to endless feelings and emotions. Having a supportive form of therapy through touch can promote powerful healing and stimulate the body to heal and change.

Shiatsu uses the pathways of the body’s meridians to help the flow of qi. This is a complex process to understand and has been developed over hundreds of years studying the pathways and flow of qi.

It’s hard to fully explain meridians in words. You can look at it like this; there are main meridians laying across the line of the body. With many other meridians across the body that are all connected in some way.

Illness, bad posture, neglecting our body’s, all cause the flow of energy to be interrupted. This can be restored by stimulating pressure points on the body through shiatsu. So the body’s energy can flow freely, allowing the client to operate optimally and this will result in feeling great.

What Is Shiatsu Massage Good For

Outside of the overall well-being and healing that shiatsu promotes. There are a number of benefits and conditions that shiatsu massage is good for. These include:

Restoring the Body’s Energy Flow

Restoring the body’s flow of qi energy is the primary reason for shiatsu massage. Locating the pressure points and restoring the flow of qi is the goal. When this is achieved a lot of health issues can be resolved.

Improves Blood Circulation

An increase in blood circulation is stimulated through the techniques used in shiatsu massage. This speeds up the body’s recovery from injuries and helps the muscles feel better.

Helps with Chronic Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain you can find a lot of relief from these techniques. Joints, muscles, and tissue pain can be reduced, along with an improved feeling of well-being.

Helps with Sleeping Disorders Like Insomnia

Struggling to sleep can affect all areas of your life. Insomnia, along with other issues that stop you getting quality sleep and feeling rejuvenated can be solved with shiatsu techniques.

Aids with Internal Conditions Like IBS and Menstrual Problems

With the connection between internal organs and the meridian pathways being strengthened there are notable improvements to a number of conditions. Menstrual pain, morning sickness, IBS, other irritable conditions are lessened.

Swedish Massage vs Shiatsu Massage

Finding the right kind of massage can be the difference between feeling great and not experiencing any change. Swedish massage is the most popular and common type of massage, and often used as the go-to massage when someone is feeling run down, experiencing aches and pains, or have a specific problem.

When looking at Swedish massage vs shiatsu massage however there are some fundamental differences that makes these two types of therapy very different.

Swedish massage techniques are typically long, smooth, sweeping strokes. Varying in pressure and working on large areas of muscle groups. While shiatsu techniques work on specific pressure points and target meridians and specific locations across the energy channels.

Another fundamental difference is that Swedish massage uses oils and lotions. The client is required to be de-robed, while for shiatsu you can stay clothed and there are no oils used.

The main directive of a Swedish massage is to increase blood circulation and release tension in the muscles. While shiatsu focuses on the body’s energy flow and restoring optimal health and well-being.

Precautions and Side Effects of Shiatsu

As with all forms of therapy and alternative medicine you should always consult a healthcare professional before going ahead. As well as seek advice as soon as you feel any ill-effects or side-effects.

Shiatsu is generally considered to be very safe when practiced by a qualified professional. There are concerns around performing the therapy on pregnant women, patients who have recently had chemotherapy, and patients with heart conditions.

Contraindications include open sores and wounds, bruising, recent surgeries, and other skin conditions.

History of Shiatsu

Massage and other alternative healing methods have been a key part of Chinese medicine for centuries. The Japanese developed these techniques within their own beliefs about the body’s healing system and the result became known as a technique called shiatsu.

Manipulation of qi through ‘Shi-atsu’ when translated literally means ‘finger pressure’. For centuries it was a part of everyday life in Japan. Finding its way into western culture in the 1970’s.

Since then shiatsu practitioners have continually developed the techniques to where it is today. Each practitioner has their own style and will incorporates different techniques. But finding what works for each client is the real skill, and once this is done the healing benefits cannot be ignored.

Shiatsu Massage Demonstration Video

About the author

Jessica Fuller

I started studying and experimenting with alternative medicine, different massage techniques, and alternative therapies after graduating. I also love travelling and writing, so I found a way to combine all my loves - blogging!