Long Term Benefits Found In Shiatsu Massage Therapy

Updated on February 6, 2020

Research into the potential of alternative medicine has revealed that Shiatsu is an important modality for reaching long term health.  The study explored the possibility of Shiatsu in promoting well-being and critical health literacy.

Shiatsu is an ancient traditional Chinese healing method.  Shiatsu means ‘finger pressure.’  Pressure and stretching are vital components of Shiatsu therapy.  

The Chinese around 530 BCE developed shiatsu techniques.  In the sixth century, a Buddhist monk, Gan Jin Osho brought the imperial medicine of China which included Oriental Bodywork, Tao-yin, and Anma to Japan.

These Therapies reached a peak in Japan during the Edo Period (1601-1867) when a ruling was made requiring every physician to master Oriental bodywork before they were allowed to diagnose or use any method in its practice.

The technique evolved in Japan, Southern Asia and Korea where it was extensively practiced.

Shiatsu teaches that disease is the result of blocked or unbalanced energy.  Once any areas of blockage have been diagnosed the therapist will then begin the treatment taking notice of specific pressure points determining whether these points may be tender or stiff. 

Article about Osaki Massage Chairs by wellnesswires.com mentioned that “many massage equipment such as massage chairs was developed with Shiatsu treatment in mind”

In 1919, Tamai Tempaku, (later to be regarded as the founder of the Shiatsu School of Bodywork) published his second book titled ‘Shiatsu Ho’ (finger pressure therapy).  Tempaku was known for his exhaustive study of European anatomy, physiology, massage, and oriental bodywork therapies.

In 1925 “The Shiatsu Therapists Association” was formed in Japan.  During the post, World War II  reorganization and allied occupation of Japan, Harikyu Shiatsu, as Japanese medicine is termed were outlawed by General McArthur.  

It was reinstated however because of the enormous outcry from the Japanese people.  In the mid 1950′s, Shiatsu was recognized as a legitimate form of therapy by the Japanese government.

During the history of Shiatsu, it has evolved into many different methods while still retaining the original intent of the modality.  One example of this evolutionary path is seen in the way it has taken to western cultures.  In 1980, Harold Dull of California developed a method of Shiatsu called Zen Shiatsu during which the therapy is applied to the recipient in a warm pool of water.

During a standard Shiatsu treatment, the certified therapist will assess where chi (qi) flows healthily and where it may be blocked. 

These pressure points run along the 14 meridians that span the length of the body.  Once diagnosed the therapist will gently but firmly apply pressure to these points, each corresponding to a specific region of the body.

Two meridians are Central, drawing Chi through the torso: The Governor, which runs along the back of the body and The Conception which runs along the front of the body.  The other 12 meridians occur in mirrored pairs along with the symmetric halves of the body.

In the past, complementary and alternative medicine has not received substantial attention within health promotion and CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) literature.  During these six months of pragmatic observational study, data were drawn in 3 European countries, Austria, Spain, and the UK.  Each recipient of Shiatsu Therapy received a questionnaire inquiring on four main areas of the study.

Advice Received

Changes made six months after Clients ‘hopes’ from receiving Shiatsu Therapy. Features of the Client/Practitioner Relationship

75% of the recipients get information on exercise, posture diet, points to work on at home and other self-care techniques. 

The six-month follow-up, nearly 85% of reported people making changes to their lifestyle as a  result of the Shiatsu Treatment.

The unique benefits logged from this study were:

  • Improved Relaxation
  • Better Rest
  • Increased Exercise
  • Reduced Time at Work
  • Increased Mind/Body Awareness
  • Higher Levels of Confidence and Resolve
  • Positive Diet Change
  • The conclusion from this study

“Supporting individuals to take control of their self-care requires advice-giving within a supportive treatment context and practitioner relationship, with clients who are open to change and committed to maintaining their health. 

CAM modalities may have an important role to play in this endeavor”.

An essential role for us as Therapists is to remember that we hold inside us information that can and will improve the lives of those who seek all of the health benefits of our field.

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