The Healing Power of Shiatsu


Modern day, conventional, and western medicine all believe in the healing of diseases and ailments by administering pills, intravenous injections, and surgery. However, traditional methods of healing viewed ailments as a comprehensive issue that involved physical, mental, spiritual, and environmental factors. Ancient healers believed in synchronizing the body’s energy systems with the natural environment to bring back health and wellness. Shiatsu is one such modality that heals by regulating the life energy of the patient.

What is Shiatsu Therapy?
Shiatsu is based on the premise that illnesses occur because of blockages in the free flow of life energy or “qi” through the meridians of the body. It seeks to remove these blockages by applying gentle pressure on specific points. The pressure realigns the meridians along with the immune and nervous systems. Shiatsu can also restore the optimum functioning of the circulatory system so that better blood flow is promoted.


Shiatsu is a healing method that enhances and assists the body’s natural regenerative capabilities. It works to treat the person’s physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological facets. Broadly speaking, the body has twelve meridians such as the liver, gallbladder, triple heater, heart governor, bladder, small intestine, heart, spleen, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, and lungs. Shiatsu takes into account not just the functioning of the organs, but also their effects on the psyche of the patient.

Although Shiatsu translates into “finger pressure” in Japanese, it combines a series of actions such as gentle pressure on specific areas, touch, and massage-like manipulations to make intricate adjustments in the physiology of the body so that the energy flow is regulated. Shiatsu can treat illnesses, help reduce stress and anxiety, and bring back good health and wellness.

History of Shiatsu
Traditional Chinese Medicine includes modalities like herbal medications, acupuncture, cupping therapy, and massage therapy, among others and has been in use for thousands of years. In the 6th century, a Buddhist monk carried the knowledge to Japan. Japanese healers adapted and refined the philosophy to match their climate, physical structure, and mental and emotional makeup. Eventually, they developed a unique healing method that was effective in treating abdominal and other ailments. The techniques they used had roots in massage therapy and came to be known as Shiatsu as we know it today.

In today’s times, the original massage technique that forms the basis of Shiatsu, namely “tui na,” “anmo,” and “anma” continues to be used. However, it has evolved to a science that is more closely related to recreation and enjoyment than medicinal healing.

In an attempt to preserve the true essence of Shiatsu in its therapeutic form, in the early years of the 20th century, the healer Tamai Tempaku interlinked modern physiotherapy and chiropractic methodologies with the ancient therapy. He also worked to interpret the modality in terms of Western anatomy and physiology. Accordingly, he used terms like shiatsu ryoho or shiatsu ho to denote a kind of healing that used pressure exerted by the fingers. In 1964, the Japanese Government officially delineated Shiatsu from “Anma” and conventional massage therapy, recognizing it as a distinct healing modality.

Shiatsu Janet Attwood

How the Therapy is Administered
If you would like to explore and try this form of healing, you can look for the academies that have been founded and developed by the early practitioners of Shiatsu such as Shizuto Masunaga and Tokujiro Namikoshi. While Shiatsu literally translates into finger pressure, it also includes applying pressure on the pressure points of the body using the feet, knees, elbows, hands, and thumbs. In addition, the therapist uses movements like stretching and rotating the muscles, joints, and limbs to target the meridians in the body.

Shiatsu is performed through the clothes and the therapist recommends that you lie on a futon. In addition to the massage, she may also recommend deep breathing, visualization, meditation, stretching, and exercising by yourself. Self-awareness movements so that you tune into the environment are also advised.

Different Forms of Shiatsu
Various therapists adapt Shiatsu according to their individual philosophical belief systems and theories. This therapy is constantly evolving with many therapists using acupressure and acupuncture pressure points to guide their movements. Some others use the macrobiotic methodology or the Five Element system to guide their healing practices.

The main forms of Shiatsu in use today are:

  • Hara Shiatsu
  • Movement Shiatsu
  • Namikoshi Shiatsu
  • Healing Shiatsu
  • Zen Shiatsu
  • Macrobiotic Shiatsu.

Benefits of Shiatsu

Zen Shiatsu Massage Therapist

Here are some of the positives that Shiatsu treatments can bring about.

  • Promotes blood circulation in the body
  • Stimulates healing from sprains and other muscular injuries
  • Brings relief from pain resulting from arthritis
  • Treats stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Promotes recovery from colds, coughs, and any other respiratory issues
  • Helps relieve symptoms of insomnia so patients sleep better
  • Brings relief from backaches, sciatica, migraines, and headaches
  • Helps with anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Relieves fatigue and lack of energy
  • Helps treat digestive disorders like morning sickness and bowel movements to eliminate toxic waste
  • Regulates the menstrual cycle
  • Helps treat skin issues

Contraindications of Shiatsu
Although Shiatsu has no side effects and can be taken by any person, young and old, under certain conditions, it may not be advisable.

  • Since Shiatsu stimulates the sebaceous and sweat glands and may lead to the warming of the skin, patients with skin conditions may be advised against it. These conditions include scabies, warts, ringworm, psoriasis, lice, impetigo, eczema, herpes, ulcers, burns, blisters, acne, blisters, and athlete’s foot.
  • Shiatsu includes stimulation of the muscles and patients with muscular conditions must inform the therapist in advance. Some such conditions are muscle strains, cramps, tendonitis, whiplash, and muscular dystrophy, among others.
  • Shiatsu has the effect of stimulating your endocrine system. For this reason, if you have any conditions such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and other similar issues, you must request for a go-ahead from your medical practitioner.
  • If you have a history of lupus, chronic fatigue, strokes, congestive heart failure, angina, anemia, migraines, and other such circulatory problems, do inform your therapist before the session.
  • Pregnant women can benefit from Shiatsu massages, however, the therapist must take care to avoid the areas such as the abdomen, legs below the knees, shoulders on each side of the neck and the web of skin between the forefinger and thumb.

Shiatsu can prove to be highly beneficial for various medical issues. In addition, it can help boost your immunity so you remain protected from diseases. It can also help promote good health and wellness and help you feel relaxed and in tune with your surroundings.

“The Benefits of Shiatsu Massage.” Massage & Shiatsu Therapy School Blog. 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
“About Shiatsu.” Shiatsu Society. n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Monahan, Eric. “The Benefits of Shiatsu Massage.” 16 July, 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
“What is shiatsu.” Well Mother. n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.