Benefits of Shiatsu

Shiatsu massage promotes good health through focusing on deep relaxation, which in turn allows the receiver to activate and experience his/her own healing. This feeling of restfulness, associated with better posture, breathing and circulation, can lead to a state of enhanced wellbeing, and can help strengthen the immune system and assist with the function of internal organs.

In essence, though very useful in remedial therapy (see below), regular Shiatsu treatments can help maintain and experience good health, in a proactive and preventative way.

Conditions helped by Shiatsu

Shiatsu can be of benefit when experiencing:

In addition, Shiatsu can be useful when going through life experiences and transitions such as:

  • Pregnancy: receiving Shiatsu during and after pregnancy can also be beneficial in helping the mother’s body adjust through the different phases of gestation and recover from childbirth
  • Sports injuries
  • Surgery: Shiatsu can help with alleviating pre or post-operative stress
  • Cancer and other long-term chronic conditions: Shiatsu can be offered as physical and emotional support for people experiencing cancer or other long-term conditions (see Cancer Research UK)

If you are considering using Shiatsu as a complementary therapy for a medical condition, always discuss it with your doctor or healthcare professional first.

What is the Evidence?

Due to the highly tailored and varied approaches used in each Shiatsu treatment, and because of the relative short history of modern Shiatsu in the Western world, scientific studies to systematically document the efficacy of this form of therapy are still in their infancy. A review of current research suggests that

“Some of the most common symptoms which may be amenable to treatment by Shiatsu include: headaches, migraine, stiff necks and shoulders, backaches, coughs, colds, menstrual problems, respiratory illnesses including asthma and bronchitis, sinus trouble and catarrh, insomnia, tension, anxiety and depression, fatigue and weakness, digestive disorders and bowel trouble, circulatory problems, rheumatic and arthritic complaints, sciatica and conditions following sprains and injuries.”

In studies where protocol-based treatments were given (very different from a Shiatsu session) several acupressure points have been found to have beneficial effects on health conditions “in particular: SP6 for dysmenorrhoea; PC6 for nausea and vomiting postoperatively, in chemotherapy and pregnancy; combinations of ST36, SP6, KI1, KI3, HT17, KI11 and GB34 for renal symptoms; a range of points for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder); HT7 and other points for sleep in elderly residents; and perhaps GB20, GV20, HT7, PC6 and SP6 for agitation in dementia”.

With regards to individualised treatments, several studies provide pragmatic evidence for relief from low back pain and headache. Other studies also supported the long-term effects of acupressure/Shiatsu, for example for nausea and vomiting.

In Conclusion:

The review concludes that “the evidence for protocol-based treatment supports suggestions that nurses incorporate acupressure and Shiatsu into their practice, in particular for pain relief, fatigue in cancer, augmenting effects of medication, providing comfort and improving breathing. Shiatsu could be effectively delivered in general practice but further research in clinical and cost effectiveness is warranted”

In Vienna a 15 year trial in a hospital was conducted, in the course of which 30000 Shiatsu treatments were given, and the administration of shiatsu in parallel with standard hospital care was highly recommended by the hospital staff. Follow this link to watch a video illustrating this happening, possibly a blueprint for similar trials to also be run in the UK.