Shiatsu massage: Definition, benefits and techniques


Shiatsu is a form of massage that uses the hands, thumb, or other parts of the body to apply direct pressure to various points or channels on the body. It is performed through loose clothing and does not use oils.

Massage has been a practice that has been around for thousands of years. Shiatsu is one of many different massage therapies that people seek for relaxation, healing, and relief.

This article discusses shiatsu massage, what to expect, its benefits, and its risks. It also explores how shiatsu is different from other types of massage.

Shiatsu is a body practice originating in Japan. It incorporates traditional Japanese manual therapies such as acupuncture and anmaan ancient style of Japanese massage, with western medical knowledge.

Medical professionals consider shiatsu to be a modified form of acupressure, a massage therapy that involves pressing specific points on the body to reduce tension and fatigue by improving blood and lymph circulation.

Shiatsu has its roots in the concept of qi. In traditional Chinese medicine, qi is the life force that drives all life activities. He believes that health occurs when qi flows unhindered. When it becomes deficient or blocked, symptoms such as body aches, headaches and digestive problems appear.

Learn more about the concept of qi deficiency here.

A shiatsu therapist applies pressure to the body’s meridians, parts of the body considered channels of energy, to balance or unblock the flow of energy (qi).

While shiatsu involves finger pressure, a shiatsu therapist may also use the palms, elbows, and sometimes the feet to apply pressure along energy lines or paths to relieve pain and tension. in the body.

Before the session begins, a shiatsu practitioner assesses the person and assesses their state of qi to plan the session. The practitioner can perform various protocols depending on the general energy level of the person, the presence of blockages and the conditions.

For example, when a person has deficient energy levels, the practitioner uses techniques to reactivate or stimulate the circulation of blood and qi. During this time, they can use techniques to diffuse excess energy in anxious and stressed people.

Practitioners perform manual techniques such as holding, stretching, patting, pressing, kneading and soothing, using their thumbs, fingers, palms and knees. They can also do more body stretches, rotations and joint mobilizations.

From time to time, the therapist may ask the person to change positions to allow them to work on specific meridian points of stagnation or energy blockages.

Shiatsu does not use instruments or oils. During a session, individuals are fully clothed and traditionally lie on a futon on the floor, but lying on a massage table is also common.

Shiatsu is a form of holistic therapy that improves a person’s overall health by affecting their internal energy system. It claims to help:

There is little scientific research to support the use of shiatsu in most of these conditions.

However, a 2019 study found that combining shiatsu with standard treatment for low back pain improves symptoms and quality of life soon after the session.

Hand self-shiatsu, a form of self-application of shiatsu, also encouraged sleep in young people with chronic pain. Similar studies have found the technique effective for young athletes who suffered from sports-related concussions. A 2021 study found the same effects for veterans and their family members.

It was also efficient in the induction of spontaneous labor in women with postterm pregnancy.

Shiatsu is generally considered safe. However, some people may need to avoid it. These include those with the following conditions:

People with serious illnesses should first consult their doctor before getting shiatsu or any other type of massage.

Shiatsu shares similarities with other types of massage. However, it also features techniques that are distinct from other conventional forms of massage.

Shiatsu vs Swedish massage

Shiatsu and Swedish massage both use the hands and palms to perform manual movements with the body. However, Swedish massage involves techniques that differ from those used in shiatsu, including effleurage, petrissage, percussion and friction. Additionally, Swedish massage techniques require the use of oil.

While shiatsu focuses on pressure points, Swedish massage focuses on muscles and connective tissues. This is why therapists can allow individuals to determine their preferred massage level or strength.

Shiatsu vs. Thai massage

Shiatsu and Thai massage are dry massages. They both focus on improving the flow of energy throughout the body, but have their origins in different traditional practices.

Although both use energy flows, they differ in their primary purpose. Shiatsu focuses on deep pressure on the meridians, while Thai massage focuses on relieving tension, improving circulation, and improving flexibility. This is why Thai massage is sometimes called assisted yoga.

Shiatsu vs deep tissue massage

Unlike shiatsu, which offers a holistic approach to the body by balancing the flow of energy, deep tissue massage focuses on specific points such as injured muscles and chronic muscle tension.

Learn more about the different types of massages here.

Here are some common questions about shiatsu massage.

Is shiatsu massage painful?

Shiatsu is generally painless. It provides specific and firm pressure. However, there may be areas where the practitioner will apply more pressure.

It is typical for people to experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for 24-48 hours after the session. According to some experts, DOMS can result from microscopic tears in muscle fibers that can occur during exercise, and that this pain is due to the healing process.

What is the difference between shiatsu massage and ashiatsu massage?

Shiatsu and ashiatsu originated in Japan. They share the influences of traditional Chinese medicine and use pressure in their technique. Both aim to restore, energize or stabilize energy channels.

They differ in how practitioners apply pressure to their clients. “Shi” in shiatsu means finger and “ashi” means foot. Ashiatsu, also called barefoot massage, involves using bare feet to apply movement, assisted stretching, and deep compression.

A person who wants to try shiatsu should ensure that they are working with certified and licensed practitioners. Friends and family can recommend nearby therapists and clinics.

They can also use the American Massage Therapy Association’s national locator service or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) directory service.

Shiatsu is an ancient practice that uses traditional Chinese medicine to apply manual pressure to specific parts of the body. It uses various techniques to treat conditions, reduce tension and pain, and improve overall health.

Although generally safe, it may not be suitable for specific people. People with health problems should consult their doctor before doing shiatsu or any other type of massage.


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