Shiatsu Therapy

Bryan Paget
5 min readMar 14, 2023
Tokujiro Namikoshi

Shiatsu therapy is a traditional Japanese form of massage that has been used for centuries to promote healing and relaxation. The practice is rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which emphasizes the balance and flow of energy (known as “qi” or “chi”) throughout the body. In this blog post, we will explore the history and practice of shiatsu therapy, including its key principles, techniques, and potential benefits.

History of Shiatsu Therapy

Shizuto Masunaga

Shiatsu therapy was developed in Japan in the early 20th century by Tokujiro Namikoshi, who was inspired by his own experiences with childhood illness and the healing powers of touch. Namikoshi founded the Japan Shiatsu College in 1940, which is still one of the most respected institutions for shiatsu training today.

Another prominent figure in the development of shiatsu therapy was Shizuto Masunaga, who expanded upon Namikoshi’s work by incorporating traditional meridian therapy and other principles from TCM. Masunaga’s approach emphasized the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit, and the importance of balancing energy flows to promote overall health and wellbeing.

Key Principles and Techniques of Shiatsu Therapy

Shiatsu therapy is based on the principle that the body has a system of channels, or meridians, through which energy flows. When these channels become blocked or disrupted, it can lead to physical, emotional, and mental imbalances. Shiatsu practitioners use various techniques to stimulate these channels and promote the free flow of energy throughout the body.

One of the main techniques used in shiatsu therapy is finger pressure, or “tsubo” in Japanese. Practitioners apply pressure to specific points along the meridians, using their fingers, palms, elbows, or knees. This pressure can be firm or gentle, depending on the needs of the individual receiving the treatment.

Shiatsu therapy also incorporates stretching, joint mobilization, and other techniques to promote relaxation, release tension, and improve overall body alignment. Practitioners may also use heat, such as warm towels or hot stones, to enhance the therapeutic effects of the treatment.

Potential Benefits of Shiatsu Therapy

One of the key benefits of shiatsu therapy is its ability to promote deep relaxation and reduce stress. Shiatsu stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “rest and digest” response in the body. This can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and promote overall feelings of calm and wellbeing.

Shiatsu therapy has also been shown to have potential benefits for a variety of physical and emotional conditions, including chronic pain, headaches, digestive issues, and depression. While the scientific evidence for these benefits is still emerging, many people report significant improvements in their symptoms after receiving shiatsu therapy.

The Science of Shiatsu Therapy

While shiatsu therapy is rooted in traditional Eastern principles, there is also a growing body of scientific research exploring its potential therapeutic effects. For example, a 2015 systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that shiatsu therapy was effective for reducing pain, anxiety, and stress in people with various conditions.

Other studies have explored the physiological effects of shiatsu therapy, such as its impact on circulation, immune function, and hormone levels. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying these effects, the growing body of evidence suggests that shiatsu therapy may be a valuable complementary therapy for a variety of health conditions.

Statistics

Here are some interesting statistics related to shiatsu, massage, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM):

  1. According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, 19% of adults in the United States received at least one massage between July 2018 and July 2019.
  2. The global massage equipment market is projected to reach USD 7.2 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% from 2020 to 2025.
  3. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that shiatsu massage therapy improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue in cancer survivors.
  4. In Japan, shiatsu massage is covered by national health insurance and is recognized as a form of medical treatment.
  5. According to a report by the World Health Organization, TCM is used by over 1 billion people worldwide, and acupuncture and moxibustion are practiced in over 183 countries and regions.
  6. The global TCM market size was valued at USD 118.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.3% from 2021 to 2028.
  7. A meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials found that acupuncture was more effective than medication in treating chronic lower back pain.
  8. A study published in the journal Medical Acupuncture found that acupuncture can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
  9. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, massage therapy may be helpful for reducing pain and improving mood in people with chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and chronic low back pain.

Conclusion

Shiatsu therapy is a traditional Japanese form of massage that has been used for centuries to promote healing and relaxation. Based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, shiatsu therapy involves stimulating the body’s energy channels to promote the free flow of energy and balance throughout the body.

The above statistics highlight the growing popularity and acceptance of shiatsu, massage, and TCM as effective forms of complementary and alternative medicine. While more research is needed to fully understand their mechanisms of action, these therapies have shown promise in improving various aspects of physical and mental health.

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