Shiatsu refers generally to a Japanese pressure therapy used to relieve a variety of problems including back pain, neck and shoulder problems, stress, insomnia, digestive issues, and fatigue. It is also helpful in pregnancy with alleviating morning sickness, heartburn, preeclampsia, bodily discomfort, muscle tension, fatigue, edema, and carpal tunnel.
Shiatsu involves the therapist skillfully applying pressure to all parts of the body along specific pathways, called meridians. These are essentially the same meridians that are used in traditional Chinese medicine for acupuncture. Finger pressure is used, along with assisted stretching, and joint mobilization. The Shiatsu recipient should be dressed comfortably with light clothing. No massage oils or lotions are used or needed because the therapist does not slide along the body surface, but give a series of presses along the pathways. The therapy does not focus on one part of the body, even if the health problem is localized; the entire body becomes involved to integrate the systems as a whole.
Using intentional touch, the therapist feels the body’s condition, particularly the circulation, in order to find the imbalanced areas in the body. By carefully stimulating the imbalanced meridians and attending to the responses of the recipient, the therapist can help restore the balanced flow. From the Western point of view, Shiatsu works directly to calm the autonomic nervous system, which has the effect of calming nervous distress and increasing relaxation. By helping with blood and lymph circulation in the body, Shiatsu helps to maintain and improve muscle tone and healthy internal organ function. It is believed that Shiatsu can also strengthen the immune system. Shiatsu stimulates the natural healing abilities of the body, allowing symptoms to diminish and vitality to be regained. The therapy provides an opportunity for the body to connect physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually, which can aide in a deeper level of healing. Regular and consistent shiatsu treatments can become an important aspect of preventative health care as well as treatment for existing symptoms.