Health Guide


What is it?

Shiatsu is a form of massage that was developed in Japan in the early 1900's. It is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine but has also been influenced by Western medicine. In Japanese, Shiatsu means "finger pressure." It was developed by a Japanese therapist, Tamai Tempaku, who combined the traditional Japanese massage with knowledge of Western anatomy.

Shiatsu was officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1964 . The practice quickly grew in Japan and later in the United States. There are over 1200 Shiatsu practitioners in the United States. Most of the massage schools teach Shiatsu as part of their programs. A form of Shiatsu called "do-in" can also be used as a self-help method for many conditions. Shiatsu is closely related to acupressure.

Shiatsu is based on the Chinese medicine principle of chi (see the Traditional Chinese Medicine document). Pressing specific points on the body will help to reduce the chi in the body where it is in excess. Pressure on other points will help increase the chi in areas that are deficient. Some practitioners also massage along the acupuncture channels to stimulate the flow of chi through the channel.

Shiatsu is ideally used to prevent illness. It is much easier to keep the body in good condition and prevent disease rather than to treat it once it has developed. Shiatsu helps stimulate the body's natural ability to heal and prevent disease.

Therapists determine what type of treatment a person needs by feeling their abdomen and other tissues. This process is called "hara" diagnosis.

Therapy is usually pleasant and can be relaxing or energizing. Treatments are usually pain-free even when the therapist works on the areas with sore muscles. The treatment is applied to all parts of the body with an emphasis on those areas with symptoms or pain.

The patient remains fully clothed during the treatment and lies on a mattress on the floor. The session starts at a point below the belly button called the tandem. Shiatsu practitioners believe this is where the chi is stored.

Sessions usually last one hour. Several treatments may be needed to effectively deal with your specific problem. For prevention, most practitioners suggest one or two Shiatsu sessions a month.

Many people have found Shiatsu helpful for muscle pain, arthritis, stress, insomnia, headaches, migraines, digestive problems, menstrual pain, asthma, and sinus problems. Shiatsu may be used as a complementary therapy for serious diseases.

People using Shiatsu should make sure they tell their practitioner if they have the following conditions: pregnancy, cancer, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), high blood pressure, epilepsy, osteoporosis, thrombosis, diabetes, or circulation problems. People should avoid alcohol, large meals, hot baths, and exercise right after the treatment. These activities will reduce the benefits of the treatment.

Many massage therapists and body workers specialize in Shiatsu. You can locate a Shiatsu practitioner by finding therapeutic massage in the local yellow pages.

For more information:


    1. Burton Goldberg Group: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup, WA; 1994.

    2. Inglis B & West R: The Alternative Health Guide. Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY; 1983.

    3. Kastner MA: Alternative Healing: The Complete A to Z Guide to Over 160 Different Alternative Therapies. Halcyon Publishing, La Mesa, CA; 1993.

    4. Sifton DW: The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY; 1999.

    5. Woodham A & Peters D: Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies, 1st ed. Dorling Kindersley, NY, NY; 1997.

    Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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