If you are interested in alternative healing methods, you may want to check out Shiatsu. It is Japanese bodywork that is considered highly therapeutic. At its most basic, Shiatsu is a mix of massage and acupuncture. However different styles can influence how it is practiced.


Shiatsu has been around since the start of the 1900s and integrates traditional medicine with what is now known from more modern western medical knowledge. Many people who receive this type of bodywork report numerous health benefits. Shiatsu is commonly used to treat many different diseases and chronic conditions.

What Does It Look Like?

Shiatsu is completely non-invasive and for those who are shy, may actually be preferable to massage. This is because Shiatsu is practiced over clothing. The actual word ‘shiatsu’ translates into ‘finger pressure,’ which is a good way to describe the style of the massage. In actual practice, it is a combination of pressing, tapping, kneading, soothing, stretching, and tapping done along the body without any use of oils.

What Does Shiatsu Look Like?

The Vital Energy

The fundamental concept behind the Shiatsu massage is based on Qi, a Japanese/Chinese medicine. This principle is based on the belief that there is vital energy within the body that flows along meridians. A Shiatsu therapist can get to the Qi via points that fall along the meridians.  If there is a lot of Qi in the extremities and the flow is smooth, then health will be good. When the vital energy is disrupted, then there are problems, but the belief is that Shiatsu therapy can reverse this problem.

The Vital Energy and Shiatsu

Balancing Disharmony

The goal of a trained Shiatsu therapist is to identify areas where there may be disharmony. The goal would be to determine the problem before physical signs appear so that the individual can stay healthy. However, if an imbalance appears the therapist can still treat it and resort balance with proper assessment and then treatment. Most Shiatsu therapists recommend that their clients book regular appointments with them so they can ensure their vital energy is always flowing smoothly. Some practitioners will also offer advice about activity and lifestyle changes that can help maintain harmony in the body.

Disharmony and the Practice of Shiatsu

What to Expect During Therapy

Like any other therapy, at the beginning of Shiatsu therapy, the therapist will evaluate you to determine where any imbalance is in your body so that they can assess your needs. This is called finding ‘the state of the Qi.’ Once this is assessed, the therapist will share a plan with you that will help benefit you based on your needs. Shiatsu can be both invigorating and relaxing depending on where the imbalance is found in your body. It can vary per person and vary per session.

What to Expect During Shiatsu Therapy?

How Often is it Needed?

The amount of Shiatsu sessions for proper maintenance of changes to the Qi depends on the reason why a person needs treatment. Those who need their Qi balanced because of regular life stresses will not require as many sessions as those who are treating a chronic condition. Many people will find that one session per month is enough to keep balance maintained. While others may find that they need to see a Shiatsu therapist on a more frequent basis.

How Often is Shiatsu Therapy Needed?

Overall Mental Effect of Therapy

As mentioned, Shiatsu therapy will affect different people in different ways. Ultimately, regular Shiatsu therapy will help to stabilize your moods since it will help bring your Qi back into balance. In the short term, however, you may find the therapy sedative and calming, or you may be stimulated and come out of every session invigorated. The state of your Qi determines the approach that is taken and what you will need to get realigned. Either way, the result of your mental health should be positive.

Overall Mental Effect of Shiatsu Therapy

Treating Health Issues

Outside of just helping to reduce stress, there are a lot of health issues that can be treated with Shiatsu therapy according to those who practice it.  The therapy is considered non-invasive and can help promote wellbeing in those who use it. Proponents of Shiatsu therapy claim that it can be used as a preventative and reactive therapy to help treat issues that can range from internal to emotional to musculoskeletal to digestive to the nervous system.

Treating Health Issues with Shiatsu Therapy

Specific Conditions that Shiatsu Therapy Can Help With

While advocates of Shiatsu therapy believe that balancing the Qi will help solve a lot of health problems, they also believe that certain chronic conditions can be treated or at least aided by the use of therapy. While they are aware that Shiatsu is not the cure for all medical conditions, they believe that the therapy is a great way to treat symptoms and offer some relief for the patient. Some of the chronic conditions believed to be helped by Shiatsu therapy include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, musculoskeletal pain, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, PMS, and more.

Specific Conditions that Shiatsu Therapy Can Help With

Is It Evidence-Based Yet?

While Shiatsu is the primary form of manual therapy in Japan, there is not yet evidence published in the Western world to attest to its effectiveness. There is research that is ongoing and has been published in several Japanese journals that seems to prove that it works. There are anecdotal forms of evidence in the US, but more research is ongoing. Currently, two large studies are being conducted in Europe examining how effective Shiatsu is.

Is Shiatsu Evidence Based Yet?

Where Can I Find a Practitioner?

If you are interested in trying out Shiatsu therapy, you will want to find one that is certified by the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia. The highest certification that a Shiatsu therapist can receive is the national certificate exam for Asian Bodywork Therapy. This is awarded to them by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. You will want to make sure that your therapist has this accreditation before booking a session.

Where Can I Find a Shiatsu Practitioner?


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.