What is it?

Shiatsu is the sustained application of pressure to various acupressure points, meridians (as in acupuncture) and areas of the body using mainly the thumbs, knuckles, fingers and palms and sometimes the elbows, knees and feet.

Treatment is usually given with the recipient lying on a floor mat and normally lasts 30 to 90 minutes. Loose clothing is worn.

The aim is to restore and balance the flow of ‘chi’ (energy), release tension and induce relaxation.
Shiatsu variations

Shiatsu was originally developed as a separate therapy in the early 1900s by a practitioner named Tamai Tempaku. Since then, various forms have been developed.

* Tokujiro Namikoshi and his son, Toru, emphasised pressure on neuro-muscular points to release pain and tension. Wataru Ohashi extended this work in the US.
* Katsusuke Serizawa developed tsubo therapy, emphasising stimulation of particular acupoints and their nerve reflexes. This was developed into ‘acupressure shiatsu’ in the US.
* Shizuto Masunaga developed a comprehensive theory for shiatsu based on traditional Chinese medicine and incorporated spiritual aspects, calling it ‘Zen shiatsu’.

What’s it good for?

Shiatsu is used to restore vitality, release tension and pain, promote health and treat disease. Research has confirmed its relaxing effect.
Take care

Generally, shiatsu shouldn’t be used in cases of cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, osteoporosis or fractures.
Further information

If you’d like to learn more about shiatsu and its uses, the following organisations and publications may help:

Shiatsu Society
Eastlands Court, St Peters Road, Rugby CV21 3QP
Tel: 0845 130 4560

Shiatsu: The Complete Guide by Chris Jarmey and Gabriel Mojay
ISBN: 0722539142

Shiatsu Made Simple by Chris Jarmey
ISBN: 1902463501

The Complete Book of Shiatsu Therapy by Toru Namikoshi
ISBN: 087040461X

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Stephen Hopwood in April 2009.