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Shiatsu in Japanese derives from the words finger and pressure. A Shiatsu practitioner is able to deliver a massage that is claimed to improve your well being. Shiatsu massages use a range of contact techniques such as tapping, squeezing and rubbing to stimulate healing in the recipient. The Shiatsu practitioner can utilise Shiatsu to improve joint pain, muscle pain and other problems such as stress. Use to find a Shiatsu practitioner near you.

In This Article
History Of Shiatsu How Does It Work?
A Typical Appointment What To Expect
Timings/ Costs/ Sessions Is It Right For You?

Shiatsu developed in the early 20th century from ancient Chinese therapies that involve unblocking channels (known as meridians) which prevent life energy from flowing freely around the body. The first person to use the term was Tamai Tempaku who originally called it 'shiatsu ryoho' meaning "finger pressure way of healing".

One of the early practitioners of shiatsu was Tokujiro Namikoshi, a student of Tempaku, who developed his style of therapy with western medicine and named it just 'shiatsu'. In 1925, the first shiatsu school opened and by 1940 the Japan Shiatsu Institute was founded. The therapy gained official recognition and regulation in Japan during 1963.

Shiatsu was exported to the United States in 1953 with Namikoshi and his son teaching the therapy at a school in Iowa. Further developments to shiatsu took place during the 1970s when Japanese professor Shizuto Masunaga combined psychology, traditional Chinese medicine and shiatsu and named it 'zen shiatsu'. There are now many styles of shiatsu but all are based upon Namikoshi and Masunaga's methods.  


Ancient Chinese philosophy states that life balance, or Yin and Yang, is dependant on the life energy qi (chi) flowing freely through channels (known as meridians) of the body. When these channels become blocked, illness or disease can occur. Shiatsu aims to unblock these channels, restore balance and allow the body to heal itself through natural processes.

A possible scientific explanation for shiatsu is pressure, mobilisation techniques and stimulation from massage improves circulation, relaxes tension in muscles, releases toxins and triggers responses from the nervous and hormonal systems to aid healing.

Shiatsu isn't necessary just when the body is ill and it can be employed as a preventative therapy to keep energy levels high and stop any problems before they become apparent.


Be prepared!

Currently shiatsu is not regulated in the UK and anyone can call themselves a shiatsu practitioner. In 1981, The Shiatsu Society was formed and has taken on the role of self-regulation and a professional association for shiatsu practitioners. Its members are expected to have a high level of training and abide by a code of ethics and practice. Shiatsu is used in the NHS but generally limited to physiotherapy, coronary and cancer care. It is rare to get a referral for the treatment from your GP and the majority of people use a private practitioner but it is advisable to consult a doctor before making an appointment.

Before your appointment, spend time thinking about your condition and what you expect to achieve with shiatsu. Make some notes before you attend about your expectations and concerns. If you have a few conditions, put them in order so the shiatsu practitioner can address the most severe first. Secondary problems can then be addresses further down the line.

It is advisable not to drink alcohol on the day of your appointment and to drink plenty of water instead. Have a light meal (nothing spicy or fatty) a couple of hours before you see the practitioner as they may apply pressure to your stomach which would prove uncomfortable to you with a heavy or undigested meal. Avoid any activity that requires too much exertion and don't take a hot bath on the day of your appointment.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing and allow plenty of time to get to your appointment; hurrying will affect your physical and mental well-being and be detrimental to the effects of the therapy.


During your appointment the shiatsu practitioner will first take a case history from information provided by you about your health, symptoms and diet. You will remain fully clothed throughout the session and it will take place lying down on a futon mat at floor level or on a treatment couch. It is possible for the therapy to take place in a chair if you are not able to lie down. Some therapists also use soothing music during the session to aid relaxation.

The practitioner may begin by touching your abdomen to gauge your body's energy levels and which areas need special attention. This is called 'hara' in Japanese. They will then begin applying pressure to areas of your body using fingers, thumbs, elbows and occasionally feet. They will also use gentle stretches and massage techniques to ease tension in the muscles and help mobilise joints.

After the treatment, many people feel relaxed and energised with increased mobility in their muscles and joints. There can be mild side effects like headaches, muscle soreness and a feeling of tiredness but this is normal and will usually pass after a few hours. Should they continue beyond a day or two then consult your practitioner.


Treatment times vary and your first appointment will usually take a little longer while the shiatsu practitioner gains an idea of your condition and explains the therapy to you. Expect your first session to last up to an hour and a half. Subsequent sessions will usually be an hour in length with some practitioners offering 30 minute sessions.

As a general guide, a first session can cost from £30 - £60 with subsequent sessions slightly lower but be aware that prices vary from town to town and practitioner's overheads vary so check first before making an appointment. Home visits will usually incur an extra charge.

You may find that you feel the benefits of shiatsu from your first treatment and after your first two or three appointments you and your shiatsu practitioner will have a good idea of its effectiveness. It is recommended that a course last between six and ten treatments but will often be based on your progress. Many people continue with the therapy even when their condition has cleared up.


Shiatsu is a safe and effective therapy when practised by a trained shiatsu practitioner and it is widely used for a number of conditions. It's important to check training and membership to an approved association before making an appointment.

Shiatsu is not recommended for people who have just had surgery or have open wounds and skin disorders. Anyone suffering with heart disease or osteoporosis should consult their GP before making an appointment and those with blood clot problems should avoid the therapy as there is a risk of the clot being dislodged.

Pregnant women have benefited from the therapy but certain pressure points on the body should be avoided so make sure you find a practitioner who has experience in this area.

This therapy or modality may help with:

Abdominal Pain Anxiety Arthritis
Back Pain Blood pressure Breathing disorders
Bronchitis Childbirth Chronic Fatigue
Chronic Pain Circulation Problems Constipation
Dementia Diarrhoea Digestive Problems
Dysmenorrhea Endometriosis Fractures
Frozen Shoulder Headaches Heel Pain
Immune System Dysfunction Insomnia Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Joint Pain Ligament Sprain Lumbago
Lymphedema M E Migraines
Muscle Cramps Neck pain Neck stiffness
Osteoporosis PMS PMT Pregnancy
Repetitive strain injury Rheumatism Sciatica
Scoliosis Shoulder pain Spinal Injury
Sports injuries Sprain (Ankle, Knee) Stomach cramps
Stress Stroke Tennis Elbow
Tiredness Urinary Problems Whiplash

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