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What Is Shiatsu Massage?

Shiatsu is an ancient Japanese bodywork that was developed by Tokujiro Namikoshi in the 1920s. It is based on the integration of Japan's traditional manual therapies of acupuncture and Anma (an old Japanese massage style)  with modern western medical knowledge.

But, what is Shiatsu precisely? The answer lies in the name.

It comes from the Japanese words “shi” and “atsu”, with the full name Shiatsu meaning “finger pressure”.  Many healthcare professionals view shiatsu as a form of acupressure, as it primarily uses pressure points to reduce muscle tension, stimulate blood circulation and deliver healing. But Japanese shiatsu involves so much more than just finger pressure. Your shiatsu therapist might use their knuckles, elbows, feet and knees to deliver just the right amount of pressure to your body. Furthermore, they may use a combination of kneading, tapping and even stretching to improve joint mobility.

Like many similar Asian massage therapy styles, the Japanese Shiatsu therapy was developed as a way to unblock your qi (chi). In Traditional Chinese medicine, your qi, or your “life force”, travels freely through your body. Any disruption or obstructions of your energy flow results in diseases and illnesses.

A shiatsu massage therapist applies pressure on the body's meridians also known as energy channels to unblock the flow of qi and restore balance in your body.

What To Expect During Shiatsu Massage?

Initially your shiatsu practitioner will need to assess the state of your qi and determine what kind of imbalance you may have so they can devise the most effective shiatsu session.

Depending on the state of your qi, your Shiatsu massage therapist will use different techniques to restore balance. If you have low energy, your therapist will likely use more dynamic Shiatsu massage techniques with intense pressure to get your blood circulating. If the client is stressed or anxious, the therapist may utilise slow, soothing and stretching Shiatsu techniques to diffuse the excess energy.

Shiatsu body massage is performed without oils, where the individual is fully clothed and lying on a massage table or a floor mat.


Find The Best Shiatsu Massage Therapist Near You

What Are The Benefits Of A Shiatsu Massage?

Shia tsu massage is a healing practice that aims to bring the body back into balance and is used to treat the following ailments:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive and bowel disorders
  • PMS
  • Chronic pain ( lower back, neck and joint pain)
  • Sports and other injuries

Moreover, Shiatsu massage therapy could alleviate the symptoms of asthma, arthritis, fibromyalgia and sciatica to name a few. Everyone has a different experience with their shiatsu treatment, but there is no denying that the Shiatsu massage benefits almost anyone.

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How Is Shiatsu Massage Different From Other Massage Techniques?

Shiatsu therapy is a combination of kneading, stroking, pressing, tapping and stretching movements that focus on the body as a whole, not just a specific area. It is a complimentary mind-body treatment that promotes relaxation and improves overall well-being.

Shiatsu bodywork may borrow techniques from other massage treatment methods such as osteopathy, lymphatic drainage and physiotherapy. However, what differentiates Shiatsu healing from these other methods is the diagnosis and treatment of physical health conditions and diseases that are attributed to blockages and obstructions of the body’s energy flow.

Who Should Not Get A Shiatsu Massage?

Although there are many benefits of Shiatsu, this massage can be highly intense, so it is not recommended for: 

  • Pregnant women 
  • Those with acute illnesses
  • Those with a herniated disc
  • People with bone fractures
  • Patients with uncontrolled diabetes 
  • Those with contagious diseases 
  • Leukemia patients.


Furthermore, people with open wounds, skin inflammations, varicose veins or high blood pressure should first consult their doctor before getting a shiatsu full body massage.

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Is Shiatsu Massage Painful?

Traditional Shiatsu massage is not painful. You could experience slight discomfort during your Shiatsu massage procedure, but you should not experience unbearable pain.

You may also experience delayed-onset muscle soreness within two days of your massage as if you had a hard workout, but you should still feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Find The Best Shiatsu Massage Near Me

Shiatsu is an intense massage, so make sure you look for a nationally accredited therapist with Shiatsu certification.

Choose your city below and have a certified Shiatsu practitioner near you restore your qi and bring your body back into balance.