Health, Lifestyle, Medicine /

Shiatsu Therapy: An Ancient Therapy for a Modern World


People throughout Western culture are looking for ways to de-stress, relax and alleviate pain. Yoga, massage and other preventative health modalities are on the rise, with studios and practices available in almost every neighbourhood.

In Canada, shiatsu may not be a modality that people think of often, unless they know someone who has experienced it or have been to Japan themselves. However, there are a number of very qualified practitioners throughout the country.      

Shiatsu is a form of traditional bodywork therapy from Japan with roots in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Traditional practitioners in China and Japan shared medical approaches, including massage techniques, and the Japanese developed their own branch of traditional massage known as anma. Over the years, this evolved into the popular massage therapy now known as shiatsu.

Shiatsu means “finger pressure” in Japanese. After considering the client’s organs, circulation, lymphatic system, and environmental and psychological concerns in addition to the musculoskeletal system, the shiatsu practitioner applies pressure to the appropriate meridians and acupressure points using thumbs, palms and fingers. This technique removes stagnation and increases energy flow, promoting circulation, flexibility and healing. In addition to alleviating stress and pain, shiatsu is an excellent way to enhance athletic performance and encourage renewal following physical activity or work.

Some clients find that shiatsu can help alleviate headaches/migraines, back pain, neck pain, musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries (including sciatica, frozen shoulder, and elbow and wrist issues), digestive concerns, insomnia, whiplash, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety and mild depression. In Japan, this technique is even used in hospitals.    

In my experience, in addition to benefiting the organs and circulation of qi in the body through acupressure to meridian lines and points, shiatsu therapy greatly benefits the fascial system through a unique combination of pressure and stretching. A full body session gives the client a feeling of wholeness in the body, mind and spirit.

At this time of year, it’s also prudent to mention that shiatsu helps when the weather is cold and damp. In the winter, our bodies slow down, contract and turn inwards. As such, we can appreciate the enhanced circulation and flexibility a shiatsu session can provide.

By Rick Van Hassel, BA Kin, RST, CST

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