Based on principles of traditional Chinese medicine, Shiatsu massage originated in Japan in the early 20th century. Unlike some traditional forms of massage that predate Shiatsu, the practice incorporated some Western and other holistic therapies.
The practice of Shiatsu itself involves using fingers — the word translates from the Japanese to mean "finger pressure" — as well as hands, elbows, knees and even feet on points across a patient's body. Shiatsu is deeply relaxing, but it also helps treat many health problems, along with their underlying causes.
There are many benefits to Shiatsu massage and reasons for massage therapists to specialize in the technique. First learn more about the history of this unique massage modality with roots in ancient healing traditions and modern science.
The history of Shiatsu massage
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was introduced in Japan in the 6th century, where the practice began to evolve to suit the local customs. The traditional Chinese massage called anma, or tui na, became more associated with pleasure and relaxation, as opposed to exclusively healing.
In the 20th century, a practitioner named Tamai Tempaku wanted to revive and maintain the healing aspect of massage therapy in TCM. He infused his style of massage with the Western scientific disciplines of anatomy and physiology, along with chiropractic principles and physiotherapy, in order to create a new modality.
Tempaku first called his method "shiatsu ryoho" or "shiatsu ho" but over time it became known as simply Shiatsu. In 1964, Shiatsu massage was recognized as its own unique form of therapy, different from tui na, Western and other types of massage.
What defines the Shiatsu technique
Practitioners of Shiatsu use their fingers and other body parts (hands, elbows, knees, feet) to manipulate pressure points on the patient's body, which are also called acupoints or acupuncture points. The therapist might also stretch or rotate the limbs or joints of a patient as part of treatment.
One of the important concepts in Shiatsu and TCM is qi, which is a vital life force energy that flows through every person. Qi runs along points called meridians. When qi is blocked it can cause health problems in a patient. Based on a diagnosis, the practitioner will determine which points along the meridian require focus in treatment.
These are the body's twelve meridians, which correspond to organs:
- Large intestine
- Small intestine
- Heart governor
- Triple heater
- Gall bladder
Shiatsu stimulates circulation and blood flow, enhancing the body's own ability to heal itself. Some of the many reason Shiatsu works:
- Restores the following systems: nervous, lymphatic, hormonal and circulatory
- Increases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
- Improves stamina, energy and vitality
- Enhances coordination and range of motion
- Brings down blood pressure and heart rate
Shiatsu improves a patient's overall well being while enhancing the immune system, but can be beneficial to healing a variety of specific ailments.
Getting a Shiatsu massage
Undergoing a Shiatsu treatment is invigorating experience, which will begin with a diagnosis that aims to understand you as a whole person, including your mind and soul. The process may seem different than going to the office of a doctor who practices traditional Western medicine, which is a reason that holistic health therapies are appealing to an increasing number of Americans. Often in Western medicine, the focus is on the body and its physical symptoms, rather than the underlying causes of a condition.
Once any ailments are identified, the Shiatsu practitioner will endeavor to treat them by targeting the appropriate meridians and acupoints. Shiatsu massage therapy helps treat a variety of conditions that include, but aren't limited to:
- Stress and tension
- Depression and anxiety
- Migraines and other headaches
- Sprains, strains and sports injuries
- Arthritis sufferers
- Neck and back
- Chronic pain, including conditions like fibromyalgia
- Sinus and respiratory conditions, including common coughs and colds
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Digestive and bowel issues
- Morning sickness and other pregnancy-related discomfort
- Menstrual problems
Talk to your massage therapist about how Shiatsu can help treat any chronic or acute conditions you have. A session should begin with an assessment and generally last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.
Learning how to perform Shiatsu
Massage offers many benefits for those looking for a first or second career. Massage therapy as a job offers schedule flexibility, independence, a variety of places to work, opportunities to become a small business owner and the ability to help people every day. It's a great job for active and health conscious people because you won't be sitting in front of a computer screen all day.
If you're considering a career in massage therapy, specializing in a specific style of massage therapy might make sense. Many other types of massage techniques exist outside of Shiatsu. They include:
When pursuing a degree program in massage therapy, research the techniques that are taught in any school you're considering. Those techniques are the tools that will be in your professional toolbox upon graduation and help you in the professional world.
Upon entering the job market, possessing a specialization or certification, along with a broad base of knowledge, could give you an edge over other massage therapists seeking jobs in the marketplace or those hanging a shingle and starting their own practices.
The Acupuncture and Massage College offers a comprehensive massage therapy degree program that distinguishes itself by offering an accompanying certification in Shaitsu. Graduates enter the massage therapy workforce with a specialization that gives them an edge in the ever-growing field of massage therapy.
Massage programs at the Acupuncture and Massage Therapy College start every month and can take as little as 8.5 months to complete. Contact the school for more information: (305) 595-9500.