Massage is a form of complementary or alternative medicine treatment that manipulates the muscles and deep tissue to acheive a release of toxins from the muscles, relaxation, stress reduction, and numerous other documented benefits. Shiatsu is one of those massage techniques.
Shiatsu is also known as acupressure and is a finger pressure massage technique which was founded on the system of Chinese meridians. Unlike the massages of Western cultures where the therapist uses kneading, the Shiatsu practitioner uses pressure and stretching.
Using their fingers, palms, thumbs, knuckles, elbows and knees the therapist works on the body’s acupuncture points and energy channels. It is considered a form of touch communication and is a safe and effective means of preventative medicine.
Shiatsu practitioners believe that diseases are the result of blocked or unbalanced energy, the same view as Chinese acupuncture. Using the belief that there are two energy forces in the body and that the human body is a microcosm of the universe the practitioner works to unblock or rebalance energy levels so no disease can take over. Practitioners believe that shiatsu works the whole being so it is not unusual for people to have reactions either during or after the massage. Some people will cry, laugh, experience joy or stillness. These are reactions that the body is breaking through old energy patterns and emerging into a healthier side.
Practitioners also use shiatsu massage to treat common psychological and physical complaints. Proponents believe that it alleviates disorders such as depression, anxiety, nausea, stiffness, headaches, cramps or arthritis. Sometimes called zen shiatsu, practitioners believe that by affecting the chi or energy levels. When a participant suffers from sleeplessness, indigestion, swollen joints, headaches or depression they believe it is not a source of discomfort but as a symptom of hyperactive or underproductive chi.
The shiatsu masseuse will make a first diagnosis by assessing where the chi flow is healthy and where it may be obstructed. The practitioner will ask about symptoms, ailments and then do a light massage to feel where there are pressure points which are tight or tender.
Once the diagnosis is completed the shiatsu practitioner will apply firm pressure using fingers, knuckles, thumbs, palms, toes, feet, knees or elbows. There are 14 different meridians which the therapist will address during the treatment. Two are central, drawing through the torso – one down the back and one down the front. There are 12 others that are in mirrored pairs along the symmetrical halves of the body. They are associated with function of organs in the body.
Many people enjoy shiatsu massage. It has some similarities to deep tissue massage. Shiatsu will involve deep breathing, rotating and stretching joints and manipulating pressure points. When these points are pressed the participants describe the feelings as different from other types of massage. Afterwards they usually describe that they feel strange, but not feel the soreness that those who experience deep tissue massage will describe.
Shiatsu treatments are best done on a regular basis in order to experience the most benefits. Eastern medicine uses shiatsu for a variety of ailments (repiratory, digestive, headache or leg cramps) and today it is gaining popularity in the West.