Updated: Aug 11, 2019
Finger Pressure & Assisted Stretching
Shiatsu therapy is a Japanese method of therapeutic manipulation using the thumbs, fingers, and palms to apply pressure to the human body in order to correct internal disorder, treat specific issues, and promote and maintain health.
Shiatsu, modern massage, and other forms of manual therapies can be categorized by the method in which stimulation is given. Shiatsu can be described as the application of deep, soothing perpedicular pressure with many rhythmical changes to stimulation. The purpose of manual therapy is to work with a person’s natural healing force to correct any internal malfunctioning. Shiatsu was a name created to distinguish the practice of manual therapy from popular forms of bodywork only given for pleasure.
European and most Asian massage methods directly stimulate blood circulation to emphasize the release of stagnant blood in the skin and muscles. This goal is to release tension and stiffness resulting from circulatory congestion. Shiatsu, on the other hand emphasized correction and maintenance of bone alignment, joints, tendons, muscles, and meridian lines. The malfunctioning of these components distorts the body’s energy and autonomic nervous system, which in turn leads to all sorts of disease.
Shiatsu is possible to practice as a home remedy, though accurate evaluation is necessary for a professional result. It is impossible for the layman to pick up acupuncture, or chiropractics, and try to use it to help themselves, friends, and family, but Shiatsu is safe, effective, and simple to apply for anyone.
Western medical techniques were developed to fight epidemic diseases like the plague in the middle ages, & treat viral and bacterial infections in modern times. Surgical devices and procedures were developed to save lives in war times. Conventional medical practices are meants for life-or-death emergencies. This is why there are so many minor illnesses that leave modern doctors playing a guessing game; their methods were not concerned with prevention, but rather developed to detect and treat very advanced conditions. Shiatsu is not a replacement for such interventions, but it’s prevention and stimulation of the body’s natural healing force makes it a perfect compliment to any treatment, as well a very complete form of preventative medicine.
“In shiatsu, treatment is diagnosis, diagnosis is treatment” -Shizuto Masunaga
The difference between amateur and professional shiatsu is accurate evaluation in order to formulate the best treatment for each individual. Oriental medicine applies four methods of observation for diagnosis are practiced: bo-shin is diagnosis through visual observation; bun-shin is diagnosis through auditory observation; mon-shin is diagnosis through asking questions; and finally setsu-shin; diagnosis through touch, is the final method to determine each person’s condition and identify a treatment path. Unlike modern medical palpation, which involves examining isolated parts of the body, setsu-shin is about evaluating the body as a whole, and determining the overall imbalances that perpetuate the given problems. This type of diagnosis is for discovering the patterns of distortion in the whole body. Some common methods that apply setsu-shin are pulse diagnosis, and abdominal diagnosis which both reveal the condition of the twelve major meridians, their related organ and bodily functions.
Shiatsu also very deeply effectsvthe autonomous nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together to regulate the activities and responses of the body. The sympathetic nervous system is that sudden reaction, alertness, and readiness to move when we get startled; the parasympathetic nervous system is what makes you feel tired and relaxed before falling asleep.
Sharp changes in skin stimulation tend to engage the sympathetic nervous system, increasing heart-rate, which is the purpose of mainstream massage. To affect internal organ function, the parasympathetic nervous system must be dominant.
Through the application of continuous, steady pressure, the reaction of the sympathetic nerves can be controlled, allowing shiatsu therapists to work with the parasympathetic nervous system.
In shiatsu, the therapist is not only actively working, but at the same time paying attention to negative reactions from the autonomic nervous system. Those negative reactions are felt as a resistance to the pressure, guiding the practitioner. Thus any incorrect quality or quantity of pressure is immediately felt mutually by the recipient and therapist. This kind of awareness allows the therapist to constantly adjust, and that is what is meant by the previous statement: “treatment is diagnosis…”
Setsu-shin is the key that separates shiatsu from superficial fingertip techniques and massage for pleasure and recreation.