The word ‘Shiatsu’ is derived from the combination of ‘Shi’ meaning finger, and ‘Atsu’ meaning pressure. Simply put Shiatsu is the science of applying pressure on the patient’s body by using the fingers, hands and thumb. This hands-on therapy has its origin in Japan and is used as a complement to conventional medicine and also as a preventative or alternative therapy.
Like other branches of alternative medicine, Shiatsu is also based on the belief that the body has the inherent capacity for wellness and has an internal balance that ensures good health. When this balance is disrupted signs and symptoms of sickness develop. Shiatsupractors treat patients by pressing their thumbs, fingers and palms on the Shiatsu points or the ‘Tsubo’ points, as it is called in Japan. The pressure so applied jogs the body’s natural healing ability. This has two benefits; firstly the progression of the disease is arrested, and secondly, the affected parts begin to heal.
Shiatsu practitioners are required to have a thorough understanding of the body’s Anatomy and Physiology. The ‘Tsubo’ points are key points that help to treat all body systems ranging from the skeletal and the muscular to the nervous and the digestive systems. These points are applicable only to Shiatsu and have no bearing on the ancient Chinese techniques of Acupuncture or Acutouch.
Through Shiatsu the doctor follows what is popularly called a ‘Diagnosis and therapy combined’ system. The Shiatsupractor has fingers and thumbs that are sensitive enough to detect irregularities in the skin, muscles or body temperature, just through contact. Thus the doctor is able to locate abnormalities and ascertain the progress of a disease. Therapy begins at the time of diagnosis itself.
How much pressure is to be applied and which spots are to be treated depend on the disease and its severity. Shiatsupractors do not use the knees, knuckles, feet or elbows because these areas lack the sensitivity of the palm and the fingers. Typically, pressure is applied to more than a few points on the patient’s body. The purpose here is two-fold: to release the blocked energy (‘Ki’ in Japanese) and to bring energy back to areas that are depleted and hence re-vitalizing these areas. As a part of their treatment, Shiatsupractors may also manipulate the soft tissue and perform passive and active stretching exercises.
The benefits of Shiatsu in reducing muscular tension, pain and in de-stressing patients have been recognized widely. Scientifically speaking, Shiatsu is an excellent pain reliever. Research has shown that applying pressure to certain points can release the ‘feel good’ hormones or endorphins. These are natural pain-killers. Shiatsu also helps alleviate stress by reducing the production of adrenalin. Thus it has a calming effect on the body.
In modern times, the positive effects of Shiatsu are not limited to healing alone. A Shiatsu session is generally very pleasing and relaxing. It affects different patients in different ways; some people feel so relaxed that they may fall asleep, others feel invigorated and some may experience shudders or spasms as tension is released from the body.
Since Shiatsu is non-invasive, you do not have to fear needles, pain or medication. The effectiveness of Shiatsu to relieve certain ailments like neck and back pain, shoulder pain, arthritic pain has been proven. People suffering from menstrual cramps, headaches, insomnia and sleep disorders have also reported relief. However, patients suffering from an open wound / infection, have had a recent surgery or a recent session of chemotherapy or radiation therapy should not be treated with Shiatsu.