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Shiatsu

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated August 01, 2013

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of bodywork. The word shiatsu means "finger pressure", and shiatsu is sometimes described as a finger pressure massage.

How Does Shiatsu Work?

Like acupuncture, shiatsu is based on the holistic system of traditional Chinese medicine, where illness is thought to result from imbalances in the natural flow of energy, or qi (pronounced "chee") through the body.

Shiatsu therapists use finger and palm pressure to energetic pathways, called meridians to improve the flow of qi.

A scientific explanation is that shiatsu calms an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which improves circulation, relieves stiff muscles, and alleviates stresss.

What Does Shiatsu Feel Like?

The shiatsu therapist applies pressure using his or her fingers, thumbs, and/or palms in a continuous rhythmic sequence.

The pressure feels more localized, because unlike other types of massage, the finger pads are used to apply pressure for most of the treatment instead of the entire palm.

Certain pressure points may feel tender, which some people describe it as "good pain."

If you feel any discomfort or pain during the treatment, tell your therapist and he or she will adjust the pressure so that it is comfortable to you.

Most people say shiatsu is as relaxing as a classic forms of massage therapy.

What Should I Expect During My Visit?

The treatment is done on a low massage table or on the floor.

Unlike other forms of massage, with shiatsu no massage oil is applied, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment. You may be asked to bring comfortable clothing to wear.

Uses For Shiatsu

Precautions

Shiatsu is often not recommended for certain people such as those with the following conditions:

  • infectious skin disease, rash, or open wounds
  • immediately after surgery
  • immediately after chemotherapy or radiation, unless recommended by your doctor
  • people with osteoporosis should consult their doctor before having shiatsu
  • prone to blood clots. There is a risk of blood clots being dislodged. If you have heart disease, check with your doctor before having shiatsu
  • pregnant women should check with their doctor first if they are considering getting any type of massage or bodywork. Shiatsu in pregnant women should be done by massage therapists who are certified in pregnancy massage.
  • shiatsu should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent fractures.

Additional Tips

  • don’t eat a heavy meal before the shiatsu
  • if it's your first time at the clinic or spa, arrive at least 10 minutes early to complete the necessary forms. Otherwise, arrive 5 minutes early so you can have a few minutes to rest and relax before starting the shiatsu.
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