Top 5 Benefits Of Shiatsu Massage Therapy Explained

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First a confession: as a youngling, I would read the word “shiatsu” and not know how on earth to pronounce it. It is a form of massage which originated in Japan, at the beginning of the 20th century. Each massage method has its drawbacks and advantages, and this one is no different. These are our top 5 benefits of shiatsu massage therapy. While it may be considered a relative newcomer to the therapeutic arena (chronologically speaking), it relies on ancient lore and age-old practices.

Massages are wonderful, as a general rule. Whether it be a professional setting at a spa or an intimate bedroom rendezvous – it’s a time to relax and unwind, and it can do a lot for your mind and body. Shiatsu is a massage that is able to combine the two aspects of massage: medicine and therapy. You can use it for a specific condition, disease, or medical issue. You can also use it to attain relaxation and balance while increasing the positive flow of energy. It offers a lot of potential for healing and wellness overall, which is why it is fairly popular.

I don’t get massaged by a professional often, but when I do, I go all out. I plan in advance, I pick a good spot, I plan things before and after, and I basically try to make a day of it. But that’s me. Others have their preferences. I just find it difficult to get a massage in the middle of a busy day, feel awesome, and then jump right back into the hustle and bustle of daily life.

What Is Shiatsu Massage? Shiatsu Massage Therapy Explained

Side view of man getting head massage.

Man Receiving A Massage

Shiatsu literally means “finger pressure” in Japanese. In this type of massage, therapists use fingers, elbows, knees, forearms, and even feet to apply different forms of pressure and to manipulate the muscles. The precise placement of the pressure and the organ used to apply it depend largely on the energy crossroads (meridians) involved, and also on the physical tension or knot which is located there.

Shiatsu’s roots may be 2,500 years old, but it was officially founded by master Tokujiro Namikoshi. He first started using the technique to aid his mother who was suffering from rheumatism. He was seven years old at the time, but he must have known he had unlocked something unique in his approach to his mother’s illness. The year was 1912.

Acupressure points are used, but many times shiatsu will emphasize treating the entire meridian as opposed to several points along its route. Also, as time goes on, the therapist might re-assess the condition and treat it accordingly, in a different way.

Shiatsu massage is not always the main method of treatment. At times, it will be conducted as a complementary treatment, alongside chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, or different types of medicine. There are some similarities between massage and chiropractic therapy, but chiropractic adjustments are more geared towards the nervous system and the skeleton, whereas massage is more about muscles and energy points.

Over the years, shiatsu became more prevalent and more well-known in foreign parts of the world. It made its way to the United States in the 1950’s, and since then it has been evolving and growing. In 1964, Japan’s Ministry of Health recognized shiatsu as an individual form of massage therapy and has been regulating it since.

What Happens In A Shiatsu Massage Session?

Woman receiving a massage

Woman Receiving A Massage

Like in traditional Thai massage, the clothing stays on. It is best to wear comfortable clothes so that there is room to maneuver. At certain places, they will even give you clothes to wear if yours are not loose enough. 

Depending on your symptoms or complaints, the therapist will begin by warming up the body. They may be applying a pressure of varying intensity, kneading certain areas, tapping at strategic locations, grabbing, and stretching. Before you begin or just as you are beginning, the therapist may perform a quick analysis of the abdomen, the tongue, or the pulse to assess your general condition.

Ordinarily, the massage takes place on a mat on the floor. However, some techniques (or therapists) may use a chair or low massage table for better access and comfort. It is a real hands-on form of massage, and chances are you are going to feel it. Now, because shiatsu has several different recognized styles, there is no ultimate guide to what goes on in a session, nor what the results may be.

A typical session lasts 45 minutes to an hour, but they can also range from 30-90 minutes. Prices vary, as do styles, as do practitioners. If you have any questions or are interested in knowing your therapist’s education or credentials, ask away. There are swindlers and charlatans out there, like with any industry or field. Not everyone with a table and a mat is a licensed therapist, so make sure that you’re putting yourself in the hands of a qualified massage therapist.

Top 5 Benefits of Shiatsu Massage For Your Health

Master Tokujiro Namikoshi opened up the first shiatsu clinic in 1925, and established the Japan Shiatsu College in 1940. Even though Namikoshi invented the technique in light of his mother’s rheumatism, there is a lot more to shiatsu than fiber, joint, and muscle health. Like any massage therapy, it may agree with you and it may not. But here are top 5 benefits of shiatsu massage for your health:

1. Improve Your Health

Woman with arms spread out

Shiatsu Massages Can Improve Your Overall Health

It has preventive and reactive elements to it. You can treat symptoms of a specific issue and also improve your general health. Physical and mental conditions alike can benefit from a good shiatsu session. It is said to help with stiffness, soreness, tension, digestion, blood circulation, the nervous system, and much more.

2. Non-Invasive

It can be done – and usually is done – with clothing on, so it is non-invasive. The ability to receive a message with clothes on is a great benefit, and the fact that there is no oil can also be a benefit for some. It allows the massage therapist to control pressure and placement with utmost precision, and that can be seriously helpful.

3. Balance

Simply put, you will feel more at ease and much more relaxed once your energy levels are in check. Not too high and not too low, but just right. Imbalances always occur, and they are a natural part of life. But no one says you need to live with your energies all out of whack. Get yourself to a qualified massage therapist (or acupuncturist if that’s your thing), and see what this ancient wisdom can do for you.

4. Menstruation And Pregnancy


Shiatsu Massage Can Benefit Pregnant Woman

This benefit is for those who experience difficulties and discomfort during menstruation and pregnancy. It is also for those who are expecting and are experiencing difficulties and/or labor pains. Women with long term pregnancies use shiatsu to induce labor. They also use it to ease symptoms, such as sickness, back pains, and even physical swelling.

5. Skin Health Booster

People believe that shiatsu stimulates blood flow to the surface of the skin. It also influences the glands which secrete your body’s natural oil. In doing so, this massage technique increases your skin’s smoothness and resilience, prevents wrinkles and imperfections from presenting themselves, and basically helps the look and feel of your body’s largest organ. 


The philosophy behind Shiatsu is one of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It brings your yin and yang energies back to balance. The therapist will be able to identify blockage or imbalance. They can manipulate the pathways of energy in such a way that they will be able to flow more freely. Once that happens, there will most likely be a reduction in symptoms and a clearer way forward. It really is amazing what the body and mind can do when properly handled by a trained professional.

That said, shiatsu may induce some mild side effects, just like any other massage techniques. It could take time for your body to adjust and move on since shiatsu effects your energy pathways. You may feel tired, or have an aching head, or experience stiffness when you didn’t before. Normally, these symptoms pass within a few hours, but you should contact your therapist if they don’t subside.

And just FYI, you can learn some basic shiatsu moves with the help of a book or video, and apply them in the comfort of your home. The ability to put the right kind of pressure in certain areas is not reserved only for those who have studied the practice in-depth. Much like you can drive a car without necessarily knowing the ins and outs of automobile mechanical. Of course, you need to know your limits and not practice anything that ought to be done by a professional.

Finally, a constant association I have: shiatsu will probably always remind me of Shih Tzu. A therapeutic massage on the one hand, and a cute dog whose nose you want to boop on the other. Those two really go hand-in-hand with the good energies they bring. They always manage to lift my spirits.

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