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Shiatsu Massage Therapy — Mysticism or Medical

by Thrive on 10 September 2012 at 22:43

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Shiatsu massage therapy has an aura of mysticism surrounding it. Part of that is due to the practice originating in the Orient, and part of it is due to some of the terminology used. It is not uncommon for practitioners or patients to discuss things in terms of “cleared blockages” or “becoming grounded.”

The vocabulary used when discussing shiatsu has caused many to believe it is nothing more than gobbledygook quackery. Before you write off shiatsu massage therapy as an effective health tool, take a minute to look at the findings from a University of Leeds School of Healthcare study. It may change your mind.

What is Shiatsu Massage Therapy?

Tokujiro Namikoshi developed shiatsu massage in Japan. Namikoshi founded the first school of Shiatsu massage technique in 1940.

Shiatsu massage therapists use their fingers, palms and thumbs to apply pressure to areas of the body related to the autonomic and central nervous systems. The pressure applied is thought to help relieve stress, decrease pain and improve overall health and well-being.

Controversy Surrounding Shiatsu

Shiatsu massage is a polarizing therapy. Some people swear by it, and others disregard it as nothing more than snake oil. Part of the controversy is caused by a lack of scientific research surrounding the therapy.

However, much of the dismissal of shiatsu as a legitimate alternative treatment is due to the language used to discuss the therapy. In years past, many practitioners talked about being able to “move energy”, detect disharmonies in the body and talked in other vaguely mystical language. While those types of discussions still continue to some extent, most shiatsu therapists now focus discussions around anatomy, physiology and other terms grounded in science.

So, what is the Deal with Shiatsu?

There are still some controversies surrounding the usefulness of shiatsu massage, however, a growing number of doctors advocate its use as a complimentary therapy when treating medical conditions.

One study performed by the School of Healthcare at the University of Leeds followed shiatsu massage outcomes for six-months, and found the therapy had immediate beneficial effects, as well as sustained long-term benefits as reported by patients. The study also found that the patients suffered no lasting side effects and that the therapy was safe.

Specifically, researchers found that patients immediately experienced:

  • Feeling more relaxed and calmer
  • More energized
  • Better able to cope

If nothing else, the patient-reported findings suggest that shiatsu massage is an effective method of decreasing stress. Other forms of massage therapy have been shown to increase the production of serotonin (a mood enhancer) and decrease the production of cortisol (a known stress hormone), it is possible shiatsu massage also provides these benefits.

When the six-month follow-up was conducted, an overwhelming number of patients reported reductions in the symptoms that initially brought them to shiatsu massage. Symptoms found to have improved included:

  • Tension and stress levels
  • Problems with muscles and joints
  • Improved posture
  • Back pain

The study also found that shiatsu massage therapists and their patients had developed a close and friendly relationship in many cases. That relationship seems to have led patients so take the advice of their therapist in other aspects of their life as well. Specifically, patients reported making lifestyle changes that improved their health and well-being after the shiatsu massage therapist suggested improvements they could make. Lifestyle changes included:

  • Increase in exercise activity
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Better posture and use of the body
  • Increased sleep and rest

Overall, more than 75-percent of shiatsu patients reported making lifestyle-enhancing changes based on the recommendations they received from their massage therapists.

Another interesting finding was that patients reported a reduced need to see a doctor, needed fewer medications and missed fewer days of work due to illness.

What Does It All Mean?

Regardless of the seemingly “mystical” nature of shiatsu massage, it does provide a number of physical and emotional benefits. Stress and pain afflict millions of people each year and limit their quality of life. According to the study by the University of Leeds, as well as numerous patient accounts, shiatsu massage has helped many people improve their emotional and physical quality of life.

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits derived from shiatsu massage therapy, call Thrive Healing Massage in Seattle today and schedule an appointment with one of our licensed massage therapists.

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