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What is Shiatsu Massage Therapy?

Shiatsu is a powerful and natural healing art that has been well tested in its effectiveness for maintenance of health and well-being. It is based on an understanding of the human body as a system of energy which circulates in channels (meridians) activating and charging all of the body organs and functions.

The shiatsu practitioner can promote a harmonizing of this energy through the application of pressure via the hands in thumbs in varying degrees. Then the areas of tension are relaxed, and points of weakness are revitalized through “noninterference” methods which respect the pattern of nature. The internal self healing power of the receiver is awakened. The result is a balancing of energy which can remove the causes and relieve the symptoms of physical illness, emotional disturbance, and spiritual disorder. Shiatsu is a special experience that promotes the health and happiness of both giver and receiver.

Ryan Nickerson Certified Massage Therapist performing Shiatsu Massage in Bristol PA
Ryan Nickerson Certified Massage Therapist performing Shiatsu Massage in Bristol PA

Shiatsu’s Background

Shiatsu massage is native to Japan. The term ‘shiatsu’ literally translates to ‘finger pressure’. Shiatsu massage is a descendant of the Chinese bodywork system called tui na. It focuses on energy flow through the body’s meridians, correcting imbalances. An imbalance in the body’s energy flow is believed to cause physical symptoms and diseases in traditional Eastern practices.

How is Shiatsu Performed?

This type of massage therapy uses kneading, soothing, pressure, light tapping, and gentle touching as techniques to improve the energy flow of the body (called Qi) using the thumb, palm and sometimes the elbow and knees. It involves the application of pressure to parts of the body connected to the meridians to promote the flow of vital energy and enhance the healing process.

It is used to treat a wide array of health issues like headache, fibromyalgia, arthritis, constipation, insomnia, menstrual disorder, stress, anxiety, low back, and joint pain. Consequently, it improves posture, boosts the immune system and restores energy balance while bringing about the relaxation of the body and mind. It exerts significant effects on some systems of the body namely circulatory, nervous, digestive, lymphatic and endocrine system.

Basic Styles of Shiatsu

Shiatsu has evolved from its roots in traditional Chinese medicine into several basic styles.

Some of the basic styles are:

Zen Shiatsu: This is no difference between this style and the original technique copied from traditional Chinese medicine. It is a holistic method of restoring the balance of the energy flow of the body while conferring psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing to the patient.

Serizawa style: This style was named after Katsusuke Serizawa, who made it popular. It targets the ac

upoints in order to coerce them into achieving a therapeutic effect.

Nippon style: This style was developed by Mamikoshi in the early 1900s. it is pressure oriented and more intense. It targets the body’s pressure points and anatomical structure rather than the meridians (i.e. the energy pathway). It is basically a blend of the old method with westernized modern medical practice.


Notwithstanding its therapeutic importance, shiatsu massage may not be ideal for certain groups of people who are at risk of developing complications that could be life threatening from this practice.

Such groups of people include:

  • People with infectious skin diseases, rash and open wounds
  • People who have recently undergone surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy except when recommended by their doctor
  • Pregnant women except by a specialist in pregnancy massage
  • Cancer patients
  • Hypertensive patients, people with blood clot disorder, osteoporosis and those with heart disease

Shiatsu should never be performed on tumors, bruises, inflamed skin, abdominal hernia or bone fractures


While shiatsu is a holistic approach to massage which focuses on the restoration of the balance of the energy flow through the body, it confers healing to other aspects of human life. It allows you to get the relief your body desires.

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