In traditional Chinese medicine, one of the main beliefs underlying their treatments is that every living thing has a vital energy flow in it. They call this energy flow or life force Qi or Ch’i.
This energy doesn’t just float about in your blood. It circulates the body through specific pathways called meridians. Along these channels are pressure points, which if manipulated using fingers or palms, can have various psychological and physical benefits on a person.
The Japanese have adopted this bodywork to create a type of massage that focuses on these pressure points. It’s called Shiatsu massage. What is shiatsu massage good for? Read on to learn more.
What does a Shiatsu massage do?
In Japanese and Chinese medicine, it is believed that if these pressure points that stretch through different meridians are blocked or interrupted, it results in illness.
From a modern viewpoint however, Shiatsu massage is based on the same principles of physiotherapy, lymphatic drainage, osteopathy and various other types of massage.
Shiatsu massage stimulates the circulatory, nervous, lymphatic and hormonal systems. It results in improved blood flow, enhanced nerve function and overall wellbeing. It can reduce pain, soreness and swelling. Psychologically, it provides deep relaxation, reduced stress levels and a general feeling of happiness.
Shiatsu is not a form of treatment. While Japanese and Chinese medicine involves the use of Shiatsu to treat serious illnesses, there is no evidence that it can treat conditions like cancer or arthritis.
But it can help manage disease symptoms such as stress, pain, joint stiffness, oedema and neuropathy.
Benefits of Shiatsu massage
Regular shiatsu massage can help with the following conditions.
- Muscle stiffness whether it’s caused by bad posture, arthritis or a lack of exercise. Shiatsu improves blood flow to muscles and improves muscle flexibility.
- Joint pain and stiffness. Joint pain can occur because of age, illness or poor posture. Targeting the affected joints reduces pain, increases blood flow and improves flexibility. It can be especially helpful for athletes who want to increase their range and flexibility.
- Chronic pain management. By stimulating nerves and increasing blood circulation, shiatsu massage can help reduce pain on specific areas of the body. It’s beneficial for people suffering from pain-causing conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Swelling. This often happens because of excess fluid build-up in the body (oedema). It can affect pregnant women and those with diabetes. Shiatsu massage targets the lymphatic system which is responsible for draining away excess fluid in body cavities. With regular massage, the excess fluid drains away and the swelling goes down.
- Fatigue. If your body feels particularly worn out after a long day at work, a shiatsu massage session can help. It does two things to help you feel better. It boosts body energy levels through increased blood flow and helps your mind relax.
- Discomfort during pregnancy. There is a long list of pregnancy problems where shiatsu massage can help: swelling in your legs, sore muscles and joints, general fatigue, headaches, stress and anxiety, poor sleep and poor blood flow.
- Stress and anxiety. As with most massages, shiatsu is great for warding off stress. It triggers the release of hormones that improve your emotional and psychological state. By extension, it also helps with insomnia and various other sleep problems.
Is Shiatsu massage safe?
The first thing you should know about shiatsu massage is that it is not, as I have already mentioned, a form of treatment. It does not treat cancer, arthritis, ulcers, bone fractures or any other illness. But it can help manage the symptoms.
If you think you are sick, seek medical help.
Generally, shiatsu massage is safe for most people. It is not invasive and with some learning, you can even try it on yourself.
But we advise caution if you have a heart or blood pressure problem. This is because during shiatsu massage, your blood pressure rises (increased blood flow) and the heart rate goes down. If you have a serious health problem, we recommend asking your doctor for advice regarding getting any form of massage.
People with existing spinal and joint problems should also be extra-cautious. Wrong or overly forceful manipulation can cause adverse physical effects or aggravate existing conditions.
Another warning goes to pregnant women. A lot of massage therapists won’t offer any massages in the first trimester out of fear of a miscarriage. While there is no evidence between the two, many doctors and massage therapists still advice against first trimester shiatsu massage out of caution (and fear of liability).
In all cases make sure you go to a trained and experienced shiatsu massage therapist. It will reduce the risk of anything going wrong.