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What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning “finger pressure”. It’s a hands-on complementary therapy originating in Japan, from Traditional Chinese Medicine with influences from more recent Western therapies. Shiatsu is a powerful therapy that utilises a system of gentle stretches and pressure application techniques to help stimulate the body’s natural own energies to promote health and well-being.

Shiatsu at The No1 Pain Relief Clinic

Benefits of Shiatsu

Shiatsu can be used as part of an approach to manage pain and inflammation alongside conventional medicine. Typical conditions may include musculoskeletal or sports injuries to every day aches and pains, stresses and strains. Amongst other things, Shiatsu is considered a beneficial addition to help maintain and support health and well-being thereby promoting a balanced lifestyle which may prevent the likelihood of succumbing to everyday illness and effects of modern-day stress.

How it works

Shiatsu is based on the principle that vital energy flows throughout the body in a series of channels called meridians which contain approximately over 500 acupressure points. These points are places on your body that are thought to affect the way that our organs and tissues function.


Shiatsu practitioners apply perpendicular pressure into the skin along the meridian pathways and at certain acupressure points on the body to help restore the natural balance of Yin and Yang by freeing our life energy (also referred to as Chi, Qi or Ki). According to this principle, our health is affected when this energy stops flowing freely. Stimulation by acupressure along the meridian pathways and at various acupressure points on the body helps to restore the healthy flow of energy in the body thereby helping to restore the body’s equilibrium. The combinations of different acupressure points and pathways are used to treat different conditions.

Nick - Shiatsu radio interview - Nick Mulryan
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The Science

Medical research supports its use, demonstrating an influence on centres in the brain and spinal cord which are responsible for pain relief. A possible scientific explanation for Shiatsu is that it stimulates deep sensory nerves in the body to produce natural pain relieving chemicals (endorphins) and other substances. These substances, once released in the body, can help with pain relief and assist the body to heal itself.


Shiatsu is communication through touch, physiologically it has been suggested that caring touch helps the flow of blood and lymph around the body. Consequently studies have shown that touch can aid to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, soothe nerves and decrease tension, promoting relaxation and a state of well-being.


Medical studies have also shown that Shiatsu and acupressure can be an effective form of treatment for a wide range of conditions including: sleep quality, low back pain, post-operative issues of pain, depression, respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, gynaecological problems, nervous conditions amongst others.


Injury prevention

Regular, routine Shiatsu treatments can help injury prevention in various ways. Firstly, Shiatsu facilitates ongoing dialogue between patient and therapist to discuss potential problems. Shiatsu helps us discover where our body begins and ends, feels safe to move, where it resists and most importantly where it would like to change. The physical therapy techniques applied (such as releasing techniques) enable the body to adjust its physical structure. This can help injury prevention by improving the general condition of soft tissues, through enhancing tissue elasticity and pliability preventing the formation of adhesion and improve the mobility of scar tissue.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).


What happens in a Shiatsu treatment?

A Shiatsu treatment usually begins with a discussion regarding your health. Generally this would include any specific problems you have, and a discussion of your work, family, eating and exercise patterns. On your first visit this may take up a substantial part of the time. Thereafter on subsequent visits the discussion is generally much briefer and focused based on any changes that have taken place.


This is followed by the Shiatsu treatment which usually lasts about 60 minutes. At the end of the Shiatsu treatment there will be sufficient time to let the effects begin to settle in and talk about the treatment. 


How does a Shiatsu Practitioner perform a treatment?

To perform a Shiatsu treatment the practitioner will often use; thumbs, palms, fingers, forearms, knees and feet to apply the pressure, combined with joint mobilisations, gentle rocking and stretching techniques.  


What does it feel like?

Patients may feel a sensation of warmth, tingling or sublime relaxation during the treatment; Occasionally it is necessary to work deeply and this may be tender, however when performed by a skilful practitioner the treatment should not feel painful. The pressure or touch should be comforting and pleasant. Patients often notice an improved sense of well-being after treatment.


What conditions is Shiatsu good for?

Shiatsu is a safe, gentle and deeply relaxing therapy which can help with most conditions ranging from specific injuries to more general symptoms of poor health. Sometimes it works directly, but other times it offers support and space for people to begin to come to terms with problems they face. Regular shiatsu treatments help to prevent the build-up of stress in our daily lives. Giving Shiatsu is great for the health, well-being and vitality of the practitioner as well as for the people who receive it!


Are there times when Shiatsu should be avoided?

Shiatsu is a very safe therapy, but it should be avoided if you:

  • Have an Infectious disease

  • Are suffering from any acute, feverish illness

  • Have internal bleeding or blood clots

  • Have had a major operation during the last 3 months

You should inform your practitioner of any condition that has been diagnosed by a doctor.


How long is a Shiatsu Treatment?

A Shiatsu treatment lasts approximately 60 minutes, your first treatment will last a little longer. 

No oils are used. Treatments usually take place on a futon (padded mat) at floor level, however it can also be adapted to work on a massage table or for patients seated on a massage chair.


How many sessions will be needed?

Shiatsu helps the body’s energy to rebalance itself. If the “disease” is long-standing, then the body’s energy patterns will have become accustomed to being out of balance. Generally, the longer a condition has been present, the longer it will take to heal. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes change is very rapid. Everyone is different!


What should I wear?

During a Shiatsu treatment patients remain fully clothed. Please wear loose fitting or stretchy clothes that don’t restrict movement. It is good to have a sweat-shirt or similar, for warmth, and not to rely on a tee-shirt (body-temperature often drops a little during the treatment). Avoid wearing a skirt or jeans, and wear, or bring a clean pair of socks. Leave sometime between eating and having a Shiatsu treatment.


How will I feel after a treatment?

Many people find it leaves them feeling deeply relaxed, with a feeling of well-being and calmness. It can also leave you feeling intensely alive and energised. Sometimes emotional feelings surface, either during or after a treatment. This is perfectly normal and you should try to give yourself the time and space to let them wash-through you rather than suppressing them.


What if I am on medication?

Shiatsu will not interfere with your medication. It will often complement conventional medical treatment by giving an overall strengthening effect and improving the circulation of blood and lymph and reducing stress. If you are receiving medical treatment for a particular condition, then it may be advisable to inform or consult your doctor prior to having a Shiatsu treatment.


Can I have a Shiatsu treatment if I am receiving other complementary or alternative medicine?

Yes, although it is generally best to leave at least a few days between different treatments to let the effects settle-in. If you have any concerns about mixing treatments, please discuss them with your practitioner.


What is Ki?

Ki (sometimes spelled 'Chi' or 'Qi') is beyond definition.   In the West, Ki is often equated with energy.   There are many similarities.  Traditionally Ki manifests as Movement, Warmth, Protection, Support and Transformation.   In Eastern cultures, Ki is so much a part of life it requires no explanation.   A good party in Japan might be described as "Full of Ki".


Everything possesses Ki

The Earth, the Air, the Sun, all non-living things, all these possess Ki

Ki is insubstantial, yet it is tangible.


When Ki of Earth (food) and Ki of Heaven (air) combine they produce life.

In a healthy body Ki flows continuously and smoothly.


Ki may be deficient, become stuck, or flow in the wrong direction. According to this principle when this happens, our health is affected when this energy stops flowing freely.


Click on the links below for more information on:-

Kerrie West

His knowledge of anatomy was incredible. ...The pain I experienced disappeared almost instantly after I left the treatment room and has been a lot better since... Thanks Nick!

Jane Burton

I sought Nick's expertise for a debilitating frozen shoulder. Nick took the time to listen to my symptoms and examine me and to thoroughly explain his diagnosis and treatment plan.


After just one session of gentle manipulation and massage, I was much improved with an increased range of motion and a reduction in pain.

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Cocchrane database System Review. 2006 Oct 18: (4): CD003521
Hsieh LL., et al (2006)

Treatment of low back pain by acupressure and physical therapy: randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 25;332(7543):696-700.

Chen HM and Chen CM. (2004). Effects of acupressure at the Sanyinjiao point on primary dysmenorrhoea. Journal of Advanced N.48(4):380-7.

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