Shiatsu with Acupuncture

October 12, 2018

The practise of Shiatsu is perhaps unsurprisingly very compatible with Acupuncture as a treatment protocol, particularly as at East West College we have taught Shiatsu techniques on a couch, which is said to be the method favoured in Japan for professional treatments (as opposed to a futon).

Shiatsu has a similarity with Tui Na massage which originates from China, but the development of Shiatsu from Japan has arisen out of the work of blind practitioners of Anma (or Anmo) who treated their patients to a kata sequence (or ‘form’) which treated the whole body and which was learned by rote from their teacher. The Anma treatment offers an in-depth full body treatment, which we recommend for maintaining health of all the channels (meridians) and muscle groups. In Anma points are pressed in a circular motion before moving onto the next point.

In Shiatsu, the practitioner primarily uses diagnosis of the hara (abdomen) to determine the most suitable treatment for a patient, which elements need nourishing and which aspects are feeling depleted or overfull. So no two treatments might be alike. Additionally, Shiatsu uses very effective stretching techniques (passive stretches), using the practitioners body weight to balance the stretch, rather than their muscle power. Points are pressed deeply (but not with circular movements) or more gently according to need and to the person requiring the treatment. Importantly, Shiatsu uses the same points as acupuncturists to restore health and wellbeing to the body, but with pressing and not with needles.

For this reason, Shiatsu combined with the knowledge of Acupuncture, offers the practitioner and patient many benefits. Acupuncture points can be treated with pressing to clear stagnant qi, or can be treated more gently to encourage greater circulation and balance deficiency. This kind of treatment could well be called “Acupressure”, but it is based on a thorough grounding in Japanese Shiatsu (as opposed to Ayurvedic acupressure for example), which is based on Chinese Medical Theory. For this reason there is much overlap between the two systems and patients can experience another kind of treatment by combining the two. Additionally, people who are afraid of receiving a treatment with needles might prefer a Shiatsu or Acupressure-type of treatment. Due to the theory behind the Shiatsu, the treatments may also be extremely effective with this method.

My own experience is that Migraine headaches can be alleviated with the use of pressure. In this case although shoulder, neck and head massage work can be useful, points pressed on the arms, hands and feet can have the most far reaching effects to help the headache to fade away almost immediately. Though those points may be painful to be pressed, it is better to have pain in the foot than in the head in that instance. Both pains dissipate as the channel is cleared. For me, mostly, it works more effectively than taking oral painkillers not only by the speed of the headache going, but also because it does not just come back. With taking a painkiller I find that it numbs the pain temporarily, then the headache returns and overall takes longer to go away. On the whole, using Acupressure on points is a great way to avoid taking painkillers.  

Another reason why Shiatsu / Acupressure is an excellent therapy with or without the Acupuncture is that it is deeply relaxing and non-invasive at the same time.

Carina Hamilton


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