Shiatsu, which literally means ‘finger pressure’ in Japanese, finds its roots in Chinese medicine and has been practiced in Japan for over a thousand years. Many of the early practitioners in Japan of this healing massage were blind, thanks to a generous shogunate that founded a school for the blind during the Tokugawa period. Up until the 20th century, these Anma-san could be seen walking the streets whistling through bamboo whistles, making their availability known. When Western medicine started to become prominent in Japan, Shiatsu nearly disappeared but was saved by an enterprising doctor that founded the Clinic of Pressure Therapy in 1925. It is the style of founder Tokujiro Namikoshi that most modern Shiatsu is based on today.

What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu works on the same principles as acupuncture, in which pressure is put on certain points of the body in order to relieve pain. The theory behind this therapy is that it works on ki (which is Japanese for ‘chi,’ which many Westerners recognise as the Eastern concept of ‘life force’). The idea is that this ki, or the basic energy that governs the movements and functions of the body, can become blocked. By using the gentle stretching and pressure techniques of shiatsu, these blockages can be removed, restoring the flow of ki.

This may sound bizarre to Western ears, but the truth is that this form of massage therapy can help a wide variety of illnesses, from back pain, headaches, stress, chronic pain, and even pain associated with menstrual cycles.

How Shiatsu Can Help With Back Pain

There is any number of problems that can happen to the back. In fact, recent research has indicated that as many as sixty percent of people in the UK have suffered from some kind of back pain at one time or another. Shiatsu is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of therapy; in fact, each session is highly individualised depending on the client’s needs. The most common kind of back pain comes from straining muscles in the lower back as a result of lifting something too heavy or simple bad posture. In this example, one part of the back becomes weakened from trauma and other parts of the back must struggle to take up the slack. This can lead to a domino effect of back pain.

The therapy for this kind of pain would involve a series of pressure point work and manipulations to help the body find its former neutral state. When this is used in combination with the client learning the proper way to lift heavy objects or improves his posture, the body will not only revert to its former comfortable position but the client understands how to protect his back so that the pain doesn’t return.

What is a Shiatsu Session Like?

For the first session, the Shiatsu therapist will ask you questions about your health and lifestyle so he can tailor a shiatsu program for your needs. Shiatsu is traditionally performed on the floor while lying on a futon or comfortable padding. The massage can be performed through clothes, so you should wear loose fitting clothes and socks. A typical session lasts about an hour.

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