Shiatsu • This is how the massage from Japan works

Shiatsu has its origins in traditional Chinese medicine and is used, among other things, for headaches, digestive problems and circulatory disorders. Find out here how you can find competent therapists, whether the health insurance companies pay and how you can treat yourself.

Shiatsu originally comes from Japan and is derived from the terms “shi” for “finger” and “atsu” for “pressure”. The roots of Shiatsu come from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Tuina massage practiced there. In the 6th century medicine came from China to Japan and influenced the methods of treatment there. However, the actual Shiatsu was not developed until the beginning of the 20th century. The massage technique spread from Japan to the western world. Today, the boundaries between wellness offers and therapeutic Shiatsu are often fluid and not always easy for the layperson to recognize.

At a glance:

Surprising headache triggers

How does a Shiatsu massage work?

According to the understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the life energy Qi also plays an important role in therapeutic or Zen Shiatsu. It flows in energy channels (meridians) through the entire body and thus influences the function of each individual organ. If there is an energetic imbalance in one part of the body, for example as a result of an energy congestion, physical and psychological complaints can be the result.

Each meridian is connected to certain points on the surface of the skin that are particularly good at absorbing energy. These body points are also known from other forms of TCM treatment such as acupuncture or acupressure or other Asian massage methods such as Thai massage.

In Shiatsu, these points are massaged along the meridians at the touch of a finger. The energy flow should be brought back into harmony, the self-healing powers of the body stimulated. From a purely physical point of view, massage, similar to other manual body therapies, stimulates blood flow to muscles, skin and connective tissue. By stretching the muscles, blocked joints are given more freedom and the entire musculoskeletal system is mobilized. A Shiatsu massage stimulates the autonomic nervous system and has a balancing effect that, depending on the type of stimulation, can be calming or stimulating.

For which complaints is Shiatsu used?

The aim of Shiatsu is to find energetic imbalances in the body and to balance them out. In this way, symptoms of the entire body can be treated. Shiatsu is a holistic method, which means that the therapy is not limited to a specific part of the body, but affects the entire body. The massage techniques stimulate the natural body functions and also have a calming effect on the psyche. This strengthens the body’s defenses and, at the same time, its performance.

Shiatsu can be used in conjunction with the treatment of a wide range of complaints as well as for prevention. Conventional and alternative medical therapies can be supported by the massage, but not a substitute for it.

Shiatsu is traditionally used for:

Shiatsu is also practiced in care for the elderly, palliative medicine or for health care in the workplace. Since Shiatsu is a gentle and painless method, it is also suitable for children, pregnant women and the elderly.

In the case of osteoporosis (bone loss), varicose veins, high blood pressure, epilepsy or tumors, however, medical advice should be obtained beforehand as to whether Shiatsu treatment is suitable.

How does a Shiatsu massage work?

Before the Shiatsu treatment begins, the practitioner first gets a precise picture of the symptoms. To do this, he * she asks a few questions, such as how long the symptoms have existed, where exactly the symptoms occur and whether there are any underlying diseases.

Then you usually lie down on a mat or a futon (Japanese sleeping pad). In Western countries, Shiatsu is performed with clothes on. However, we recommend comfortable clothing in which you can feel comfortable and move around easily. During the entire Shiatsu treatment, the person to be treated lies relaxed on a lounger or a padded mat on the floor. Certain techniques are also performed while seated.

In Shiatsu, therapists speak of “energetic bodywork”. First, he * she carefully feels the parts of the body where he * she suspects the energy blockages. Then the course of the meridian is gently massaged.

The touch can come from the fingers, hands, elbows, knees or even feet. Typical massage techniques are, for example, circling, pressing or grasping. Since Shiatsu is about stimulating the flow of energy, the movements are gentle and calm with finger pressure. In addition to the Shiatsu massage, various handles are also used. The therapist passively holds parts of the body in a certain position and stretches the muscles. The end of the Shiatsu treatment consists of a short rest and relaxation phase, during which the movements and touch can have an effect.

A Shiatsu session lasts around 50 to 60 minutes. For a lasting effect on the organism, a cycle of several treatments is recommended.

Who can offer Shiatsu therapy?

The term Shiatsu therapist is not protected in Germany, which means that anyone can call themselves that. If you are interested in this body therapy, you should ask about the type of training of the respective therapist.

The therapeutic Shiatsu is based on the energy and meridian theory of TCM. Traditional Chinese Medicine is very comprehensive and complex. Shiatsu therapists should therefore take special training in which they learn the basics of TCM and the individual Shiatsu treatment techniques. The Society for Shiatsu in Germany (GSD) recommends a three-year training course of at least 500 hours with basic medical training for Shiatsu practitioners. In Germany there are schools that specialize in Far Eastern healing methods such as Shiatsu.

What does Shiatsu cost and what does the health insurance company pay?

The Shiatsu treatment is not part of the catalog of services of the statutory health insurance companies, which means that the costs for the massage (between 40 and 90 euros per session) have to be paid by the insured person. The health insurance companies sometimes reimburse part of the amount if the treatment is recommended by a doctor and is carried out by a recognized Shiatsu practitioner (e.g. alternative practitioner).

Self-treatment with Shiatsu

Due to the gentle treatment techniques, Shiatsu is suitable for the everyday treatment of physical complaints, such as muscle tension, headaches or circulatory disorders. Shiatsu can also only be used for relaxation, for example as a partner massage. With special Shiatsu massage seats or massage mats, self-treatment also works in areas of the body that are difficult to access, such as the back.

The basics of massage can be learned in appropriate courses. As a rule, health centers, massage practices, physiotherapy practices or even adult education centers offer such courses. However, if acute or chronic complaints are to be treated professionally with Shiatsu, Shiatsu therapy with a trained practitioner is recommended.

Overview of relaxation techniques

Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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