What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a hands-on Japanese bodywork system that derives its theoretical and practical roots from the ancient traditions of oriental medicine.

Similar to osteopathy and physiotherapy, it is a form of structural bodywork that involves gentle manipulative and stretching techniques but like acupuncture, "without the needles", it is a complete system of healing that primarily works on balancing the body's free flow of energies.

According to the principles of traditional oriental medicine, Qi is the life force within every living organism. Qi flows throughout the body in channels known as meridians. When the flow of Qi is disturbed for any physical, mental, spiritual or emotional process, symptoms of poor health can develop. Shiatsu works to help restore equilibrium and to stimulate the body's intrinsic natural healing response.

The session takes place on a massage table or futon. Shiatsu is received fully clothed and during a treatment your practitioner will apply pressure to acupressure points (specific stress release points) and various areas of the body using thumbs, fingers, forearms, elbows, knees and feet. Gentle manipulative joint mobilisations and more dynamic stretches are applied where appropriate.

It is a deeply relaxing experience for the receiver. Following a treatment, there can be a feeling of increased vitality and you may feel invigorated yet relaxed.

Each session lasts approximately one hour. The first session may be slightly longer since your shiatsu practitioner will take a detailed case history to develop a complete picture of your health according to the principles of oriental medicine in order to give you the most effective treatment.

Today Shiatsu is used by thousands of people all over the world in private clinics, a variety of charities, health foundations, NHS trusts and hospitals in the UK to prevent illness and to optimize health and well being.

Health shield reimbursement

Health Shield will reimburse for shiatsu on a number of corporate paid plans. Please check with your employer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it feel like?

Shiatsu is a deeply relaxing yet invigorating experience. Your practitioner will consider your state of health, the symptoms you are experiencing, and depending on your constitution and general energy levels, will use a variety of techniques to improve your energy flow.

These may include gentle holding, pressing with palms, thumbs, fingers, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to apply pressure to different parts of the body.

Other techniques like percussion, cupping and rocking may be used and joint mobilisations and more dynamic rotations and stretches will be applied where appropriate.

What conditions is Shiatsu good for?

Some people have shiatsu for help with a specific symptom or condition. Others choose to have treatment to help maintain good health, as a preventative measure, or simply to improve their overall sense of wellbeing. Increased vitality, higher states of relaxation, improved sleep patterns, and reduced stress levels are typically reported after a shiatsu session and are accumulative over a course of treatment.

The ancient traditions and principles of Chinese medicine can be quite complex. For nearly every named western condition you bring to your practitioner there is an eastern translation of a complex weave of different syndromes and patterns within which it is understood. Every symptom has meaning within traditional oriental medicine.

As shiatsu works to treat the whole person rather than specific symptoms in isolation, it can be effective for a wide range of both acute and chronic conditions. This means that each person's treatment plan will be unique and tailored specifically to them. You can always ask your practitioner about other patients' experiences, to give you an idea of what to expect.

You can get more information on current scientific research into the effectiveness of shiatsu by visiting or by speaking to a qualified practitioner.

Are there any times when shiatsu should be avoided?

Shiatsu is a very safe therapy that is suitable for people of all ages, constitutions and physical abilities, including pre and post natal conditions. Your state of health and personal condition will always be taken into account by your practitioner and your individual treatment will be tailored to ensure your health and safety at all times.

Contraindications to Shiatsu include if you have:

  • any infectious disease
  • any acute, feverish illness
  • internal bleeding or blood clots
  • 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 many sessions will be needed?

In traditional oriental medicine, each person is considered unique, and therefore the number of treatments required depends on the individual. Sometimes the effects of treatment are so rapid that only one or two sessions are needed. In other cases or chronic conditions, the effects are more subtle and it may be beneficial to continue treatment over several months.

Shiatsu for general relaxation and preventative therapy purposes may be taken as frequently as desired.

What should I wear?

You remain fully clothed throughout your treatment. Loose comfortable clothing made from natural fibres is advisable, a T-shirt preferably with long sleeves and jogging pants are ideal. Please no skirts, or jeans. Please bring a pair of socks to your appointment.

How will I feel after a treatment?

Clients regularly report increased energy levels, improved sleep patterns, reduced stress levels and an enhanced overall wellbeing . Some people may feel very relaxed and sleepy after treatment, while others feel invigorated and energised.

What if I am on medication?

Shiatsu can be used alongside conventional medicine when necessary. You should let your practitioner know about any medication you may be taking as this may affect your treatment. 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 shiatsu if I am having other complementary or alternative therapy?

Yes shiatsu is a completely safe and non-invasive form of therapy. It is advisable to leave a few days between different treatments to allow any changes to take place and to maximise the effectiveness of your treatment.