What is Shiatsu

mindful movement and balance

Shiatsu is a form of therapeutic massage that originated in Japan from traditional Chinese medicine, with influences from more recent Western therapies. Although shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ in Japanese, in practice a practitioner uses touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure and balance its energy flow. It is a deeply relaxing experience and regular treatments can alleviate stress and illness and maintain health and well-being. It’s a different and incredibly powerful way of understanding how our bodies work. Shiatsu is used widely across Europe and the US and, of course, in Japan.

There are many things about Shiatsu that I love, and I’d like to share just a few of them with you:

  1. No oils are used, so you don’t have to undress for a shiatsu session, just wear comfortable, stretchy and/or loose clothing. 

  2. No needles or other specialist equipment are used during a shiatsu massage. Just light finger pressure, some stretches and joint rotations, maybe some rocking and supportive holding to help your body to create powerful changes.

  3. It is suitable for all ages and a whole host of conditions. These include, but are not limited to, pain, digestive issues, menstrual and/or menopause issues, and lots more.

  4. It’s a complete, whole-body, holistic therapy and it simply makes the receiver feel great – energised and relaxed at the same time. 

As your Shiatsu Practitioner I listen to you, take some notes and really focus on how you are feeling. I take time during the session to check that you are okay with the level of pressure or stretches and that you are generally happy with the massage. 


If you would like to find out more, contact me and we can have a phone conversation to go into more details. If you want to try a therapy to help you feel more relaxed and energised and to help you relieve aches and pains, then I would love to be able to help you. 

Why Shiatsu


Pain relief

Shiatsu massage is known for helping with all kinds of pain. Research has even shown that it can help with the pain experienced by burn victims. A clinical study of 120 burn patients published in 2014 at Motahhari Burn Hospital found that Shiatsu to the hands and legs of the burn patients reduced pain. In addition, the researchers conclude that Shiatsu can be recommended along with analgesics to reduce the dosage. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25489534 


Multiple studies have shown that acupressure, the main component of a shiatsu massage, is an effective alternative medicine that can decrease lower back pain. Here are just  a couple of the research findings:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15207999  and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16488895 


One study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing evaluated how Shiatsu massage helped 66 patients experiencing lower back pain. “Shiatsu, a specific type of massage, was used as an intervention in this study of 66 individuals complaining of lower back pain. Each individual was measured on state/trait anxiety and pain level before and after four shiatsu treatments. Each subject was then called 2 days following each treatment and asked to quantify the level of pain. Both pain and anxiety decreased significantly over time. Extraneous variables such as gender, age, gender of therapist, length of history with lower back pain, and medications taken for lower back pain did not alter the significant results. These subjects would recommend shiatsu massage for others suffering from lower back pain and indicated the treatments decreased the major inconveniences they experienced with their lower back pain.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11847714 


Here is the experience of one of my Shiatsu clients who came to me with significant pain.

A Journey to Recovery

In 2018, I injured my back and shoulder and suddenly found myself practically immobilised and dealing with intolerable levels of pain. Overnight I changed from a fit, active, fun-loving person to a miserable shadow of my former self. I spent months taking large amounts of prescribed medication. I paid for intensive physiotherapy and the use of a medical grade massage bed.  I invested in a TENS machine, heat pads and ice packs but the pain was still there; all-consuming and utterly relentless! I couldn’t sleep, think or function and nothing I did seemed to help. When my Physiotherapist suggested, I consider trying a holistic approach for my injury, I truthfully felt all hope of recovery had gone. 


Reluctantly, I booked my first ever Shiatsu massage and arrived feeling miserable and defeated.  I was convinced this wasn’t going to help when everything else had failed.  However, despite my initial reservations, I was immediately put at ease by Ettaline’s warm welcome, sincerity and compassion.  By the end of that first session, her reassuring manner, patient approach and gentle massage, left me with an almost unimaginable sense of peace.  After months of despair and agony, this also gave me a faint sense of hope.  I trusted that Ettaline would genuinely do whatever she could to help me and booked a second appointment. 


This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  After just two sessions, my pain was markedly reduced.  It’s difficult to explain what happened over the following weeks but I could actually feel my injury physically breaking down and dissipating as my body began to heal. After just a few sessions, I was virtually pain-free and enjoying an active life once again.  


Five months later, I continue to book a regular Shiatsu Massage. I find it so relaxing and it helps keep me in tune with my own body. It brings such a wonderful sense of harmony (physically, mentally and emotionally) to body and soul, in a way I’d never previously experienced.  I feel very fortunate to have met Ettaline.  I’m not sure how I’d have survived without her expert help.  She’s a genuinely wonderful person and I can’t recommend her enough. Thank you Ettaline.





Stress reduction

If you want to relieve your levels of stress, shiatsu massage can be a great choice. According to a systematic review published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, “Shiatsu aims to balance, restore and maintain the body’s energy balance and prevent the build-up of stress.”

In 2014 a case study was carried out with a 7-year old boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The outcomes suggested that Zen Shiatsu could be a practical alternative therapy option to relieve short-term and long-term stress levels in the child. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240698/  

A randomized, single-blind clinical trial published in 2018 also demonstrates how addressing specific acupressure points (as is done in Shiatsu massage), can help to decrease anxiety and the need for pain killers for women in labour.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29628954 



Relief of anxiety

Anxiety can be incredibly debilitating and finding ways of reducing levels of anxiety can be transformative. Shiatsu may be a great therapeutic choice to help with anxiety. A study looking at the effects of Shiatsu massage on 60 burn patients concluded “Based on our findings, 20 minutes of hand Shiatsu massage in conjunction with analgesic medications can be beneficial to control the anxiety of burn patients.” This study was published in the World Journal of Plastic Surgery. Patients participating had their levels of anxiety measured before and after the massage using the Burn Specific Pain Anxiety Scale (BSPAS). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25606475

Women's Health

Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy, which is based on the principles of Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine tradition, women pass through gateways as we age. Puberty, pregnancy, menopause – these gateways and the changing hormones that can accompany them can be problematic, bringing difficult symptoms at a physical, mental and emotional level. They may also really make us think about our identity. The up-side is that these gateways also signal new stages in life which, if dealt with, can be embraced and celebrated. 


Shiatsu can help support and address many of the issues that women experience as we go through life. It may well be able to help with pre-menstrual symptoms, including headaches, pain, tension, irritation, and also menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and insomnia. Shiatsu can help to rebalance out the system which helps to alleviate many of these symptoms. 


For pregnancy, Shiatsu massages create a soothing space where body and mind can relax and let go. It’s not unusual for clients to fall asleep during a shiatsu treatment! Shiatsu can improve the quality of breathing, loosen tight muscles and aching joints such as hops and lower back, which are often problem areas in pregnancy. There is a growing amount of evidence (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23111717 ) showing that the deep relaxation can result in fewer obstetric complications and caesarean sections. Being relaxed can also reduce the heart rate of the baby and increase the birth weight.  


A recent study from two hospitals in Australia showed techniques, some of which are used in Shiatsu, reduced the risk of caesarean sections and the need for epidurals. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/7/e010691.full 


In addition, research carried out by midwives on 66 pregnant women in Bristol in 2005 suggested that regular shiatsu massages help women go into labour spontaneously rather than having to have inductions when they had gone over term.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15907673   


Finally, there is an acupressure point on the inside of the wrist that helps reduce the nausea that can make life quite miserable, especially in the earlier stages of pregnancy. (I have a video to put in here)  It’s also good for travel sickness either in pregnancy or just in general for anyone. 



Shiatsu may be beneficial for digestion problems. Shiatsu massage helps provide a soothing effect on the mind and relaxes the body. It works well in conjunction with Qigong and I sometimes give clients one or two exercises to do for self-help between sessions.


In anatomical terms, the final section of our digestive system involves moving Chyme (food that has been broken down in the stomach and small intestine) through the large intestine, taking fluid on board to prepare it for elimination as faeces. This movement is done by a system called peristalsis, which is involuntary muscle contractions. As often happens in other systems of the body, this digestion system can be interrupted or affected by many things, for example, IBS, medications, stress, deficiencies in certain minerals and vitamins. When problems slow the digestive system down, we can see results like constipation, bloating, wind, diarrhoea, colitis and so on. These issues can affect our lives horribly and can be difficult to resolve. 


Massage or shiatsu therapy can be a wonderful aid to resolving these problems in healthy individuals, but if a more serious health condition is suspected, it’s always best to consult with a doctor before massage is given, as there may be issues your therapist should be aware of. A full shiatsu massage may help remedy these problems, because it helps stimulate healthy food passage by easing the stress stopping healthy digestion. It also helps in assisting with the removal of waste products and helps release healthy digestive enzymes.



Improved Energy Flow

As a Shiatsu practitioner, my belief is that Shiatsu may improve the health of your whole body by positively affecting the body’s internal energy system. I use the Traditional Chinese Medicine principles of acupressure and meridian lines, or channels, to apply pressure and massage the body in a very intentional way. By stimulating these meridians, and acupressure points along then, I work to the goal of trying to remove blockages and encourage a smooth flow of the vital energy of the body, also known as ki, qi or chi. 

Shiatsu supports and strengthens the body’s natural ability to heal and balance itself. It works on the whole person - not just with the physical body, but also with the psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of being. This means that it may be beneficial for a whole range of issues and problems, such as:


Migraines and other headaches 

Shiatsu can reduce tension, depression and anxiety, and has been shown to diminish the intensity, duration and reliance on medication for sufferers.

Muscle pain, including low back and joint pain: Shiatsu helps to facilitate blood flow and circulation, so helping in the healing of injured muscles.



Chronic pain, including fibromyalgia

Shiatsu can help to relieve tension and stress, to improve sleep and reduce muscle and joint pain, all of which are experienced by chronic pain sufferers.



Stress and anxiety 

Shiatsu generally increases relaxation and soothes body tension and pain, while increasing the release of serotonin and dopamine.



Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Shiatsu massage may decrease cortisol and increase serotonin and dopamine, which can calm some of the condition's symptoms.



Pregnancy discomfort 

Shiatsu massage can lift the mood, increase blood flow and range of motion, helping to relax and prepare mothers-to-be for childbirth.



Sleep issues, including fatigue and insomnia

Shiatsu often promotes relaxation and reduces stress, leading to better sleep.


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