This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Shiatsu is based on some of the same principles as acupuncture, tai chi, and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). According to TCM, illness is caused by imbalances in the flow of energy (qi in Chinese; ki in Japanese) in the body. Ki can accumulate and become trapped in points along the meridians known as tsubos, which correspond to Chinese acupressure points. Proponents believe that a shiatsu massage focused on these areas can clear blockages and help restore health by allowing energy to travel freely throughout the body.
A more scientific explanation for shiatsu's pain-relieving ability is that it initiates the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. It may also lower the levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones in the body, stimulating a relaxation response.