This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
A shiatsu session usually lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. The number of sessions you'll need depends on the nature of your ailment. It may take about four to eight treatments to resolve an acute problem, such as tension headaches; long-term chronic conditions, such as low back pain, will probably require a more extensive regimen.
The practitioner will begin your treatment by taking a medical history, asking questions about your lifestyle, past illnesses, diet, and how much you exercise. Your physical and emotional characteristics will also be observed and assessed.
During the treatment, you will lie fully clothed on a mat on the floor. The practitioner will touch certain areas of your body (often starting with your abdomen) to locate where your tension resides. The treatment will then focus on these areas, to lessen the tension and restore energy flow.
There are many different types of shiatsu massage, and your practitioner may use a combination of techniques, including pressing, holding, stretching, and rotating parts of the body. Practitioners of Zen shiatsu, for example, use their whole bodies as leverage to apply strong pressure, while barefoot shiatsu practitioners bring the feet into play, as well as the hands, to rub and press tsubos. Other techniques employ rubbing and kneading motions.
While the treatment is generally relaxing, you may experience odd-seeming reactions in your body, such as gurgling stomach noises or a shudder as you release tension. Or, if the therapist works on an area where you have been storing tension caused by emotional upset, you may feel like crying. This is not unusual. A good practitioner will act compassionately and be supportive.
At the end of the session, you will probably feel very relaxed and may wish to sleep. Some people, however, may feel invigorated and exuberant. This sense of well-being may last for a few days after a treatment.
Shiatsu is most often used to maintain general health and prevent illness. It can be especially useful for easing stress-related conditions. Proponents claim that the therapy can help relieve pain from arthritis as well as back, neck, and shoulder pain. People suffering from headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, and menstrual cramps have reported improvement with shiatsu. It may also bring relief from asthma, constipation, and nausea.