Acupressure and Shiatsu

Acupressure and Shiatsu

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Acupressure and Shiatsu

Massage Therapy/ Oriental methods/ Acupressure and Shiatsu
The Purpose of Acupressure/ How Acupressure Works/ Claims of Acupressure/
Support of Claims/ The Purpose of Shiatsu/ How Shiatsu Works/
Claims of Shiatsu/ Support of the Claims/ Conclusion/ Tests ans Studies

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a procedure that affects all systems of the body; digestive, respiratory, lymphatic, circulatory, endocrine and the nervous system. Massage can change the blood by increasing the oxygen capacity, affect the muscles, increase the body's secretions and excretions, affect the nervous system, enhance skin condition and it affects internal organs. Massages benefit you physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Examples of such benefits are stress relief, a relaxed state, quicker recovery time and a bigger sense of self awareness. Massage aids in the circulation of blood, the movement of the lymphatic fluid, the release of toxins, the release of tension, mind/body integration, reduction of stress, energy and enhancement of all bodily systems. It was found in a study of University of Miami students that " a month's worth of massages heightened brain wave activities, decreased anxiety and helped students complete math problems in half the time and with fewer errors."
( There are many different methods of massage therapy such as traditional European massages, Contemporary western massages, Structual/Movement/Functional/Integration massages, oriental methods and energetic methods.

Oriental Methods

" The goal of oriental medicine is to diagnose the nature of imbalance- to discern the 'pattern of disharmony', not to diagnose the name of the disease. There is a saying ' illness is goodness'. Health is balance- illness is a signal of imbalance, and of the body's action to regain that balance." ( Oriental methods are taken from the fundamentals of Chinese medicine which are based on flow of energy or chi through the meridians. The oriental way of thinking is the yin and yang. Therefore, the oriental view of good health is when there is a balance between the yin and the yang. The yin is cold, dark and interior while the yang is warm, light and exterior. Despite the fact that they are complete opposites, the Orientals view them as one. " They create each other, define each other, control each other and transform into each other."
( Health includes one's physical, spiritual and emotional roles.

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Related Searches

When the yin and yang are in equilibrium, a person is in good health and all systems are functioning normally. However, when they are not in equilibrium, signs and symptoms of illness occur. Oriental medicine says that every illness or discomfort of the body can be interpreted in terms of something not agreeing with chi or the flow of energy. Health also involves our connections with our families, society, environment and our self. These connections may be disrupted if the yin and yang are unbalanced. The basic materials of oriental medicine are jing, which are essences, shen which are spirits, and finally chi which are bloods, fluids and vital energy. Meridians are pathways where the chi travels throughout the body so that the organs can carry out their tasks. Each meridian is associated with one of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The meridians have pressure points where chi can be stopped. In oriental medicine, the organs are coupled together. They are shown in the table below.

Name Functions

Lung large intestine, elimination, capacity for change
Stomach spleen digestion,capacity for contemplation
Heart small intestine, circulation of blood,capacity for joy
Bladder kidney purification,storage of jing,willpower
Gallbladder liver storage of blood,distribution of chi,nutrients

*The information from the table is taken from
Elements Earth Metal Water Wood Fire
Organs spleen/stomach lung/lg. intestin bladder/kidney liver/gallbladder heart
Color yellow white black blue/green red
Emotion worrying grief fear anger joy
Season late summer autumn winter spring summer
Sense Organ mouth nose ears eyes tongue
Taste sweet pungent salt sour bitter

* The information from the above table was taken from (
Two specific types of oriental methods of massage therapy are acupressure and shiatsu.

Acupressure and Shiatsu
Acupressure and shiatsu are similar versions of finger pressure massages. This technique puts pressure on certain points using the thumb, finger, and palm and both forms of massage use the meridians or energy pathways of the body. Shiatsu is the Japanese version of the more commonly used term, acupressure.
The Purpose of Acupressure

The purpose of acupressure is to ease muscular tension. Acupressure allows the blood to circulate freely, allowing toxins to be emitted or removed, and allowing the nerves to rest. Emotions are stabilized through acupressure by venting the related tension caused by suppressed feelings. Acupressure also has amazing soothing effects on the body. Acupressure also helps upgrade muscle strength, and tone and helps sports injuries by increasing circulation as well as lowering pain. A safe alternative to problems associated with stress such as headaches, ulcers, cramps and insomnia is acupressure therapy. Acupressure techniques are meant to correct imbalances in all systems of the body, by regulating these systems. (

How Acupressure Works

Acupressure is different from acupuncture in that it is performed without needles. The practitioner uses his or her thumbs, hands, knees or elbows where needed. Glands become stimulated once pressure is applied in that region. Their are fourteen invisible meridians in the human body that carry energy throughout the body. These meridians begin at the fingertips, and are attached to the brain and the related meridian organ. A barrier in the meridian causes the energy to flow slower, which in effect causes something to go wrong in the organ which is related to that meridian. Through acupressure the energy can flow with regularity and the organ can continue its usual function. Acupressure simply reduces pain by stimulating the release of endorphins, which are the body's pain relievers. Acupressure also raises the nutrient supply to muscles by advancing cellular exchange. At the same time, development of damaging fatigue products, metabolic wastes and lactic acid from extreme excercise are deterred. The most significant idea of acupressure is pulse reading. A pulse is a point in the arm where you can feel to find the flow of energy in a meridian. Pulses may also be imaginary. There are nine pulses in the lower arm area that attaches to the wrist. There are two phases in a pulse: superficial and deep. If the pulse is not in the superficial phase, it should be found in the deep phase. If this is the case, then there is a problem within that particular meridian. Deep pulses are difficult to find. If the pulse is not detectable, the individual has a severe medical condition. Some pulses are fast whereas some are slow. Face reading also aids in the diagnosis. The human face can display a number of signs which can give indications of their physical well being. For example oily skin, bulging eyes or lines on the forehead indicate poor health. Face reading alone cannot determine the root cause, only pulse reading can. (

Claims of Acupressure

There have been many claims made about the effectiveness of acupressure. Acupressure has been known to cure cancer, asthma, diabetes and polio. Acupressure also is productive in problems that associate with the major organs of the body such as the liver, stomach, digestive organs, kidneys and the brain. Diabetic patients find that through acupressure, their sugar level is considerably lowered. Acupressure has also been known to aid in PMS, infertility, menopause, pregnancy and urinary problems by avoiding hot flashes, depression, hyper- tension and aches. Acupressure does not only ease the pain, it actually heals it internally. Bone fractures and dislocations have been corrected through acupressure rather than casts. Acupressure has removed kidney and bladder stones in just days. It has cured Colitis and Chron's disease. In most cases, the first stage of cancer is 100% curable, the second is 70% and the third is barely ever curable through acupressure. Remarkably acupressure has also helped cure breast cancer, as well as paralysis, arthritis and rheumatism. Other claims are that acupressure replaces chemical influence on the body, which means people don't take as many prescription or non- prescription drugs. There is no danger of infection since acupressure does not go beneath the skin. (

Support of the Claims

In support of all these claims, scientific equipment has shown that these points used in acupressure have a higher electrical conductivity on the surface of the skin. They have found that acupressure should not be used as your only form of treatment for illness; you should see a doctor if you are sick. Acupressure is not to be used by those who are pregnant or suffer from a heart condition. Scientists have also found that acupressure should not be performed 20 minutes before or after extreme excercise, a big meal, bathing or if the point is beneath any sort of break in the skin. Acupressure had been researched by a neurologist, Sir Henry Head, who determined the connection between skin zones and inner organs. He also found that a pain put on a ill organ is felt at the matching skin segment instead of at the organ itself. Russian researcher, Prof. Kuznetsov exercised Head's theory and did an extensive clinical test to show that stimulation using acupressure, " soothed muscular, articular and vertebral pains, normalized the activity of the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous and digestive systems, relieved from headache and sleeplessness, diminished tiredness and improved the general feeling of well being."
Acupressure research is being presented by doctors and researchers from all over the world. One such contributor, Michael Reed Gach, Ph.D founded the Acupressure Institute's career training programs in Berkeley, CA. In addition, he has also written six self care books. There is also a vast amount of information regarding acupressure available from various organizations and advertisements.

The Purpose of Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a very similar to acupressure, however it is somewhat more elaborate. "Shi" means finger and "atsu" means pressure. Shiatsu involves more techniques such as pressing, patting, rotating, pinching, vibrating and many more that are not necessarily used in acupressure. The purpose of shiatsu is to toughen the immune system. Shiatsu is known to be beneficial in injuries of the soft tissues. For example, sprains, strains and aches of the back or shoulders can benefit a great deal from shiatsu. Shiatsu effects the circulation and flow of lymphatic fluid by helping the autonomic nervous system. Through the process, toxins and tension are freed from the muscles while rousing the hormone system. It helps with headaches, menstrual problems, digestive problems and backaches. Following an injury, shiatsu may be used to quicken the recovery. Quickened recovery occurs because shiatsu raises blood flow to the struck areas and lessens irritation and expanding of the joints. Shiatsu also relaxes a person and allows them get in touch with themselves. People feel composed and serene after shiatsu. (

How Shiatsu Works

Shiatsu works by exciting the chi flow similar to the way acupressure does. Shiatsu does not only consist of putting pressure on the body to make it work at its best, but there needs to be communication and understanding between the person receiving the treatment and the person giving the treatment. Chi stagnation is when the energy flowing through us which nurtures our insides is blocked. Shiatsu then enhances the flow of energy and removes the blockage of the chi. The stagnation of the chi can be a result of too much work, confined excercise, trauma, stress, lack of sleep and bad posture. Some symptoms of stagnation include muscle sprains, PMS, headaches, high blood pressure, lower back pain and anxiety. Slight pressure is put on the meridians usually found on the legs, head, back, abdomen, neck and arms. Also, the body needs to be extended to ease muscles and joints. Points on the body which are pressed to release tension are called "Tsubos". There are 361 tsubos along the meridians and when they are first pressed, there might be a slight feeling of discomfort. Shiatsu is given lying on the floor, on a futon or a massage table, while one is comfortably clothed and in good light. There are four different types of shiatsu. Classic shiatsu is good for balancing muscle tone. Deep shiatsu is a combination of stretches and compression's which works well for pain relief and putting you in a very relaxed mood. Tantric shiatsu and Jim Shi Do shiatsu are gentle squeezes that are for sensitive people. Watsu shiatsu is a treatment that is done in water which assists people who are going into a deep meditation.

There are various ways to make a diagnose. They are setsu chin which is by touch or massage. Bun shin which is when you listen to voice and smell the body and breath. Mon shin is when you ask questions about history of habits and illnesses, and Bon shin which is examining the shape and color of the body. Diagnoses are constantly changing because the energy is always changing. ( ) & ( and (

Claims of Shiatsu

Shiatsu, along with acupressure, has had many claims made about its effect. It has been said that shiatsu reduces pain, improves circulation, relaxes the nervous system, helps your muscle condition, improves your skin, and raises your metabolism. Shiatsu also has many psychological advantages. It also has been claimed that meditation is very supportive of any kind of massage, including shiatsu. Shiatsu assists people in seeing their patterns of behavior and balances people. Overall, people seem to feel, look and be healthier as a result of shiatsu. They are more in touch with their inner self. It also encourages people to help others in this area. It beautifies the lives of the patient and the giver. (

Support of the Claims

In support of these claims, a lot of research has been done and is being done on these various techniques. Doctors from around the world are studying the effects shiatsu has on the body pains and illnesses. There are a numerous amount of schools that teach the shiatsu technique. Doctors do not advise the use this technique as your only option. Being examined by a physician is highly recommended especially if you are sick. If you have any special conditions you should definitely contact a doctor before receiving either treatment.

This information is presented by certified shiatsu practitioners, doctors and researchers. The shiatsu school of Canada also provided much information. Organizations and health groups also have a lot to say about shiatsu treatments.

In conclusion, both acupressure and shiatsu are oriental methods of massage therapy. They both use chi, meridians, and pressure points to perform there techniques. They are good methods for relaxation, easing pain, improving self awareness and just becoming a healthier person overall. Although, these methods have treated and cured many diseases, they are still not one hundred percent effective. Not everyone might get the same effect and it might not always work in the way that one wants it to. Acupresure and shiatsu should not be looked at as the only treatment for a disease. It is important to visit a physician before any such treatment.

Tests and Studies

No full text studies on acupressure or shiatsu were found so I used the following study on acupuncture, a very similar procedure with the same principles that acupressure and shiatsu are based on. Also, some abstracts of acupressure studies were mentioned. A single blind study was done at the University of Vienna in the department of sports and performance medicine to find whether the application of needles at definite acupuncture points increases physical performance capacity. This would mean improved regulation of the rate of the heart and blood pressure. The subjects were thirty six healthy men ranging in age from nineteen to twenty nine years old. They were not part of a a regular physical training program. These men were assigned at random into three groups of equal size. One of the groups received acupuncture, one was a control group and received no stimulant, and the third group received placebo acupuncture. The subjects knew about the study and were not supposed to change their ways which would mess up the results of the study. The subjects were not given any medication and it is very important that they were not involved in any extreme activities.

The subjects that were receiving actual acupuncture and placebo acupuncture participated in five acupuncture sessions, once a week. The acupuncture points used were the ones associated with the organs important to endurance and performance capacity. The sessions took place between the same hours every week. Seven different acupuncture points were used, the depth of the puncture differed according to the anatomical conditions, from a few millimeters to about 2 centimeters. Subjects would lie down for a twenty minute period during the application of the acupuncture needles. Only three needles were used the first week. In the placebo acupuncture, the needles were put in about 2 or 3 centimeters away from the correct acupuncture point. The control group received no treatment.

Spiroergometry was the test technique used. An electrodynamically braked, speed independent bicycle was used that had adjustable height and steering. This test was given at the same time but the time was different for each person and all tests were given between noon and six. O2 uptake every minute was calculated from this test. Ergometry was not finished until the subjects had reached their individual performance limits. Maximum watt performance was then calculated. Heart rate was measured by ECG while the subjects were at rest, during the last 15 minutes of each step, at the conclusion of spiroergometry and in the third minute of the recovery period. The arterial blood pressure was taken at rest, in the fourth half minute of each step and in the third minute of recovery. The blood pressure measurement closest to the maximum was eliminated, taking into consideration that the subjects were exerting themselves to an extreme extent. The lactate concentration was found from small blood samples of the subjects ear lobes, which were in a state of hyperaemia. This was done using an electrochemical, enzymatic method where blood was taken in the third minute at 150 to 200 watts and three minutes after completion.

The resting heart rate in the group that received actual acupuncture did not show a significant change yet the other two groups had a significant change compared to the beginning measurements. The comparisons show that the differences before and after the treatment differ considerably between the actual acupuncture group and the placebo group and between the acupuncture group and the control group. At the end of the subloading steps, there was a decreased heart rate in the acupuncture group and an increase in the control group.

For the blood pressure, the acupuncture group produced an extreme decrease and the control group had an increase. There was no changes marked in the placebo group. The acupuncture group had a fast return back to normal blood pressure after the acupuncture and the other two groups had no considerable changes. The comparisons between the acupuncture group and the placebo group and between the acupuncture group and the control group showed large differences.

The subjects in the acupuncture group demonstrated an increase in maximum performance after the five week acupuncture treatment. The placebo group and the control group showed no change in maximum performance yet the differences between the acupuncture group and the control group before and after the treatment were big. The acupuncture group improved their anaerobic threshold while the control group decreased it and the placebo group showed no change. There were no changes in maximum oxygen uptake, maximum lactate and maximum respiratory equivalent. (Ehrlich, Aug, 1992)
In conclusion, this study showed that acupuncture can increase one's physical performance capacity and better the regulation of heart rate and blood pressure. The placebo group did not have any effects and the control group had negative effects
A study was done at The University of Texas at Austin whose purpose was to test the physiological and psychological effects of therapeutic touch and acupressure on pain which was experimentally caused. This study was a two way factorial reiterated measures design. The four treatment groups were a therapeutic touch group, an acupressure group, a placebo group and a control group. It was carried out through three time periods which were baseline, pain and recovery. There were 48 healthy female subjects who experienced induced pain to the non dominant upper arm. There were seven dependent variables which were studied at two minute intervals during the time periods. They were heart rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, oxygen consumption, respiratory rates, pain sensation and pain distress. It was found that there was a significant decrease in the oxygen consumption in the placebo group and in the control, therapeutic touch and acupressure groups. The acupressure and therapeutic touch groups showed higher effectiveness and a greater willingness to receive more treatment than the placebo group.(Devillier, May 1989)

Another study was done at University of New York at Buffalo which studied the effects of acupressure treating a headache. There were four conditions that were compared. They were the application of strong finger pressure to acupuncture points which was called the acupressure group, the application of strong finger pressure to idle points called the pressure group, a gentle massage to the idle points called the massage group and a deferred treatment called the monitoring group. There were 10 male subjects and 24 female subjects all who suffered from extreme, routine headaches. They ranged in age from 17 to 61. Results were measured on eight different scales, including multidimensional instruments and a graphic intensity measure. It was found that the subjects in the acupressure and pressure groups had considerably less intense headaches than the massage or pain monitoring groups. There were extreme pain decreases in all eight measures in the acupressure and pressure groups but in none of the measures in the massage and pain monitoring group. Around half the subjects who received acupressure or pressure had at least a fifty percent improvement on the majority of the scales and the other two groups either bettered slightly or declined on most scales. Also, it was found that pressure could be placed on or off the acupuncture points with the same results which may mean that acupressure uses different points or mechanisms than acupuncture does. It is thought that these mechanisms may be because of diffuse noxious suppression controls which is an endogenous pain suppression process. ( Pikoff, June 1990)

Overall, these studies showed that acupuncture and acupressure have been successful in helping many problems and improving many health factors. In the studies I used, acupressure or acupuncture was shown to improve heart rate and blood pressure and to ease or lessen pain. Most subjects seem content with the results and would recommend the procedure to others.


Pikoff, H. (1990).The Effects of Acupressure on Headache Pain: A Placebo-Controlled Group Outcome Study. Digital Dissertation Abstracts. DAI-B 50/12, pg. 5890.

Mueller, H. (1989). The Effects of Therapeutic Touch and Acupressure on Experimentally Induced Pain. Digital Dissertations Abstracts. DAI-B 49/11, pg. 4755.

Ehrlich, D. (1992). Influence of Acupuncture on Physical Performance Medicine. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 13(6) 486-91.
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