Shiatsu (/ – /-,shee-AT-, –AHT-soo;指圧) is a form of Japanese bodywork based on pseudoscientific concepts in traditional Chinese medicine such as the use of qi meridians. Having been popularized in the twentieth century by Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905–2000),shiatsu derives from the older Japanese massage modality called anma.
There is no scientific evidence that shiatsu will prevent or cure any disease. Although it is considered a generally safe treatment–if sometimes painful–there have been reports of adverse health effects arising from its use, a few of them serious.
In the Japanese language, shiatsu means “finger pressure”. Shiatsu techniques include massages with fingers, thumbs, feet and palms; acupressure, assisted stretching; and joint manipulation and mobilization. To examine a patient, a shiatsu practitioner uses palpation and, sometimes, pulse diagnosis.
The Japanese Ministry of Health defines shiatsu as “a form of manipulation by thumbs, fingers and palms without the use of instruments, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin to correct internal malfunctions, promote and maintain health, and treat specific diseases. The techniques used in shiatsu include stretching, holding, and most commonly, leaning body weight into various points along key channels.”
The practice of shiatsu is based on the traditional Chinese concept of qi, which is sometimes described as an “energy flow”. Qi is supposedly channeled through certain pathways in the human body, known as meridians, causing a variety of effects. Despite the fact that many practitioners use these ideas in explaining shiatsu, neither qi nor meridians exist as observable phenomena.