Many people have a Shiatsu treatment to help with general relaxation/tension and thus use it as a preventive health and wellbeing measure.  Others have Shiatsu to help with a specific ailment.

Western medicine research methods are not suitable for complementary therapies, including Shiatsu, so it is difficult for us to provide the evidence required to prove it works. Western medicine use double-blind research which is not very suitable for complementary therapies (CAM) as the person knows they are being treated.  CAM specifically include the practitioner, in terms of helping support and motivate the client, rather than exclude them, as RCTs (Random Controlled Trials) do.  RCTs are also  not suitable for nursing, psychotherapy and Occupational Therapy. CAM interventions are multi-faceted whereas RCTs can only measure one input at once. CAM practitioners tailor their treatments to the individual, which RCTs do not do.  In Chinese Medicine a practitioner will look at the whole person, and this will include diet, lifestyle, emotional state, stress factors, all the conditions they present with, and their environment. Chinese Medicine treat the whole person.

Complementary therapies can only advertise within the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) rules and the ASA website states for Shiatsu specifically:

“Shiatsu is a Japanese massage used to stimulate the body’s healing ability by applying pressure to points across the body. The types of claims that are likely to be acceptable are:

  • helps relaxation
  • improves mood
  • aids sleep
  • relieves tension
  • and the like

Claims that go beyond improving well-being are not likely to be acceptable. “

Shiatsu is not a replacement for western medicine but can be complementary to it, hence ‘complementary therapy’.  If you have a health problem and visit a doctor you will often be referred to specialists who will undertake an in-depth investigation into your problem area.   In Chinese Medicine a practitioner will look at the whole person, and this will include diet, lifestyle, emotional state, stress factors, their environment.  Chinese Medicine tends to treat the whole person.

If you wish to find out if Shiatsu may help you then we suggest you contact your local Shiatsu Practitioner.

Shiatsu – Challenge and Opportunities

A Study by Christine Rackeseder and Robert Drabek. July 2006

This study showed that 36 out of 52 patients with a sleeping disorder did recognize an improvement of their sleep. From the monitored six primary functions three showed a remarkable effect – mobility, character and sleep (between 69% and 85%).

Below is a sample of published research for Shiatsu.  These include some ailments that we cannot advertise for Shiatsu, therefore, we are not stating that Shiatsu can help with any of these conditions – in fact, much of the research below actually states that a lot more research is needed for Shiatsu.  These abstracts are given for information purposes only to make people aware of what research has been carried out so far / what research is being carried out, and links to where you can find further information.


The Effectiveness of Shiatsu: Findings from a Cross-European, Prospective Observational Study

Prof Long AF. Health Systems Research, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Nov;14(9):1175.


The objective of this study was to explore client perceptions of the short-term and longer-term effects of shiatsu.


There were 85 shiatsu practitioners in three countries involved in the study: Austria, Spain, and the United Kingdom.


There were 948 clients receiving shiatsu from 1 of these practitioners.


86% of patients perceived that Shiatsu was effective in treating symptoms of stress and tension, problems with muscles and joints including back pain and posture, low energy and fatigue.  The study found receivers had a reduced dependence on medication.

633 clients provided full follow-up data (a response rate of 67%). A typical shiatsu user was female, in her 40s, in paid employment, and had used shiatsu before. At “first-ever” use, the most typical reason for trying shiatsu was “out of curiosity.” At “today’s” session, the dominant reason was health maintenance. The most mentioned symptom groups were problems with “muscles, joints, or body structure,” “tension/stress,” and “low energy/fatigue.” Symptom scores improved significantly over the 6 months (all symptom groups, Austria and the United Kingdom; two symptom groups, Spain), with moderate effect sizes (0.66-0.77) for “tension or stress” and “body structure problems” (Austria, the United Kingdom), and small effect sizes (0.32-0.47) for the other symptom groups (Spain, 0.28-0.43 for four groups). Previous users reported significant symptom improvement from “first ever” to baseline with moderate effect sizes. Across countries, substantial proportions (> or = 60%) agreed or agreed strongly with shiatsu-specific benefits. At 6 months, 77%-80% indicated that they had made changes to their lifestyle as a result of having shiatsu, and reductions in the use of conventional medicine (16%-22%) and medication (15%-34%). 10 adverse events were reported by 9 clients (1.4%); none of these clients ceased shiatsu.

The Effects of Shiatsu on Lower Back Pain

Brady LH, Henry K, Luth JF 2nd, Casper-Bruett KK. Drake University, USA.

J Holist Nurs. 2001 Mar;19(1):57-70.

Shiatsu 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.

PMID: 11847714 [PubMed -indexed for MEDLINE]

The Effect of Shiatsu Massage on Pain Reduction in Burn Patients

Mohades Ardabili F, Purhajari S, Najafi T, Haghani H. The Effect of Shiatsu Massage on Pain Reduction in Burn Patients. World J Plast Surg 2014;3(2):115-118.


According to our data, shiatsu method over both hands and legs were effective in pain reduction and can be recommended together with analgesics to decrease the dose.

Shiatsu as an adjuvant therapy for depression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease: A pilot study

Giuseppe Lanza, Stellla Silvia Centonze, Gera Destro, Veronica Vella, Maria Bellomo, Manuela Pennisi, Rita Bella, Domenico Ciavardelli


The combination of Shiatsu and physical activity improved depression in AD patients compared to physical activity alone.
Read more on website. 


The Role of Shiatsu in Palliative Care

Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 1995 Apr;1(2):51-8.  Stevensen C.


Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage, working on the meridian system of the body; the energetic pathways along which the acupuncture points are placed. The theory for shiatsu is based in the system of traditional Chinese medicine, understood in China for over 2000 years. Shiatsu can be valuable for reintegrating the body, mind and spirit, helping with the general energy level of the body as well as specific symptoms. Its role in western palliative care is little studied to date. This paper explores the potential benefits of shiatsu in this setting and cites a case example where it has been beneficial. Feelings of deep relaxation, support and increased vitality are common following a shiatsu treatment. The method, strength and frequency of treatment can be varied to suit individual need. Shiatsu should be considered when thinking of complementary methods of support in palliative care.

The potential of complementary and alternative medicine in promoting well-being and critical health literacy: a prospective, observational study of shiatsu.

Long AF1 2009 Jun 18;9:19. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-9-19.

Background: The potential contribution of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities to promote and support critical health literacy has not received substantial attention within either the health promotion or the CAM literature. This paper explores the potential of one CAM modality, shiatsu, in promoting well-being and critical health literacy.

Methods: Data are drawn from a longitudinal, 6 months observational, pragmatic study of the effects and experience of shiatsu within three European countries (Austria, Spain and the UK). Client postal questionnaires included: advice received, changes made 6 months later, clients ‘hopes’ from having shiatsu and features of the client-practitioner relationship.

Result: At baseline, three-quarters of clients (n = 633) received advice, on exercise, diet, posture, points to work on at home or other ways of self-care. At 6 months follow-up, about four-fifths reported making changes to their lifestyle ‘as a result of having shiatsu treatment’, including taking more rest and relaxation or exercise, changing their diet, reducing time at work and other changes such as increased body/mind awareness and levels of confidence and resolve. Building on the findings, an explanatory model of possible ways that a CAM therapy could contribute to health promotion is presented to guide future research, both within and beyond CAM.

Conclusion: Supporting individuals to take control of their self-care requires advice-giving within a supportive treatment context and practitioner relationship, with clients who are open to change and committed to maintaining their health. CAM modalities may have an important role to play in this endeavour.