The name of this massage comes from the Japanese word Shi (“finger”) and refers to the fact that it relies on slow, steady pressure rather than flowing strokes.
Besides the fingers, the therapist may use her palms, elbows, knees and feet.
At many spas, shiatsu is done on a floor mat and you wear loose clothes. No oil is used. If you do undress, the therapist usually keeps a sheet between her hands and your body the entire time.
Classical Japanese shiatsu actually has more in common with Western massage than traditional Oriental medicine as it works primarily on the muscles and connective tissues, not chi (energy) and meridians (energy pathways).
It’s also thought to trigger the release of chemicals that help the body heal itself. In fact, Tokujiro Namikoshi, who is often credited as shiatsu’s founder, developed the basic thumb-and-finger technique as a child to relieve his mother’s rheumatoid arthritis.
Shiatsu is still recommended for back pain, arthritis, and sports injuries, and we love what it does for tight necks and shoulders.
Learn more about Shiatsu massage
Find spas in your area that offer Shiatsu.