Acupressure and Shiatsu
Oriental methods/ Acupressure
The Purpose of Acupressure/
How Acupressure Works/ Claims
Support of Claims/ The
Purpose of Shiatsu/ How Shiatsu Works/
Claims of Shiatsu/ Support
of the Claims/ Conclusion/ Tests
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
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.
" 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." (http://www.shiatsucanada.com/shiatsu/oriental.htm)
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."
http://www.shiatsucanada.com/shiatsu/oriental.htm) Health includes
one's physical, spiritual and emotional roles. 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.
||large intestine, elimination, capacity
||spleen digestion,capacity for contemplation
||small intestine, circulation of
blood,capacity for joy
||kidney purification,storage of
||liver storage of blood,distribution
*The information from the table is taken from http://www.shiatsucanada.com/shiatsu/oriental.htm
* The information from the above table was taken from (http://www.rianvisser.nl/shiatsu/e_theor.htm)
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. (http://www.members.aol.com/nlangton/benefits.html)
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. (http://www.uccc.uconn.edu/~dgs95001/pulse.html)
Two specific types of oriental methods of massage therapy are acupressure
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. (http://www.ucc.uconn.edu/~dgs95001/cures.html)
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. (http://www.shiatsucot.demon.co.uk/index.htm)
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.
) & (http://www.rianvisser.nl/shiatsu/e_watis.htm)
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. (http://www.sd.com.au/db/shiat4.htm)
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,
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)