Shiatsu is a bodywork therapy from Japan based on the principles of acupressure. Pressure is applied to points around the body so that energy can flow more easily. This can improve blood circulation, release feel-good hormones (endorphins) and help free the body of toxins.
This therapy can help with a range of symptoms including pain, nausea, depression, anxiety, poor appetite and sleeplessness. People who receive the treatment often describe feeling deeply relaxed and peaceful after a session. This can often lead to new insight and a sense of hopefulness.
Shiatsu versus massage
The main difference is that the client remains clothed and it’s recommended you wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
The techniques used in a session are slightly different. Shiatsu uses gentle rocking and stretching, palm and thumb pressure, stillness and passive movement of limbs as opposed to more traditional massage techniques. Both therapies are aimed at tension release, relaxation, body awareness and integration of the cancer experience.
What happens in a session?
- A session usually lasts about one hour.
- For your first visit, your practitioner will ask questions about medical history, health, diet and lifestyle.
- Treatment is generally carried out on a futon-style mattress, which is low down on the floor. If clients can’t lie down, then shiatsu can be practised sitting up, on a treatment couch or massage table.
- At the end of the session you’ll be advised to drink water and relax for a while, before returning to normal activities.
What are the benefits/outcomes of a session?
Shiatsu is offered to people with cancer to enhance wellbeing and mood, and to reduce stress, anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting. People who have had shiatsu report better symptom control.
Research studies asking people about their experiences with shiatsu reported:
- Increases in energy levels.
- Better relaxation.
- Increased feelings of confidence.
- Better symptom control and mobility.
- Improved clarity of thought and a restoration of wellbeing.
“Shiatsu gave me a profound sense of acceptance of all that I have gone through – both emotionally and physically.”
Is it safe?
If practised by a suitably trained therapist, who is experienced working with people with cancer, shiatsu is considered safe. For those with low platelet count, osteoporosis, or those in the first three months of pregnancy, the practitioner will use a more gentle form of shiatsu.
Both Penny Brohn UK’s shiatsu practitioners have been with us for a long time and are well experienced in the therapy.
Markus Heimpel has been at Penny Brohn UK for nine years. He has been practising for 25 years and for the last 12 years has been teaching shiatsu.
Alex Turner has extensive experience teaching and practising shiatsu. He has been a core member of the therapy team at Penny Brohn UK for seven years and also teaches Qi Gong and relaxation techniques, as well as provides acupuncture at our regular Treatment Support Clinic. Alex has been both director and a teacher at The Devon School of Shiatsu and is a registered teacher and fellow of the Shiatsu Society.