by John Kunihiro
The Japanese population is the healthiest, and they live the longest in the world generally. What can we learn from them? One Japanese cultural practice is to look for natural healing treatments before resulting in pharmaceutical pills and surgeries. In addition to acupuncture, Shiatsu massage is one of the most popular healing treatments in Japan. And for good reason. Studies from Japan show that Shiatsu massage has both preventative and remedial effects that solve various ailments such as headaches, PMS, digestive disorders, fatigue, fibromyalgia, stress, insomnia, and musculoskeletal pain involving the low back, neck, and joint pain. Shiatsu massage also is used to treat mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety. So what is Shiatsu massage? And how can a massage be so effective in treating both physical and mental issues?
Shiatsu massage is a manual therapy that stimulates and harmonizes the flow of Qi (“chee”). Qi is the vital energy in our bodies that, when in balance and unobstructed, controls and influences good health and proper bodily functions. Qi flows through various pathways in the body, and these pathways are called meridians. By manipulating vital energy points along the meridians, trained Shiatsu therapists are able to remove meridian obstructions, obstructions that cause pain, headaches, and lead to poor health. Not all Shiatsu therapy sessions are the same because, like acupuncture, the vital energy points related to healing varying depending upon the ailment, and being able to identify these vital energy points is a skill that separates novice from highly trained Shiatsu therapists. Also, the best way to maintain wellness and improve vitality is to adopt a regular Shiatsu massage maintenance program. Some treatment plans require monthly visits and some weekly.
At Art of Healing, our results are in alignment with the studies from Japan. Our Shiatsu massage patients report an overall increase in health and vitality associated with their treatments, not just a resolution to the problem or ailment that prompted them to make an appointment. And we too have discovered that regular Shiatsu treatments lead to quicker and better outcomes and less office visits than sporadic and periodic treatments. For these reasons, I have introduced into my Shiatsu massage continuing education classes the importance of apply solutions on a week by week basis.
What has been your experience with Shiatsu massage, either as a practitioner or as a patient? It would be great to hear from you.
However, stress is not necessarily negative. There is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress. Healthy stress includes appropriate physical exercise, good eating habits, positive thinking, adequate rest, and a natural response to emergency situations. These stressors keep us alert and motivated and support our body’s straight and vitality. Unhealthy stress, such as negative emotions and thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep and chemicals and environmental pollutants and toxins, challenge our health and can trigger physical and mental problems, particularly if they are experienced over a prolonged period of time.
In ancient times, our stress response, also known as our fight or flight response, provided us with the energy to preserve life during difficulty situations, such as an attack or threat by a wild animal. Today, we don’t have to look much further than our windows or computer screens to view various forms of stressors, everything from prime-time news and road rage to the 40-hour workweek, news, terrorism talk, and cell phones. All of these combine to send even the most serene people into a stressful frenzy state.
Unfortunately, modem day stress is considerably higher, more frequent, and more consistent than what our predecessors experienced. Over time this excess stress can actually be detrimental to our health. Our body’s natural response to stressful situations is to motivate all available resources for survival and to get us out of a scary situation fast. However, with the increase in physical emotional and mental stressors, our stress response gets “locked-in”, resulting in the deletion of the body’s resources.
Even if the stressors are no longer present, the body continues to keep the stress response active. This results in the depletion of our nervous system, lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes), kidneys, and adrenal glands, and can pave the way for a wide variety of negative outcomes. Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress our white blood cells, which protect our body against viruses, decrease. This decrease results in lower immune resistance, ultimately leading to physical disease and emotional instability.
There is hope, however. Acupuncturists have been helping people cope with stress for over 25 years. A competent acupuncturist understands your stress level and how stress affects the body organs, but an expert acupuncturist is understood your body’s Qi, the energy or power that animates and supports the functions of the body. One way that stress affects the body is by causing the depletion or blockage of Qi, especially that of the kidneys and adrenals. Qi flows through specific pathways, called meridians, and provides nourishment for the entire body. When Qi becomes blocked or the supply is inadequate, the body and organ systems become “stressed out” and our health is then compromised. With acupuncture and herbology, the healer’s job is to support and restore the integrity of the various organs affected and depleted by the stress response, along with evaluating the quality and quantity of Qi.
Skilled acupuncturists often suggest adjunct therapies to enhance treatment and speed healing. Eating properly, ingesting prescribed herbs, exercising, stretching, meditating, support, and promote a balanced and healthy body, mind, and spirit.