Shiatsu is a combination of massage and acupressure that has derived from the Japanese use of Chinese medical philosophy. The word Shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ in Japanese. Stretching meridians and manipulating acupuncture points can feed vital energy, or Qi, into organs and systems within the body to create health. The therapy is becoming increasingly popular in the West, as people come to realize the importance of maintaining their own health and reducing stress.

This is my favourite form of bodywork because it incorporates the concept of Qi, acupressure and massage. A session with a Shiatsu practitioner consists of first learning the case history of your complaint and taking the pulses. A diagnosis is then made by palpating the abdomen, the so-called ‘Hara’ diagnosis. The abdomen is seen as a map of the body which is a guide to the energetic state of the person and the relative strength or weakness of its major systems. The process, which takes about five minutes, can tell the therapist which meridians to work on to rebalance the energy flow through the body. Treatment takes place with the client lying fully clothed on a mat or futon on the floor. The practitioner applies sustained pressure, which varies in intensity, to the appropriate points using the hands, elbows, knees and feet. Gentle manipulation may also be used to loosen joints and stretch the meridians, the energy pathways. Shiatsu treatment takes about an hour or so and is deeply relaxing.

Used in conjunction with other forms of alternative or orthodox treatment, Shiatsu will make people feel better and speed up the healing process. Shiatsu also helps to maintain health by toning up the body’s energy and promoting relaxation. Shiatsu can be used safely in all conditions and with all ailments including cancer, because lymphatic drainage is only a part of the treatment programme and can be put aside.

If you know the right pressure points to use, Shiatsu can be used as self-help first aid treatment to use on yourself or your family to relieve pain or cramps.