This post was inspired by a shiatsu-practitioner who recently commented on this blog. As I have not yet written a post about shiatsu, I think this might be a good occasion to do so. On one of the websites of the said practitioner – who claimed to have such amazing powers that he “would be locked up or worse“, if he made them public – explains that Shiatsu is a form of natural healing therapy that promotes health through finger pressure along energy meridians or channels – like acupuncture but with no needles and all your clothes on. Shiatsu is a combination of ancient theories of oriental medicine and ‘energy’, with modern knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Shiatsu originated in Japan where it is officially recognised and parents teach their children to treat them. Shiatsu is one of the fastest growing areas of complementary therapy in the UK. Shiatsu is safe and non-invasive. Shiatsu is a holistic therapy which means your whole body is treated. Work on your energy channels promotes well-being at the physical and emotional levels and stimulates your natural self-healing processes. The application of pressure and gentle stretching helps relieve muscle tension, joint stiffness and to realign body structures. Contact with the energy pathways helps to correct imbalance in the functioning of internal organs and to re-balance the effects of emotional disturbance. You don’t have to be ill to enjoy Shiatsu, many people enjoy it simply because it is deeply relaxing.
I also looked up another of his websites and found that he claims to treat the following conditions:
- Anger Management
- Anxiety and Stress
- Back pain
- Bipolar disorder
- Breathing/respiratory problems
- Confidence issues
- Digestive Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Emotional Issues
- Fears and Phobias
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Joint Pain
- Low energy/Lethargy
- Low Self-Esteem
- ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Muscular Tension
- Nausea and sickness
- Panic Attacks
- Sexual problems
- Sinus problems
- Skin conditions
- Sleeping problems
- Social anxiety disorder
- Spiritual Issues
- Weight problems
Impressed by this list, I looked at similar sites and found that such extravagant claims seem more the rule than the exception in the world of shiatsu. Such therapeutic claims came as a big surprise to me: the last time we reviewed the evidence, we had concluded: NO CONVINCING DATA AVAILABLE TO SUGGEST THAT SHIATSU IS EFFECTIVE FOR ANY CONDITION.
But that was 5 years ago; perhaps there have been major advances since? To find out, I did a quick Medline search and – BINGO! – found a recent systematic review entitled “The evidence for Shiatsu: a systematic review of Shiatsu and acupressure“. It was authored by proponents of this therapy and can therefore not be suspected to be riddled with ‘anti-shiatsu bias’ (I just love the give-away title THE EVIDENCE FOR SHIATSU….!). These authors found that “Shiatsu studies comprised 1 RCT, three controlled non-randomised, one within-subjects, one observational and 3 uncontrolled studies investigating mental and physical health issues. Evidence was of insufficient quantity and quality” The only RCT included in their review was not actually a study of shiatsu but of a complex mixture of treatments including shiatsu for back and neck pain. No significant effects compared to standard care were identified in this study.
So, what does that tell us about shiatsu? It clearly tells us that it is an unproven therapy. And what does that say about shiatsu-practitioners who make multiple claims about treating serious conditions? I think I can leave it to my readers to answer this question.
I was confused by the headline at first–I thought it was about the dog breed (shih tzu)!
So did I, then immediately felt guilty about my cultural incompetence. This despite been trained many years ago in Shiatsu massage, among other massage techniques. (What can I say? I was raised among woos.) As I recall, there were then no incredible claims of efficacy for improbable indications such as those listed, but there was some overlap ideologically with claims then made for Rolfing. I’d guess that the underlying “rationale” was that mildly unpleasant treatment (along the lines of “it feels so good when you stop”) meant that it must be a good thing.
The inventor of Shiatsu, Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905-2000), was the reincarnation of a high-ranking Buddhist monk who healed many people, according to a village monk who took Namikoshi under his wing. Namikoshi later developed a “scientific theory” to explain his anecdotal evidence for healing using his hands and, of course, turned Shiatsu into a business.
Shiatsu can treat Spiritual Issues? Well, it obviously failed to cure Namikoshi’s.
I think I’d prefer to rely on a sweet cuddly shih tzu than shiatsu for my “spiritual issues” 🙂
I agree (nearly added that to my comment as you’d mentioned the dog breed).
I much prefer talking to a dog than a deity — dogs respond occasionally 🙂
What I find quite interesting is the hostility you portray towards anything other than medicine that is accepted by Western Society. Placebo effects are shunned and anything currently lacking in evidence is automatically placed in the ‘not effective’ category of medicine. While Shiatsu is not based on western practice, nor has it been around for very long, the theory on which it is based pre-dates our own modern practice by thousands of years. That leaves thousands of years for the evolution of medicine which presents itself today as Shiatsu and Acupuncture, to name but two treatments. And of the two, Acupuncture is the practice most accepted by the medical profession and society as a whole. Why? One possibility could be that some practitioners have westernised their treatments, changing jargon such as ‘chi manipulation of the acupoints’ to ‘pressure points, when manipulated, cause physiological changes in certain areas of the body’. Another could be that the use of props, such as the needles and tables similar to those used in western medicine, establish an authoritative practice in the eyes of society. Again, both points lead to westernisation. While this is great for the practitioner, it steers the practice away from its’ roots. And the roots are what made Acupuncture what it is. The roots that Shiatsu practitioners still follow, yet receive no recognition for it. Do you see what I’m getting at?
The research that is brought to the table regarding Shiatsu has been carried out in a mediocre way at best. If someone was to take the practice seriously instead of condemning it on sight and perform a professional study, one conducted with a lack of bias and flaws reduced through objectiveness, who knows what we may see? There have been studies conducted which provide evidence to suggest that there are energy pathways in our bodies, they even came with pictures.
Such as one by HU Xianglong, WU Bao-hua and WANG Pei-qing of the Fujian Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou 350003, CHINA. Here is a wonderful compilation of research, along with an explanation of the study I have just stated, with regards to Acupuncture and meridians that have put it better than I ever could: http://www.morleyacupunctureclinic.co.uk/clinical%20inf.htm
Yet they have failed to reach the population through being ignored and labelled as having one flaw or another in order to disregard the results. People are ready to yell ‘lack of scientific evidence!’ but when presented with such are just as ready to shun it when the evidence is contradictory to their own beliefs. I do agree that there is a lack of evidence and that Shiatsu is an un-proven therapy. However, this doesn’t prove its’ effectiveness or lack thereof, just that there isn’t any ‘accepted’ proof yet. If you do not believe in alternative medicine, that is completely fine. But maybe taking a more objective and less of a subjective approach to your ‘critical analysis’ may lead to a higher state of professionalism.
I will leave you with this final note. It is expected that all medicine must go through trials that are acknowledged as being scientifically conducted. Interestingly, one such medication, Thalidomide, passed through the trials and was then sold to pregnant women to relieve morning sickness. The result of this was thousands of babies being born with deformities. The medication was taken off the shelves and re-evaluated. Maybe crying out for scientific evidence through scientifically acknowledged trials is not all that it is made out to be. Surely, if anything, you could agree on the fact of there being an obvious gap in the way research is conducted? Maybe a holistic approach to medicine research could have avoided these results? Who knows? Because as you say, there is ‘no convincing data to suggest [otherwise]’.
No. The tendency is to reject treatments for which no good evidence has been provided.
No. They are recognised for what they are.
You got that right. Can you give any good reason why something lacking in evidence should be classed as ‘effective’?
Ignoring the logical fallacy of appeal to antiquity, can you say why this theory is still just a theory after thousands of years?
A very good question. Since the best evidence to date does not show that acupuncture is effective for very much at all, I’d suggest any [previous popularity might have been due to poor quality trials and good marketing.
No. Using different words doesn’t change the lack of good evidence. But it might make more appealing to potential customers.
Now you may be getting somewhere: the non-specific effects can be quite significant. But that still doesn’t change the lack of much good evidence for specific effects.
‘Westernisation’ is just a word that has more marketing meaning than medical meaning.
Who do you think should be responsible for conducting those studies and how should they be done?
Please provide links to peer reviewed journals where these claims have been published.
That is an opinion piece on a website that appears to show some body surface temperature thermographs. Do you understand why a critical thinker might not be entirely convinced by that?
so, should we ignore flaws and accept the results from flawed experiments?
No, it’s because no good evidence has been provided.
I’m glad you agree there is a lack of evidence, but what do you think we should do while we’re waiting for that good evidence to be provided?
To the impartial observer, belief has nothing to do with it. To the practitioner, belief might have everything to do with it. I hope you can see the difference?
It’s the objective approach that leads to the conclusion there is no good evidence for shiatsu and that is the correct, scientific conclusion to come to until such time as the objective evidence changes.
Yes, that was dreadful. But it demonstrates your lack of understanding of what has changed since and your lack of understanding of what trials can and cannot do. However, none of this changes the lack of evidence for shiatsu or acupuncture, don’t you agree?
‘Westernisation’ is just a word that has more marketing meaning than medical meaning.”
That’s not actually true. Eastern & western medicine look at things very differently.
No. ‘Looking at things differently’ is meaningless – what specific insight does a non-western way of looking at things give?
Eastern & western medicine systems are different enough that they’re almost polar opposites. Which is a good thing.
‘Meaningless’ is an interesting way of looking at it. Personally, I think it’s fantastic that we now have access to different ways of looking health and medicine. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, and one tends to pick up where the other leaves off. Hardly meaningless, to those of us that take advantage of the strengths of each system.
Perhaps you can enlighten us .
The non-different medicine (the one that your “different one” is a polar opposite to) we know is as a matter of fact not perfect but works so well that it has constantly improved itself for the past 200 years and is responsible for many saved lives, less suffering and a doubled life expectancy as well as freedom from many catastrophes a such as pest and cholera.
What are the main strengths and progress of the “different” way of looking at health and medicine. What has happened that is positive with the other way and what are its biggest accomplishments?
I cannot answer specifically but i know several occasions when western specialists totally failed to resolve health issues with me someone who is now a UCSF trained MD managed to facilitate complete healing in a very short time, less than a week using Chinese medicine before she got her degree and once about a week after she got her degree but still had no license. Once prescribing herbs from Spring Wind Herbs and once just the slightest touch with the tip of her finger. As i said she is now western trained so possibly she could answer the question.
thank you for the commercial.
however, we need evidence here, not anecdote.
I’m a witness to that. I had a specialist treating me with steroids for just short of a year and a half for a fluid seeping out of the top of my foot. If i stopped using the steroid even two days the fluid would resume. One day on my Facebook a post came up from a woman i had seen years before when she practiced Chinese medicine had just graduated from UCSF med school. I re-established contact and made an appointment and stopped using the steroids so she could see the condition. Having just graduated days prior she had no license but she still knew her Chinese medicine. She sent a perscription to Spring Wind Herbs. In less than two days half the condition was gone. In less than a week entirely gone but i continued using remembering what happened when i stopped using it.
thank you for your second commercial.
quite meaningless, I hasten to add.
how do you know what would have happened, if you had done nothing?
Just because some Shiatsu follows TCM theories, does not mean that it is the same or even have any integrity. I can read about any theory and then make up some form of treatment based on what I have read. That’s pretty much what new age is. Could shiatsu be a form of new age? Quite possibly. Looking at several shiatsu schools, you will see vast differences, with little to know unifying theory. Sure, it makes you feel good. I’ve trained in shiatsu and TCM. The practitioners make out to be way more than it is, and sometimes it can actually be quite harmful because many of the practitioners don’t study anatomy and only focus on meridians. They are manipulating imaginary channels while ignoring what they are actually touching. I don’t know, that’s a little troublesome. There are certainly shortcomings with western med, but that doesn’t make medicine out of shiatsu just because it is based on TCM theories.
I find it sadly humerous when people who claim to be scientists say that shiatsu, Chinese medicine, or any other traditional medicine practice is “unscientific”.
• the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment: the world of science and technology.
• a particular area of this: veterinary science | the agricultural sciences.
• a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject: the science of criminology.
Of course all of these traditional practices are scientific. Traditional Greek medicine uses a system a bit different that traditional Chinese, Thai different than Ayurvedic, etc etc. But all systems are based on codifying the natural world, trying to understand patterns, and to restore balance in sytems that have gone awry. The modern western system is just another one (although quite different) in the chain.
To think that any one of them understands things better than the other is dangerously arrogant.
Mixing and matching (MDs doing a weekend workshop on acupuncture, acupuncturists doing a heart transplant) is criminally foolish.
Trying to make sense of a traditional practice without understanding the science they are based on – including literacy in the technical language – will give you trivial results at best. Most often, it leads to sloppy treatments that can lead to chronic conditions. If you’re going to study Chinese medical theory, for instance, learn what the term ‘qi’ means. Learn what ‘yin/yang’ means. I heard an MD claim that “yin/yang theory is nonsense”. Really? I doubt he really believes that. More than likely it’s ignorance of the term, since it basically means a system for comparing things. If that doctor couldn’t look at blood pressure and compare the results to ‘normal’ (in other words, practicing yin/yang theory)…now we’re talking Quack. Anyone that says “there is no wind in the heart” does not think that blood moves. Or (more likely) they don’t understand the terms.
To say that “x system” doesn’t work because there is no modern western clinical evidence – that’s just a current form of superstition. If you want to study the effectiveness of traditional therapies – learn the traditional science and traditional scientific terminology. Otherwise, you’re practicing sloppy psuedo-science.
so there is “western” evidence and …eastern???
are you sure – I thought evidence is evidence!
Yes – if you look at something like guasha, for instance, the markings that come up would be evidence of heat being removed, or cold being removed, or whatever the marks indicate. (you would evaluate color, quality, pattern, etc). As far as I know, the modern western system doesn’t measure the removal of “the effects of the cold” – in that way.
I bet it’s possible, but you would have to have someone literate in both systems to be clear that apples were being compared to apples.
So, when evaluating the effects of GuaSha injuries and other “eastern” wonders , you have to enter another world, governed by completely different laws of nature, right?
There is a simple and fully plausible explanation to this “alternative other world”. It has been illustrated brilliantly by a team of experts in the video linked below. In the video they use another of those alternative therapies as an example, which has the same effects albeit not usually called eastern but it is governed by the same alternative laws of nature.
The expert team has coined a term for what you and others are doing / experiencing when you are in this alternative world experiencing the positive effects of the alternative laws of nature. Alas this term is not safe on a public web open to minors. I will give you a hint so you understand when you watch the video: Two words both starting with an “M”.
You should watch the whole thing. It is quite enlightening. It even shows a couple of scientific experiments illustrating the workings of these alternative laws of nature.
@Bjorn – I’ll make you a deal. I’ll watch your video after you learn something about traditional medicine theory, and specifically gua sha. Or at least the first thing about it…which would be “gua”. What you describe as “gua” is pretty much the opposite.
Backing your complete misunderstanding with your “medical knowledge” on a public web space is not safe for minors, or anyone else. You are pretending to have knowledge on a subject, that you do not possess.
I’m pretty sure there’s a term for that…
I just want to say, I think this article was written in anger toward a particularly eccentric individual who had a particularly esoteric perspective on the world. If you dig a little deeper in your research, you’ll learn that Namikoshi Shiatsu is based solely on western science. The reason it is an unproven therapy is because there hasn’t been many studies on the subject. However it’s safe to assume that as a form of manual therapy, it likely has similar benefits to acupressure or conventional massage, and considering the manipulative techniques used in a therapist’s attempt to mobilize joints, it’s possible that it share similar benefits to physical therapy. My point is Tokujiro Namikoshi’s Shiatsu was based on scientifically sound principles.
It was one of his students, Shizuto Masunaga who decided to introduce meridians into the treatment. Masunaga started the offshoot called Zen Shiatsu in the west. Other styles focused on eastern medicine and philosophy came from this lineage. Namikoshi’s Shiatsu, however, is still prominent today and represents the firm scientific basis on which the practice stands. It isn’t hiding, Shiatsu is waiting to be tested.
This article was clearly writen as an attack on an individual who made outrageous claims and openly criticized you. It is currently being cited as a source for the wikipedia page for shiatsu. Which when you read this article is obviously ridiculous as it’s based on a crazy person’s website!
All I ask of you being a researcher and a respected author is to take an unbiased stance and delve deep enough in your research to understand what it actually is you are writing about. At the very least refrain from turning an article about thousands of peoples’ professions into an attack against one crazy jerk.
I respect your work, but like I said, this ended up on the wikipedia page. What you say has weights and affects many honest people. This post was very unprofessional and inconsiderate to legitimate professionals of a valid and effective albeit unscientifically-proven form of manual therapy.
Please realize what you have done here and stop it.
if it’s unproven, how can you say it is effective?
Because using it and testing it over many years, he has had positive results, as have many other people who have actually studied the subject. One extreme person making exaggerated claims like the one in which this blog post was based does not invalidate the findings of other intelligent, honest practitioners. In the same way that one incompetent medical doctor does not invalidate medicine.
“Sir Halley, I have studied the matter, you have not!” I. Newton
Prof Ernst’s reply gets right to the heart of the problem with your comment, but I’d like to go into a bit more detail…
I see no anger. What I see is a careful analysis of the claims made by a practitioner. perhaps you could point out something you believe shows this anger?
Perhaps you could point to this science?
Why is that? Do you agree that a practitioner should only make claims that are backed by good evidence?
No, it’s not a safe assumption until someone can provide good reasoning, backed by good evidence. So far, that seems to be lacking.
But no one has detailed those “scientifically sound principles”.
See my comments above about evidence.
No. It is an attack on the claims made and the lack of evidence to substantiate them.
That’s surely a defamatory statement and un-called for.
I think Prof Ernst understands it very well. But perhaps you could point out anything Prof Ernst got wrong?
It is an attack on the claims and the evidence, not the practitioner.
That’s hardly anything to do with Prof Ernst – anyone is free to edit Wikipedia pages (with some exceptions).
Good. I hope they take note of the evidence for the claims that were made.
Well, you’ve answered your own question there…
That’s entirely up to Prof Ernst, of course, but can you say why anyone should not point out claims that are not substantiated by good evidence?
One last question: if there is so little good evidence, what are practitioners doing about it? Are they funding research and are they currently limiting their claims to the evidence? If not, why not?
Energy Medicine has become a big business in the U.S., and such a political force in the world of Massage Therapy, that practitioners who don’t buy it are cowed into silence. Very few dare to challenge the dogma.
As someone who has been in the Natural Medicine industry for 23 years I felt obliged to comment:
Few people realize that most modern day mainstream therapies such as Swedish massage, pressure point therapy, rolfing, physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, therapeutic touch… the list goes on, all have there origins in traditional eastern medicine and bodywork… all that has happened is the repackaging, rebranding and relabeling for the western mind.
So to suggest that natural/alternative/traditional/Japanese/Chinese medicine etc is a sham only insults the very foundation to which most of modern Western medicine is built on and subsequently reveals the extent of the authors ignorance.
In reality these natural medicines have been practiced since the dawn of human kind and then comes along the infant medicine only 400ish years old – so which one is really the alternative.
In regards to science and scientists well just look at all the corruption. Independent studies who really pays for them. The Pharmaceutical cartels who have vested interests of course to put everything that really works down so they can promote patented drugs and treatments and cash out their chips.
If you are real doctors and scientists then you should know that more than 80% of all sickness/disease/illness is either diet or lifestyle related. So please tell the world public how in the hell can you correct a nutritional deficiency with drug therapy. The body needs essential nutrients – not synthetic chemicals. How can you get people exercising with drug therapy or surgery – ah that’s right you cant.
And why your at it: lets not forget that Modern Medicine is the 3rd leading cause of death in the world. Look up Iatrogenic Disease maybe the author should write an article about that.
Cures for every disease including Cancer Already Exist, But not in the Realm of Chemical-based Medicine:
Don’t let organized medicine send you on a fool’s errand chasing rainbows. Cancer is not a pharmacological problem. It cannot be solved by applying prescription drugs (synthetic chemistry) to the body. And it most certainly cannot be solved by poisoning the body (chemotherapy) further. “You cannot drug a body into health.”
Nature gives us an array of tools to reverse disease and the underlying causes that eventually lead to cancer, including whole foods, vitamins, minerals, supplements and healthy lifestyle choices (this is what the sick body really needs). The key is not merely addressing the symptoms of disease, but addressing and eliminating the root causes that led to cancer to begin with.
I have personally witnessed hundreds of people heal, recover, and turn there life around from life threatening diseases using what you have labeled “naive nonsense or malicious quackery”… Professional Natural Therapists/practitioners call it common sense.
I have also witnessed thousands of people go the drug therapy/surgery/chemotherapy route and got sicker and sicker and sicker and yep sadly eventually died. But of course it was the cancer that killed them not the toxic chemo over doses that overrode there already frail bodies? not to mention drain the families bank account!!!
Personally and professionally I am insulted by the level of disinformation being perpetrated throughout this site.
Shiatsu is a powerful holistic therapy that indeed works…
Anyone who says otherwise has not really tried it by the hands of a specialist or better yet dig a little deeper and you’ll find them on 5 to 8 different types of medications being ravaged by side effects wondering why they are not seeing results.
Go natural or go medical. Either Rely on your bodies inherent self-healing/regulating capacity under the guidance of a professional Natural Health Therapist or get poked, prodded and radiated into oblivion by machines and robots. It is of course an individual decision.
Everyone chooses the natural route eventually, but for some people whom are told “there’s nothing else we can do” its already far too late.
Here’s the science that your article lacks:
The power of Shiatsu in hospitals_part01
The power of Shiatsu in hospitals_part02
are you sure?
I don’t see science in what you refer to.
Of course you wouldn’t
Your paid not to…
Real healing doesn’t happen in a lab under a microscope!
It happens in peoples lives, in their hearts, minds and spirit overtime as they change their diet, lifestyle, habits, behaviours and beliefs to a more healthier, vibrant, natural, sustainable way of existence. A re-education if you will.
The Greatest Medicine of all, is to teach people how not to need it…
– Sushruta, Ayurvedic physician [600 B.C.] –
And this is where Shiatsu as a powerful Holistic Therapy outshines the rest.
if you say so
Anyway, have all those 30,000 shiatsu treatments been written up anywhere?
Really hilarious to see a stethoscope hung around the neck of a psychotherapist @ 1:20
I bet she doesn’t even know which end goes where 😀
@ CJ on Tuesday 09 September 2014 at 20:41
“Cures for every disease including Cancer Already Exist, But not in the Realm of Chemical-based Medicine”
I have a friend just a few doors down who will die of cancer in the next three to six months. This is her third cancer in 15 years. You should be happy to not live near me because the stupidity and danger of this comment has boiled my blood…
CJ, you are so clueless… On everything you said. You clearly know nothing of medicine, nothing on how science work, and even nothing on how world and nature work. You talk about desinformation, I pity you because i think you are genuine.
Most of “bad modern drug” you are talking about are in fact purified and isolated compounds found in nature, they don’t come from nowhere. Chemicals don’t give a damn about they come from nature or from a lab, they got the same structure and the same property. Natural herbal based remedies can have a lot of side effects too, that’s not a particularity of “synthetic chimical”.
Then I’ll will make an example : I’ll break your arm with a rock, and then you got an open wound with blood flowing and horrendous pain. Now you can shiatsuing your wound and see what happen or go surgery. Really, let’s do this experiment anytime anywhere, the result might get you out of your cognitive dissonance. Now the same is true with any infectious disease, i’ll get get you some salmonella or anything and what shiatsu is doing about vomiting everywhere and terrible diarhea. Or you will take a vaccine and get nothing. Now dare to say that there is no good in modern medicine, in drug and surgery !
By the way all of the modern medicine IS based on the natural ability of the body to protect and heal himself (vaccine work only because of the immune system memory), drug usually stimulates skill and ability of precise body cells. Chemo drug can be immunotherapy, entirely based on the “natural” principe of immunity. Even H2O2 one the most common bactericid used in medicine is also used by cytotoxic cells in human body ! And I could could continue the list forever… I don’t even understand your “How can you get people exercising with drug therapy or surgery – ah that’s right you cant.” why in the world could you not go for an healthy life or exercising with surgery or modern medicine ? You get advertising EVERYWHERE saying people have to do exercising and eat well, you will not see any medic say that’s not important, and all of them will recommend it to you if you ask them. You are just inventing yourself a new reality.
And please cut the bullshit about “the pharmaceutical cartel blablabla”, medicine saved billions of lives you just have to read about. You should start by studying nature before talking about.
I once went to a zoo with only one dog. It was a shitzu.
In the Soviet Latvia herbalism (rational phytotherapy), mud, to some extent apitherapy and, of course, cupping was part of mainstream medicine, we knew about acupuncture and hypnosis as something exotic, but that was about it.
Book about Shiatsu was one of the first, probably the first that appeared on the market and was presented as the source of knowledge we were devoid of because of the Soviet occupation ….
I remember I even tried finding some of the points, but was not certain whether I had succeeded, so I dropped it.
Of course real fans may start telling that such “self-help” books are rubbish and I need to spent a fortune on trained practicioner (if this method is so mysterious, how can I find out, whether practicioner is a real deal?), but, in case of chronic diseases the first thing I look for is explanation! Science can explain quite a lot. It can solve far from everything, but, at least, I can chek whether mainstream doctors know what they are doing!
The motivation of this website, reflects the main issue of humanity ,fight instead of mutual support. In my humble opinion both medical approaches (especially due to the many ‘rational readers I don’t specify which two) have their strengths and weaknesses. Do you realize that most of the reactions are fueled by hatered ? BTW, is it good for humanity ,that life expectancy has been spanned ,so that we live so long lives? I would under no circumstance call it a proof of success or advancement, rather going against the grains of nature. We overpopulate our planet and live self-centered ,restless lives ,but this live (unfortunately mine to so far) lucks happiness and joy (not to bre mistaken to transitory excitement!) To feel this in your life, Shiatsu will get you there sooner than chemical compounds for sure.
To give credit to the original argument, yes, modern medicine is able to resolve physical illnesses and enable body functions, but that’s only a symptom. The cause of illness doesn’t cease to be. I have a family member ,who had a cancer. Without the help of ‘modern medicine’, namely chemotherapy, he would have died. Now he is alive ,spending most of his days in an effort to distract himself (television,eating ,e.t.c.) from that sad thought ,that one day he will die. So in this case modern medicine indeed delivered ,what it’s intended to do, fought the disease in the body. On the other hand ,what is the aftermath? A scared 61 y-o man ,who is utterly unhappy and physically unhealthy, not able to build ,maintain healthy human relations. In my opinion Shiatsu or any other Eastern medicine’s strength is best utilized ,when it’s TIMELY, so that we can help the patient acknowledge (bad news for rationals, most of this happens subconsciously) his imbalances and heal himself. This manifests in: feeling when he is tired and taking a rest, not staying in unhealthy postures for extended times, often giving up on counterproductive day job, listens to his body instincts, complimenting his food with something ,what is good for him, having a higher level of self-awareness. A Shiatsu practitioner is not healing by some mystic power, simply sensitive enough to feel the human bodies biomagnetic fields – I hope you won’t ask for more evidence my dear rationals:) – and according to the actual state sends stimulus through pressure to enhance nourishing energy flow and reduce counterproductive movements of energy in the body. Just as 99.99999 pro cent of the perceived World, even Shiatsu can’t be fully captured purely via ratio. It’s like love, you need to feel it, can’t be learned and explained. One more comment on the critique for the claims on the practitioners site, true that he should be careful how he puts those statements, at the same time ,it’s everyone’s own choice to be healthy and cure illness. If a patient doesn’t want to be healthy again, you can heal him endlessly,whether it’s chemical treatment or Shiatsu ,it will be no help. WILL TO HEAL is crucial part of the process.
On the last note ,in 2008 (London UK) I had an unceasing chest pain in 2008, already affecting my breathing (I used to breath in my chest!) . Since I knew nothing about myself as a human ,other than my physical body,as usual I rocked up at the GP and asked her to cure me (careful, I expected the doctor to heal me!). She sent me to the Hospital and after three more visits of various departments – I already considered to quit job, since I could hardly breath- they told me that I am completely healthy. Hmm, although they were doc’s with stethoscopes and expensive gear. They hardly ever made eye contact or any other physical contact through the treatment, didn’t ask about my lifestyle ,diet or anything. Since my interest was to get better and according to Western medicine I was healthy ,like a fresh apple ,I first time approached an acupuncturist. I went to his workshop , he took a reading of my pulse (by his hand, it felt so comforting and reassuring) ,looked into my eyes for a while and asked me to stand naturally, so that he could observe me. Finally he looked at my teeth. After all this he agreed with one of his disciples what sort of acupressure to apply and gave me few herbs. Also ,advised me to be moderate in exercise – in these times I was cycling cca. 30 miles daily to work , I didn’t tell him – since it’s overloading my heart and kidney. Maybe he wasn’t even a doctor, there is no proof ,that I have ill heart or kidney (the only proof exists only according to Chinese medicine, like receding hair, condition of teeth, tong diagnosis) , but he helped me get rid of this pain within weeks. Since then I changed my lifestyle ,thanks to his wake up call.
I think ,both approaches can be of use ,but the patients WILL and GOOD TIMING needs to be in place.
Thanks for sharing the lots of insights and opinions!
“In my humble opinion …”…personally, I prefer evidence! Do you have any?
Time for Dara O’Briain:
Just a few comments to one of the more self-centered, incoherent, nonsensical comments I have seen for long…
In my humble and educated opinion and experience, Shiatsu (the particular woo being discussed here) is not a medical approach.
The “reactions” as you call it, have nothing to do with hatred.
On the contrary, we feel sorry for those who are living in a delusion that can harm them and others. I and probably most of us who comment here, have full respect for each other as human beings – but not for dangerous and misleading nonsense promoted as medicine. Our mission is to minimise the harm.
Speak for yourself.
Evidence please. Emily Rosa did a simple experiment and disproved a similar fantasy. Where is the proof of Shiatsu practitioners abilities. (Blinded and controlled please. Its not difficult at all)
How would you breathe otherwise? You’re not a fish.
I hope you fare well in your obviously difficult life.
“How would you breathe otherwise? You’re not a fish.” …or a bicycle. Or a pipe.
What in the world do you mean by that, Bjorn?
Was anyone addressing you, “jm” ?
Geez Bjorn, that was characteristically rude. Perhaps you could do with a nice Shiatsu session. Or maybe some deep breathing.
Your performance on this blog hitherto has not given reason for any more lenient level of consideration.
As I recall, my first post on this blog was to you – with an offer to help you with your “chronic, incapacitating arthritis, mostly in my hands”. Your response included “Do you believe in fairies too?” and “Get a real life”.
You set the bar pretty low.
“jm” forgets to mention what the “help” (s)he offered was supposed to consist of, which explains my disgust.
Yeah – easy, free self care that helps with arthritis & pain, and feels good doing it. The horror.
As I said, you set the bar low.
I don’t agree that the augment is fuelled by hatred. It is fuelled by genuine attempts to protect the vulnerable from being exploited.
I always say one thing to practitioners of whatever you choose to refer to- shiatsu being an example- ‘Why don’t you offer treatment for FREE’ . If you are so confident that westernised medicine is wrong then offer free treatment for yours. QED?
Sorry to say but there is no evidence for any manual approach to be helpful in treatment of any disease.
Neither Shiatsu nor OMM (osteopathic manipulative medicine) or choripractic or anything else has ever proofen this.
So a German higher court made a clear decision about that and prohibited to tell such stupid things in public:
@OP: terrific, short, succinct and ultimately accurate post! It is such a comic-tragedy that PTs, DCs, massage, acupressure, acupuncture, shiatsu therapists, OMM and many others ‘believe’ and perpetuate ‘they and their utterly desultory and uncontrolled’ “interventions” can in some mechanistic yet inherently ethereal way ‘cure’ or ‘heal’ anything better or faster than its going to occur with NO ‘treatment’.
Back pain, hiccups and the common-cold share a lot….innumerable opinions of cures…..but Zero proof of cures.
It’s ok to have personal beliefs about things. There is beauty in the simple fact that we have some many options available to help heal those who need it. It is also never too late to learn something new. I will be forever grateful for Western medicine, my mother is still here with us because of it. I also understand that Eastern medicine is the root of it all. There is a reason why there has been such a dramatic shift back to the roots of it all where healthcare is concerned. We are just lucky to have these options. No reason to shame one another.
it’s not about ‘shaming’; it’s about asking ‘where is the evidence and what does it show?’
True, that does seem to be the never-ending question you ask. Where is the evidence that it doesn’t work for everyone? If you or a loved one of yours was gravely ill, I would find it extremely difficult to believe you (or anyone) wouldn’t try anything that is out there to make the one you love more comfortable. Whether it is the western medicine, eastern, a combo of both, or any other modality someone discovered. The power of touch is healing. No, I don’t have studies to prove this and I refuse to go looking for them. The only proof I need is when I walk past a NICU and see those tiny babies being held. There has got to be a reason for that. Those infants may also require a life saving operation. That’s the beauty in it all. We have these options.
“True, that does seem to be the never-ending question you ask.”
NO, that is the question all responsible healthcare professionals must ask
“Where is the evidence that it doesn’t work for everyone?”
Wrong, in responsible healthcare we must go by positive evidence, and the ones making therapeutic claims must provide it.
“The power of touch is healing. No, I don’t have studies to prove this and I refuse to go looking for them.” Great! Used car salesmen must rub their hands with delight when they see you coming.
You’re mean.it’s never too late to learn something new.
Here’s the part you neglected to include: “Strongest evidence was for pain (particularly dysmenorrhoea, lower back and labour), post-operative nausea and vomiting. Additionally quality evidence found improvements in sleep in institutionalised elderly.” Here’s the full review ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3200172/ ). Thanks for this discussion. Cheers, Phil
Thanks for linking to exactly the same review as the link in the original post, Phil. You seem to be reading the paper through rose-tinted spectacles. Your quote is preceded by the words quoted in bold italic in the OP, in particular please note these words: “Evidence was of insufficient quantity and quality.” That’s the background against which your “strongest evidence” has to be judged.
Here’s the full conclusion from the review: “Evidence is improving in quantity, quality and reporting, but more research is needed, particularly for Shiatsu, where evidence is poor. Acupressure may be beneficial for pain, nausea and vomiting and sleep.” [My italics]
If we are speaking about Japanese Shiatsu, the official Namikoshi style, then you should know that is not base on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Outside Japan, Shiatsu might mean anything. There are many style and derivatives of Shiatsu world-wide. Maybe if the author of this article would do an in-depth research, he would know that Shiatsu in Japan is not based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Also, he would find the research made between 1998-2012 and 2013-2017 namely Collected Reports of The Shiatsu Therapy Research Lab at the Japan Shiatsu College. Before being officially recognized by the Ministry of Health, it was researched for several years in Medical Universities from Tokyo. Shiatsu, the official Namikoshi style, is based on scientific evidence. Outside Japan, the other styles of Shiatsu based on energetic meridians have been subjected to test and probably have no scientific evidence. But you cannot speak about the same about the authentic Japanese Shiatsu, Namikoshi style.
Many people say that the conventional medicine is not working, this doesn’t mean is false or true. The same is with CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine). Quoting an article and speaking/writing about a domain you don’t know anything about is not a wise thing to do. Have you studied and applied the official style of Shiatsu (Namikoshi) and is not working? What is your expertise in Shiatsu Namikoshi? I am just curious. Next time please speak about the areas where you have your expertise and avoid making blind statements. Here you can read more about authentic Shiatsu Therapy -> http://e.shiatsu.ac.jp/research/
please show us the evidence supporting your style of shiatsu!
Did you read my previous comment? I put a link with proofs. Please read! Again, here is the link -> http://e.shiatsu.ac.jp/research/
The Japanese Ministry of Health officially regulates the Shiatsu Therapy since 1957 under the “Shiatsu Law”. Shiatsu therapy is integrated in the Japan National Health System. The official style in Japan is Namikoshi Shiatsu. One cannot practice Shiatsu unless he graduates the Japan Shiatsu College (founded by master Tokujiro Namikoshi) the only institution approved by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and passes the national exam for obtaining the legal license. Are these proofs enough for you? If you know Japanese, I can send you a link to the Japanese Ministry of Health.
Thank you for the link to the shiatsu papers. I’m sorry to say I’m unimpressed. They combine to demonstrate that if you apply pressure to various points in the body, small changes in parameters like heart rate, blood pressure and ocular pupil diameter result. Some of the papers measure other effects, like muscle pliability.
These results are unsurprising — as some of the papers acknowledge, similar effects have been demonstrated in animals. None of the effects suggest in any way that shiatsu pressures might be therapeutic for treating any disease or that the ‘shiatsu points’ have any significance at all.
The papers suffer from two serious scientific flaws. The first is the absence of any relevant control groups. Certainly, the more recent papers include so-called controls, but these are simply people left at rest, untouched. Appropriate controls would involve sham treatment, not no treatment. For example, if the experimental group receives pressure applied to shiatsu points on the head or the arm or the shoulder, the controls could have the same pressures applied to the same regions away from the shiatsu points. This experimental approach would determine the specificity of the effects described and the valiudity of the shiatsu points.
The second flaw is the use of statistics. All the papers use a very similar approach: a pressure is applied repeatedly for short periods. The subjects have devices attached which continuously measure parameters such as pupillary diameter and blood pressure, and the parameters are recorded at appropriate short period intervals. Statistical significance is assessed either by ANOVA or with a linear mixed model. The analyses measure significant differences either from baseline (experiments without a control group) or point by point comparisons with the untreated group (experiments with untreated controls).
These analyses represent a ‘how not to do it’ for students of statistics. For some reason, no comment is made by the authors even on the grossly different mean±SEM for some parameters between control and experimental groups measured before treatment.
Sorry Dan, but these collections of papers are proof only of the unsurprising result that firm touching sometimes leads to small alterations in things under the control of the autonomic nervous system. The experimental approaches and analyses used do not belong anywhere under the heading of serious science.
Your appeal to authority (the Japanese Ministry of Health) is also unimpressive. Most countries have regulatory requirements for most forms of pseudo-medicine, but these are pretty meaningless in the absence of robust evidence of any therapeutic effect.
After I posted this response to Dan’s claims, I discovered he has spammed every shiatsu thread on the entire blog with his link to the sets of papers he regards as such awesome proof of the effects of shiatsu. The papers aren’t long. Readers are invited to look for themselves at the diagrams in them and see for themselves how unimpressive the data are. I shall resist the temptation to copy and paste my response on every shiatsu thread in imitation of Dan the Spam.
Dear Frank Odds, if I replied to different posts, this doesn’t mean that is a spam. Is quite rude to say that. The “author” of this “blog” asked for proofs and I replied to every post. If you are not satisfied with the presented research, this is unsurprising as well. Haters gonna hate! The main purpose of the research is not to impress you. Not all the research papers are made with a control group, did you know that? If you are at least a PhD you should know that.
The purpose of presented research papers is to showcase the effects of Shiatsu stimulation and not to prove you that Shiatsu is efficient. Shiatsu therapy has been already scientifically proven long time ago at medical universities in Tokyo (Japan), there is no need for demonstrating that again! If you were truly interested in Shiatsu, you would know that. What is you education and professional background in Shiatsu therapy (official Namikoshi style)? If you have no expertise in Shiatsu, then your comments are pointless. You are out of the context. It seems that these days everybody is blindly speaking about rocket science… This is my last comment on this “blog”. I don’t want to spam you anymore! Good luck sir!
“Haters gonna hate!” Sorry to disappoint; I have no feelings of hatred about shiatsu, SCAM or anything else. I happen to think that the scientific approach to solving problems has the least worst record of differentiating between reality and fancy. You linked to papers you claimed proved the benefits of shiatsu. I merely pointed out why that’s not so.
“Not all the research papers are made with a control group, did you know that?” Yes, I’m well aware that seriously bad science gets published.
“The purpose of presented research papers is to showcase the effects of Shiatsu stimulation and not to prove you that Shiatsu is efficient.” Research work should aim to disprove hypotheses, not to showcase them!
“Shiatsu therapy has been already scientifically proven long time ago at medical universities in Tokyo (Japan), there is no need for demonstrating that again!” Fine, just point us to the papers. The ones you linked to so far are crap.
“What is you education and professional background in Shiatsu therapy (official Namikoshi style)? If you have no expertise in Shiatsu, then your comments are pointless.” Typical courtier’s reply.
“It seems that these days everybody is blindly speaking about rocket science…” That’s good: where on earth did I ever speak about rocket science in my response to your comment? (Rocket science is not complex: it can be summed up as “what goes up must come down”!)
“This is my last comment on this “blog”.” Aha! the standard reaction of someone who’s not got a single word to respond to the substance of my critique of the non-evidence you linked us to.
Dear god, I freakin’ read every comment here ! Aaaaah, too much children here ! Don’t you know how to have a dialogue about ideas without attacking to other ? Well, I certainly don’t know too xD…
Sorry, english is not my native language, so well…don’t expect me to be Shakespeare.
Seriously, I’m surprised that nobody here talked about the kanpô medicine. For short, cause I do not know that much about it, it is a complementary medicine in Japan, based on TCM for some hundred of years. Kanpô is not an alternative to biomedical system. Like I said, it is complementary, which mean that the practitioners do not create diagnosis by themselves. Instead, they try to work with the patient already known problems (or maybe unknown I suppose…., which will certainly refer the patient to a hospital) in an holistic way.
Anyone here got some experience with biomedicine practice, living in a “modern” society, it is inevitable. A complaint that is common, is the lack of “humanity” in the relation between doctors and patients. A lack of a fluent relation between the two will make the health care less effective. I am not talking about placebo but about act. In other word, why taking pills if my doctors seems to not give a shit about my state and gave me the same things as they would have done with every other person with the same symptoms ? This isn’t about subjectivity or objectivity, but inter-subjectivity. Like eduction, if there is no trust in the relation between the receiver and the giver, the “gift” will not be used in the way as this is supposed to be (like taking pills at each 2 day when you need to take them each morning).
This is an important reason why alternative medicine are important. they seem to offer, well in theory cause not in practice, personalized healthcare to each patient. This give the impression of being understood or important. The dialogue between the two, in this case, have many chance to be a hot damn better. And a good dialogue mean better chance of healthcare.
To come back to kanpô, this is an example of this. They use acupuncture, phytotherapy, and…shiatsu, which is here a technique to create diagnosis, to see the state of the patient, understand its yin-yang flow. If I recall correctly SHIATSU IS NOT USED AS AN END IN ITSELF !!! Shiatsu here is used with other healthcare practices, like biomedicine. It would be like saying… that by checking my blood pressure, biomedicine cures my cardiovascular disease….
In other world, shiatsu, like acupuncture I suppose, can’t heal by itself. It is meant to be used with other healing techniques. It can’t be used as a whole, it would be damn stupid. By example, shiatsu could be used to see some symptoms of the body and mind of the patients and also as a manner to create a trusted dialogue between the patient and the practitioners. It is a social moment.
I do not understand this debate here. Biomedicine can “heal” cause it is the agglomeration of many philosophyiesand healthcare techniques. Comparing biomedicine to a type of healing would be like comparing a population to an individual. This doesn’t make any sense.
There is proof that alimentation as a direct impact on our health. But saying that alimentation only could save everyone is utterly stupid. Alimentation can’t save me from an infection… But a pill or poultice could. It is the same thing for shiatsu and biomedicine. There is not one way to cure someone, and there is certainly no methods that could cure when they are just alone. That is what holism means.
Well, I suppose, I know nothing in fact. I’m curious what you are thinking about this. But, I think everyone here fell in the same problem : they took shiatsu as a whole, an end in itself, when shiatsu, like any type of massage shouldn’t be used alone as a way to cure. But as a way to create a dialogue, a way to calm the patient, a way to understand its body and seeing some of its symptoms, etc. Not as a way to cure. While biomedicine just throw this dialogue to trash (and is based of capitalism and materialism consumption which means there is many research that are biased due to an monetary reason or patents and the patient is more a client than a patient). But, hey, these problems or not only in biomedicine, and certainly not only in medicine in general. It would be hypocrite to say so.
Thx for reading !