Shiatsu is a (mostly) manual therapy that was popularised by Japanese Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905–2000). It developed out of the Chinese massage therapy, ‘tui na’. The word shiatsu means finger pressure in Japanese; however, a range of devices is also being promoted for shiatsu. The evidence that shiatsu is effective for any condition is close to non-existent.
This study aimed to investigate the effect of Shiatsu massage on agitation in mechanically ventilated patients.
A total of 68 mechanically ventilated patients were randomly assigned to two groups. Patients in the intervention group received three 5-minute periods of Shiatsu massage with a 2-minute break between them, while patients in the control group only received a touch on the area considered for the message. Data were collected before and after the intervention using the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale (RASS) and then analyzed.
The results showed that the level of agitation significantly decreased in the intervention group compared to the control group (p=.001).
The authors concluded that the application of shiatsu massage seems to be effective in managing agitation in mechanically ventilated patients. Further studies with greater sample size and longer follow-up period are needed to confirm the current findings.
It is good to see that, as far as I know for the first time, an attempt was made to control for placebo and other non-specific effects in a trial of shiatsu. However, in itself, the attempt is not convincing. What we need to know is whether the attempt was successful or not. Were the patients fully blinded and unable to tell the difference between verum and sham? From reading not just the abstract but the full paper, I do not get the impression that patients were successfully blinded. This means that the results might be entirely due to the effect of deblinding.