In shiatsu, the practitioner primarily uses the thumbs and palms of the hands as a means of affecting therapeutic changes to the energy systems of the body.

Shiatsu is based on the Eastern Medical model, in which Qi, or life energy, is believed to flow through pathways or meridians in the body. The flow of Qi regulates physical, mental, and emotional well-being and plays an important role in human physiology and pathology, as well as in the prevention and treatment of illness.


Shiatsu originated in Japan. Two common stories exist concerning how shiatsu developed.

The first is that it grew out of Amma traditions that were brought to Japan around 1,000 CE. Tamai Tempaku published Shiatsu Ho (finger pressure therapy) in 1919, which described a mixture of Japanese Amma, abdominal massage, self-massage, acu-point pressure techniques, and Western anatomy and physiology.

The second version of the story is that Tokujiro Namikoshi developed the theory based on his experiences treating his mother for rheumatic pains. The Namikoshi version of shiatsu has fewer acu-points and is the form of shiatsu recognized by the Japanese government.


Treatment involves two components: the stimulation of the appropriate acu-points to achieve either an increase or decrease in the energy flow at that point and massage to affect the muscular condition in an area.

Acu-point stimulation is usually achieved through direct, shallow, or deep pressure, although localized massage techniques may also be used.

Localized shiatsu massage includes a variety of direct hand techniques — various forms of pressing, stroking, holding and vibrating, rubbing, shaking, tapping, and kneading either in isolation or in combination. Joints are often manipulated to increase range of motion.

Explore This Practice For

Shiatsu is a whole-body treatment that can bring balance to all systems of the body and promote health and healing. 


A level of training that includes every competency component needed to safely and appropriately apply the treatment.


An additional treatment that first requires the practitioners to be trained in an appropriate related discipline.