Shiatsu Plays a Role in Treating Fibromyalgia

Shiatsu is a Japanese word “shi” meaning finger and “atsu” meaning pressure. It is the systematic application of pressure with the fingers, thumbs, palms, elbows, forearms, knees and feet on specific points, and areas on the body. Unlike acupressure, Shiatsu uses not only the main acupuncture points located on a meridian, but also the spaces in between those points.

Shiatsu’s roots can be traced to China and a style of massage known as Anma. Tamai Tempaku invented Shiatsu massage at the beginning of the 20th century, and the Japanese government recognized it as a form of medical therapy in 1964. Since the 1940s, many schools of Shiatsu massage — including the Namikoshi system and Zen Shiatsu — have developed throughout the world.

It does not use typical massage mediums such as oils or creams, and as such can be done through clothing. Shiatsu is traditionally practiced on the floor on a thin futon.

Shiatsu has a strong reputation for reducing stress and relieving nausea and vomiting. Shiatsu is also believed to improve circulation and boost the immune system. Some people use it to treat diarrhea, indigestion, constipation, menstrual and menopausal problems, chronic pain, migraine, arthritis, toothache, anxiety and depression. It also appears to have sedative effects and may alleviate insomnia. In a broader sense, shiatsu is believed to enhance physical vitality and emotional well-being.

Let’s see what fibromyalgia is about and get a better understanding of this health condition.

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.

Now it’s time to check out a study involving Shiatsu and fibromyalgia.

Researchers sought to conduct the first-ever pilot study of Shiatsu for FMS. The study included 34 patients with FMS, between the ages of 33-62 years old, who were divided into a control group or a Shiatsu group. The treatment group received Shiatsu twice weekly for eight weeks.

The results were patients receiving Shiatsu had significant improvements in all variables except anxiety. Patients experienced a 40.6% decrease in pain intensity, a 76% improvement in pressure pain thresholds, 34% improvement in sleep quality, and a 22% improvement in scores of the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire. These results meant that 94% of patients reported being satisfied with Shiatsu treatment.

In conclusion the researchers stated “This pilot study showed the potential of Shiatsu in the improvement of pain intensity, pressure pain threshold, sleep quality, and symptoms impact on health of patients with fibromyalgia. The proposed Shiatsu treatment protocol was feasible and well accepted by the patients.”