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Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage therapy, sometimes known as ‘needle-less acupressure’. It aims to help correct imbalances in the body, treat pain and illness, enhance the body’s natural healing powers, facilitate relaxation and promote good health. Shiatsu is a holistic treatment which looks at the body as a whole rather than at individual symptoms.

Rhythmic pressure from the thumbs, fingers and palms is applied to specific points of the body to stimulate and improve the body's energy flow (Chi) without the use of any instruments or needles. These movements are believed to rebalance any excess or lack of energy along the body's energy pathways. Many of the techniques are common to other therapies including massage and physiotherapy. 

You should avoid shiatsu if you have weak bones or certain blood disorders. Special care is needed in early pregnancy. Talk with an experienced practitioner if you have any health concerns.

How can it help people with Parkinson's?

Little research has been done into the effects of shiatsu as a Parkinson’s therapy but many believe that benefits are similar to those of massage and may include:

  • reduced stress and pain
  • improved flexibility, posture and mobility
  • more efficient circulation and elimination of waste and toxins
  • enhanced quality of sleep
  • greater sense of self-awareness and wellbeing
  • increased vitality.

These benefits may also be felt by family and carers.

What should I expect at an appointment?

Shiatsu is not regulated in many countries. It is therefore a good idea to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinson’s or your national Parkinson’s association may also be able to advise based on personal experience. 

It is advisable to see a therapist who has experience of Parkinson’s so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.

The shiatsu practitioner will ask about your general health, symptoms and energy levels. They will use a variety of techniques to improve your flow of energy. This may include gently holding parts of the body, or pressing their thumbs, fingers and palms, as well as elbows, knees and feet, on your body’s meridians. They may also use stretches and rotations to encourage circulation, flexibility and improved posture.

Each session will last approximately an hour, although the first may be a little longer while your practitioner assesses your state of health, symptoms and medications.

You will usually lie on a padded mat or futon at floor lever, although you can sit in a chair if you prefer. You do not need to remove your clothes.

Most people feel revitalised and invigorated yet relaxed after a session, although occasionally there may be a reaction to the toxins being released – these can include headache, stiffness, stomach upset, diarrhoea, frequent urination and lethargy - but these will pass quickly. Resting for an hour or more after will enhance the benefits of treatment.

Tips for your appointment:

  • do not eat a heavy meal prior to your appointment
  • wear loose, comfortable clothing
  • do not drink alcohol before or after the session
  • drink plenty of water after shiatsu
  • avoid strenuous or stressful activities after the session.

How do I find a therapist?

The Parkinson’s organisation in your country may be able to provide information based on members’ experiences. For contacts see Our members and Other Parkinson’s organisations.

The Shiatsu Society website may help identify shiatsu practitioners in your area.

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