How it works

Similar to acupuncture, shiatsu therapy originates from Chinese culture and is based on a notion of energy flow around the body. Practitioners gently massage different areas of the body known as pressure points in a bid to balance energy flow and release pressure or blockages, which are thought to cause health problems. Shiatsu is closely related to massage therapy and many of its benefits in alleviating stress are due to relaxation.

What it could help:

Pain relief, migraine, insomnia, nausea, anxiety and depression.

Evidence base:

There is very little research into the effectiveness of shiatsu on stress, and what exists has come from its association with acupuncture (see page 11). A recent review of all research into shiatsu said evidence was inconclusive and of insufficient quantity and quality, but anecdotal evidence has shown it to be effective, as the practitioner aims to treat the ‘whole body’, including psychological and emotional issues.

What to expect:

Shiatsu is traditionally done on a Futon mat on the floor, but it’s possible on a chair or bed. The session should start with a chat about your lifestyle and medical history so the practitioner can understand your symptoms. Most will begin physical examination by placing a hand on your abdominal region, where it is thought imbalances can be detected, and a diagnosis made. Sessions last for up to 60 minutes, with the practitioner using their hands, fingers, elbows and feet to apply gentle pressure.


There is little risk in shiatsu as it is mainly massage-based. Performed properly, it is safe. Researching the right practitioner, ensuring they are licensed and registered with the Shiatsu Society and Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, is strongly recommended (see below).

Find out more:

Find a therapist: – all therapists registered with the society are experienced and have been trained and assessed.


Varies depending on the length of the session and the practitioner’s experience. The number of sessions depends on what is being treated and certain areas have a recommended course, but it is generally up to you. Expect upwards from £20 per session.

How does shiatsu work? – VIDEO

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