Paul Bridle is a member of the Research Council For Complementary Medicine.
A selection of research information from the Shiatsu Society UK.

Current and Published Research

European Shiatsu Study, Professor Andrew Long

This study followed up on a cohort of 984 clients receiving shiatsu in three countries (Spain, Germany and the UK). The study sought to look at clients' long-term experiences and effects of receiving shiatsu as well as finding out about the practitioners and their style of practice.

The key policy findings:

· Confirm the safety of shiatsu as practised within the three countries
· Demonstrate interconnected and consistent evidence of client perceived beneficial effects in the short and longer term. These range from symptom change to lifestyle changes. The effects are maintained in the longer term (six months follow-up)
· Benefits in terms of general well-being, health maintenance, health promotion (uptake of advice and recommendations) and health awareness are notable. This suggests a potential role for shiatsu in public health
· Findings on a reduction in use of conventional medicine, medication and working days lost due to ill-health are indicative of an added value and potential economic benefit arising from shiatsu treatment

Two papers were published from the review. One highlighted the potential benefit of shiatsu in promoting health literacy. The second examined the negative responses. Although showing shiatsu to be a safe treatment, this large cohort allowed for the development of a ‘typology of negative responses’ that could be applied to other CAM therapies.

Provision of Shiatsu in an Inner City General Practice, Dr. Zoe Pirie

 Between 1999 and 2003 Dr. Zoe Pirie conducted a PhD research study on the integration of a complementary medicine clinic in the National Health Service (NHS). It described the impact of delivering shiatsu on an inner-city general practice, its GPs, patients and the shiatsu practitioner.
This qualitative study was carried out as an NHS funded PhD scholarship. Ten patients were treated in their GP surgery in a socio-economically deprived area of Sheffield city. The study showed that both patients receiving and GPs participating in the study, meaning those who referred patients to the therapist, were positive about the integration of Shiatsu into their primary care practice. Consultations were significantly reduced in terms of duration and frequency, and there were fewer prescriptions for medication.

As part of her study, Dr. Pirie also maintained a reflective journal of her experiences of offering the service into the daily practicalities of being the Shiatsu therapist at a busy GP practice. Her experiences appear in the Shiatsu Society Journal Issue 120.

Pirie, Z. Mathers, N. and Fox, N. (2012) Delivering Shiatsu in a primary care setting: Benefits and challenges. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 18 (1): 37-42.

Systematic Review of Shiatsu and Acupressure

In 2006, a systematic review of studies  that looked at the efficacy and effectiveness of shiatsu and acupressure was carried out by Thames Valley University. In 2010, this review was updated by the same researchers and is available for viewing online. The executive summary provides a useful starting point to explore the 250+ page review. Of great benefit to understanding how and why the review was conducted is the preface written by senior shiatsu practitioner Carola Beresford-Cooke. A clear summary of the review has also been compiled by a former sub-committee member, Hannah Mackay, in the Autumn 2011 edition of the Shiatsu Society Journal, Issue 119.

Although many potentially relevant studies were found (1,714), only a small number related to shiatsu itself and the remaining included studies were on acupressure. Findings from the shiatsu studies showed ‘promising’ evidence for musculoskeletal and psychological problems, and strong evidence was found for a range of specific symptoms treated using acupressure.

The tables of results in the very complete appendices show what evidence there is for treating a condition and how that evidence was judged for quality. For those readers less familiar with research methods, and study quality in particular, the preface covers the pros and cons of systematic reviews in general, and pertinent issues for this review.

Shiatsu, a pressure technique

Vega RH. Physical Therapy. 55(4):381-382, 1975.

This is an early account of Shiatsu by the Chief Physical Therapist of a medical centre in New Mexico, USA. It includes four very brief vignettes and suggests that Shiatsu may be useful in helping to alleviate a range of symptoms including muscle spasms, headaches, low back pain, painful shoulder and limitation of movement.

A randomised controlled clinical trial for low back pain treated by acupressure (Shiatsu incorporates acupressure).

Hseih LL, Kuo CH, Yen MF, Chen TH. Preventative Medicine, July 2004; Vol 39(1): 168-176. Acupressure (Shiatsu incorporates Acupressure) helps 90% of patients with lower back pain.

A study by the Institute of Preventative Medicine at the National Taiwan University and published in the British Medical Journal online has revealed that 90% of patients suffering from back pain found that acupressure treatment reduced their discomfort. Results showed that acupressure was more effective in alleviating low back pain than physical therapy in terms of pain scores, functional status, and disability, say the authors. The effect was not only seen in the short term, but lasted for six months.

The trial, comparing acupressure with mainstream physical therapy in a study of 129 patients, found that the treatment resulted in an 89% reduction in disability. The patients also saw improvements in leg pain and "pain interfering with normal work", with a reduction in time taken off work as a result.

64 patients received six sessions of acupressure over the next month and 65 received conventional physical therapy. The mean disability score after treatment was significantly lower in the acupressure group than in the physical therapy group.

* Published online first, BMJ Feb 18, 2006.

Research Project on the Perceived Effectiveness of Shiatsu Treatment

Clifford Andrews BSc, MRSS

The first 9 conditions which include: General Health/wellbeing, ankle problems, headaches, joint problems, sciatica, back problems, emotional problems, shoulder problems, stress. Over 50% of the clients perceived the treatment as being +2 or Very Effective. In the second observable category which includes: Digestive problems, neck problems, menstrual problems, the perceived effectiveness was divided equally between the +1 (Effective) and +2 (Very Effective) scores but in each case over 80% of the sample found some benefit (+1 and +2 scores combined). A third group which includes depression, bowel problems/IBS, low energy, knee problems, showed a greater variety in the distribution of the scores. In depression slightly more +1 scores than +2 were recorded, although all of the sample indicated some benefit (+1 and +2 scores combined). Bowel problems and IBS proved difficult to treat giving the widest spread of scores amongst all the categories. Of the sample 40% indicated 0 or no change and 30% giving +1 and 30% giving +2. Low energy also proved to be a difficult category to completely resolve with 24% scoring +2 but a larger 55% feeling some benefit and scoring +1. Knee problems also appeared difficult to completely resolve, despite all of the sample reporting some benefit, only 17% scored +2 with 83% scoring +1.

Conclusions: A large majority of clients that responded to the Questionnaire perceived Shiatsu as being very effective. Two patterns emerged from the analysis of the responses; the most common conditions treated by Shiatsu in the sample shown, and also the relative perceived effectiveness of treatment of different conditions described. These show very promising results with some conditions which western medicine sometimes has difficulties in treating.

Shiatsu is perceived by the majority of clients in the sample as a complimentary approach to health management which is very effective for a wide range of common health problems.


 ©2012 Paul R Bridle. All material is copyright.