The effects of shiatsu: findings from a two-country exploratory study

J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Aug;9(4):539-47. doi: 10.1089/107555303322284839.


Objectives: To provide insight into client and practitioner perceptions of the effects of shiatsu, in the short and longer term, and positive and negative in nature.

Design: A two-country, exploratory study was undertaken in the United Kingdom and Germany. In-depth interviews were undertaken with a purposive sample of 14 shiatsu practitioners and 15 clients. Client interviews focused on the experience of shiatsu and perceptions of its effects, both positive and negative. Practitioners were also asked about factors that enhanced or inhibited successful treatment. The taped and transcribed data were analyzed using grounded theory, assisted by NVivo (QSR, Markham, Ontario, Canada) software. To enhance generalizability, the findings from the alternative country data set were presented to a further set of practitioners in each country and as a whole to an international meeting of practitioners from seven European countries.

Results: There was similarity in the perspectives of the clients and practitioners and participants from the United Kingdom and Germany. Both described a wide range of common, immediate and longer term effects. These included effects on initial symptoms, relaxation, sleeping, posture, and experiences of the body. A category of transitional effect arose, describing an effect that was not particularly positive and did not last long. Practitioners characterized this as being part of the healing response. Only a few negative effects were described by clients. One mentioned a negative physical reaction and two indicated difficulties coping with emotional reactions. While most practitioners conceived negative effects to be possible, these were more likely to be described as negative reactions.

Conclusion: This exploratory study has shed greater light on the effects of shiatsu. The sample findings provide a user and practitioner grounded base for the design of appropriate questions for exploration in a larger and more generalizable study of the effects of shiatsu.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure* / methods
  • Acupressure* / standards
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anecdotes as Topic
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom