Many people refer to acupressure as "acupuncture without the needles." Like acupuncture, acupressure applies the principles of traditional Chinese medicine to define, diagnose, and treat disease. Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that wellness depends on the proper balance and flow of energy, or qi (chi), through the body along pathways known as meridians.
The twelve major meridians correspond to specific human organs, such as the kidneys, liver, heart, the organs of the gut, and many others. Qi flows upwards in Yin meridians; downwards in Yang meridians. A meridian corresponding to a Yang organ is often used to treat disorders of its related Yin organ, thus bringing balance to the patient's qi.
If a person's qi is blocked or somehow diminished, he or she becomes vulnerable to disease. Therefore, the goal of acupressure is to restore a healthy flow of qi along the meridians in the body.
Shiatsu massage therapy can reasonably be described as a Japanese form of acupressure. The word "shiatsu" translates to "finger pressure." However, the technique can also include massaging, pulling, and stretching muscles, as well as applying pressure with different body parts, such the elbow or knee.
Like acupuncture and acupressure, shiatsu adheres to traditional Chinese medical principals for diagnosing and treating illness. By applying pressure or massage along the energy paths of the body, shiatsu practitioners can eliminate imbalances in the body and restore optimal flow of qi.
How Can Acupressure and Shiatsu Help?
Both shiatsu and acupressure are used for treating chronic and acute pain and disease. People usually try acupressure to treat a specific ailment, such as morning sickness, nausea, menstrual cramps, and headaches. Some practitioners will also use acupressure for treating cancer-related fatigue.
While it shares similar ideas of energy pathways as acupressure, shiatsu has more general benefits than its Chinese counterpart. Practitioners of shiatsu list benefits such as reduced blood pressure and anxiety, improved blood circulation, and balanced qi.