Current & Published Research

Great news! Neil Browne, who works at Barts Trust and Whipps Cross Hospital, has been selected to give a poster presentation at the 2016 Research Council for Complementary Medicine CAMSTAND conference in Warwick in June. Based on the abstract entitled 'Relieving Pressure - An Evaluation of Shiatsu Treatments for Cancer & Palliative Care Patients in an NHS Setting'.

The Shiatsu Society has been engaged in research to support and promote an evidence base for its use. By research, we mean tasks that allow us to measure and explore why and how shiatsu works, for whom, for how long. The purpose is to gather findings that may help us further or modify our practice, to answer unanswered questions, and to present these to the wider health and social care community.

There is much debate in the world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research as to the best way of researching shiatsu. Senior shiatsu practitioner Carola Beresford-Cooke gives a very helpful perspective on this debate in the preface to a recently completed review of studies on shiatsu and acupressure.

The Shiatsu Society has a research sub-committee, made up of members of the Shiatsu Society. Some of these members have research-specific backgrounds and some do not, but all have a dedication to the importance of research in support of shiatsu. We meet regularly in a virtual environment and come together for formal meetings a couple of times a year. Our remit is to support research in line with promoting the safe practice of shiatsu and to ensure that that research is published to fellow practitioners, the wider health community and the general public.

If you are a Shiatsu Society member and have a specific question related to research, we invite you to post it on our Research forum.

While many Shiatsu Society members have conducted research into shiatsu, three noteworthy pieces of research are summarised below.

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.