Creating a Research Culture for
Shiatsu Research in the UK
In recent years there have been important research advances made in Shiatsu. However, more research is needed to consolidate existing findings and promote the benefits of Shiatsu. In the years to come, we need to build a sustainable “research culture” to support our Society members and the wider professional Shiatsu community.
The basic premise is that a research infrastructure is needed to support a developing research culture.
Comparison: you can’t teach Shiatsu without having teachers and Schools. Similarly, you can’t establish a Shiatsu research culture without researchers and without creating a research infrastructure to support their professional growth and activities.
- Support current students and next-generation Shiatsu practitioners to become research-aware
- Support Shiatsu graduates to act as well-equipped practitioner-research pioneers for UK Shiatsu and the Global Shiatsu Community going forwards
- Raise profile and public understanding of Shiatsu through research awareness
- Create the conditions for a Shiatsu-focussed research culture that informs and enhances the professionalism of Shiatsu
- Contribute to a research culture that is founded on an authentic vision: Shiatsu on Shiatsu’s own terms
It’s important to be able to identify shared goalposts and to know
how the research landscape we want to create is rooted in particular values.
Research Values: embodying timeliness, flexibility, proactive agendas
Rigour: advocating methodological integrity, research principles, organisation of research knowledge and processes over time
Creativity: supporting creative vision, sensitivity, avoiding duplication
Innovation: facilitating experimentation, exploring novel perspectives
Collaboration: networking at local, regional, national and international levels, collective resourcing, attributions & IP
These research values can be seen as useful ‘anchors’ to help shape
the development of a long-term, self-sustaining Shiatsu research culture.
In practice, Directors would be able to implement these values with regards to both bottom-up and top-level decision-making. For example, appreciating when research ‘responsiveness’ needs to be acted on and supported organisationally within the Society (e.g. campaigns, promotions, office support). It is important to recognise that embracing Shiatsu on Shiatsu’s terms may mean a readiness to transcend existing normative / conventional research approaches.
Support should be given across the Society to encourage an evolving research culture that is engagingly innovative, creative, flexible and experimental.
Shiatsu Research - Quick Facts
The Science and Research Behind Shiatsu
Shiatsu empirical research studies, review articles, client-practitioner observational studies, meta-analyses and reflective commentaries have been published in professional, peer reviewed journals.
- RCTs: randomised controlled trials (two-armed and three-armed prospective cohort studies) in the UK, Europe and Japan
- Pre-post outcome studies for a wide range of health issues including, but not limited to, chronic stress, hypertension, angina, back, shoulder and neck pain, schizophrenia
- Systemic reviews, treatment-focused, and original theoretical meridian / Chinese medicine research
- Cross-country and longitudinal research on Shiatsu treatment outcomes
- Large-scale surveys of Shiatsu clients and Shiatsu practitioners (Switzerland, UK, Spain, Austria)
- Quasi-experimental and observational studies with before and after comparisons within case series treatments (e.g. 156 Shiatsu sessions with 10 GP-referred patients with chronic digestive problems, muscle pain, and depression)
- Qualitative interviews
The evidence base for Shiatsu continues to grow – in quantity and quality (methodological rigour)
- Meta-analysis published in 2018 links Shiatsu to improved physiological, psychosocial, psychological and emotional health.
- 1946-2013, Kleinau et al comprehensive meta-analytical review: there were 2165 matches, but only 6 controlled Shiatsu studies and 9 uncontrolled Shiatsu studies met review inclusion criteria for design robustness based on principles of evidence-based-medicine
- Shiatsu's effect on relaxation, pain relief, and improvement in breathing and physical activity over a three-year period in a before-and-after-study of 948 clients
- Japan Shiatsu College, Tokyo: Shiatsu Therapy Research Lab Reports (1998-2012) on the effect of autonomic nervous function applying Shiatsu pressure whilst using measurement electrodes to stimulate the skin and muscles of the cervical region finds reductions in blood pressure and heart rate
- Evidence Reports of Anma-Massage-Shiatsu, as of 2011, based on 18 randomised controlled trials in Japan. (This body of work is not evaluated in the context of evidence-based-medicine)
Several research studies have found that Shiatsu correlates with health improvements for:
- Back and muscle pain
- Menopausal symptoms
- Digestive problems
- High blood pressure
Here is more good news:
- Results of large-scale surveys in Switzerland, the UK, Austria and Spain show that Shiatsu positively reinforces other nonpharmacological therapies such as physiotherapy, psychotherapy and occupational therapy
- Based on a comprehensive meta-analysis of Shiatsu studies, a recent research review concludes that “on average Shiatsu shows a slight advantage compared to procedures of conventional medicine”
- An independent evaluation of Shiatsu was commissioned by the European Shiatsu Foundation and led by a team of researchers at the University of Leeds, UK. Longitudinal research with 948 Shiatsu clients in the UK, Spain and Austria following pre-post outcomes finds that general well-being, health maintenance, health promotion and patient self-awareness are demonstrable benefits of receiving shiatsu. The research also suggests there is added value and potential economic benefit arising from shiatsu treatment with reduced uptake of drugs, fewer GP visits and less employee sick leave.
- Comprehensive review of Shiatsu and Acupressure by Thames Valley University finds ‘promising’ evidence for shiatsu studies treating musculoskeletal and psychological problems; strong evidence for a range of specific symptoms treated using acupressure.
- Existing evidence suggests that Shiatsu treatments can contribute to significantly fewer doctors' visits and drug prescriptions. Based on research following Shiatsu treatments for those living with a range of chronic symptoms.
Also of relevance to practical Shiatsu development:
- Current research innovations on the biological basis of meridians and communication pathways along channels: eg. biophoton emission and migration of isotope as visible communication along a channel pathway
- Imaging studies research and neural hypothesis for acupoint stimulation
- Studies on the relationship between electromagnetic field, biochemical activity and internal body energy (e.g. effects of Shiatsu touch and modelling meridians within quantum field theory)
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