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Macrobiotic Shiatsu

Macrobiotic shiatsu has nothing to do with the dogs, but is rather a touted treatment for a range of health problems. Shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ in Japanese, and this is an alternative form of medicine that utilizes manipulation, massage and focussed pressure in order to treat a range of problems. Here we will examine shiatsu, and specifically ‘macrobiotic shiatsu’ and we will look at whether or not this is a reliable treatment for the conditions it claims to improve.

What Is Shiatsu?

As already mentioned, shiatsu consists of pressure and manipulation, and this is used with the intention of manipulating the ‘Chi’ (also known as ‘Qi’ and ‘Ki’) that the Chinese and Japanese believe flow through our bodies. This is the same principle behind acupuncture which seeks to help the flow of healthy chi through the use of needles that access the ‘meridians’ in the body (‘passageways’ essentially for chi).

Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of chi – just as there is no evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture. That said, it has been demonstrated in some cases to help deal with muscle soreness, headache and other similar aches and pains as you would imagine any form of manipulation/massage to be capable of – and it doesn’t carry with it the risk of infection that acupuncture potentially does (when carried out incorrectly). If you are someone with an open mind, who likes the idea of chi, but is not too keen on needles, then shiatsu might make a good alternative to other forms of therapeutic massage for you.

However while there are no potential risks or side effects known with shiatsu, with no evidence that this will do anything more than soothe muscle aches, it’s important to recognize that your money might be better saved for a longer traditional massage.

What Is Macrobiotic Shiatsu?

Macrobiotic shiatsu however takes this one step further and starts to set off my ‘offensive nonsense alarm’ (at least shiatsu is based in tradition and doesn’t claim to be scientific). The name ‘macrobiotic’ of course means ‘big enough to be visible’ so that’s already a bad start as any massage is macrobiotic.

The concept here is that the foods we eat each contain their own chi energy, and that what we eat can then affect our internal chi.

The way that vegetables and foods are deigned to affect our chi is somewhat arbitrary which further suggests it’s not founded in much truth. For instance, if you eat lots of vegetables that ‘grow upwards’ such as potatoes, then apparently this will cause your qi to flow up your body. One site I read suggested that headaches might be caused by ‘too much chi in the head’ as a result of too many root foods. The idea is then of course to combine the use of shiatsu massage with suggested diet changes based on the kind of chi that exists inside what you are eating.

Does it Work?

Of course the official answer to this is that ‘no one can say for sure’. However it’s fair to assume that it’s highly unlikely eating more or less vegetables is going to affect many health problems – and if it does it’s even more unlikely this would have anything to do with chi. While it’s up to you what you believe, you should certainly not rely on these methods to help treat conditions and should still make sure to see a qualified physician. Likewise it is important that you don’t spend too much money on a practice that is not at all founded in science.





Theodoros Manfredi

Article reviewed by Theodoros Manfredi, PhD. A licensed physician who has worked with children and families for over seven years.


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