Injury type: Acute

Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Rating: No research

What is it?

The word Shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’. Shiatsu therapy is a traditional Japanese manual therapy used for better health and well-being. It is based on the theory of acupuncture and incorporates principles of anatomy, physiology and pathology. Shiatsu evolved out of 3,500 years of oriental medical wisdom and is founded upon the same principles as acupuncture, although no needles are used. Shiatsu therapy involves applying pressure with fingers, palms, elbows and feet along the pressure points. It is used for reducing stress, and alleviating symptoms such as neck pain. Some therapists will use the traditional diagnostic methods of tongue, pulse and hara. Each Shiatsu is designed specifically for an individual’s needs. The treatment usually takes place on a soft futon on the floor but may be given in a sitting position or on a massage table. The aim of Shiatsu is to promote the health and well being of the mind, body and spirit. Progress and changes are recorded at each subsequent visit and recommendations such as exercise and dietary advice may be given.

How does it work?

It is thought that Shiatsu uses the pressure of the fingers, thumbs, palms of the hand, elbows or feet to activate and support the body’s natural energy flow, clearing blocked pathways and enhancing circulation. By stimulating circulation it may alleviate pain and discomfort. The traditional theory of acupuncture proposes that energy, known as “Chi” (or “Ki”) moves through the body along well defined passageways called meridians. Balance of these energy flows is considered to be essential for health and well-being and a Shiatsu treatment is typically designed with the balancing of these energy flows in mind. Shiatsu is thought to support the body back to its natural balance.

Is it effective?

There is no evidence on the use of Shiatsu in the management of whiplash.

Are there any disadvantages?

There may be some discomfort associated with the treatment, however, it should not be painful. Several treatments may be required to achieve a positive outcome, therefore the treatment may be quite costly.

Where do you get it?

The Shiatsu Therapy Association of Australia has a list of therapists in each state. Alternatively, consult the Yellow Pages to locate a therapist in your area.


The use of Shiatsu cannot be recommended following whiplash because of a lack of research evidence. More research is required.