Shiatsu Is An Excellent Treatment for Sports Injuries


By: Mihael Mamychshvili RST


Shi’atsu’ (means finger pressure) therapy originated in Japan in the 19th century. With roots in Chinese medicine and sometimes described as “acupuncture without needles”, Shiatsu is recognized as an excellent therapy for sports injuries.

Shiatsu has been part of the health care system in Japan since the early 1900’s. In the 60’s and 70’s, a global revival in Asian philosophy and healing arts helped spread Shiatsu to Europe and North America where it has become a healing massage therapy that is used in many hospitals today. It was most recently endorsed by Dr. Oz for assisting in the recovery of heart attack patients.

So what makes Shiatsu therapy so unique?

It is a true holistic therapy that combines the Western perspective of muscles and fascia with the Eastern philosophy of energy and channels. A Shiatsu therapist’s goal is to address the root of the problem affecting not only the muscles, fascia and blood flow, but the health and productivity of one’s organs. A good Shiatsu therapist will assess the body on multiple levels; physical, energetically, emotionally, psychologically, as well as diet and lifestyle. Bringing the body back into equilibrium is necessary for optimal performance.

So what is a Shiatsu treatment like?

Shiatsu therapy, unlike other body work does not use oils or lotions. The person is fully clothed lying on a special futon-like mat, or low massage table, and the therapist applies vertical pressure on acupoints and channels to stimulate blood flow and movement of Qi (energy). Although the pressure is given with thumbs, palms, forearm, elbows, even knees, the treatment can be very relaxing. Shiatsu incorporates many techniques like; stretches, joint mobilization, soft tissue corrective exercises (SOTAI), and passive resistance techniques, making it an effective treatment for a wide array of injuries and illnesses.  

How Shiatsu can help with sports injuries?

Today, professional athletes, coaches, yoga teachers, personal fitness instructors, bodybuilders, dancers and martial arts trainers are using Shiatsu to treat acute and chronic conditions such as:

  • Tendonitis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Illiotibial pain
  • Knee pain
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
  • Disc problems
  • Sciatica
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Neck Pain
  • Low Energy
  • Ankle and foot injuries
  • Stress
  • Migraines

During the London Olympics, the Japanese team used Shiatsu and acupuncture to help them win an impressive 19 medals.  Minoru Yajima, medical advisor and physiotherapist for Japan’s Triathlon team said “If an athlete feels pain, we use acupuncture as first aid. Most of team Japan’s medal winning medical strategy is preventative and based on a time-tested Japanese tradition – Shiatsu therapy.”

Most common sport injuries are easily treated with Shiatsu.

The two most common sports injuries that Shiatsu therapists see are rotator cuff injuries and Illiotibial Band Syndrome. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that help move and stabilize the shoulder joint. Damage to any one of the four muscles or their ligaments that attach the muscle to bone can occur because of acute injury, chronic overuse, or gradual aging. This can cause significant pain and disability within range of motion or use of the shoulder joint. An experienced Shiatsu therapist within 3- 5 treatments can dramatically improve the shoulder functionality.

illiotibial Band Syndrome is a condition that is common in runners and very active people that typically causes pain at the outer aspect of the knee where the illliotibial band (ITB) crosses the knee joint. When the illliotibial band rubs against a bony prominence at the outer aspect of the knee, it causes inflammation and damage to local tissue resulting in a dull ache that may increase to a sharper pain with activity.  Shiatsu works with the damaged tissue to reduce the inflammation and restore the muscle to its original position.

How Shiatsu techniques can help your clients.

Shiatsu can be done anywhere, anytime which makes it perfect for trainers and fitness instructors to learn a few techniques to help clients with pain and stress management. Not only are you helping your clients get in shape and feel stronger, but you can help them with aches and stiffness that will keep them in good health and reduce class cancellations. . For more information on Shiatsu for fitness trainers and instructors go to


“Over the years shoulder problems has been a main focused for me as it all started with a local newspaper writer coming to me with a 5 year old rotator cuff injury that nothing has helped and in 3 treatments I was able to treat it completely. She was in turn so grateful that she wrote a one page article about me in the local newspaper. As a result of that exposure I had people calling in with shoulders problems for months.”


“I had a client who was a runner and she came in limping on one leg barely able to walk as she had injured herself training for a marathon. She had been to physiotherapy and seen a chiropractor with no results. She had so much tension and inflammation on her ILLIOTIBIAL BAND from over training.  In 2 treatments I was able to help her walk normally. After 2 weeks of taking a break from running and regular treatments she resumed her training and was able to run her marathon with no pain.”


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