What does a shiatsu therapist do and how does she (most shiatsu therapists are shes) do it? That’s hard to know. There are studies out there, but not many. No double blind studies are possible because how can the therapist not know if he’s giving a real or a placebo treatment? So, we can never have “gold standard” double blind studies for any kind of human administered bodywork, but we can make observations never-the-less.
We can monitor blood glucose (BG) and blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) before and after treatments to gauge the effect of shiatsu on these parameters, comparing them, of course, to baseline markers over time. Modern medicine spends a lot of effort telling how these bio markers need to be under control and in the context of a shiatsu praxis (or almost anywhere) they have become extremely easy to test.
Testing for cortisol in saliva is another test that is relatively easily done within the bounds of the practice of bodywork. Testing for inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (il-6) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) would be worthwhile as well but would require research funding to implement.
Bodywork creates a “knowing” in the body of the receiver that is hard to quantify and is also hard to quantify the carry-over of this “body-self-knowing.” Since we can’t eliminate the placebo effect or the nocebo effect through double blind studies we have to take them into account. Bodywork is a very practical discipline so if we can take advantage of placebo effect while discouraging nocebo effects it leads to an alleviation of symptoms which is aligned with our purpose naturally.
Does all this testing help specifically our bodywork? It might. It might not. If we just want to prove that bodywork is effective well, we know that already. Since we can’t test at the highest standard of science then why bother? If we want to really complement allopathic medicine it would be worth trying to understand how following BG, BP, HR and inflammatory markers can help us to tailor our approach to each client even more? Would hormone panels and cholesterol levels also be relevant to shiatsu and other forms of bodywork in the future and body worker be better trained to interpret the results of the standard test arrays? I would say yes could even also make the effects of different types of bodywork apparent. Moreover this quantifiably would make it easier for physicians to refer be movement and manual therapies because the results would be more transparent.
So what does a shiatsu therapist do? Well, that’s hard to know. The reasons that bring people to want to investigate themselves in this way are also often deep and hard to fathom. In bodywork both giver and receiver both look into a mirror without reflections. Did those years of ball leave your shoulder out of whack or was it the moment you casually noticed the truck skidding on the newly rain swept highway then tensed…. Was that break-up only something you’ve ever before seen on TV? These things are difficult to know. But the body has something to say about these things as well and with shiatsu we have a good way to listen. You get to listen with all of you for a few short minutes rather than just with your ears. When you have such a strong intention to listen you are more likely to hear something, but, you also might not want to hear it. This is the same for both giver and receiver. It’s this choice that’s so difficult to quantify in studies but choices we have never-the-less.