Shiatsu, which in Japanese literally means “finger pressure”, is a Japanese type of body work which uses hand and finger pressure to adjust the body’s structure and helps it to return to good health. It is a gentle, non-invasive and deeply relaxing therapy which can deal with specific injuries and poor health as well as general well-being and relaxation.

A recent study (1)(2) by researchers at the University of Alberta showed that self-shiatsu techniques could help people with chronic pain sleep better. Although the research was carried out with a small sample of nine people as a pilot project, the results were positive and could lead to further studies with larger samples.

For this pilot study, occupational and physical therapy students were taught to carry out a simple series of shiatsu techniques. They then trained the participants who carried it out on themselves. Some patients reported falling asleep while carrying out the technique – for others the treatment kicked in after a few weeks.

One of the difficulties patients with chronic pain face is that their pain often dominates their attention, keeping them up at night worrying. Part of the benefit of the self-administering technique is that people are obliged to focus their attention on the technique itself, which can help to divert their attention away from their pain, in turn helping them to fall asleep.

While there are signs that self-treatment may be effective, it is nevertheless advisable to visit a professional first. A shiatsu practitioner would be able to identify a range of techniques the different parts of your body that could benefit from massage and shiatsu treatment and the types of techniques to apply. They would then also be able to design a series of simple shiatsu techniques that you could take home with you and use whenever you felt the need.

Click here to see a shiatsu practitioner in the York area.


(1) Brown, C.A., Bostick, G., Bellmore, L., & Kumanayaka, D. 2014. Hand self-Shiatsu for sleep problems in persons with chronic pain: a pilot study. Journal of Integrative Medicine 12(2): p.94–101.

(2) University of Alberta. 2014. Pain pilot explores hand shiatsu treatment as sleep aid – University of Alberta. Available at: