Shaitsu, Asthma, Massage Therapy

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Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the airways of the lungs. The airways are tubes carrying air inside and outside the lungs. In asthma, the inside walls of the airways become sore and swollen. This makes them narrower leading to less air supply; in turn causing chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, and breathing trouble. These symptoms tend to worsen at night or in the early morning hours. In an asthma attack, the airways are blocked to the extent of interfering with oxygen supply to the important organs and may result in death.

Around 300 million people worldwide are affected by asthma including 7% from the United States and 6.5% British people. Of these, 6 million are children. In the US alone, 4,000 deaths are caused by asthma each year. This condition is irrespective of age but starts mainly in childhood. It may also be hereditary. Children of parents with asthma who also have a persistent history of respiratory infections, wheezing and allergies are at high risk of developing asthma, which continues beyond 6 years of age. Asthma attacks may also be triggered by stress.

Shiatsu healing therapy is a type of massage or bodywork with roots in Japan. Both shiatsu and acupuncture work along regulating positive qi (energy) flow through the body and are based on traditional Chinese medicine principles. A shiatsu practitioner uses thumbs, elbows, knees, and fingers to rebalance the patient’s body and leave him with a relaxed feeling. Shiatsu is truly a relaxing experience and regular shiatsu sessions help to prevent the build up of stress, which in turn helps asthma patients.

Shiatsu is quite suitable for asthma patients since it can be administered to people of any age, babies, pregnant ladies, and breast-feeding mothers. Shiatsu should be carried out on an asthma patient when he is completely relaxed and definitely not in the midst of an attack. Before commencing the treatment, the patient’s asthmatic and general health history is taken note of. Diagnosis is based on feeling the pulse, certain points in the back, palpitation of the abdomen, and observing the patient’s face, tongue, and posture. 


The patient while being fully-clothed is asked to lie down on a cotton futon on the floor. Extra bolsters and cushions may be used. Clothing should be loose and comfortable.

A shiatsu practitioner listens to the patient’s body while treating it and then responds to these signals. Certain designated areas are massaged for relief of asthma, namely around the center of the chest, on the hands and palms, and along the foot. These specific massage points are acted upon to relax the chest, quiet the nervous system, and clear the lungs. The massage can be carried out on a regular basis. However, in the event of an asthma attack, immediate medical attention should be sought.


 Shiatsu has been known to treat asthma patients as effectively as to reduce their dependence on puffers by 50%. In asthma patients, shiatsu is directed towards improving breathing, reducing stress, improving circulation, and building up the immune system. A patient having undergone shiatsu massage for treating asthma is left with a general feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.

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