Many clients ask me what the difference is between a Massage and a Shiatsu session. Although there are many foundational similarities, knowing the differences can help you get what you want out of your bodywork session.
On a general level, any Massage or Shiatsu session's main focus is to address pain and discomfort in the body through physical manipulation (grasping, pressure, stretching, compression and rhythmic tapping). Both Massage and Shiatsu understand that pain and discomfort stem from a lack of balance or alignment in the body. This imbalance can be due to overuse patterns, injury or emotional trauma and stress. They both can be done using lighter or deeper pressure and be invigorating and/or relaxing.
Massage session are generally done with the client unclothed and draped on a massage table. The sessions are focused through the lenses of conventional Western Medicine. Manipulation of muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments are the main focus of treatment. Trigger points (or "knots") in muscles are identified and deactivated to relieve pain and tension. Sessions can be focused on a specific area of the body or address the whole body. Therapeutic massage can also be great for general relaxation and stress relief.
Clients stay dressed in loose comfortable clothes during a Shiastu session. Treatments are done either on a massage table or a mat on the floor. Treatments are focused on the meridian system of Traditional Chinese Medicine which has a very holistic view of how the body works. The whole body is worked on in a treatment, because it is believed that activation acupressure points away from the area of concern have an effect on that area. Shiatsu sessions often include more stretching techniques and movement.
Specific situations that may make one modality more effective for you:
I encourage everyone to try both a Massage and Shiatsu session. Most therapists utilize techniques from a variety of modalities during a session. Your choice of modality will shift the focus of intention for the session. As you learn more about how each type of bodywork feels and how you feel after receiving a treatment you may switch back and forth depending on what you are looking to get out of each session. Play with it, have fun and enjoy all forms of bodywork!
Amy Daws is a trained Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu, and Chi Nei Tsang therapist. She is interested in the way that these modalities can bring healing and joy to people's lives.