Shiatsu vs Deep Tissue: What’s the Difference?

There are lots of massage techniques and modalities to help clients achieve their desired outcomes. And like we always say, no two clients’ management plans are ever the same even when their needs are.

Today we will talk about the differences between two massage modalities; deep tissue massage and Shiatsu massage

What’s the difference between shiatsu and Deep Tissue? Deep tissue massage uses deep pressure techniques to produce physical and somatic benefits. Shiatsu massage uses acupressure to produce somatic benefits and establish a balance and restoration of spiritual energy.

To give you a clearer idea of this key difference, we will discuss these two modalities in terms of:

  • Their origins
  • The techniques used
  • And their benefits

Shiatsu vs Deep Tissue Orgins

Deep Tissue Massage

The history of deep tissue massage is traced to ancient Egypt, Greece, India, and China.

However, deep tissue massage became recognized as a unique massage technique in the late 18th Century in Canada. At this time, it was commonly used by doctors to treat patients with musculoskeletal pain. From Canada, it became popular in the US by the late 18th to the mid-19th century.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu massage originated from Japan as a bodywork technique used to restore spiritual balance and qi energy.

Shiatsu became popular in the West after the second world war. By the 19th century, its use became accepted and recognized after Tokujiro Namikoshi established the first-ever shiatsu massage school.

Shiatsu vs Deep Tissue Techniques

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage uses hand techniques like effleurage and petrissage to exert deep pressure into the muscles and other soft tissues. Apart from the hands, the forearms and elbows are used.

The techniques used here are similar to those used in a Swedish massage but in deep tissue massage, the strokes are slower, deeper, and with firmer and more intense pressure.

Shiatsu Massage

In Shiatsu massage, hand techniques are also applied to the body in slow and firm strokes.

The forearms, elbows, and knees are also used. However, unlike in deep tissue massage where pressure is directed at muscle fascia, in Shiatsu massage, pressure is directed at specific pressure points. In Asian medicine, these pressure points are called Meridian channels.

They allow the flow of qi energy. Pressure on these points opens up the channels and removes obstruction in the flow of qi. Also, unlike deep tissue massage which uses deep pressure, Shiatsu massage uses a combination of deep and light techniques, stretches, and dynamic movement.

Shiatsu vs Deep Tissue Benefits and uses

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is ideal for clients with musculoskeletal pain from sports injuries, accidents, and work incidents. They are also ideal for clients with somatic pain from fibromyalgia, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, and posture-related musculoskeletal pain.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu massage is ideal for clients with psychosomatic pain caused by stress, anxiety. In these clients, you can see that their perception of pain is not only caused by inflammation.

It is also heightened by their subconscious states.

Apart from pain, clients with chronic disorders like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, neurologic headaches, depression, and anxiety-related disorders can benefit from the psychological and spiritual effects of a shiatsu massage.

What to Expect from a Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage is a full body massage that lasts from an hour to an hour and a half.

You can receive the massage undressed, dressed, draped, or undraped. This depends on your preferences.

At the beginning of the session, the therapist starts with light massage strokes to warm up the area, increase blood flow, and reduce the risk of cramps.

The therapist then proceeds to firmer strokes with more pressure.

At the end of the session, you may feel sore for the next 24-48 hours. This is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. If you feel increasingly sore, you should not hesitate to inform the therapist.

What to Expect From a Shiatsu Massage

Just like deep tissue massage, a shiatsu massage is a full body massage that lasts from sixty to ninety minutes.

The therapist uses deep and firm pressure but can also use light strokes, stretches, and dynamic movement around the joints.

Apart from strokes, the therapist will use breathing techniques to help you relax and focus on what’s going on.

While shiatsu massage may make you feel sore, the aim is not to overstimulate the muscles. In most cases, shiatsu massage therapists will end the session if they notice a change in your breathing pattern, say, for example, you start breathing fast because the session is too intense for you.

How to Choose the Right Massage Technique

The right massage technique depends on your needs and expectations. Your expectations will become clearer as you consult a massage therapist for expert advice.

As you discuss with the therapist, be sure to remain transparent with your medical and drug histories.

This will help the therapist rule out any contraindications to a massage modality, and keep you safe.

Now its time to hear from you:

Now that you know the differences between a Shiatsu massage and a deep tissue massage, which do you prefer?

We can’t wait to read your responses in the comments section below.

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