The Effects and Experience of Shiatsu: A Cross-European Study
Complementary health in Europe is practiced in a context of political and legal uncertainty with a few notable exceptions. By and large, it is available outside the official health care systems, and only to those who can afford to pay and who have the opportunities to inform themselves. While millions of people use complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM ) practices, millions of others have no access.
CAM ‘s contribution to health and well being and its role alongside conventional medicine are poorly understood. The scope of application is variable and the differences between the many CAM practices are not well known. There is also significant prejudice to CAM . Practitioners have been prosecuted on legal grounds unconnected to their competence or client complaint. Published research is thin on the ground for many CAM practices, and most of what exists examines them as if they were a form of conventional medicine.
Shiatsu is one of the eight disciplines named in the Collins Report adopted by the European Parliament in 1997 (European Parliament 1997) which calls for steps to regulate complementary therapy practice and for more research. Initiatives have been taken by a few member states since, but none are complete. There still has not been a specific research line for CAM in the European Union’s (EU) Framework Programmes (FP) 5 to 7. The current programme, FP7, may provide funding for ‘translating clinical outcomes into clinical practice, especially addressing patient safety and the better use of medicines (including some aspects of … complementary and alternative medicine).’ (European Union 2006: 12)
About the ESF
Shiatsu has been practised professionally in Europe for 35 years. While common law allows it to be practised freely in the UK and Ireland , its practice in the rest of Europe, along with most other CAM methods, is tolerated, but without recognition as an independent discipline, or integration into state healthcare systems. This uncertainty has acted as a brake on the progress of shiatsu , its professional development, and its use by the public. In the official imagination, in so far as shiatsu exists there at all, it rests somewhere between the harmless, the useless or dangerous quackery.
In Japan , where shiatsu originated, it has been an officially recognised paramedical practice since 1952. In Europe , it is popular with the public but, until now, there has been no objective evidence for its safety, extensive data on who uses it and why, or an assessment of its benefits. The European Shiatsu Federation, in working to gain the legal ‘right to practice’ shiatsu throughout Europe and to promote the highest standards of training and professional practice, saw the need for evidence independent of the profession’s view.
The development of the study design took particular account of the fact that shiatsu practice occurs within the energetic relationship between the practitioner and the client, that it is intuitive in its nature, and that it is broad in its guiding philosophy and scope of application. The findings summarised below speak volumes about this ancient art. They validate an intuitive but practical system with contemporary and rational tools, bridging longstanding cultural gaps. Not surprisingly, the findings suggest the need for more research. These findings are now offered in service to the public, the profession, researchers, policy makers and health care providers.
Long, AF (2007) The Effects and Experience of Shiatsu: A Cross-European Study. Final Report
Long, AF (2007) The Practitioners within the Cross-European Shiatsu Study. Their Characteristics and an Insight into Their Practice
Long AF. The effectiveness of shiatsu: findings from a cross-European,
prospective observational study. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Oct;14(8):921-30.
Erratum in: J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Nov;14(9):1175.
Long AF. The potential of complementary and alternative medicine in promoting well-being and critical health literacy: a prospective, observational study of shiatsu. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009 Jun 18;9:19. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/9/19
Long AF., Esmonde L. and Connolly S. A typology of negative responses: A case study of shiatsu. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2009 Jun 17(3): 168-175
Andrew F Long
School of Healthcare, University of Leeds
© University of Leeds
Seamus Connolly, Project Co-ordinator. 43, Whitehall Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14, Ireland.
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