Shiatsu reduces pain & anxiety for cancer patients

Yoga and Shiatsu with Heidi Dore in Fife, Scotland - 5 miles from Dundee
Shiatsu works from head to toe

A groundbreaking study at Britain’s biggest NHS trust has found Shiatsu reduces pain, anxiety and stress for people with cancer.

The hands-on Japanese therapy also improved sleep, confidence and gave patients at Barts Health NHS Trust in London a greater sense of wellbeing.

Shiatsu improves quality of life

“Treatments really helped with oedema, which was quite limiting. Pain relief has also been very effective. The quality of my life has improved,” said one participant.

The study involved 44 men and women having chemotherapy for a range of different cancers or in palliative care. Participants had six sessions, approximately once a fortnight.

Pain reduction

Shiatsu helps pain and stress levels - Heidi Dore in Newport On Tay, Fife
Shiatsu study worked with cancer outpatients at St Barts in London

Hour long appointments were in an NHS out patients clinic at St Barts. Shiatsu helped fatigue and neuropathy – but symptoms that benefited most were stress, anxiety and pain.

There were “highly significant” increases of two points on the Likert Scale which gives patients six options ranging from 0 – not bothering me to 6- bothering me greatly. One person went from 6-1 after Shiatsu. Average scores improved from from a bothersome 4.5 before treatment to a much improved 2.2 after a course of treatments.

Compassionate listening

Patients also said they felt better for “being listened to” and “being heard” in the one-to-one sessions. One participant said: “It is a relief to be able to open up. Treatments decreased my pain and increased my inner strength.”

Neil Browne is a clinical lead therapist at St Barts and one of the team of six conducting the study.  He said the “significant improvements in both presenting symptoms and perceptions of well being” suggested more research was needed to build on the evidence.

” A larger study would ideally involve patients with a variety of presenting concerns so that we can compare results for different outcomes. We are just finishing looking specifically at cancer-related pain and Shiatsu but need larger numbers for symptoms such as nausea. It will also ideally involve a quantitative element. For example, using salivary cortisol tests to measure stress reduction.”

The European Journal of Integrative Medicine has published a summary of the research. The full study will be published in 2018.

In 2008, a Shiatsu study in Israel found it was effective and safe for common cancer-related symptoms such as nausea, vomiting,  insomnia, fatigue, muscular pain and body image dissatisfaction

Shiatsu popular at Penny Brohn cancer charity

The cancer charity Penny Brohn UK says Shiatsu is popular with patients. It says the reported benefits include improved energy, confidence, symptom control, relaxation and clarity of thought.