Stress endangers health and has an impact on social life. The WHO calls for tackling the causes of stress. This requires interdisciplinary health concepts that incorporate a holistic approach, as practiced at Shiatsu. In a scientifically prepared pilot study, an experienced Shiatsu therapist has demonstrated the positive effects of Shiatsu on stress.

Text English: Kristina Pfeifer. Original content by: Sabine Bannwart & Claudia Leyh-Dexheimer.

This article was originally published by the Swiss Association of Shiatsu in German and French. And this version in English on the Shiatsu Research Network

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Claudia Leyh-Dexheimer has been a shiatsu therapist in Germany for over 15 years. In her daily practice, she repeatedly encounters people with complaints and symptoms that arise due to excessive demands in various areas of life and are perceived as stress. Over and over again, she was able to observe how clients’ stress symptoms regarding physical, mental and emotional aspects were reduced thanks to shiatsu.

Although complementary therapies are now widely accepted and recognized, and there are many interesting studies and papers on the efficacy of Shiatsu, these are of non-formal scientific criteria. In order to gain more recognition of the complementary therapy method, Leyh-Dexheimer therefore decided to develop the bachelor thesis for her recently completed studies at the Institute for Complementary Methods (Steinbeis University in Berlin) on a pilot study that is useful and citable for those interested in science.

Oxytocin as a Measurement Parameter
In the now published study, she examined whether Shiatsu, with its special form of touch, influences stress management. The study was based on a paper in which Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg describes the effect of “gentle skin contact” on the release of the hormone oxytocin, the so-called cuddle hormone. Based on the hypothesis described by Uvnäs-Moberg, the oxytocin hormone was used as the measurement parameter, providing the study with a clinical laboratory parameter for evaluation.

Promising Results
The study involved 24 participants aged 26 to 62, 21 women and 3 men, all pursuing a regular job. There were five shiatsu treatments each. Their effect was tested by measuring the oxytocin in saliva and using the questionnaire Burnout-Screening Scale II (BOSS II). The results are very positive or, scientifically speaking, in the range of significantly to very significantly. On average, oxytocin levels increased by 11% at the first treatment and the evaluation of BOSS II revealed a significant positive change in the participants’ sense of stress. This occurred already after one treatment. After five treatments, a significant improvement in the sense of stress was detectable.

In Summary, It Can Be Stated:
Shiatsu has a positive impact on stress management. At significant and long-lasting fatigue, several treatments or treatment cycles make sense. The interval between treatments can be extended after two to three treatments without losing the positive effect. Shiatsu can also be used as an “ad hoc” measure in particularly difficult and stressful life situations that are temporary, as treatment already has a short-term positive effect.

The study was published to be available as a book by GRIN-Verlag (ISBN number 9783668784895) and archived in the German National Library. A short version is provided in German and English and the complete study in German as following:

For Download:
Pilot study: Does Shiatsu have a positive impact on stress management?

Paid full version in German


Wilkinson, Richard (2004): Soziale Determinanten von Gesundheit. Die Fakten. 2nd edition, Kopenhagen: WHO, Regionalbüro für Europa (Gesunde Städte im 21. Jh).

Uvnäs-Moberg, Kerstin; Petersson, Maria (2011): Role of oxytocin and oxytocinrelated effects in manual therapies. In: Hollis H. King, Michael M. Patterson and Wilfrid Jänig (editor): The science and clinical application of manual therapy. Edinburgh, New York: Elsevier, pp. 147–161.