Sleep problems due to chronic pain? Self-administered hand Shiatsu may help, suggests small pilot study

Shiatsu – a traditional Japanese massage and stretching technique – may help people with chronic pain who have problems falling and staying asleep, says research published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine.
A small pilot study involved experts asking nine people with musculoskeletal pain questions about their sleep habits and problems and their levels of pain. Participants were taught to self-administer Shiatsu pressure techniques on their hands at bedtime.
After two weeks and eight weeks of treatment, participants reported falling asleep faster (sometimes even while administering treatment) and sleeping for longer.
One of the experts involved, Cary Brown, suggests there’s a difference between people with pain passively going to a therapist versus taking control of their sleep problem in the form of self-administering hand Shiatsu, which requires more mental effort. Hand shiatsu, when self-administered, takes concentration, making it less likely that negative thoughts would interfere with sleep, she argues.
“One of the barriers to falling asleep for people who have pain is they worry about what’s going to happen and while you’re laying there you’re thinking about all these negative things, it occupies your attention,” she says. “This relates to research on attention in cognitive theory.”
While the preliminary findings are promising, the small size of the pilot study means it’s impossible to draw strong conclusions about the effects of Shiatsu. The results, however, warrant further study in the form of more research involving larger numbers of people.
To find out more about shiatsu, contact The Shiatsu Society (UK): or tel 0845 130 4560.
To read the original research click here.