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Case Study Issue 95: Shiatsu Treatment for Insomnia

by Katharine Hall(more info)

listed in shiatsu, originally published in issue 95 - January 2004

Rosemary, aged 57, divorced with a son, is a vivacious, blonde woman who radiates warmth and kindness. She is attractive, well dressed and smiles a lot. She works very hard, is out driving around London and doing on-site visits in the day, and back at her office at home in the evenings. She began putting on weight and is slightly heavier than ideal. She had no prior experience of Shiatsu. Also, Rosemary is managing the menopause and caring for an elderly parent. Her own child is marrying at this time.

General Picture

Emotional: Generally 'stressed out' regarding running business and finances single handed, energy currently low from lack of sleep.

Digestion fine. Has cut coffee and alcohol out of diet. Does like sweet things. Feels overheated all the time. Menstruation stopped nine months ago. Has some spider veins on legs.

Exercise: Walking weekly with fitness trainer. Running around all day in work (as a successful self-employed designer).

Sleep: Going to sleep is okay. 2 hours sleep max, then awake all night. Has been like this for six months, and is getting worse. Herbal 'stuff' hasn't worked (over the counter). Awake a lot, tossing and turning. 'It is like my adrenaline won't stop'. Feels need to break this pattern.

Overall Treatment Aims: Improve sleep, calm spirit, reduce heat. Nourish the Spleen and Kidney energy, activate the Lung energy, relax the Heart Protector and Gall Bladder energy. Provide emotional and physical support and encouragement. Offer clear explanations of diagnosis and treatment.

First Treatment

Diagnosis: Lung and Spleen kyo (depleted), Heart Protector jitsu (full).

Rosemary was watchful, holding on muscularly as opposed to relaxing. Sense of having been scared of her own emotional sensitivity, and has had to overcome that to deal with pressure of external world. I applied seeds to Liver 3 and HP6 points to calm and cool Rosemary. (These are tiny mustard seeds which maintain stimulation of the points over the course of a few days. I often incorporate them into treatments to maximize benefits of treatment, outside clinic itself).

We talked about the menopause as a 'Gate of Life'. An opportunity in Shiatsu and Traditional Chinese Medical terms for a new energetic intake as one door closes and another opens. Women are lucky in having more 'Gates of Life' than men – first menstruation, marriage (or rather first sex!), childbirth, menopause. A time emotionally for reflection and making peace with the past and preparing for another phase and role in life. The hormonal changes and disruption often engendered demand bringing attention back to self.

Result: Rosemary rang to say she felt much better and had slept properly for first time in ages.

Second Treatment

Diagnosis: Spleen kyo, Bladder jitsu.

Her mother was in hospital ill. It emerged that Rosemary had been taken to live with her father, aged eight, when her parents separated. She went to boarding school, whilst her brother stayed with their mother.

I reflected back to Rosemary how balancing emotional expression with life demands has been a challenge she has managed increasingly well since her divorce. Now she is a lot more rounded as a person, through these great efforts can cause discomfort at times. Since the Shiatsu, she generally feels calmer, though problems with sleep continue, as mind again is busy.

Talked about routine before going to bed. Make bed a definite relaxation/sleep zone – don't read trade mags there! Calm mind with meditation/prayer before bed, rather than watching news on TV. Taking time out (a challenge when self-employed). Turning off mobile phone at certain times, such as Sundays – not being always available.

I applied seeds to Kidney points on hara diagnostic area, and HP6 to support basic energy and core strength, to 'calm the spirit' and relax Rosemary.

Third Treatment

Diagnosis: Spleen kyo, Heart Protector jitsu.
Mother out of hospital. Generally calmer.
Talked again about routine before bed: eats late, then back to office, then bed.
I applied seeds to kidney area of hara.

Fourth Treatment

Diagnosis: Hara more relaxed and even and general health better.
Worked Bladder and Gall Bladder meridians.
Wedding of son imminent.
Kidney points, where seeds were, red on hara. Though not itchy or uncomfortable. They had fallen off in own time. Hara and general health seemed better.


Insomnia, in this case, I felt to be a result of depleted yin (the cooling, quietening aspect of the energy system). This was caused by years of pressure and unmet emotional need burning up the reserves of cooling Kidney energy. Gradually rebuilding Kidney and Spleen energy, through Shiatsu and some lifestyle adjustments, is aiding Rosemary's sleep and sense of ability to cope.


Has sleep improved? Initial treatment very effective. Success has not retained same high level, but there is improvement.
Feeling of calmness? Generally increased. Feels listened to equipped with ideas to balance life.
Feeling of heat? No longer feeling hot.
Any other benefits? (e.g. connection to/valuing/understanding of core self?)
Shiatsu proved helpful on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. It provided time for Rosemary in a relaxed and supportive environment to reacquaint with her sensitive nature and appreciate how much she has accomplished. Work on the meridians and points and the nurturing experience of receiving Shiatsu has helped to relax that initial 'watchful' feeling and to replenish the sense of loss diagnosed in the first treatment. The Shiatsu offered insights (e.g. on effects of her childhood on her energetic pattern) and an uplifting interpretation on menopause, whilst also giving practical tips to improve Rosemary's everyday life.


  1. travis nevers said..

    I am currently studying to be a massage therapist and I am very interested in the energy work. I am looking to get certified in shiatsu and reiki among other things. Recently, I started dating someone and I learned that she has a kidney disease. Having intrests in this sort of treatment, and eager to start learning it, I am currious to know if I should try some of these methods. I have been researching the disease now for about 3 days learning everything I could. Now, since I am familiar with the disease and what it does, its symptoms ect. and the fact that I am somewhat familiar and believe in the energetic work and healing capacity it has. I am willing to attempt this, but would be interested in further advice and guidance.

  2. Mike said..

    Hi Travis, If you go to the tab marked articles, then click on energy medicine, you will see 50 articles on energy work. You might find something there that will help you decide whether or not it is a useful subject for you to learn.

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About Katharine Hall

Katharine Hall MRSS(T) is a Shiatsu Practitioner with 12 years clinical experience, and a Shiatsu Teacher. She has practices in Harley Street and West London and can be reached on Tel: 020-8964 4538; 07931 286 272;;

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