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On-Site Seated Acupressure Massage

by David Woodhouse(more info)

listed in massage, originally published in issue 32 - September 1998

That which has generically become known in the Western world as 'On-Site Massage' has its roots in the Orient, as indeed do many other therapies. These roots emanate from Anma (Lit: "Press and Rub") which many thousands of practitioners perform every day throughout China and Japan and have origins going back many centuries. It is interesting to note that Shiatsu, regarded by many as an "ancient" Japanese treatment also has its roots in Anma, a new law passed by the Japanese Government about the turn of the last century precluded Anma practitioners from continuing their work unless they paid a specific tax. To save this tax, it seemed that the easiest way out of the dilemma would be to change their name, hence "shiatsu" which means "finger pressure", had less sexual connotations than the earlier nomenclature.

The author performing on-site seated acupressure massage

The author performing on-site seated acupressure massage

In 1984, the sequence was introduced into the USA and grew steadily, its popularity gaining stature by dint of the fact that it was one of the few therapies to offer a fully clothed massage in the workplace and, without the use of oils or lotions, making it a quick and effective treatment. The novelty of massage coming into the place of work caught on fast and soon practitioners were being trained to carry on the good work. By 1989 its fame had crossed the Atlantic and Russell Borner came across to teach the first workshop in the UK. From these beginnings grew the profession as it is known today.

The sequence, or Kata (Trans: Dance), is a highly choreographed routine working on pressure points on the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and back. The practitioner will work in a set sequence, applying pressure to the acupressure points, or tsubos, thus allowing stagnant or overactive energy to flow along the meridians and allow the client to become more balanced. It will help to improve the muscular, nervous and circulatory systems while, at the same time, reducing blood pressure. As toxins are also released into the bloodstream it is important for the client to drink plenty of water to encourage their elimination. At this time, the client is seated on a specially designed ergonomic chair which provides support at key areas (forearms, chest, buttocks, knees and head) to allow as full and relaxing a posture as possible.

The overall intention of the Kata is to promote a sense of well-being in the client whilst at the same time helping to reduce stress levels, allowing tense muscles (particularly in the neck and shoulders) to relax and to promote a feeling of alertness and clarity of thought. A feeling of sleepiness is but temporary and is achieved by the client allowing his or her body to relax.

Case Study 1

D works within the field of education. She first consulted her practitioner in 1996 with an overwhelming feeling of being "totally stressed-out" and being unable to cope with her present situation. There was peer pressure and she also felt that she was not gaining the respect and response from her students than had previously been the case. This, allied to her negative thoughts on her work and social life was making her feel exceptionally tired and irritable. An unstable social life didn't help either. From her first visit, her practitioner detected a feeling of resistance being overcome as D was known to want to be in control of her own life but had realised that some form of help would probably be beneficial. Her first visit was a great personal effort for her as she had never experienced any form of bodywork before and was, not unnaturally, apprehensive. Her practitioner was quick to reassure her and help her to achieve this breakthrough. From her first treatment she was hooked on On-Site Massage as the therapy with which she could associate and from which she derived a great benefit. She has been receiving treatments on a regular basis for two years and always looks forward to her visit to her practitioner. Her clarity of mind has improved and she finds it now more easy to be in control of her very busy life. An interesting by-product of her visits was that she also achieved a breakthrough of receiving a traditional table massage, something she had felt incapable of doing before embarking on her receiving seated chair massage. She also takes Bach Flower Remedies on a regular basis.

On-Site Seated Acupressure Massage can work alongside other complementary therapies as well as with mainstream medicine and, although quantitative research has not been carried out, discussions with many clients throughout the country indicate a sense of well-being and relaxation after the treatment, together with an easing of aches, pains and stiffness, particularly in the shoulder and neck areas. It is difficult to set the parameters for any sort of research as the type of work is unique and a placebo is impossible to put into place. It is by no means impossible to teach the client the locations of some of the specific points activated throughout the treatment to allow a degree of self-help, particularly Large Intestine 4 between the thumb and forefinger for the relief (among many other things) of headaches, although this particular point is contraindicated in pregnancy.

Care is needed when working with this type of treatment and an holistic and caring attitude is of vital importance and the major training schools should insist on a good knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology, together with hands-on experience with another therapy. With these qualities, a practitioner can work with his or her client and help to reduce the symptoms associated with the presented problem.

Case Study 2

C had suffered for many years with a very painful neck and had been reduced to wearing a surgical collar to try and reduce the pain threshold. She had been prescribed pain killers which were having little effect. A very careful and thorough examination of her presented condition resulted in the practitioner deciding to continue with the treatment. Early indications of extreme tension on the Trapezius and Levator Scapulae were noted but as the initial treatment progressed this was notable in its reduction. At the point in the Kata which employs a gentle lateral neck stretch, a distinct reduction in tension was noted and by the time the sequence had come to an end and C was returned to an upright posture, she had tears streaming down her face. This, it transpired, was the result of all her pain being dispelled and she left the treatment room after about 45 minutes. Some time later in the day she made a point of returning to her practitioner to report that she had not felt the need to return to the wearing of her surgical collar. No further consultations were requested by C, but some two years later, she reported that she had experienced no further discomfort.

It must be reiterated that this type of acupressure massage is not necessarily remedial but does show that a skilled practitioner is able to work with his client and provide relief from sometimes chronic symptoms. In C's case (Case Study 2) the effects were exceptionally long-lasting from just a single treatment, whereas in other cases, a series may well be more suited. Although the Kata is comprised of the many highly choreographed movements and techniques, certain parts may well be more suited to working with a particular complaint.

On-Site Seated Acupressure Massage has made great strides over the past few years. As with any "new" therapy it was perhaps considered to be somewhat unusual, especially with the use of such an odd-shaped piece of equipment as the chair, but this was compensated for by the skill and dedication of the "early" practitioners who could see tremendous benefits emerging. Today, some nine years after its inception, On-Site Massage is now becoming more and more recognised as having a part to play in the workplace as a tool with which to combat the sometimes excessive workload. Many companies, large and small, employ the services of one or more practitioners on a regular basis and, apart from the immediate effects of the massage being apparent, the general ambience of the workplace seems to be much more agreeable. From a company structure point of view, it is also acceptable by dint of the fact that it cuts across all social and hierarchical strata. Age is no barrier, neither is one's position within the company environment.

The future is bright and positive. Qualified practitioners are being trained as a part of their postgraduate work by highly-qualified and dedicated tutors and more and more well-known companies are beginning to appreciate the benefits that it can bring. The Financial Times, Smith Kline Beecham, Railtrack, Guardian Assurance, numerous television companies and other publishing houses all receive visits on a regular basis from practitioners who may work as individuals or as part of a team.


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About David Woodhouse

David Woodhouse is the Principal of The Academy of On-Site Massage, the original training school for this type of work in the UK.  He can be contacted at New Street, Charfield, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 8ES. Tel/Fax: 01453 521530 :

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