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Shiatsu Gets to the Source of Pain

Aug 24, 2012 10:59AM ● By Megy Karydes

Our lower back hurts occasionally. So do our knees. Sometimes our head hurts and we just can’t seem to get a restful night’s sleep. Individually, each may seem like a minor inconvenience or a sign of getting older. Steve Rogne, director of Zen Shiatsu Chicago, in Evanston, wonders if those aches and pains are more related than we might think and whether shiatsu might help alleviate the pain and help our sleep problems.

Shiatsu is an ancient Japanese form of healing and the treatment of choice for many chronic trouble spots that most of us dismiss as troublesome, but not enough of a worry to merit a visit to the doctor. “Shiatsu is a hands-on bodywork style that is good for muscle aches and pains,” says Rogne. “Through a unique combination of full-body stretches, accentuated with treatment of potent acupoints, clients frequently see significant improvement over the course of just one treatment.”

Unlike some other treatments, shiatsu relies heavily on touch to help ease the blockage of the energy force. The treatment, however, is not limited to touch. A person’s lifestyle must be taken into account and a therapist can be invaluable during both the consultation and throughout the treatment.

“Oftentimes, clients come in and they may not realize each small thing that ails them may be an indicator of something larger,” adds Rogne. “During our initial consultation, we interview the client to find out how we can be of help. Each session will address their specific needs and we will have time to discuss how shiatsu can be of benefit. It also is a time for us to truly understand their issues, what is hurting them, what they may be feeling and what they want to explore physically and emotionally.”

In addition to the physical aspect of the treatment, therapists will discuss lifestyle changes that may be of benefit, including diet and physical activity. “If someone is having trouble sleeping, for example, we may recommend you put your legs up against the wall before you go to bed to let the blood travel to your center,” Rogne advises. “This activity will help prepare your body for rest. Or, if a client’s symptoms may be connected to a diet heavy with greasy or oily foods, we may recommend reducing those from a diet to see how that impacts how they feel.”

“Sometimes small shifts can make a big difference and prevent or reverse long-term functional problems,” he says. “Disorders or diseases like adult onset diabetes or osteoporosis are all consequences of the decline of organ function. Shiatsu can help stimulate organ function again.”

Rogne is encouraged by the willingness on the part of Western medicine to adopt shiatsu within their repertoire of treatment options. In addition to offering treatments, Zen Shiatsu Chicago serves as a school that teaches shiatsu to various practitioners, including massage therapists, physical therapists, nurses and social workers. To that end, many therapists are part of teams that work collaboratively with physicians to offer more integrative approaches to their patients.

“Western medicine has important things to learn from Chinese medicine about the nature of long-term functional disorders and how to effectively treat them with methods other than drugs and surgery, including a deep understanding of lifestyle and emotional factors,” says Rogne “Also, by using the analytical tools and instrumentation of Western medicine, we are learning more and more about how Chinese medicine works and the mechanics of how treatment of acupoints on the body affects the organs.”

Rogne is cautious not to indicate a preference for one school of medicine over another. In fact, he recognizes there are instances in which a patient requires emergency intervention from Western medicine. “All of those different treatment options need to be open to a patient, and when we foster a cooperative integrative environment where therapists work together and learn from one another, every therapist will be best prepared to inform patients of their options. So we prepare our graduates to be that kind of therapist, and my hope is that each of them and our work helps make a positive impact on society.”

Zen Shiatsu Chicago offers both treatments by its onsite practitioners, many of whom are among the most experienced shiatsu therapists in the area, and continuing education classes for healthcare practitioners including massage therapists, physical therapists, naprapaths and nurses.

Location: 825A Chicago Ave. To learn more about Zen Shiatsu, call 847-864-1130 or visit