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These days, self-care is as important as total healthcare [1] for a person to be able to survive this pandemic, physically and mentally. Self-care is basically taking care of oneself for the purpose of achieving physical, mental, spiritual, and financial well-being. One important aspect of self-care is the physical care which eventually covers the other aspects of self-care. 

Musculoskeletal specialist Paula Nutting interviewed her guest,  Leisa Belmore, a shiatsu specialist from Toronto, Canada. She has been a shiatsu specialist for twenty years already. Her approach is more western than its origin in the east. She is working in an integrative clinic in a hospital with other biomedical and complementary practitioners. The clinic especially focuses on creative artists who suffer physical injuries, chronic conditions, and mental issues. Shiatsu points on specific body issues for physiological reactions. She also has written and collaborated on research papers with medical practitioners, including a behavioral therapist, nurse practitioner, physiotherapist, chiropractor, registered dietician, massage therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, and soon, a language pathologist.

According to Belmore, not taking care of oneself is detrimental to the career of an artist. While in lockdown, she opted to run her workshops virtually, teaching self-shiatsu as well. She addresses the neck and shoulders as well as the hands and arms. According to her, the most prone to injury is the hands, not just for the shiatsu therapist but also for chiropractors, other manual therapists, massage therapists, and physical therapists. As for the shiatsu therapists, their thumbs are usually the most commonly injured joint due to the treatment style of the Shiatsu, thumbs are the tool to compress on the relevant chi points of the body. 

 

Leisa gave some tips on Self-Shiatsu:

 

  1. Finger-to-wrist stretching, rotation of the hand, joint and finger rotation

 

  1. When doing shiatsu, use the pad of the thumb of the finger, not the tip.

 

  1. Extend the thumb when using it; don’t flex it.

 

  1. Apply gradual pressure to the area between the thumb and the point of the finger.

 

  1. There are three pressure points that must be applied to each in between the fingers of the hand.

 

  1. After applying pressure on the points in between the fingers, the phalanges are addressed next. Every joint of the fingers has points that need to be pressured on by pressing them from front to back and on the sides too.

 

These tips can help a person calm down. She has her website where there are several videos they can watch to learn how to do self-shiatsu to assist with anxiety and sleep disturbances [2] as well as the app for shiatsu, too. These videos and apps were able to help with sleeping patterns for some patients as well as concentration problems. Leisa demonstrated how to do it gently for the flexibility of the muscles and the nervous system. She specified that the neck and shoulder muscle areas are good places to work on. She demonstrated how to do the sub occipital area of the neck by putting both hands just above the occipital area and holding the area longer. If it feels tight or tender, then move to the right side, the next point, and do the same, then on both sides of the spineous processes. Repetition is good to achieve better results. 

Posture has been adversely affected because of the increased usage on the computer while working at home and being busier than working on site. To improve postural positions we can address various points in the sternum and the chest area remembering that stretching is also very important to include in self care. 

The incidence of anxiety has increased since COVID and we need to be mindful that some treatment may not be applicable to people with specific medical conditions or who are reticent about it. It is better to start small with little things to do and if they are doing anything positive, encourage that. Some have self-esteem issues. Since spending time in solitude can be boring, she suggested trying small goals such as meditating for ten minutes twice a week. She also added self-care tips for everyone, such as stress management to help sleep. Have a little time for ourselves to do something that we enjoy, such as walking, reading a book, or simply hanging out with friends.

She also created a variety of PDF’s for some specific health conditions. Leisa created them so that they are easy to understand and do not contain medical terms for easier understanding. Self-care sessions such as self-shiatsu, stretching points, are self-care for specific needs. She shows them how it is done, talks to them, and lets them demonstrate it to her. When asked about lower back pain, Leisa started in the lumbar region, pressing on the erector spinae along the lateral edges of the lumbar vertebra; this is good for sciatic pain she said. Then next is the part of the pelvis near the spine, which is good for people who stand or sit for prolonged periods of time. It is comfortable to apply Shiatsu on the massage table, but keep it at a low height for best biomechanics i.e. using your body weight for pressure. For the hands, there are several stretches made to remove tightness in the soft tissue. For the face, the pad of the point finger is used to press on the points below the eyes and the brow bone above the eye area. If the patients’ learn Shiatsu, they will have more control over their conditions, especially in areas concerning their mental health.

Leisa’s latest study was on care-partners with patients with dementia and shiatsu therapy. She had first hand experience being able to work with her father, who had dementia, and realized that they could have interaction without the need for words. Further study needs to go towards the mental wellness of both carer and the patient using this style of therapy. This simply shows that Shiatsu is not just for physical relaxation but also for the appeasement of the troubled mind. Together with other medical and complementary practitioners, it can support the goal of well-being for everybody.

 

View the entire Ask-Me-Anything event with Leisa below:

 

 

1 – Self-care | Public Health | Royal College of Nursing (rcn.org.uk) 

2 – Effectiveness of Hand Self-Shiatsu to Promote Sleep in Young People with Chronic Pain: a Case Series Design (nih.gov)

Paula Nutting Director Your Musculoskeletal Specialist
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