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Health Fusion: Minnesota teacher unlocks health benefits of Shiatsu

How many hours do you spend hunched over a monitor? And at the end of the day, how to you decompress? In this NewsMD, Health Fusion column, Viv Williams introduces you to a Shiatsu expert who explains how the human hand may be the best medicine to help relieve stress, boost energy.

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Viv Williams

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Before I delve into the healing power of the human hand, I want to give a shout out to my dad. I always thought that he, a pediatrician in a small Pennsylvania town, was way ahead of his time. He embraced aspects of complementary and alternative medicine at a time when many of his colleagues didn't pay much attention to it. He took an acupuncture course as an elective in medical school and heard about people who benefitted from the practice. The theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine intrigued him. So if one of his patient's parents wanted to give their sick child a massage to ease stress, he encouraged it -- as long as it was safe.

His interest sparked mine, and I've done a bunch of stories about integrative medicine. In case you're not quite sure what that means, integrative medicine is a way of incorporating western medical practices with alternative therapies to treat the whole patient. An example could be cancer treatment that includes both state-of-the-art medical and surgical treatments combined with massage therapy or meditation. Integrated medicine addresses body and soul.

Shiatsu is a complementary technique about which I've always been interested. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a Minnesota expert.

Rochester resident Naoko Vold learned Shiatsu in Japan and has been practicing the ancient technique since 1968.

"Shiatsu is my passion," Vold says. "It is a way to help people relieve tension and increase energy within 10 to 15 minutes. That's the power of Shiatsu."

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Vold explains that Shiatsu is a type of massage during which she uses her fingers to press on sensitive points on the body (called tsubo in Japanese). By applying steady and slowly increasing pressure to these spots, Vold says Shiatsu practitioners help to balance the body's flow of energy. The result is reduced tension and increased energy.

"This is the mystery of Shiatsu," Vold says with a smile that warmed the entire room, which was impressive because I interviewed her over Zoom. "It awakens nerve pathways and people feel better quickly."

It seems that modern medicine is still trying to figure out the mystery behind Shiatsu and related therapies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on their website that interest in integrated medical techniques is on the rise. And a quick online search reveals many scholarly articles researching how Shiatsu may help ease pain, lessen anxiety and boost energy. Vold compares how some of her clients feel after a 10-minute session to what you might experience on a much-needed vacation.

"It's similar to the feeling of relief and release you might get when you first step into a beautiful hotel room and you look out the window and see the ocean or a snow-capped mountain," Vold says. "Your whole being goes, 'ah.'"

Vold says Shiatsu massage is most effective when done regularly. So she teaches her clients how to do the massage at home.

"The hand is the oldest healing tools," Vold says. "It's like medicine. The human hand has heat. touch and energy."

If you'd like to learn more about Vold's and her Shiatsu program, check out her YouTube channel. Search for Naolo Vold Shiatsu for Everyone.

Vivien Williams is a video content producer for NewsMD and the host of "Health Fusion." She can be reached at vwilliams@newsmd.com.

Related Topics: NEWSMDHEALTH FUSION
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