About Shiatsu

What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a unique, non-invasive therapy designed to stimulate the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. Literally translated, the Japanese word shiatsu means “finger pressure.” Shiatsu therapy involves the systematic application of manual pressure to the body in order to assess and treat a variety of conditions. Shiatsu treatments have a regulatory influence on the autonomic nervous system, thereby improving organ function and reducing muscle tension.

Shiatsu therapy is a distinctly Japanese contribution to holistic healthcare and has evolved out of 3,500 years of oriental medical wisdom. It is founded upon the same principles as acupuncture, although no needles are used. It also incorporates the modern Western sciences of anatomy, physiology and pathology. Shiatsu therapy has been fully incorporated into the modern public healthcare system of Japan, and has been regulated as a distinct therapy by the Japanese Ministry of Health since 1964.

Effective Pain Management

Shiatsu can be used to treat a variety of conditions.





Outlet Syndrome


Tunnel Syndrome






And Depression


Shoulder Pain




Strain Injuries






Fatigue Syndrome


Tension and Spasm


SPORTS Injuries



People of all ages, including infants and children, experience lasting, beneficial results from therapeutic shiatsu treatment. Shiatsu therapy is an important part of a preventative or rehabilitative health care program.

After treatment, most people experience relief from their discomforts–relief from pain, increased flexibility, calmer mood, and clearer mind. Many people find that deep, restful sleep comes more easily for several nights. A small percentage of people may feel tired or headachy for a few hours, or may temporarily experience minor localized muscle stiffness. This is a normal reaction to the treatment as the body readjusts and rebalances and will pass within 1 to 3 days.

Your CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™) will recommend a treatment program that is suited to your needs. Normally, you will feel relief from your complaint with one treatment but a series of treatments is usually recommended so that the root of your problem can be addressed. Acute problems usually require 2-5 treatments; chronic problems usually require 5-10 treatments, or more. Treatments are usually taken once a week and treatment effects are cumulative.



CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™) is the trademarked designation of practicing members of the Shiatsu Therapy Association of Ontario (S.T.A.O.). A CST® has successfully completed a 2200-hour (equivalent to three academic years) diploma program at a government accredited private vocational school, or the S.T.A.O. equivalent.

Core curriculum requirements include Western anatomy, physiology, pathology, public health, Chinese medical theory, and at least 650 hours of supervised practice including a public clinic setting. This is the highest standard of training for shiatsu therapists in the world, outside of Japan.

A CST® must also have passed comprehensive written and practical entrance exams set by the association, agree in writing to abide by the association’s code of ethics and carry mandatory professional liability insurance.

The CST designation is your assurance of the most highly trained shiatsu therapist in North America.


Shiatsu is a physical therapy which has its foundation in Eastern medicine, and is integrated with knowledge of Western anatomy, physiology and pathology.

  • Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning “finger pressure” and has been referred to as “acupuncture without needles”.
  • Shiatsu therapy involves the application of comfortable sustained pressure to the body surface. No lubricants such as oils or lotions are used. Clients remain clothed (loose clothes are best). 
  • In the highly technologically-oriented society of Japan, shiatsu therapy is fully incorporated into the Japanese health care system where it has been regulated as a distinct health profession since 1964.
  • Due to consumer demand, many insurance companies now include shiatsu therapy for coverage under extended health insurance plans.
  • The Shiatsu Therapy Association of Ontario (S.T.A.O.) was formed in 1983 to represent the interests of professionally trained shiatsu therapists, to educate the public and to seek government regulation of shiatsu therapy. Members are self-regulated under strict by-laws. Protection of the public is our primary objective.
  • Only practicing members of the S.T.A.O. are entitled to use the designation CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™) under the Canada Trademarks Act. 
  • Certified Shiatsu Therapists™ have undertaken a minimum of 2200 hours of shiatsu training (or the S.T.A.O. approved equivalent). This is the most extensive training anywhere in the world outside of Japan. CSTs are located in Ontario, across Canada and internationally.

Shiatsu therapy is a non-invasive manual therapy, which is performed with knowledge of Western anatomy, physiology, pathology and Eastern health care principles. Shiatsu therapy involves the systematic application of sustained manual pressure to the body surface, primarily with the thumbs, fingers and palms to help maintain and restore health.

Shiatsu therapy is designed to stimulate the body’s innate healing and balancing mechanisms. Shiatsu treatments stimulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) through the application of varying degrees of pressure. The results are improved body functioning, decreased pain, tension and stiffness, increased range of motion of joints and improved flexibility.

From the perspective of Chinese medicine, shiatsu therapy acts to balance the flow of Qi (energy) within the meridians (energy pathways) in order to restore and maintain health.

A shiatsu treatment may be performed on a thick floor mat, or on a low treatment table. As no oils or lotions are used, you are requested to wear loose comfortable clothing. At the initial treatment, a complete medical history is taken along with a through assessment of your condition. Progress and changes are recorded at each subsequent visit. Treatments are usually offered in 30, 60, or 90 minute sessions.

During treatment, the therapist applies sustained pressure to the body surface. The amount of pressure applied is always dependent on your individual condition. A CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™) has knowledge of the physiologic and pathologic process of the body and is able to ascertain when treatment is indicated or contraindicated, if cautions are required and whether referral to another health care professional may be indicated.


The S.T.A.O. is a self-regulating body mandated to protect the interests of the public by setting the highest standards of training and practice in shiatsu therapy in North America.

A CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™) is a practicing member of the S.T.A.O. CSTs have agreed in writing to abide by the association’s code of ethics and to adhere to high standards of practice. If you feel that your CST® has not acted responsibly, then you may make a complaint to the S.T.A.O.

We welcome phone inquiries as many questions can be resolved by discussions. A formal complaint against a CST® must be received by the S.T.A.O. in writing and must identify the conduct or actions of an identified CST of the S.T.A.O. 

Since we have no jurisdiction over non-members, we are unable to deal with complaints against non-members. Nevertheless we encourage you to report any concerns or complaints to us because the S.T.A.O. maintains a log of complaints against non-CSTs as well. We may also be able to help you to find out where you can get some help.

When the complaint is received, a panel of the Complaints Committee will investigate it according to the association’s protocol. 

To contact the S.T.A.O.:
7B Pleasant Blvd. Suite 1056
Toronto, Ontario Canada M4T 1K2
Tel: (Toronto, Canada): 416-923-STAO (7826)
Toll-free (Can. & U.S.): 1-877-923-STAO (7826)

request more information

The S.T.A.O. has a number of items available for the public and therapists.

Brochures and receipts: Promotional brochures and receipts available only to CSTs.

Registry: Our registry of Certified Shiatsu Therapists™ is available on-line (note that not all therapists are listed in the on-line registry) .

Consumer forms:
Consumer letter campaign: Would you like to comment on the effectiveness of your shiatsu treatments and support our efforts at regulation? We have a consumer letter available.

Dear Human Resources Manager: Would you like your company to cover shiatsu therapy when performed by a Certified Shiatsu Therapist™ (CST®) under your extended health insurance plan? Ask for our Dear Human Resources Manager letter.

Dear Insurer: Would you like your insurance company to cover shiatsu therapy when performed by a Certified Shiatsu Therapist™ (CST®) under your extended health insurance plan? Ask for our Dear Insurer letter that makes the case for shiatsu treatments done by a CST® to be covered.

Lunch & Learn sessions: would you like us to come to your workplace to give an informal educational workshop and demonstration? The sessions aim to inform and educate insurance industry personnel, policyholders and the consumer about the therapeutic benefits of shiatsu therapy, about the CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™) designation and what it means to you in terms of cost-effective health care options, and about the objectives of the Shiatsu Therapy Association of Ontario (S.T.A.O.). Sessions are offered free of charge and are arranged at the convenience of the office manager and office personnel. The format may consist of presentation, and/or demonstrations, and question and answer segment. Each session is approximately one (1) hour in length.

Contact us with your specific request:

Shiatsu Therapy Association of Ontario
7B Pleasant Blvd. Suite 1056 
Toronto, Ontario Canada M4T 1K2 Tel. (Toronto, Canada): 416-923-STAO (7826)
Toll-free (Canada & U.S.): 1-877-923-STAO (7826)



416-923-STAO (7826)

Toll-free (Canada):
1-877-923-STAO (7826)

Get in Touch

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