Shiatsu benefits the nervous system by directly communicating with it. Study illustrates that the central nervous system, our brain, communicates with our bodies through subsidiary systems. The subsidiary systems of the peripheral nervous system are the cerebrospinal system, autonomic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system; which are all given functions to govern in order to grant us the freedom of our daily life without the constant need to focus on things such as breathing. Descending from the root of what is constantly regulating our body, the peripheral nervous system is a pathway by which we connect to our motor and sensory nerves. However, the peripheral nervous system also governs the autonomic nerves, which we do not control. It is the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for the endocrine, circulation and organ systems. The means by which the autonomic nervous system interacts through the body is the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Through the connections between locations such as the anterior cervical, medulla oblongata and the spine, the autonomic nervous system governs the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pyramidal tract, extra pyramidal system and cerebral cortex. Constituting the autonomic nervous system are the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves that work together to either enable or restrain bodily functions in harmony; with the aims of maintaining a state of homeostasis within the body.
However, since it is at the autonomic nervous system level of regulating functions that we do not have a direct control of how our bodies are responding to our environments. A Shiatsu therapist can utilize their knowledge of anatomy and physiology to interact with the nervous system. They recognize that if an imbalance causes either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nerves to be exclusively more active, they can stimulate point connections to the autonomic nerves and send certain messages to the body; thus improving the balance of bodily systems. For example, gentle pressure on the eyes presses on the trigeminal nerve that in turn sends a message to the central body of the vagus nerve. It is a function of the vagus nerve within the autonomic nervous system to reduce pulse rate as well as lower blood pressure. Toru Namikoshi states in the Complete Book of Shiatsu Therapy, Shiatsu applied to sensitive or muscularly tense parts of the surface of the body, can engage reflexes instructing the organs to act as they should. Therefore, Shiatsu therapy may help restore harmony to the Autonomic nervous system.
It is often the imbalanced function within the autonomic nervous system that can eventually lead to a chronic disease. Since our entire nervous system is in direct contact with both our internal and external environments we can be affected by problems arising from society. Society suffers social illnesses induced by estrangement, enmity, hostility and carelessness that are often coupled with an accelerated sense of drive and necessity. These problems manifest as stress that may come to reside in our nervous systems. Such distortions in our body systems can lead to effects like, neuralgia, paralysis and spasms often due to strokes, polio, neurosis and insomnia. Shiatsu, when applied to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves can help to alleviate such nerve related issues. The nervous systems of the body act as the means by which we can know things about our bodies and our environments. Shiatsu creates a reaction in our body, referred to as Menken, which allows the patient to feel his/her self. Menken may manifest as sleepiness, headache, mucous and pain due to letting go of nervous tension. However, all of these reactions in their moderation can bring relaxation, more energy but most importantly awareness and acceptance for the patient. Awareness brought to the imbalances in our body’s systems activates acceptance as well as the natural healing power within the body. Through the trust established between therapist and patient the Shiatsu therapist can sedate, tonify and support the systems that rejuvenate us.