Oh, How We Love Our Pain!

That was the reaction of my shiatsu therapist, whom I was calling while in the throes of my latest severe migraine attack. What?! No verbal tea and sympathy? 

I was incensed, furious! Gilles was a therapist – he was supposed to be sympathetic! I crawled back into my abject misery, consulted my list of ‘Things That Make Me Feel Better,’ and ticked off a few more items until exhaustion took over.

I channeled my anger into motivation – clearly, I needed to follow more Shiatsu teacher Gilles’ teachings on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Don’t like acupuncture needles? Shiatsu – finger pressure – is for you. An old Japanese non-invasive technique, shiatsu follows the acupuncture meridians of Chinese acupuncture, exerting light or stronger pressure using parts of the therapist’s body: fingers, palm, or heel of the hand, elbow, knee, or foot. 

As usual, I was skeptical of anything new that did not involve swallowing a prescription. Any theory or pronouncement by an alternative medical practitioner met with my disbelief and mistrust until further notice. 

Too polite to express the depth of my skepticism, I was willing to try out most of what the therapist was teaching. This discipline’s effectiveness came as a complete surprise to me. 

The presence of a certain number of human beings contributes to skyscrapers’ heating or cooling. Without prior research, we had signed up on an impulse to an evening adult Shiatsu class held in a cavernous high school gym, and I was shivering. 

Sitting Indian-style in a circle next to our shiatsu teacher, Gilles, he commented, “Shiatsu is powerful medicine.” In what was the first of many interesting demonstrations, he explained that the ‘triple heater’ meridian regulates our temperature.  

He added that shiatsu involved more concentration than force to be effective. Closing his eyes briefly, he focused, and as light as a butterfly’s wing, he barely touched a point on the inside of my knee with the tip of his thumb. I did not know what to expect.

I was a Girl Guide leader and often went tent camping in the Adirondacks. In less than a second, it felt like I was sitting atop a bonfire, and I instantly began sweating profusely. I felt very warm and stayed that way for the rest of the class. Who knew?

During that class, we learned how to practice shiatsu on ourselves – if any acupuncture point was more sensitive than other meridian points, we needed to favor that body system more than others. And if we did, that point stopped being so sensitive later in the day. 

I learned that in the case of migraines, the gallbladder meridian is the primary body system controlled by the dozen meridians in our body. It corresponds to the anger emotion. No surprise there – a migraine sufferer’s prevailing emotion is temper! 

And migraines cross international cultures – the German expression which translates to “You’re treading on my gallbladder” means “You’re getting on my nerves!”. And what is a migraine but a very enervating, painful experience! 

So, step by step – anything you can do to favor your gallbladder – by all means – check with your family doctor or migraine specialist on ways to ease your gallbladder and liver function.

While some describe a shiatsu therapy session as a type of massage, I discovered it was far more effective than a body massage. Did shiatsu therapy get rid of any migraine attacks? Yes. Did it teach me how to live a healthier lifestyle? Definitely. 

Shiatsu taught me how to listen to my body and was invaluable in eliminating migraines. 


  • Carla Piringer

    Related to noted medical professionals, afflicted with an inherited excruciating migraine condition, the author followed traditional medical and alternative therapies, now living migraine-free for over 35 years. She now shares her doctor-recommended method in her book to inspire sufferers to find significant pain relief.

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