The Artist Health Centre

The Artist Health Centre (AHC) is located in the Toronto Western Hospital and specializes in, you guested it, treating artists. Dancers, for example, can use one of their studios and have themselves filmed while they dance. A specialist can then view the footage and make recommendations on how to avoid/treat certain injuries.

In addition to healing the body, the AHC holds workshops which benefit the mind. Topics such as mindfulness, confidence and goal setting. Check out their calendar for future events.

Today I present Leisa Bellmore, Shiatsu Therapist at the Artists’ Health Centre, who will talk about the benefits of Self-shiatsu for those who have trouble sleeping. Although the article targets those suffering from chronic pain, I think it is also helpful for those artists such as writers who just can’t get their brain to shut off!


Need a hand getting to sleep? Self-shiatsu on the hands may be the answer
By Leisa Bellmore, Shiatsu Therapist

We all have an occasional sleepless night. But for those who suffer from chronic pain, sleepless nights are a common occurrence.

Research shows there is a bi-directional relationship between sleep deficiency and chronic pain. Those experiencing chronic pain are more likely to have sleep problems and those with sleep problems have an increased incidence of chronic pain.

I recently collaborated on a research study that sought to determine if self-shiatsu on the hands could improve sleep in people with chronic pain. Our results were promising.

Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves the application of sustained, comfortable pressure to specific points on the body. It is used for stress management, preventive care and to treat both chronic and acute conditions.

Those coping with chronic health conditions often feel helpless and hopeless and feel a lack of control over their situation. Research demonstrates that self-management interventions can increase feelings of control and mastery, leading to a more positive outlook.

We chose to examine the effect of self-shiatsu because it is a non-invasive, self-management intervention that is pragmatic and cost-effective.

Our participants, who had chronic musculoskeletal pain and sleep disturbances, were taught self-shiatsu on the hands to perform nightly prior to going to sleep. At the two-week and eight-week follow-up they reported falling asleep faster and waking less frequently during the night. Many stated they fell asleep while doing self-shiatsu.

While this was a small pilot study, the results suggest this could be an ideal self-management intervention for sleep problems, regardless of whether one has chronic pain or not. Hand self-shiatsu could help with the occasional sleepless night or more severe insomnia. The shiatsu points on the hands are not difficult to learn – one only needs proper instruction from a shiatsu therapist.

Our research team, which included Cary Brown and Geoff Bostick of University of Alberta, hopes to conduct a larger study to further examine the effects of hand self-shiatsu for sleep deficiency. It could be a very useful strategy in bringing relief to many people.

The full study, published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine, can be found at:

A short video about self-shiatsu can be viewed at:

Leisa Bellmore is the Shiatsu Therapist at the Artists’ Health Centre (, an integrative clinic at Toronto Western Hospital. The Artists’ Health Centre specializes in serving the health needs of professional creative and performing artists. Leisa works privately with non-artists and frequently teaches workshops on stress management and self-care for various health conditions. She can be reached at


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