Shiatsu in the hospital: interview with Sabrina Servucci



Shiatsu in the hospital: interview with Sabrina Servucci

Sabrina Servucci is a pioneer wellness professional in Italy: the collaboration between institutional medicine and bionatural and energy disciplines has led her to practice shiatsu with patients who have come out of a coma with severe brain injuries and alterations of consciousness.


Sabrina Servucci has the warm heart of Rome and the determination of Milan. It is in this last city that her studies were formed: at the Shiatsu Xin school of Franco Bottalo she obtained the diploma of Shiatsu Operator , then followed a further three years of study of classical Chinese medicine and many more years of study of Qi Gong . , which teaches people of all ages. Since 2001 she has been applying “contact” and has made this technique her work and her field of research.

Passionate about writing, she has several books to her credit, from poems to nursery rhymes to humorous texts, and has “edited” texts by other authors as an Editor until the publication of ” Punto di conTatto – When shiatsu enters the hospital “ (Infinito Edizioni) .

His book tells, with delicacy and participation, many years of shiatsu experience with very special patients: people who came out of a coma with severe brain injuries and alterations of consciousness. Precisely this makes her a pioneer wellness professional in Italy: the precious realization of a synergistic collaboration between institutional medicine and bionatural and energy disciplines . 


Photo credit
© Contact point

What is shiatsu? What type of shiatsu do you apply?

Shiatsu , as many now know, is a manual technique of oriental derivation that uses pressure on zones (meridians) or single points, in my case the same ones that an acupuncturist would use.

It is often confused with massage or physiotherapy but in reality it is the slow , deep and gradual manual skill that can relax or stimulate , which differentiates it from other techniques , as well as of course the cultural paradigm that permeates it.

What matters most to me, however, is the stimulus it offers to self-healing resources and, above all, the content of “non-verbal communication” that can be put in place, an exchange that goes beyond the rational aspect and that hands, a warm ancestral tool and direct, they can best express.

Why can this type of contact be particularly useful for patients in a vegetative state? What is the purpose? What are the results?

The severe brain damage resulting from postcoma leads to severe contractures, painful spasticity, swallowing problems, coughing , difficult breathing. 

Sometimes it is a problem to just touch or move this type of patient. Shiatsu, which does not involve rough manipulation and stretching, is a gentle mode of contact that can help alleviate or, in some cases, improve some difficulties . 

This is if we think of the “performance” aimed at the specific goal of relief and quality of life. Then there is the “simple” purpose of being there, of communicating one’s presence without expectations, of training one’s gaze at the moment, of seeking, as the title of my book summarizes, a “point of contact” with people whom the degree of consciousness and awareness of oneself and of the outside is known. 

After all, it is the very act of “taking care” that gives value to treatment. The results can be an improvement in responsiveness or, simply, a more relaxed posture, a less frowned forehead, a clearer gaze, in short, visible well-being.

How can a bridge be created between bionatural disciplines and institutional medicine? Why is this union useful?

Shiatsu, I am talking about this because it is my profession, is a bionatural discipline perfectly compatible with the health services already foreseen, in full respect of every role . 

It can be alongside the administration of drugs , physiotherapy , psychotherapy or other solutions without competition because it proposes different objectives and offers a precious competence that can also facilitate the others, creating a climate of “support” for the environment that hosts it . 

The relationship , more and more missing and more and more regretted by the best doctors and users, is a decisive part of the treatment process and shiatsu deals precisely with this, in a form that is perceptible to all, at any age, in any condition, from healthy and from sick. 

Many doctors and medical directors, open-minded and free of prejudices or simply curious, have already started hosting workers in the ward for a while to observe the approach; what undoubtedly matters most, however, is the satisfaction and testimony of those who receive shiatsu .

Can these treatments also help patients’ families? How?

Family members of patients with severe brain injuries appreciate the treatments precisely because they observe their professionalism and humanity together. 

In such difficult conditions one often feels powerless and, in my case, often attending the treatment, they can enjoy the well-being that shiatsu helps to bring to their loved one , they understand that that “touch” arrives, regardless of the degree of consciousness that the patient expresses or that science tries to measure. 

It is like a mother’s gesture on her child which is not to be understood intellectually but received and “felt” and whose beneficial effect is clearly visible.

I take this opportunity to tell a recent anecdote : after a treatment I sent a text message to the husband, who is also a doctor, of a woman who showed various signs of contact but who in the previous days had had to take antibiotics for a flu , telling him that I she had seemed a little weak and withdrawn than usual and asking him how he had seen her in the hours that followed. He replied “No, on the contrary! I found her serene, better than this morning and she opened the eyes that she had kept closed for days… !? ”. 

Here, these two characters that conclude his message, “!?”, Seem to me a good synthesis.

How does the treatment take place and how long does it last?

The treatment lasts at least 45 minutes which, not to be taken for granted, is a respectable duration; doctors, nurses, health workers carry out an intensive amount of work that does not allow you to stay too long next to each person, therefore even the time dedicated to each one takes on a value regardless. 

Given the presence of a feeding tube, a cannula for breathing via the tracheus, or other, of course I have to change my posture in the treatment and look for viable solutions. My hands, however, always find ways and strategies to reach delicate areas and points without upsetting the safeguards that the person needs .  

My contact is almost never disconnected, it becomes more and more profound and intense and the connection has all the time to develop “in crescendo”. The changes are gradually noticed and, to my emotion, a “silent dialogue” is perceived , a more fluid breathing and what I have already indicated above.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, what happens to those who receive the treatment?

It is too difficult and too broad a speech to summarize. I just like to remember that the Chinese ideogram of conscience “YI” can be translated as “the intention to exist” . It is up to those around the patients I have described, however, to grasp the subtle signs.

You have also applied the treatments in Hospice: how is shiatsu helpful in these very delicate situations?

Yes, I have also been able to treat people in “end of life” , whether or not they are aware of being in a terminal phase. In this circumstance the goal certainly cannot be rehabilitation, but the purpose, not negligible, of relief, of pain reduction . 

We also appreciate the contribution that shiatsu offers to a deeper and more restorative sleep , to a bowel that is struggling to function. 

The intimate relationship with oneself that shiatsu allows is of great importance: as if the hands of another person that merge with the recipient can create and increase that wholeness, give vitality to the healthy parts in support of the compromised ones, give a sense of acceptance, of unity. A hug.

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