Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy For Your Back Pain

Oriental Ashiatsu I knew nothing about Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy (barefoot massage) until 18 years ago when my husband, a Florida Licensed Massage Therapist and my massage therapy business partner, became a Certified Ashiatsu Practitioner. Thanks to his first generation training with the creator and instructor of Oriental Bar Therapy, Ruthie Hardee, he has helped relieve or eliminate chronic low back pain for me and many clients through the years.


In my case I had suffered from periodic bouts of specific localized deep pain in my lumbar spine that began in my thirties. Through an MRI it was determined that I have two lumbar vertebrae bone spurs that are attributed primarily to genetic predisposition and lifting too much weight in my youth during exercise workouts…while doing other daily “Wonder Woman” activities didn’t help either.

Two siblings have had degenerative disc surgeries, so I consider myself lucky to have Ashiatsu readily available and I am still amazed at the difference in my pain levels after my first two sessions of Ashiatsu many years ago. I no longer need Ashiatsu for pain, but I still enjoy receiving it for relief of overused back and shoulder muscles. As a practicing massage therapist myself, I can describe it from a client’s perspective; it is corrective luxurious deep tissue for the posterior body that positively affects my entire being. After a session I usually throw out adjectives like “wow,” “ahhh,” and sigh….“I’m not cooking tonight.”


Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy has been instrumental in relieving my bone spur back pains. Bone spurs are small smooth projections (osteophytes) that develop on the surface of a normal bone. The most common reason is the friction that occurs within joints when bones rub against other bones and the body then tries to build up calcium deposits in an attempt to strengthen the bones. As spurs grow larger, they can protrude into the nearby tissues and cause pain. Bone spurs can develop on any bone in the body, including the vertebrae of the spine, which in turn can compress a nerve root of the spinal cord itself, creating pain and decreased mobility.

And Tony Osborne, a St.Louis based freelance health and fitness writer, once had this to say: “Turning the tables on those who love a good foot massage, Ashiatsu asks the feet to return the favor. Ashiatsu recipients are simply calling this technique ‘heaven’.”


So what does the term Ashiatsu mean? Foot (ashi) ) pressure (atsu), derived from the Japanese word ‘shiatsu’ (finger pressure). There are many different styles of barefoot massages, most of which originate from India, Japan, Thailand, China, and the Philippines. Some of the Asian techniques are practiced on a fiber mat, others require  balancing props such as stationary bars, chairs, bamboo rods, poles, and even ropes and chains.


Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy may seem unconventional, but it looks and feels like physical poetry in motion. The practitioner holds on to specially attached ceiling bars to maintain their balance while walking (working the muscle groups) on the client’s back, hips, and legs.

What make ashiatsu different than other “regular” massages  is

  • the efficient use of gravity by the practitioner,
  • the direction that the stroke comes from,
  • and the increased surface area of the foot.

It is very effective, results-oriented bodywork. Although still relatively new in the U.S., the Spa and Massage industry is seeing Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy become mainstream. Thanks to Ruthie Hardee, today there are more than 1800 certified U.S. graduates in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy.

Barbara Esther, Certified Ashiatsu instructor, said “the first followers of Ashiatsu were more interested in chi (energy) than in relieving achy muscles because Asian bodywork is based on Chinese medicine and an energy map.” Ultimately, she is saying that we therapists should always be working the client’s energetic body-yin and yang, not just their anatomy and physiology.


Meridians are classified yin or yang on the basis of the direction in which they flow on the surface of the body. Meridians interconnect deep within the torso. Yang energy flows from the sun and yang meridians run from the fingers to the face or from the face to the feet. Yin energy, from the earth, flows from the feet to the torso and from the torso along the inside (yinside) of the arms to the fingertips.

Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, with its compressing, long, purposeful strokes along the meridian lines, is the perfect interconnecting deep tissue massage to recharge your chi and bring homeostasis. But what is deep tissue massage? Deep tissue massage is similar to Swedish massage, but uses deeper, more specific pressure and compression which is more beneficial in releasing chronic muscle tension and strain. The focus is on the deepest layers of tissue, tendons, and the fascia, which is the protective layer surrounding muscles, bones, and joints.

Frequently Asked Questions:


No. The therapist closely monitors and communicates with you throughout the session and works at your level of comfort. Is Ashiatsu safe? Absolutely. You are given an intake form that asks for your medical history and massage history to ensure your safety and comfort.


Yes for or Stage 1, Protruism (degenerated discs).
Yes for Stage 2, Prolapsed (bulging discs), as long as you are not in acute, debilitating pain.
We do not perform Ashiatsu for Stages 3 and 4, Extrusion and Sequestered (herniated, slipped, ruptured).


Yes, many clients prefer Swedish massage for their anterior body and Ashiatsu when turned over to the prone position, combining the two modalities within the same massage session-the ultimate adaptation for your feel great experience.


Avoid if any of the following apply to you:
– You have had a major surgery within 6-8 weeks
– You have had breast augmentation within the past year
– You are pregnant
– You have broken one or more bones within 6-8 weeks
– You are being treated for cancer
– You have an auto-immune disease
– Your blood pressure fluctuates and is not under control
– You have kidney problems
– You have a history of blood clots or are taking blood thinning medications
– You have a pacemaker or similar device
– You have had eye surgery within the last 7 days
– You have taken pain killers or muscle relaxants within 12 hours of your appointment
– You plan on doing strenuous labor or exercise within 24 hours after your treatment

Note: This list is not exhaustive. We recommend that you consult with your healthcare practitioner if you have any concerns at all.


• Improves posture
• Relieves stress
• Relieves pain in problem areas
• Increases flexibility and range of motion
• Treats and improves spinal problems
• Improves chronically tightened Thoracolumbar fascia
• Provides an incredible, corrective, results oriented deep tissue massage
• Makes you feel exuberant and energized


“With traditional Swedish massage, the number one complaint is that the therapist did not go deep enough. People are yearning for deep tissue bodywork, and in Ashiatsu-because the therapist is standing straight up and using their center of gravity, the thighs, knees, and legs are working up the lumbar and the erector muscles. That’s like six hands duct taped together.” ~Ruthie Hardee

Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy is a perfect deep tissue therapy.

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