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Why Japanese people!? Do foreign people have katakori (stiff neck and shoulders)?

Japanese people often have 肩こり (katakori), stiff neck and shoulders. My Japanese husband asks me to put a 湿布 (reads as “shippu”, and means “compress”, “poultice”) on his shoulders almost every day. These days we are using the one manufactured by Hisamitsu, which contains indometacin and can be used for various kinds of join pain. It is also has menthol, and pleasantly cools down the injured spot.Katakori

We bought those サロンシップ at Costco, but usually there are many different kinds of compresses at any drugstore. Even convenience stores often carry them, because this is one of the diseases that strikes people the most, especially salarymans (サラリーマン). Sometimes we buy Voltaren® Gel (diclofenac sodium topical gel) to relieve the joint pain. Diclofenac is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), same as Indemetacin (インドメタシン). However, it makes my hands extremely sticky and smelly, and its everyday use gives my husband an allergy, so we prefer “shippu”.Katakori

Back in my home country I remember having a back ache from sitting in front of computer all the time. But I don’t recall anyone complaining about neck or shoulder ache too often. Some massage with diclofenac would probably do the trick, though we sometimes used anti-inflammation ointments. In Japan, katakori is a part of everyday life and an unmistakable sign of a hard-working person. This word dates back to Meiji times (1868 – 1911). In Edo period (1600 – 1868) people complained that their shoulders were “blocked” or “clogged”. Shigehisa Kuriyama in his article “The historical origins of katakori” assumes that people out of Japan just don’t realize that they have katakori.

Among mild treatments for katakori are バブ (babu). It is a bathwater additive (入浴剤) with medicine and lavender smell. It also (supposedly) helps cure fatigue and oversensitiveness to cold.Katakori

How about you? Did you have katakori, or stiff neck and shoulders before coming to Japan?

Article by Olga Kaneda

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