Once you visit Thailand, one of the things you are not likely to miss, is getting a massage. The Thai massage is a well-known therapy and it is easy to find a place to get a massage from almost any corner in major cities. Thai massage is a Thai traditional healing practice combining acupressure, assisted yoga postures, and Indian Ayurvedic principles. The practice helps you to relax and also helps to heal you from a number of illnesses. No wonder why Thai massages are so popular among Thais and people from around the world.
History of the Thai Massage
Before we look into the different types of Thai massages, let’s have a look at the history of this ancient therapy. Thai massage originates from Northern India according to the Pāli Buddhist canon and is considered to be one of the world’s oldest healing arts. A monk named Shivago Komarpaj (yes, I know it is not easy to pronounce. I also have the same problem as you lol) is credited as the inventor of Thai massages over two and a half thousand years ago. He is noted in ancient documents for his knowledge of herbal medicine and his astonishing medical skills. The legend says he was friends and a personal physician to the one and only Buddha himself. It was also written that he worked with the Magadha King Bimbasara and also the Buddhist monks and nuns that went under the name of Sangha.
When looking through the entire history of Thai massage you will find that the roots were influenced by a combination of different Thai medicines from Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian culture. Though there is a lot of debate as to who created the Thai massage, the monk Shivago Komarpaj is widely accepted as the first person to develop the technique.
The recorded manuscripts in Thailand had been collected from stone inscriptions since before 1277, though most were lost in 1767 during the attack on the royal capital in Ayutthaya by the Burmese. Not many records survived and in 1832 King Rama III turned Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn (Wat Pho), the temple complex into a public center of learning by decorating the walls of the buildings with marble illustrations and inscriptions of Thai massage positions. There were 60 carved epigraphs in total, 30 showing the front of the body and 30 showing the back. On these figures, the main therapy points are shown along the different energy lines, known as “Sen” in Thai (which literally translates to “lines”). These lines form the basic principles of Thai massage. This is very similar to the “Qi” which is the underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and even martial arts. Since then, Wat Po is widely regarded as Thailand’s first university and a learning center for traditional Thai massage.
After World War II, Thailand became a popular location for tourists which helped to make Thai massage a world-renowned technique. It finally reached the United States in the late 1980s. Ever since Thai entrepreneurs have opened massage parlors, some being the most captivating spas across Thailand. As you may have guessed, Thai massage is typically one of their signature services.
Different styles of Thai Massage
Thai Massage is one of the four branches of Thai traditional medicine. It is a healing technique that was actually practiced before doctors were around. The massage involves stretching and deep kneading, and mostly happens on the floor on a firm mattress or a mat. It is a therapeutic procedure that provides relaxation and restores healthy blood circulation. It is also able to treat energy blockages, weakness, dysfunctional organs, flexibility, paralysis, aches and pains, stress and tension, nerve problems and postural alignments. This is only scratching the surface, so let’s delve deeper.
The two main styles of Thai massages are known as “Chalosiak” (Common) and “Rajasamnak” (Royal). Today, we see the “chalosiak” style everywhere. Whereas the “rajasamnak” style is only used to treat the aristocracy and Royal family. You would not find this type of massage available to the public.
The Royal style (“rajasamnak”)
Massage therapists performing this style must have very good manners. Before the massage begins, the therapist must sit kneeling away from the toes of the patient about four cubits (a cubit is an ancient measurement of length, approximately equal to the length of a forearm) and then walk inwards towards the patient on their knees, squat away one cubit at knee level of the patient and turn the toes towards the patient’s foot before paying homage to the patient. This is the preparation performed before even laying a finger on the patient!
Next, the therapist checks wrist pulse and ankle pulse to assess whether the blood circulation is normal. If not, the therapy may cause unconsciousness and should not be continued. Once the patient has been cleared to begin, the therapy starts from below the patient’s knees downward to the feet. During the treatment, the therapist uses only hands and fingertips for acupressure the whole time and doesn’t even exhale over the patient. During the therapy, the patient will only lay on their back, lay on their sides or sit-up. There is no laying face down, which is very common during the chalosiak style type massage.
This Royal massage style aims to affect the deep organs and tissues by increasing circulation of blood and increasing nerve function. Massage therapists must have the anatomical knowledge and must have a wealth of experience to be able to perform this type of massage correctly.
The common style (“chalosiak”)
This style of massage is used for the general public like you and I. It is the most common massage seen almost everywhere, originating in Wat Pho. Massage therapists will use hands, feet, knees, elbows, etc. for acupressure helping to relieve overall muscle strain and tightness, tension as well as stimulates blood and energy flow throughout the body. If the therapist does not have the expertise, it can cause the loss of bone joints or is likely to cause bruising of the muscles or capillaries.
Uncommon Massage styles
There are other notable variations of massage which are lesser known or not as common throughout the kingdom. I’ve chosen to share the next 3 styles:
Ruesri Dat Ton
This massage style is also known as “Contorted Hermit”. This is a yogic practice that involves breathing techniques and the bending, stretching and twisting of different body parts. It opens up blood circulation, increases flexibility and strengthens and relaxes the body.
Tok Sen Lanna
This is a style mostly specific to northern Thailand. This technique involves herbal oils followed by tapping muscles and pressure points with a small gavel made out of wood. This stimulates the body via vibrations at the pressure points. In doing so, this helps to clear out the negative energy, ease muscular tension and promote overall physical and mental relaxation.
This is a special massage that is designed for new mothers. It is known as “Yu Fai” which could be translated as “staying in the heat”. This massage technique is intended to heal and replenish new mothers as their hormonal balance and body have been altered drastically over the pregnancy and birth. Using oils, compresses, and herb-infused baths, this helps new mothers feel stronger, radiant and improves blood circulation along with physical and mental harmony.
Chalosiak Massage styles
As discussed earlier, Thai Massage differs from other available traditional massages by its use of the body’s energy line system, known as the “Sen” lines. The basic theory is that there are seventy-two thousand Sen lines throughout and framing the physical body. These Sen lines correspond with Chinese acupuncture medication and ancient medicine practices from Indian Ayurvedic.
With the list of different styles of massages above, I believe it’s safe to assume the type of massage we are most likely going to get when in Thailand. Next, let’s take a look at the different choices we have when looking for a chalosiak style type massage!
When visiting a massage and spa place, you’ll likely be shown a long menu of different options provided. Let me help by breaking down the top 5 most popular massages:
Involves both feet and the calves. Traditional Thai medicine believes that all the reflex points under the feet affect the organs in the whole body. Stimulation supports a reflex action in body organs and thus improves the immune system. Foot massage helps to balance the body, relieve stress, improves sleep and restores vitality. Thai foot massage is appropriate after a long day as it helps to remove the feeling of heavy feet and provide relief. Most places will apply oil, so be ready for that.
This massage combines acupressure, reflexology and yoga exercises or gentle stretching sometimes also referred to as Thai yoga massage. This makes it very different from traditional massages. Two basic methods are used – gentle pressure on the hands and feet is combined with a variety of passive stretching movements. The pressure can range from very subtle to intense. Massage relaxes the muscles and helps to relieve pain and stiffness. It increases the elasticity of tendons and joints. It also helps to achieve and gain a balanced energy flow in the body. This massage relieves stress, improves circulation, cleanses the body of toxins and other harmful substances, strengthens the nervous system, revitalizes energy, improves vitality and helps to maintain good health. The massage is performed on a floor mat. No aromatic oils are applied and the client remains dressed. If you have sensitive skin, you may not enjoy this type of massage. Though you should give it a go at least once.
A milder form of a massage using aromatic oils. This combines friction techniques while the aromatic oil used contains various medicinal properties. Aromatic oils provide relaxation and relieve stress during massage and in this way, help to achieve total harmony in the body. It treats the symptoms with whole body massage and natural extracts to contribute the natural aroma which helps to refresh relax muscles and mind. Most places will let you choose your aroma. Most popular scents are lavender, lemongrass and mint. Choosing Lavender helps to reduce stress and reduce headaches. Lemongrass helps relax the body. Mint is refreshing and revitalizing.
Involves the application of dried herbs according to traditional Thai recipes. This ancient recipe has been used in Thailand for centuries, mostly for chronic pain such as back pain. Herbs wrapped in a cotton cloth are steamed before the massage begins. Warm herbs are placed in different places on the body or symptomatic areas, to relieve stress and pain. Warmth and essence oils from the herbs prepare the body for the massage, which effectively relaxes stiff and painful places like muscles or ligaments in the body, as well as increases the energy flow, which is important for health. This massage involves the application of mountain herbs wrapped in cotton sachets. These sachets are hot! I’m not kidding. Be prepared, it could surprise you if it’s your first time.
Head, neck, and shoulders massage
This type of massage combines the beneficial effect of alleviating back pain and relieves overall tension in the body. The head massage releases various blockages and reduces stress. This is followed by the neck and back massage which involves stimulating accupoints and has a highly positive effect on back pain, providing a feeling of relaxation and well-being. This massage is particularly appreciated by people with sitting jobs, after a busy day.
Benefits of a massage
Massage therapy helps stimulate sweat glands and sebaceous glands to produce oil to nourish the skin better. Helps your brain, emotions, and body relax, sometimes you fall asleep during treatment. In some hospitals, massage therapy is used to treat stress and depression, allowing the patient to sleep in bed all day and night. Massage for the mother after birth helps to relieve aches and pains due to the thigh muscles tend to thaw, help the circulatory system works better, and also remove waste residue from the body. Massage can help to reduce the symptoms of varicose veins, hemorrhoids, swelling, and back or waist pain.
If you would like to add a bit more detail about what a massage does to our body and which areas of the body they help, I’ve got them ready for you below:
Muscle, tissue, membrane:
Tends to stretch and relieve muscle contractions and facilitate a more fluid range.
Make blood vessels stretch, increases blood flow to strengthen the organ function in the body thoroughly and lower the chances of blood clotting in the arteries.
Waste management system:
Help the lymph and blood vessels work more effectively, without accumulating many toxic residues.
Causes stimulation of the nervous system to respond to environments better and help you think clearer.
Makes movement become more fluid. Extends lifespan.
Emotional and mental:
Relax and feel warm.
How Thai massage benefits your body
It uses the gentle pressure on energy lines and the yoga-like stretching to relax your whole body on a deeper level. This deeper level of relaxation improves your emotional status and your own personal outlook. Deep relaxation has been shown to promote a deeper, more restorative night’s sleep as well. This deeper sleep allows your body to heal itself physically, and let you feel more refreshed upon awakening. I must admit I’ve had many peaceful nights after a massage, and I’m sure for those who have tried can relate!
It helps to reduce your stress levels and improve your overall circulation. This is accomplished by the gradual movement of your body through different yoga-like positions. This will enhance your flexibility allowing for a greater range of motion. This greater range of motion and flexibility reduces muscle stress and strain and helps to should prevent trip and fall accidents.
The slow movements allow for your mind and your spirit to slow down and realize a true form of relaxation. It centers you. Stressors will not affect you as much and this will aid to level out blood pressure. In later life, these stressors can lead to and have shown to cause heart problems. In centering oneself, and lowering the reaction to stressors, one will lower the occurrence of heart problems.
Not only that, it allows you to attain a true level of relaxation. The stress will be depleted from your muscles. This will facilitate a more fluid range of extension by your muscles. This will help to increase your energy levels. With healthier muscles and increased energy, you will be able to maintain healthy weights. This will lower blood sugar levels, and reverse the onset of type 2 diabetes, and help with the maintenance of type one diabetes.
Thai massage also enhances your circulatory system. It increases your circulation in your body. With increased circulation, more oxygen will be brought to your brain. This will lower the number of migraines and headaches you would suffer from. Increased circulation will lower the chances of blood clotting in your arteries. It will rejuvenate and refresh you. It will help you think clearer because you will feel better after it.
Precautions for people with health conditions
As the saying goes, there are two sides of a coin. All these benefits are not without limits. The following list is not really known or talked about. Not a lot people know about these precautions which I’m hoping to change. This is important information and should be shared. Without this knowledge prior to getting a massage, it could cost you your life. I’m being serious, there have been multiple reported cases of people getting massages when their body wasn’t ready for one.
People with the following sicknesses should be abstained or be very careful during the massage. Because stimulating blood circulation or stretching the muscles and tendons may cause injury to the body. Here is a list of the potentially dangerous illnesses when mixed with massage: High blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, neurological diseases especially spinal cord, loose joint disease, coronary artery disease or lymphatic obstruction, diabetes. If you have any of these, you should consult your doctor first. I repeat DO NOT get a massage WITHOUT consulting your doctor!
Cancer patients should not have massages because cancer can spread to the other organs. If the pain really hurts, you can ask for a gentler massage but please avoid the cancerous areas.
People with dermatitis should not have a massage. It will spread the virus to other areas and also spread to the massage therapist.
Do not massage while having a fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius because the muscles are easier to get damaged at this temperature.
If you are injured and have broken bones or some bones are not attached do not get a massage.
Pregnant women should not have massages, especially in the first 3 months. If you have back pain after first 3 months, you can get massages but notify your therapists and they should not massage your abdomen nor let you lie down on your front but on your side instead.
If you have very hot, red swollen joint pain, you should avoid any massage until symptoms subside. The massage will cause more inflammation.
Women who are in menstruation should not massage. Pity, these are the times I feel like getting a massage the most!
For any wounded area, do not massage. It may delay healing or promote ulceration.
Before your massage session
Inform the massage therapist about any disease or current problem you have. If there are any pain points you’d like the therapist to be aware of, letting them know beforehand is always better.
Wait at least 30 – 60 minutes after eating before even considering to get a massage. It would make you feel very uncomfortable getting a massage right after a meal.
If you have recently traveled by air, you should wait 48 hours before getting a massage. This is in case your legs or feet have become swollen due to the inactivity on long flights.
You should not take any pain medicine before the massage. It will make your muscles numb and you’ll see no improvement in the results.
After your massage session
Drink warm water or normal temperature water after the massage. Cold water causes the body to contract muscles in response to the cold and will thus tighten up the muscles you just loosened. This can lead to cramps or spasms.
Don’t take a shower an hour after being massaged. Make sure the water is not too cold, similar to the reason above. Also don’t shower too hot, it could leave you feeling dizzy, especially if you have low blood pressure.
Listen to your body. If you feel like taking a nap or going to sleep – do it! Your muscles have been worked and manipulated, similar to an intense workout. This is your time to recover, repair and retune yourself.
If you are interested in getting a massage to treat pain, you should not get a massage every day. Instead, maybe get a massage every other day to rest your muscles. Once the symptoms slow down, monitor your recovery progress until the symptoms disappear, then stop massages. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!
For those who have never had a Thai massage or for beginners, your muscles might not be relaxed while being massaged, so it may cause muscle pain afterward. The symptoms will disappear within 2-3 days, but if not, you should see a doctor.
A good rule of thumb is to get yourself a massage before any particular symptoms show. There’s no need to wait until you’re in pain. This style of therapy is a treat and you will enjoy the experience and feel great afterwards. I personally get a massage once a month, and will always try to find the time to get more sessions in.
Is Thai massage for everyone?
The benefits of massage therapy are universally known. It is not just a matter of feeling good after one; ongoing research continues to find a lot more health benefits as well. There are various forms and styles of massage, but Thai massage is right there among the most popular. Countless people think that massage merely involves applying external pressure to the muscles to loosen and relax them. While this is part of the process, Thai massage remains to grow in popularity not only because of the many other benefits it offers but also because it’s suitable for people of all ages and professions.
Some of the benefits are as follows: joints are opened, tendons are stretched, tense muscles are released, internal organs are toned, and energy is balanced. The overall effect is deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and a feeling of physical and mental well-being. Thai massage can benefit anyone from young people to seniors and even has many benefits for athletes.
Benefits for young people
That’s right, children need massage too and they love it. Grown-ups incline to think of stress as an adult condition but kids are also a victim to stress with their busy lives, unstable hormones, relationships, and peer competition. Human touch is vital to our physical health and emotional well-being. Massage offers a soothing touch that is calming, communicates caring, and provides reassurance and comfort. Just as in adults, massage helps to decrease anxiety by producing a state of relaxation. Children, and especially child athletes who have strains or injuries from overuse, need special attention that can assist their developing bodies into the healing process.
A great deal of research as reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine to name a few highly reputed publications, say that massage therapy for children offers several psychological and physiological benefits. The technique, intensity and duration of a massage for children differs from that given to an adult. A qualified therapist will know what needs to be done and how to do it.
The Appropriate Age Group
Since a Thai massage is gentle in nature, it is especially good for children. Any child between the ages of 5 to 15 can get a Thai child massage. Growing up today is a stressful experience and school, homework, peer pressure, relationships and unstable hormones all contribute to stress. It provides a calming and soothing touch that reduces anxiety and increases relaxation. Because their bodies are still developing, the treatment of strains and injuries in children requires special care. Here too, a good massage can help in the healing process.
An overview of the benefits
The obvious benefit is that the child will feel calm relaxed and distressedmas after the massage. Besides this, it can also help in treating:
Fatigue and inability to pay attention
Uneasy or troubled sleep
Studies also show it can:
Enhance self esteem
Improve muscle tone
Maintaining hormonal balance is important for all ages, but especially so for teenagers who suffer from imbalances that result in mood swings and other troubling and difficult behavior. It can also affect them physically and can help these children to regain a healthy hormonal balance.
Key Benefits for young people
Touch is the first sense to develop in human beings. A newborn can see, hear and smell his/her surroundings but unable to interpret what the inputs are. Touch, however is different. A mother’s touch is, from the first moment it happens, a soothing and calming experience which starts the bonding process and enables the love to grow. As a child matures, touch remains a constant imperative in physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Child massage is a common practice in many Eastern and African cultures. It is used to soothe, relax and heal the children and by doing so, promote their overall health and growth.
Help children suffering from stress
Starting school or going to a new class, moving to a new home, managing difficult subjects, coping with family problems (even if not fully understood) and peer pressure are just some of the stressful situations which children are faced with. While these may seem to be relatively minor issues to an adult, for children, who are not yet equipped to deal with them, they are major problems. The relaxation that comes from a massage helps them to cope with the stress and take a more positive attitude to the challenges they face.
Increase Relaxation and Physical Development
Stress has a serious impact on the physical wellbeing of children. Many studies have shown that if stress levels remain consistently high, it causes many hormones to be released. One of them, Cortisol, has the effect of destroying the metabolism’s immune cells that fight disease and tumors. Over time, this can affect the overall functioning of the immune system and leave a child more prone to sickness and general ill health. This is another area where massage plays an important role by controlling stress. Additionally, massage can help a child recover faster from the sports and play-related injuries that are an integral part of growing up.
Better Performance and Behavior
Research shows that after a 15-minute massage, children perform better on tests and show increased levels of manual dexterity. They also sleep better and are less likely to be overactive and badly behaved. Teenagers, going through the pain and confusion of adolescence and the problems caused by hormonal changes can benefit greatly from the relaxation that massage offers.
Children can’t stop growing
As a child’s body is growing and developing, it is easy to over stimulate it through massage. If this happens, it can do more harm than good. Regular massages from a licensed massage therapist will ensure that the massage is done the right way, for the right amount of time, to give the child the maximum benefits from the treatment. Massage is not just a remedy to help in relieving pain and injury problems. It is a way to stimulating the child’s body to allow for the correct growth, development and proper blood circulation. Many children experience “Growing Pains” in their legs. One of the best and suggested treatments for “Growing Pains” is massaging the legs of the child experiencing such pain.
Benefits for seniors
As we age, we experience a reduction in mobility, joint flexibility and suppleness, and range of motion that we perhaps had in younger years, which can create joint pain, aches, stiffness and the weakening of muscles. Through therapeutic massage specifically for older patients, it can alleviate discomfort and facilitate pain relief, relaxation and an overall feeling of well-being. The healing power of a compassionate touch is incredibly valuable, and could help feel more connected with others and with our own bodies. This can be something more difficult to find in our ageing years, as we find ourselves increasingly out of touch with our physical bodies and feel that they are separate from our minds, where we are convinced we are still 25 years old. Massage induces a feeling of well-being and a boost of endorphins, minimizing the likeliness of depression and creating a more optimistic outlook on life.
An overview of the benefits
helps restore balance, emotional clarity, and promote relaxation and healing
helps to relieve joint and muscle pain and stiffness; and improves mobility
improves skin condition through better circulation and relieves itchiness
calms the mind and body, and promotes a more restful sleep
relieves old age depression, stress, anxiety and the feeling of physical isolation
helps maintain some muscle tone and flexibility, preventing muscle atrophy
releases endorphins which act as a natural painkiller in the bloodstream
offers human contact and a compassionate and healing touch
helps to relieve other ailments such as arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, osteoporosis, and respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema
To ensure that therapeutic massage can be received, it is important that the client consults a medical professional to receive approval. In some cases, a massage is not recommended for the elderly in certain conditions.
In general, Thai Massage can be extremely beneficial for increasing vitality in the elderly, and can be a powerful treatment alongside medication and lifestyle changes for managing physical conditions, chronic pain, and creating an optimistic outlook of the years to come.
Types of Advanced massage for the elderly
General Advanced massage
This is a deeper, more creative and therapeutic massage when compared to a general massage. In this massage, the practitioner does the procedure without using muscle power, using the same massage style but in a different way. Only a masseuse who has taken both basic and advanced massage course in school can perform this type of massage. These therapeutic massages help to mobilize joints, open energy lines, feet massage and the best-suited pressure according to your body.
Side position Massage
The next biggest problem seen in elderly people are of back and shoulders. For this, the best recommended massage is a side position massage. This massage is very critical and is helpful to treat on areas such as hips, abdominal, lower back, back, shoulders, chest and neck. These are the most common body spots where one faces problems. A masseuse that is certified uses their flexibility to treat the problems of clients. You can also ask them to increase the pressure if you are able to handle it.
Stretching and joint mobilization
The unique part of Thai massage, which makes it interesting by applied stretching. The massage stretches do not limit to only back bends and twists, it is also used for stretching all your body parts having huge effects on your muscle.
The joint mobilization is another unique style of massage. When people sit and work for long hours, it can create blockages. The joint mobilization works as a tool to release blockages especially areas such as hips, knees, ankles, shoulder, wrist etc.
The Rocking Thai massages are used to increase the energy flow and gives huge relaxation to the body. The Dynamic pressure has its affect spread over a larger area and used as a tool to practice massage over sensitive areas. For the elderly, it helps to treat joint problems. The joint problems are common in elderly people and through this massage the masseuse release blockages thus giving immense pleasure to their client.
Sports massage: benefits for athletes
There are many benefits for athletes. These specialized sports massage help in passive stretching that helps adjust the skeletal structure, which increases flexibility and restores movement. Gentle pressure and compressions are used to relax tense muscles, stimulate internal organs, and calm the nervous system. It can calm the overactive athletic mind, increasing their level of health and vitality. The list of benefits can be endless, so here are a few key ones.
Muscular System and Connective Tissue
Improves mobility and flexibility
Improves immune system – ridding of metabolic waste
Increases circulation to localized and general areas.
It is known to help reduce blood pressure and lower heart rate.
Increases lymphatic fluid movement.
Helps to ease swelling in legs and arms caused by fluid retention.
Relaxes muscles of respiration, promotes proper breathing
Passive stretching adjusts skeletal structure, helping the alignment of rib cage during expansion.
Promotes the parasympathetic nervous system – rest and digest.
This modality is an excellent complement to any athlete’s restorative plan by assisting the body to return to a state of homeostasis. After rigorous training, stresses over time can lead to overreaching and overtraining in athletes if not properly managed. Just like training for a sport, one should make rest and recovery a habit. Stretching, yoga, massage are all great examples and are all easy to incorporate.
Further benefits for athletes
Passive stretching is when the person being stretched does not have to do any work. Think about it, when you stretch your leg over your head you should reach up and pull your leg – other parts of your body are working while trying to get a stretch. When someone else is assisting with the stretch, you can get a much deeper stretch.
Increasing circulation of fluids (blood, lymph, digestion)
Breaking up adhesion in tissues.
Deep compressions and stretching will accomplish this. With repetitive motion (i.e. cycling, running, rowing, just to name a few) comes adhesions in the tissue. This is when tissues stick together and cause discomfort and trigger points.
Stretching, traction and passive movement supports the joint in our body. By working adhesions and trigger points out of muscles and keeping the muscles flexibly, they can better support the joints. The same thing applies to the connective tissue of the joints (i.e. IT band).
Parasympathetic rest of an athlete’s body
It is important to rest after you have worked your body hard. Your body can drop into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) that it needs to recuperate and restore.
Athletic injury recovery
Whether chronic or acute, Thai massage can help our bodies recover from injury. If done on a regular basis, it will help the body be able to recover from everyday aches and pains on its own. Also, helping your body to recover from fatigue faster. Bigger or chronic injuries also have a great chance of a speedy recovery with regular Thai massage.
Added Myofascial Release
Traditional Thai massage does not include much specific MFR (myofascial release). There is an element of it from the passive stretching and counter pressure movements. Athletes really benefit from MFR because it helps release the superficial soft tissue that starts sticking together from repetitive movement (like breaking up adhesion in tissues).
Becoming a Massage Therapist
With reading all this information you might now be interested in being a massage therapist. If so, you may want to check these two massage schools approved by the Thai Ministry of Education:
After you finish these courses you will be awarded a certificate which allows you to work anywhere in the world. Many of my Thai girlfriends who are professional therapists, recommend either of these two schools as the tutors are well experienced and patient with new students.
How to Learn Thai Massage
Nowadays many massage therapists want to learn Thai Massage to expand their repertoire. What is the best way to go about that? Here are some options to consider to get Thai Massage training, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
A local massage school
There are two kinds. One is a regular massage school that offers courses in many modalities. In this case you would want to get a good idea who the teacher is, how long he or she has been studying and practicing, and how much of their practice consists of Thai Massage.
The other option is a school that specializes in Thai Massage training exclusively. This can often be a better choice, since such teachers are generally highly trained health, wellness & beauty professionals and passionate about their work.
They have often developed a unique style which is more advanced than basic traditional massage styles.
Advantages: All your training counts towards certification or CEUs. Communication with teachers is easy, standards are generally high.
Disadvantages: The most expensive method. Most courses are fairly short, and long-term study programs are often financially out of reach for practitioners.
Studying Thai Massage in Thailand
Thousands of people travel half way around the world every year to learn Thai Massage. There are hundreds of schools in Thailand, some being a hole-in-the-wall operation, and some being highly reputable institutions.
The course fees are substantially lower in Thailand, but when you include airfare and other travel expenses you don’t really save much compared to studying at home.
Advantages: You can combine your studies with a vacation in an exotic place, many choices of schools, many opportunities to practice on fellow students/vacationers, low course fees compared to the West which allows you to study for longer periods of time.
Disadvantages: The quality of the schools varies greatly, the teachers often do not speak good English, the hours and certificates are in most cases not valid for certification in your home country, or they only count for CEUs, and even this applies only to very few schools.
Private training lessons
This option is only feasible in Thailand since the cost in western countries is simply too high. Private lessons are very effective since you can learn at your own pace.
You can practice on the teacher which is the best feedback you can get compared to working on an inexperienced fellow student.
Advantages: most direct learning method, best feedback, fastest way to learn
Disadvantages: you only get to practice on one body, you miss out on the group dynamic, companionship and networking
Online or home study training
Online video training courses can be an excellent choice, if these conditions are met:
The course is not just a DVD with loads of techniques being demonstrated, leaving it up to you to figure out how to implement it.
The course provides real support, i.e. you can contact the instructor and ask questions
The course has a structure, a learning environment, a plan that you can follow
The course enables you to be part of a community of students so that you can share your experiences and questions and you can network.
Advantages: The most cost effective solution, the best method for retention (you can always watch the videos again), the most convenient method (no travel, fits into your schedule, no time pressure)
Disadvantages: If you are not disciplined enough to follow through with your practice, the videos will end up on the bookshelf gathering dust.
If you want to learn Thai Massage, you can determine which of these four options would work best for you. Of course, you can combine some of them.
For example, a video course can be a great complement to a physical course. After a live course, you generally go home with a course manual full of hastily scribbled notes that you have a hard time deciphering a few weeks later. The videos however are a permanent asset.
Or you can take a basic course in Thailand and follow it up with private lessons to fine tune your skills.
Thai Massage Courses in Thailand
Watpo Thai Traditional Medical School – Probably the most popular and best massage school in Thailand; but the basic introductory course lasts a minimum of five-days so make sure you have the time to commit to it. After finishing the introductory course, other programs are offered in medical massage, facial massage, oil massage and more. Students can also take free yoga classes during their study; located in Bangkok.
Some Short Courses offered:
General Thai Massage Course – 30 hours
The Advanced Medical Thai Massage – 60 hours
Some Long Courses offered:
Professional Thai Massage for Health – 165 hours
Professional Thai Massage Therapy I – 200 hours
Old Medicine Hospital Thai Massage School – This Chiang Mai school offers another popular and well-received course. It also lasts a minimum of five days and upon completion students have the option of continuing with more advanced courses; good feedback from past participants.
Thai Massage Course (Level 1-4) – 30 hours
Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai – Approved by the Ministry of Education to teach Thai massage, this school offers a popular intensive 5-week course for those looking to master Thai massage. A five-day course is also offered for those with less time.
Government Certified Thai Massage Professional and Teacher Training International Curriculum: Phase I-II – 300 to 600 hours
Phussapa Thai Massage School – This school also offers an introductory five-day body massage course but those with less time on their hands try the three-day course in Thai foot massage. More advanced courses are also offered; located in Bangkok.
Jack Chaiya Thai Massage School – Located in Chiang Mai, this school also offers a shorter course (three days) for participants that are more strapped for time.
Basic course (course one) – 18 hours
Continuation Course (course two) – 18 hours
Phenkhae Thai Massage School – This is another Bangkok school suitable for the serious aspiring masseuses. A variety of courses are offered that range from a basic five-day one all the way up to a three months master’s course.
Chiang Mai Style (Northen Thailand Massage) – 18 hours
Basic Course / Thai Traditional Medical Services Society – 30 hours
Teacher Training Course (Level 1-5) 30 to 222 hours
Sunshine Massage School – This friendly Chiang Mai-based school has a popular two-week beginners course. Visa sponsorship is available for those who commit to long term study at the school.
Traditional Thai Massage Beginner’s course – 60 hours
Advanced courses have their own website, which can be found here
Namo Chiang Mai – Offers half-day and full-day courses focusing on Thai, herbal, hot stone and foot massage; another good choice for those without much time on their hands.
1/2-day course – 3 hours
1 day course – 6 hours
Thai Traditional Massage course – 30 hours
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is Thai Massage famous?
Thai massage is one of the most popular therapies nowadays worldwide. It consists of many techniques including acupressure and yoga resulting in a holistic treatment.
Here are some of the famous reasons for the popularity:
Boost to circulation
Effective behavioral treatment for children with autism
Improved mental wellness
Relief from pain
Reconfigure the brain
What is Thai massage good for?
Centering the mind and body
Restore balance between areas of excess and restraint
Increasing the range of motion (ROM) throughout the entire body
Speed the recovery after intense workouts or even jet-lag
What are the benefits of Thai Massage?
Improves blood circulation, increases the temperature in massaged areas, lowers the heart rate, reduces edema (also known as swelling) and increases lymphatic circulation.
Improves effectiveness and muscle strength, reduces pain, relieves muscle tension, removes toxins from the muscle mass, increases joint mobility and flexibility, reduces stiffness, and relaxes the tendons and enhances elasticity.
Improves and stimulates activity of the sensations and nerves with effects of reducing pain, enhancing sensation to the skin, and improving the function of the internal organs such as intestines, stomach, etc.
Improves relaxation and depth of breathing.
Stomach movement prevents and relieves indigestion. Also, increases elasticity of digestive tract.
What are the benefits of adding Herbs to a Thai Massage?
Thai Herbal massage uses hot herbal compresses that are applied to the body to alleviate inflammation and pain by transferring medicating heat to the joints, muscles and energy lines and helps the opening of skin pores.
Herbal compress therapy helps to relax and harmonize the body, to loosen energy obstructions. Inhaling and smelling the herb-infused vapours encourages deep relaxation. The herbs help to reduce stress and have a balancing effect on the mind. Using hot compresses on the sinuses, chest and throat can also open up the nasal passages and loosen mucus.
Why should I get a Thai Massage?
Thai Massage is one of the best therapeutic massage or bodywork treatments available for sports injuries and chronic pain.
It is a great help towards sciatica, lower back pain, neck pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, arthritis, jaw pain, chronic pain or limited mobility.
It helps to promote stress reduction and total relaxation.
These actions result in a comprehensive full body treatment that improves circulation, relieves muscular tension, balances the body energetically and boosts the immune system.
Thai massage increases flexibility, releasing both superficial and deep tension, promotes inner peace with a quiet mind, and enhances the body’s natural energy flow.
Initially it affects the physical body, then it gradually reaches the subtler life forces – the senses, emotions, and thoughts.
Many participants say they go into a “Yoga Nidra” state where space and time disappear and the healing takes place on a deeper level.
Some clients even report that after a session, they feel more graceful, taller, and more connected. They experience a beautiful sense of lightness in their body.
What to expect during a Thai Massage?
Traditional Thai massage is almost always performed on a full-sized padded mat which is either placed on a raised surface or directly on the floor. However, some massage and spa centers also offer what is commonly referred to as the Table Thai massage which makes use of an elevated massage table for the client to lie on in order to receive the massage. As you can imagine, this form of massage will not subject you to the various yoga poses that can be expected in a traditional Thai massage.
You should bring flexible or loose-fitting clothing to the massage. You will be fully dressed during your entire treatment. The best type of clothing is whatever you wear during Yoga or any active workout routine. If you do not have suitable clothing, ask your masseuse – they should have some available.
A typical Thai massage is 90 minutes to 3 hours long. It is not unusual to get a three-hour session while in Thailand. Depending on the type of massage and client, some sessions can last over 4 hrs. Although it is most common to see 1 hour sessions available. We recommend 90 minutes and up for therapeutic treatments, in order to have enough time to be thorough.
Etiquette 101 for a Thai traditional massage?
DO – wear loose fitting clothes. Preferably, buy a pair of cheap fisherman’s pants as you’ll be able to have the full massage while being fully clothed.
DO – give your masseuse a tip. It doesn’t have to be much. The gesture will be very appreciated.
DO – tell your masseuse if you suffer from back pain. They’ll customize the massage for you.
DON’T – eat spicy food before a massage. Better yet, don’t eat anything – trust me on this.
DON’T – insult the staff. It’s fun to barter, but remember you’re in a developing country and at a lot of spa’s in Thailand girls don’t get paid if they don’t have customers. Most cases, half the amount goes to the boss.
DON’T – worry about what you look like. You’re going for a massage, not a beauty contest. Make sure you’re comfortable as if you were just about to go on a run or get a workout in. It definitely will feel like you did.
Can a Thai Massage be dangerous?
There are some cases you should be cautious before getting a Thai Massage. Below is a list of some of the contraindications, if any match you – wait until you’ve recovered or seek medical advice before getting a Thai Massage:
Infectious skin disease, rash, or open wounds.
Instantly after surgery.
Instantly after chemotherapy or radiation, unless recommended by your doctor.
Predisposition to blood clots. There is a risk of blood clots being dislodged.
If you have heart disease, please check with your doctor before having any massage.
Massage should not be done directly over inflamed skin, bruises, tumors, unhealed wounds, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent fractures.
How is Thai massage different from other massages?
This massage features a lot of stretches and compressions. Don’t be surprised when the masseuse moves you into a sequence of poses. Generally, this helps to improve energy levels and flexibility.
This is a very common massage that most people will find therapeutic and comforting. The masseuse uses long strokes that are smooth, sometimes some kneading actions on the surface of your muscles. Most of the time, they use a cream, lotion or oil during the process. Generally, this helps those with back aches or muscle tension, and conditions such as arthritis and migraines.
A Japanese therapy, the masseuse uses their fingers to add pressure to acupressure points in a rhythmic movement. Each point is held for a few seconds so that energy “Qi” can flow from the acupressure points and the body can regain balance. Generally, this helps people who believe in the importance of “Qi” flow, looking for overall well-being or looking for a relaxing experience.
Hot Stone Massage
Those who have poor blood circulation tend to feel chilly and the warmth from the hot stones help to improve the blood circulation. The heat also relaxes the muscles so the massage can be done more gently. Sometimes, instead of just placing the hot stones on the body, the masseuse may use the stones to apply some pressure on specific muscles. In some cases, the stones may be swapped with other tools, such as bamboo. Generally, this helps people experiencing anxiety, low energy and poor blood circulation.
The masseuse chooses essential oils (some example and their benefits can be found below) to administer the massage. You can expect the masseuse to guide you through some breathing exercises too, so that you can inhale the scent of the essential oils, which can help to alleviate blood pressure and stress level. Generally, this helps those who are experiencing stress or stress-related problems like insomnia, reducing problems like headache and for energizing the mind.
Deep Tissue Massage
This works similarly to the Swedish massage, but the masseuse uses stronger and slower strokes, or even friction techniques (going back and forth on every muscle) to help deeply knead and loosen the muscles. You may feel sore for a few days after a deep tissue massage. Generally, this helps those recovering from injury and those who are having chronically tight or aching muscles.
Because of its name, many people assume foot reflexology is for relaxing the feet, but it’s more than that. It does focus on the feet, but the concept behind this massage is that there are “reflex areas” on the feet that correspond to your vital organs through energetic pathways, and it is believed that applying pressure on specific “reflex areas” can help improve health in the corresponding organs. Generally, this helps those who believe in that the philosophy behind reflexology, or who are seeking alternative methods to help relieve problems in menstruation, digestion, stress-related conditions and arthritis.
Can you have Thai massage when pregnant?
Pregnant women should check with their doctor first if they are considering getting a massage. Women receiving Thai massage at prenatal stage should always ensure their therapists are experienced in pregnancy massage. Here are the benefits of a massage during pregnancy:
Relax tired muscles
the correct pressure at the correct point acts like magic. Helps make you feel relaxed and mesmerized. Takes special care of the tired muscles of the legs, lower back, shoulders and neck. Your cramps are also eased due to increased circulation and blood flow.
Helps sleep better
you’re likely suffering from a lack of sleep. This may be due to physical or mental fatigue. Improper sleeping positions can also be the cause of insomnia. When you’re always thinking about the health of your unborn child – this will help you to relax.
Cures a lot of ailments
many conditions like fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, migraine, and muscular pain can be relieved by a massage. It also plays a vital role in the functioning of the nervous system. This results in improved appetite, sleep, behavior and memory. This improves the overall development of the unborn child and produces a ‘feel good factor’.
Increases blood circulation
Thai massage helps in increased blood circulation, which helps pregnant women in a lot of ways. It also increases the oxygen supply to the unborn child thus ensuring the healthy development of the fetus.
Can Thai Massage help with weight loss?
Reduces cortisol levels
released in response to emotional and physical stress, the hormone cortisol has been shown to cause fat deposits in the abdominal area and increase appetite. While exercise is the best method for lowering cortisol levels, Thai Massage has been proven to reduce circulating levels of the hormone, which helps decrease appetite, reduce accumulation of belly fat and ease stress. These are all beneficial to support weight-loss.
Supports digestive function
the excretory and digestive systems help get rid of poisons and toxins that linger in your body. A Thai Massage can give a stressed digestive system the reboot it needs by improving blood flow, lymph and nerve supply to the sacrum area and abdomen. This will help your body clear itself of excess toxins, while gently realigning the organs that obstructions can push out of place. A smoothly functioning digestive system is critical to accomplishing your target weight.
It’s easy to forget the importance of relaxation as you focus on changing your body and losing weight. Still, cutting out stress is a key component because stress forces your body to release cortisol, which, as we described earlier, makes you hungry. When you overeat, you gain weight and end up in a cycle that damages your body. Despite the occurrence of stress in our busy lives, Thai Massage can make a real difference to how you feel by calming the mind and body and enabling you to focus your energy on losing weight.
Promotes better circulation
Another benefit of Thai Massage is better circulation in the body. A healthier and stronger circulatory system helps your cells get the nutrients they need for the body to function properly. This is an important part of the weight loss battle because proper nutrition without good circulation hinders your ability to reach your goals. Muscles that are supplied with the right amount of nutrients and minerals through circulation are able to burn more calories and work better.
Many people who are trying to lose weight are also dealing with dreaded cellulite. Cellulite is hypodermic fat that is difficult to get rid of and appears as dimples. In many cases, losing weight doesn’t eliminate it and can actually make it worse. Luckily, this is another area that a massage can help. Beauty experts have found that a massage that targets the body parts with cellulite can help break up the fat and reduce its appearance. Thai massage is particularly effective with regular sessions which can improve the overall way your skin looks.
How should I decide the duration of a massage session?
Look at the services menu on the booking tab for descriptions. Check out the promotions, courses or even the new options available.
Sessions of 90 minutes and up are recommended, in order to have the time to complete a thorough treatment. There may be attractive options for 30 minutes or so, but these are rather casual and you will not experience the full benefits with such a short session.
If you have specific areas in the body that you would like to have addressed during the session, 60 minutes will not be an adequate amount of time unless you are quite small.
If you are not sure if a Thai Massage is for you, book 60 minutes and “try it out”. But be advised, the first session is likely to make you aware of areas of tension that you did not realize you had. Since a 60-minute session is already considered to be an abbreviated sequence, consider the 75-minute+ options. It’s also a better value.
Book 2 hours if you would like to make sure you get a thorough treatment.
If you are a large person, it will take longer to complete the sequence. Account for this and adjust the timespan accordingly.
Consider taking a day and putting it toward your health. Don’t be stingy on your time, your body will thank you later.
How often should I receive Thai Massage?
There is no risk in receiving a massage as often as you wish. For clients new to Thai Massage, it’s recommended to schedule your first massage then wait before deciding on the next one so you can assess and determine how long the affect lasts and how long it will take you to recover. The effect of a massage does last longer than other typical massages but the recovery time is different for every individual.
It’s normal to see regulars schedule their massage on a weekly basis. Once you get into a flow it’s possible to book with your preferred masseuse at a cadence that’s most convenient for you – like biweekly, triweekly and monthly appointments. If you have a partner, you could also opt for a couples massage to make it more fun while at the same time getting you a sweet discount in the process.
If you are a person who has an area of the body that needs attention, consider a series of treatments. Health professionals agree that committing to a series of treatments produces a deeper affect in comparison. If this is you, check for discounts available or a course to help you save on your multi-session purchase.
If you want to change something, consider booking appointments closer together until the benefits match, then spread out your visits as long as you are satisfied.
Can I experience any muscle pain or discomfort after a massage?
This therapy combines pressure point work with stretches and can be as deep or as light as you wish. Normally, there is no residual muscle pain afterwards, just a feeling of flushing out the by-products from muscle contraction and increased circulation. If you do feel pain during a massage, make sure you let your masseuse know. Every individual is different and they will not know otherwise.
If your objective is to achieve marked tissue change, there may be need for increased intensity and although it is rare, some clients experience a bit of stiffness first thing the next morning which clears up as soon as they get moving. This is followed by increased range, greater strength and greater ease in movement.
What are the most commonly used essential oils in Thai Massage?
it works as an antiseptic and antidepressant. It can also be used as an aphrodisiac. Experts recommend this oil for severe depression because jasmine oil provides a sense of confidence and optimism, soothes nerves and helps to recover lost vitality and energy. It’s also know to relieve stiff limbs, muscle pains and sprained areas.
it is the second most common oil used in Thai spa treatments and massages. Similar to Jasmine, this has antimicrobial, antidepressant and antiseptic properties. With its help, the skin becomes soft and smooth. The ingredients and flavor, tone and soothe nerves. Experts often recommend it for the recovery of great mental or physical stress, including headaches. Also helps to relieves joint and muscle pain, and makes muscles suppler.
it is rich in omega 9 essential fatty acids. Its main action is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizing. Its regular use makes the skin supple and soft. At one time, Indian healers have used mashed papaya to treat skin problems and rashes.
it is quite versatile and can be used in countless cases. It nourishes skin and hair, and is often the main ingredient in creams for the body and face, shampoos and hair masks. The aroma is relaxing.
Note: If you’re not a fan of the stickiness that comes with the use of oil, ask the staff if they can use massage creams instead.
What are the health benefits of massage oils?
Improves blood circulation
Improves your mood and can beat depression
Beats body pain
Gets rid of dirt and dead skin effectively
Helps your nerves become healthier
Keeps you healthy
Improves heart health
Keeps your stomach healthy
Beats the symptoms of cold and sinusitis
Can help relieve eye strain and improve eyesight
Keeps your skin healthy
Gets rid of stretch marks
Helps get rid of toxins from the body
Aids in deeper and better sleep at night
What are the top Thai Massage techniques?
Compression of muscles/tissues
Mobilization of Joints
Stretching myofascial tissue
Hold yoga poses such as shoulder stand, plough, spinal twist hip-openers, and more
Give gentle pressures on knuckles, thumbs, hand, fingers, and feet
What are the most common massage types people opt for?
Stretching exercises and relaxation of your body with therapeutic techniques, and the applying of pressure to energy spots after hard physical strains. This massage assists faster regeneration, because it makes the joints more flexible and it also stimulates the blood circulation.
A good flow of energy in the body is one of the prerequisites for feeling good. This massage eliminates your energy obstructions with a relaxing massage using aromatic oils. Fatigue will become a thing of the past and you will feel reborn. Essential oils will tighten and rejuvenate your skin.
With warm herbs
This massage detoxifies your body with warm herbs and give you the sense of a sauna. It reduces your pain in the muscles and joints with therapeutic techniques. Recommended for athletes, because it releases strain on even the most strained muscle tissues and stimulates the blood flow.
Thai reflexology massage of feet and/or palms
With different massage techniques and the applying of pressure on reflexology spots this massage re-establishes the flow of energy and restores balance in your body. It deeply relaxes your body, detoxifies it, boosts your immune system and increases blood flow. Due to the undisturbed flow of energy many health issues will disappear and your internal organs will work better.
Head, face, cleavage, neck, shoulders and back with warm herbs
This massage will relax your body, eliminate headaches, reduce wrinkles and help tighten your skin. Warm oils will give the softness and flexibility back to your skin. This massage has an extraordinary relaxing effect.
For pregnant women
While you wait for your newborn, it will reduce the retention of water and relieve your back pain. This massage will make you feel better as it has a beneficial effect on the body. With lymphatic drainage techniques, it helps your body get rid of excess water.
For young athletes
This massage is for young athletes up to 15 years of age. The effects of Thai massage for young athletes include joint and muscle relaxation and improved overall fitness and general well-being.
Some important additional tips.
Do not eat a heavy meal directly before the massage
If it’s your first time, arrive at least 10 minutes early to address any concerns or questions you may have. Otherwise, arrive 5 minutes early so you can have a few minutes to relax before starting the massage.
If you arrive late for a scheduled session, it may not be possible to receive the entire time that you have booked without extending into the time that another customer has reserved. However, you are still responsible to make payment in full for the time that you have reserved.
Be sure that your masseuse has your complete health history, because people with certain conditions and specific medications should not have a Thai Massage.
If you feel discomfort at any time or if something does not feel right, let your masseuse know. Your feedback may make the difference between an ordinary session and extraordinary one.
The immediate effects of traditional Thai massage on heart rate variability and stress-related parameters in patients with back pain associated with myofascial trigger points – Buttagat, Vitsarut et al. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies , Volume 15 , Issue 1 , 15 – 23
7 thoughts on “Thai massage – Benefits, risks and making the most of your visit”
Nice article. After reading your article, I’ve known benefits and other facts about the Thai spa. Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks for stopping by, glad you liked it 🙂
Great content on benefits of Thai Massage therapy. This is very amazing and helpful blog for me. Thank you so much for providing such kind of knowledge with us.
It is interesting to know about the different factors of Thai massage. Most importantly is the benefits you could have to your body afterward.
I ❤ Thai massages! I love the compress herbal packs too ! I have learned some Thai! The Thai massage loosens me up good with the stretching!
I love Thai massage! I have learned it in massage classes. My massage instructor goes every year to Chang Mai with students. They go to the old school there to Learn for 3 weeks. I’m planning to go there too ! ❤
Amazing article. Thank you for giving information about Thai massage. I want to try this massage, but I am afraid of its technique. After reading your article, I am positive about Thai massage, and i will definitely try this massage. I like your article.