A Quick Guide to Thai Massage

Thai massage is a massage method said to help stretch muscles, open joints and rejuvenate energy. Although its name suggests otherwise, Thai massage actually originated in India about 2,500 years ago. 

From there, this ancient Ayurvedic-based massage method traveled to Thailand, where, over time, it became infused with aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) [1]. Thai massage has many potential benefits, but this gentle method is quite different from other types of massage. 

This quick guide to Thai massage is a way for novices to get acquainted with this ancient form of healing before deciding whether Thai massage is the right method for them.

Similarities between Thai massage and yoga

Thai massage is quite different than many of the massage methods more commonly practiced in the Western world, including Swedish massage and deep tissue massage. In fact, Thai massage may have more in common with the practice of yoga than with other types of massage. 

Thai massage is traditionally performed on a floor mat rather than a massage table, and, in a Thai massage session, a trained massage therapist stretches the recipient's body using assisted yoga poses. Like yoga, Thai massage is said to improve circulation, which may help with blood flow to the heart, digestion and lymphatic drainage.

Thai massage for athletes

Although it offers many of the same benefits as yoga, Thai massage is a passive practice for the recipient, whereas, in yoga, the body is actively participating. Because of this, Thai massage is sometimes called the "lazy man's yoga," but the negative connotation of this nickname can be misleading. 

More often than not, it's athletes and other active individuals, not lazy people, who commonly seek out Thai massage because it can move and stretch the body in ways that even very active individuals often can't achieve without assistance. 

Thai massage helps athletes take their stretching to the next level, moving energy, opening joints and loosening muscles in ways they can't do on their own. Because of this, many types of sports massage and sports massage practices across the U.S. incorporate Thai techniques, even if they don't call it, "Thai massage."

Thai massage and sen energy points

This quick guide to Thai massage wouldn't be complete without an introduction to sen energy points. In addition to stretching the body, Thai massage also focuses on the body's energy points. In Thai massage, these energy points are called "sen," but they are similar to the meridian points in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

Like the TCM meridians, sen points or lines are thought to correspond with the body's energy, or "qi." As the recipient of a Thai massage is stretched, the massage therapist also massages or applies deep, rhythmic pressure to the sen points or lines. This practice is thought to release the body's bad or stagnant qi, which in turn is said to resolve specific problems in a person's body or life.

Thai massage for pregnant women and other populations

Thai massage has been compared to prenatal yoga, and aspects of Thai massage may be incorporated into some pregnancy massage practices. Thai massage has specific benefits for pregnant women, including opening the hips and loosening overcompensating muscles; but this form of massage is also recommended for anyone looking for a more gentle type of massage. 

For example, individuals who can't endure deep tissue massage, due to a serious injury or chronic pain condition like fibromyalgia[2], can still see major benefits from a gentler Thai massage. Thai massage, along with other types of massage, is even thought to be an effective alternative therapy in the world of mental health care. 

The manipulation of muscles involved in massage is thought to release not just physical tension, but mental and emotional stress and negative thoughts as well.

This quick guide to Thai massage provides a good basis for understanding this ancient massage method. However, the best way for an individual to learn more about Thai massage may be to experience a massage firsthand. 

Thai massage may not be as common in few countries as other types of massage, but traditional Thai massage practices can be found more easily. Also, some other types of massage, particularly sports massage, may incorporate many Thai massage techniques.