Benefits of Thai MassageAnais Dubois
When you think of massage, you probably expect to be a passive participant — lying under a blanket as a masseuse presses and kneads your tight muscles. However, a Thai massage is a whole different experience. Asanas, or yoga poses, are also part of this Eastern massage tradition.
Unrecognizable therapist massaging woman’s leg at beauty spa.
This practice promotes positive energy circulation, so you feel balanced and rejuvinated. Thai yoga massage has numerous other benefits too, including reduction of pain and stress.
What Is Thai Massage?
Thai massage is traditionally performed on the floor — you lie on a padded mat as the masseuse guides you through partner yoga poses and manipulates your body into stretches. Some traditional massage techniques, such as acupressure, compression and joint mobilization, are also used, but no lotions or oils are applied and you remain fully clothed for the session.
Some centers may modify traditional Thai massage to be performed on a table due to regulations, space limitations or for patients who are unable to get up and down from the floor easily.
Enhanced Energy Flow
Thai massage works based on the belief that tightened muscles lead to the diminished flow of energy in your body. When energy can’t flow freely, you become inflexible, suffer pain and feel stiff. Over time, this leads to shortened muscles and connective tissue that affects your posture, immunity and organ function — all of which speed up aging and disability.
The pressing techniques used in Thai massage are designed to increase blood circulation to facilitate the better flow of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. It also helps your body naturally get rid of waste, such as metabolic byproducts and carbon dioxide, more efficiently.
Adding stretching to the massage process helps relax the muscles further, so they regain natural flexibility and tone. You’ll relieve chronic stiffness and experience improved mobility.
Thai massage is an alternative way for people to deal with chronic pain, and can be quite effective for temporary relief, according to a review of the research published in 2015 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. In the six studies reviewed, people reported a 25 to 80 percent reduction of pain that lasted up to 15 weeks following a Thai massage protocol.
Thai Massage and Headaches
A particular type of Thai massage that involves applying pressure against specific meridians in the body, called court-type Thai massage, was shown to be an effective treatment for people suffering from chronic tension headaches. The study, published in a 2015 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, explains that the relief may be attributed to how Thai massage stimulates blood flow and lymph circulation and relaxes the sympathetic nervous system.
Thai massage also helps reduce stress, which can contribute to headaches.
Precautions and Considerations
Although Thai massage offers multiple benefits, it may be contraindicated for some populations, including patients with cancer, those who are pregnant and those suffering from back injury such as a herniated disk.
If you’ve been jonesing for a change from your traditional Swedish massage, or you are particularly stiff or sore due to exercise or arthritis, Thai massage may be just what you’re looking for. Unlike most massage modalities that utilize massage oils and require you to disrobe and climb under a sheet on a massage table, Thai massage is performed while you are fully clothed, usually on a padded mat on the floor.
Instead of the relaxing gliding and kneading motions characteristic of more popular forms of massage, Thai massage employs stretching, pulling, and rocking techniques to relieve tension and enhance flexibility and range of motion. It is sometimes called the “lazy person’s yoga.”
The therapist uses his or her hands, knees, legs, and feet to move you into a series of yoga-like stretches and also applies deep muscle compression, joint mobilization, and acupressure.
Thai massage also utilizes energy work, which, according to ancient Asian culture, treats the subtle energetic field within the body. It corrects blockages, deficiencies, and imbalances in the flow of this energy, which then is believed to improve the client’s health.
Is Thai Massage Painful?
Applying pressure to tender muscle fiber adhesions (known as “muscle knots”) can hurt, but there is a difference between that type of discomfort and pain due to excessive or inappropriate pressure and stretching.
While it may be difficult to avoid some discomfort when targeting muscle knots, a qualified, licensed massage therapist should be able to adjust the massage pressure and movements so that you are not in pain.
Thai massage is sometimes described as painful, but a licensed massage therapist should use your feedback and adjust the degree of pressure and stretching.
The Potential Benefits of Thai Massage
Massage of all types is often used to relieve stress and protect against stress-related health issues. It is also said to boost energy and improve range of motion and flexibility. Thai massage, in particular, is said to benefit or ameliorate many health problems. Specifically, it may:
Relieve tension headaches
Reduce types of back pain (typically subacute and chronic nonspecific back pain) Relieve muscle pain and spasticity as well as joint stiffness and pain
Increase flexibility and range of motion
Stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage
Calm the nervous system
Assisted Thai Massage Stretches for Therapy
A licensed massage therapist should ask you about your health history before the massage. Thai massage may not be safe for someone with health conditions such as disk herniation, osteoporosis, recent surgery, or cardiovascular disease.
If you’re considering trying Thai massage, it’s a good idea to check with your health care provider before getting treatment to discuss whether it’s appropriate for you.
Pregnant women should check with their doctor first before getting a massage. If he or she says that it is okay, ask for a recommendation for a licensed massage therapist who is certified in pregnancy massage. Massage shouldn’t be done over bruises, inflamed or weak skin, unhealed or open wounds, skin rash, tumors, abdominal hernia, or recent fractures.
What to Know Before Your Appointment
You are usually asked to bring or wear loose, comfortable clothing to the massage. A typical Thai massage is 60 minutes to two hours long. Some additional tips:
Don’t eat a heavy meal before a massage.
If it’s your first time at the clinic or spa, arrive at least 10 minutes early to complete the necessary forms and change. Otherwise, arrive at least five minutes early so you can have time to change before starting the massage.
Be sure that your massage therapist has your complete health history because people with certain conditions should not have Thai massage.
If you feel discomfort at any time, let your massage therapist know.