Thai massage, which originated in India, has been around for over 2,500 years. Originally regarded as a healing art, traditional Thai massage includes influences from both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.
Unlike typical Western-type massages, it does not involve lying on a massage bed while a massage therapist applies oil to your body and kneads your muscles and pressure points.
Instead, you lie fully clothed on a mat on the ground or low table while a practitioner uses stretching, pulling, and rocking techniques to relieve tension, promote relaxation, and improve flexibility and circulation.
Sometimes referred to as assisted yoga, Thai massage is focused on improving the flow of energy throughout your body.
Thai massage can benefit your health in numerous ways, many of which are supported by scientific studies.
Below are six key benefits that are supported by research.
If you have migraines or experience tension headaches, traditional Thai massage may help ease your symptoms.
In several small studies involving patients with chronic headaches, researchers found that Thai massage reduced the intensity of both migraine and tension headaches (source: www.healthline.com, A Randomized Controlled Trial on the Effectiveness of Court-Type Traditional Thai Massage versus Amitriptyline in Patients with Chronic Tension-Type Headache (hindawi.com)).
In a traditional Thai massage, practitioners use their hands, thumbs, elbows, forearms, and sometimes even their feet to reduce tension in your muscles.
Thai massage is based on the idea that energy moves through your body along predictable lines or pathways known as sens.
To increase the flow of energy along the sens, the practitioner will move your body into yoga-like positions in addition to pulling and rocking your body in various ways.
The combination of stretching, movement, and pressure is what distinguishes Thai massage from other types of massage.
Thai massage may be a good option for you if you want a more active type of massage, where you move and participate instead of lying down throughout your massage.
With Thai massage, you can wear your own loose-fitting clothes, or the practitioner may have you change into scrub-like garments — a loose cotton top and drawstring pants. You keep your clothes on throughout the massage.
Typically, you’ll lie on a mat or massage mattress on the floor or on a lowered massage table. Once on the mat, your practitioner will slowly move your body through multiple stretches, using the weight and pressure of their body to assist you.
Unlike a Swedish massage, oil isn’t used and your muscles typically aren’t kneaded. Instead, the practitioner will use their hands, thumbs, elbows, and knees to stretch, pull, and rock different parts of your body. They may even sit on you to stretch you into certain positions.
Some types of stretches may involve going through yoga-like movements with the practitioner holding or pulling you to maintain a pose.
If your muscles are sore or tense, you may feel some discomfort. If you do, let your practitioner know so the pressure and stretching can be reduced.
If you have an injury, or some part of your body is particularly sensitive to pain, be sure to let the practitioner know before they start the massage session.
Because Thai massage has profound effects on your circulatory system, make sure you check with your doctor before you schedule a massage, especially if you have:
Thai massage isn’t recommended for pregnant women.
In addition, medical experts recommend that you avoid massage if you have: