Thai Massage: History, Benefits, Techniques,
Precautions and Contraindications
The next Massage modality I want to present to You is THAI – one of the oldest techniques and my favorite massage – got addicted in Thailand.
This is a type of massage in Thai style that involves stretching and deep massage. This form of body work is usually performed on the floor on a mat, and the client wears comfortable clothes that allows for movement. No oil or lotion are used in Thai massage.
For centuries, Thai massage was performed by monks as one component of Thai medicine. In roots can be traced back to 500 BCE in India. The founder of Thai massage was Jivaka Komarbhacca, Buddha’s physician over 2500 years ago in India! It made its way to Thailand, where the Ayurvedic techniques and principles gradually became influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Ancient Medical texts were carved in stone in attempts to preserve the tradition of Thai massage; these stone inscriptions still sit within the walls of the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok. In Thailand, there are many agricultural people who do a lot of physical work through the day and their muscles become very tight and sore, so they teach their children massage skills they learned from their parents. In this way Thai massage is passed down as an oral tradition. Massage has a unique style in each area of Thailand. When people would gather together from different regions they would exchange their techniques of massage. In this same way influences came from other countries such as China, India, Burma and Tibet creating its evolution and development.
- It helps detoxification of the body and boosts immune system
- Improves posture, balance, corrects body alignments and dissolves energy blockages
- Helps arthritis and back pain
- Helps tone the body, strengthen joints and fight diseases, including chronic joint problems
- It slows the aging process
- Increase in range of motion
- Decrease in muscle tension
- Increased body awareness
The combination of energetic and physical aspects is what makes Thai massage unique and so effective. This type of massage addresses and combines techniques usually found isolated in the Western therapy, including Trigger Point Treatments, Myofascial Techniques, Neuromuscular Therapy, and Manual Therapy among others. Traditional Thai massage is really deep, full-body treatment, starting at the feet and going up to the head. Using a sequence of gentle, flowing exercise movements; the recipient’s body is moved, loosened and stretched of the joints and muscles. This unique type of massage influences the energetic side as well. Generally speaking, practitioners of modern Thai massage operate on the theory that the body is permeated with “LOM” or “AIR”, which is inhaled into the lungs and which travels throughout the body along 72000 pathways called “SEN” or “VESSELS”.
A significant part of the practice of Thai massage also includes yoga-like stretches which are intended to stimulate the SEN and move LOM through the body via a pumping action that is connected with the patient’s breathing. The theory of SEN and LOM is often translated into English as “MERIDIANS” and “ENERGY”. While there are some superficial similarities to Chinese Meridian Theory, the Thai system is completely different as the SEN are unconnected from the internal organs.
Examples of techniques:
- Softening & Point Work: Softening is applied in a rhythmic manner with the palms, soft fists, “open tiger’s mouth”, soles of the feet, forearms or forelegs.
- Stretching: Stretching needs to be applied slowly, with care, and never forced. Differences in body size, flexibility, strength and experience for both therapist and client will determine how far the stretches can be taken. The stretches are not designed to be held at the end point. There needs to be an ebb and flows as stretches are applied.
- 1-2-3-2-1 pattern: This pattern is very common in Thai massage, and it can refer to either position or pressure or both.
- Session length: It is not unusual for a Thai massage to last at least two-hours. When the work is done slowly, it is a “moving meditation” for the practitioner as well as healing experience for the client.
Precautions and Contraindications:
- This style of massage can be more physically demanding than other types of massage for therapist and client. Always use caution when trying new techniques and be sure to check in with your client about their health history, as well as their experience throughout the session.
- Massage is conventionally contraindicated for people with a serious heart condition or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Clients with osteoporosis should be treated with extreme caution during the stretching with very light pressure. Also, those with artificial joints should not receive Thai massage.
- Clients with pain near or on the spine need to be treated with extreme caution. Checking with a physician first is highly suggested.
- Pregnant clients must also be treated with caution, and may not receive abdominal work. With care, you may be able to apply light to moderate pressure in a side-lying position.
- Clients taking blood-thinning medications should be given light pressure.
- If not sure, DON’T do it. Err on the side of caution.