- A Thai massage is full-body where the practitioner will kneel or walk on the client.
- Thai massage is geared towards applying deep pressure to improve circulation, mobility, and more.
- One key difference between Thai massage and regular massage is that clients keep their clothes on.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
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For starters, people can keep their clothes on. Secondly, Thai massage involves a wide range of movements and techniques that resemble almost like a dance between the partner and practitioner.
Here’s what to expect during a Thai massage and the research behind its numerous health benefits.
What does a Thai massage include?
Performed on the floor or a firm mat, a typical Thai massage session lasts around 90 minutes. Practitioners use their entire bodies, including their hands, elbows, feet, and knees to stand, kneel, or walk on the recipient and create deep pressure.
Unlike Swedish massage, oils are not used during Thai massage. Clients usually begin lying on their back with their face up, while the therapist starts massaging the feet and continues to move up the legs, “applying pressure with a rhythmic, rocking motion using the palms of their hands and thumbs,” says Sarah Seely, RYT, CST, CTYMT, a Somatic healer, Thai massage therapist, teacher and founder of Thai Brooklyn.
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Next, the client is guided into a series of stretches targeting the legs, hips, and lower back.
“Thai massage has been called the ‘lazy man’s yoga‘ because as a recipient, you need only relax and allow the practitioner to take over moving your body for you,” says Seely. “At most, your participation will be to breathe on certain cues to help deepen into stretches.”
Seely says a skilled therapist will be able to adjust how much pressure is being offered during a session. “Be sure to let them know ahead of time how much pressure you prefer and speak up if you are at all uncomfortable during your session,” she says.
Benefits of Thai massage
Thai massage is a form of therapeutic massage that typically falls in the category of complementary and alternative medicines.
It is a deeply relaxing, tension-relieving practice of mindful movement that helps increase an individual’s range of motion and encourages flexibility through its unique blend of assisted stretching, yoga, breathwork, and massage.
According to Seely, Thai massage is popular with athletes and sports enthusiasts as a recovery method. While most of the studies are small, some science-backed health benefits include:
Who should not get a Thai massage?
Thai massage is not advised for pregnant people in their first trimester, says Seely. Beyond the first semester, expectant mothers should consult with a doctor and talk to their Thai massage practitioner to make sure a session is safe.
Important: In addition to certain positions or stretches being uncomfortable for pregnant women, there is a small chance that massage can cause uterine contractions that lead to preterm labor, among other rare but high-risk complications.
Most experts agree that Thai massage may exacerbate certain health issues. Anyone dealing with the following conditions should avoid Thai massage and similarly styled bodywork:
- Unmedicated high blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
- Early-stage MS or Parkinson’s disease
If you have any health concerns and are not sure if Thai massage is suitable for you, check with your doctor.
Thai massage has been used throughout India and Thailand for centuries, and it is now popular in many Western countries. This massage technique may help treat a wide range of psychological and physical ailments, such as stress and chronic pain, and it is often used for rehabilitation and recovery after injury or certain illnesses.
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Thai massage is always performed clothed, on a mat, or on the floor. Recipients are guided through a series of yoga-like stretches, as well as a combination of abdominal work, breath cues, deep tissue massage, and application of pressure to specific points on the body.
“Thai massage addresses the whole being. It’s really not just the body, we’re talking about spiritual wellbeing,” says Seely. “When people are done, they feel both energized and super relaxed at the same time.”
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