What is Thai massage?

In Thailand, Thai massage is known as "ancient" or "traditional" massage. It is a combination of acupressure, Shiatsu and yogic stretches. Thai massage stimulates the acupressure points across your body, healing pain and releasing tension. Many Thai people have a regular massage, relying on it to keep them aligned and healthy.

Thai massage earned its nickname "yoga for the lazy" through its gentle techniques and passive stretches. Starting at the feet and moving up to the head, the body is carefully moved, loosened and stretched. A special system of movements allows Thai massage to be performed easily and without strenuous effort. Each move is designed to support both client and therapist. Alongside lazy yoga, the therapist will apply gentle pressure with his palms and feet along energy lines and acupressure points.

Although Thai massage works on the body, the belief system behind it is one of complete healing, aimed at connecting body, energy and mind.

What is Thai massage good for?

Thai massage is thought to:

  • increase your sense of calm
  • increase energy
  • open up the meridians (energy paths) in the body
  • relieve pain and muscle tension
  • improve flexibility
  • increase blood circulation
  • encourage healthier sleep patterns
  • treat backache, neck ache, shoulder pain, numbness and tired limbs
  • soothe headaches, stress and mental fatigue.

Thai massage is suitable for young and the not-so-young, the active and the not-so-active, the healthy and the not-so-healthy alike. It is thought to reduce recovery time for injured athletes and help to soothe emotional upset by rebalancing the body.

It is believed to have relaxing and energising benefits for the giver, too, creating a sense of enlightenment, calm and good feeling within.

Before you go

There is no need for oil to be used in a Thai massage, so you can remain fully clothed throughout. You should wear loose, cool, comfortable clothing and avoid heavy meals and alcohol in the hours before your treatment.

To take full advantage of a Thai massage, try and clear your diary for the rest of the day and go for a gentle walk.


As with most spa treatments, your therapist should ask you about any medical conditions from the outset. Although there is no age limit on Thai massage, it should not be carried out on pregnant women, people with heart disease, or on anyone who has recently undergone surgery.

What to expect from a Thai massage

Thai massage is a floor massage, so expect to lie fully dressed on a pad or light mattress on the ground. At various stages during the massage, the masseur will guide you into another position. Because the treatment is meditative, it is usually performed in silence to allow both you and the therapist time to focus and reflect.

At the start of your treatment, your therapist will assess where your body needs help in healing, and may adapt his massage techniques accordingly. He will work systematically from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, rocking you slowly and gently in time with your pulse, before applying the stretches and gentle pressure. He may then use his elbows, forearms, feet and even his knees to work on your entire musculo-skeletal system, aiming to release the tension in your body by opening up its energy channels.

One of the key features of a traditional Thai massage is the blocking and releasing of blood flow, also known as Trigger point therapy. The masseuse may apply sustained pressure - around 30 seconds - during the massage where your legs and arms meet the torso. This pressure is then released and you will feel your limbs suddenly feel a rush of heat as blood floods back in. This is a real circulation booster and although it feels a bit weird it is quite exciting as it's so different from anything you usually feel.

Thai massage is concluded with a mini head-massage (similar to an Indian head massage), after which the masseur will close your ears with their fingers for a few seconds and then release them, designed to bring your mind and thoughts back to the here and now. Sounds strange but it's actually a really good way of "bringing you round".

Traditionally, the treatment lasts for up to four hours, but sessions in the UK usually last for an average of two. The combination of the gentle rocking and rhythmical pressure during a Thai massage can often induce a meditative state, and you may even lose track of the time.

Hot tip!

As it involves feet and floors, you might get a bit dusty and dirty so take a change of clothes.


Thailand is proud of its name, "the Land of Smiles". You can expect to feel happy and soothed after your massage. You may well experience an unusual sensation of being both calm and energised, and feel lighter, taller or even ironed out. You might not feel sleepy, but do allow yourself to drift back to the real world gradually, and - as with all massage - make sure you drink plenty of water afterwards.

Different kinds of Thai massage

  • Thai foot massage is aimed at stimulating the internal organs and therefore complements Traditional Thai massage very well
  • Thai medicinal massage is relied on in Thailand to cure a variety of ailments from cricked necks, stomach upsets and headaches to relief of acute joint problems.

Courtesy of the Good Spa Guide

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