Thai massage uses gentle pressure and stretching techniques to relax the whole body. This is an ancient healing practice that originated in India. It dates back to around 2,500–7,000 years ago.
The technique that Thai massage practitioners use is very different from what people in the West may be accustomed to. Unlike Swedish or shiatsu massage techniques, in which a person passively lies on a bed, the client lies on the floor and participates more actively in the massage.
This article will look at the benefits of Thai massage, how it can help athletes, and some of the side effects that people may experience.
Health benefits of Thai massage
Thai massage has many health benefits, from lowering stress to relieving muscular tension. It can even increase energy. Below, we discuss five health benefits of Thai massage.
1. Lowers stress
Stress is not necessarily bad. Often, stress can act as a positive motivator that might help push people to perform better and accomplish more in their personal and professional lives.
However, too much stress can negatively affect mental and physical health. Chronic, or long-lasting, stress can lead to serious illnesses, including depression and cardiovascular disease.
Thai massage uses gentle pressure and stretching techniques to relax the body. A 2015 study found that Thai massage significantly reduces levels of a certain stress marker present in the saliva, called sAA.
The researchers concluded that Thai massage is more effective at reducing stress in healthy people than simply resting.
2. Boosts energy
Research has shown that Thai massage can increase people’s physical energy levels. One randomized trial examined the effects of Thai and Swedish massages in people who were experiencing fatigue. The results revealed that Thai massage increased energy and mental stimulation, while Swedish massage was more likely to improve relaxation and sleep.
The Thai massage technique is based on the notion of energy lines, or Sen. Most practitioners believe that there are various Sen, or channels, of energy within the body.
Sen correspond to different parts of the body, such as the bones, muscles, blood, and nerves. Some Sen also affect the mind and consciousness. These are called subtle channels.
The theory suggests that tight muscles cause blockages within different Sen. These blockages reduce the flow of life energy, which results in stiffness, pain, and illness. Thai massage uses different techniques that either open or constrict different Sen to correct the flow of life energy.
3. Relieves headaches
Court-type is a specific form of Thai massage that involves applying pressure to specific energy channels.
One 2015 study found court-type Thai massage is an effective treatment for people who have chronic tension headaches. They also had lower measures of tissue hardness, which the scientists measured using a handheld device.
4. Stimulates circulation
Thai massage can promote the circulation of both blood and lymph through the use of gentle stretches. These yoga-like stretches increase blood circulation, which fills the body’s tissues with oxygen. This helps promote cell growth and heart health.
One study examined the benefits of Thai foot massage in people with peripheral neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes. The researchers found that this massage helped improve people’s balance.
They believe that this is because it improved blood circulation, which, in turn, stimulates the somatosensory system. This is a system that plays a major role in balance.
5. Improves range of motion
Thai massage incorporates yoga-like stretches to reduce stress and improve circulation. The gradual, gentle stretching will enhance the person’s flexibility over time, allowing a greater range of motion.
Thai massage may also improve the circulation of the fluid in the joints, or synovial fluid, which reduces friction between the joints. This can improve joint mobility and range of motion.
Athletes are prone to fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and injury during their training. That is why many athletes work with specialized sports massage therapists.
Sports massage combines assisted stretches and various massage techniques to treat sports injuries and improve an athlete’s range of motion. Practitioners will often use assisted stretching to target a specific area of the body or a particular muscle group.
Thai massage, on the other hand, gradually stretches the whole body, allowing the person to relax. The dynamic stretches that Thai massage practitioners use may offer deeper, more restorative stretches than some assisted stretching techniques of sports massage.
Relaxation combined with the energizing and invigorating effects of Thai massage help people feel mentally and physically restored.
Thai massage also improves circulation, which brings more oxygen to muscles and other tissues. This may prevent injuries and improve the athlete’s ability to recover after intense training.
A good way of visualizing Thai massage is by imagining that someone is arranging the body into different yoga poses.
For a Thai massage, the client usually lies on the floor. A licensed massage therapist will slowly work the client’s body through various stretches. The therapist may use their hands, knees, legs, or feet to help manipulate the person’s body into different positions.
This should not cause pain or discomfort, but a person should alert their massage therapist if they do experience either of these things.
People do not need to prepare for a Thai massage in advance, but they should consider the following advice:
- Try to arrive about 10 minutes early to fill out any paperwork before the appointment.
- Inform the practitioner about any significant medical history, because Thai massage is not safe for some people with certain health conditions.
- Come to the appointment wearing loose-fitting or athletic clothing. Try to avoid tight clothing because it can cause discomfort and limit the range of motion during the massage.
Thai massage also uses energy work, which involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to open channels that will improve the flow of energy throughout the body.
Side effects and risks
While Thai massage has many health benefits, the technique also has limits.
Due to its impact on the circulatory system, people with the following health conditions should consult their healthcare provider before seeking a Thai massage:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- neurological diseases that affect the spinal cord
- coronary artery disease
Trained massage therapists can adjust the intensity and pressure to suit their clients. However, a person should avoid Thai massage while recovering from an injury. Even at the lowest intensity, Thai massage can sometimes cause further injury to the body.
People who have cancer, are pregnant, or are recovering from surgery should not undergo a Thai massage. The physical intensity of this massage technique could lead to health complications or worsen preexisting injuries.
Despite its ancient origins, Thai massage remains a relatively new technique in Western culture. Recent research has revealed that Thai massage is associated with many health benefits, such as improved circulation, an improved range of motion, and reduced levels of stress.
While a person of any age can get a Thai massage, it is not appropriate for everybody. People with certain health conditions, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, those who are pregnant, and those who have just undergone surgery should not get a Thai massage, as the technique could pose health risks.
If someone is considering getting a Thai massage but is concerned that their medical history may prevent them from doing so, they should consult their healthcare provider first.
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