Thai Massage: What to Expect, Benefits and Risks

Written by: Kevin Cash



Time to read 9 min

What’s so special about these Thai massages that everyone’s talking about? Are the benefits really worth it?

Discover the unique blend of stretching and yoga poses in Thai massage, enhancing flexibility and relieving joint pain. With no oils or lotions required, it's a hands-on therapy that rejuvenates you. This massage keeps you dressed in comfortable attire as the therapist works on your energy lines and muscles with their hands and feet.

Find peace and relaxation amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life with a Thai massage. Learn about its techniques, benefits, potential risks, and what to anticipate during your session.

What Is Thai Massage?

Therapist performing thai massage

Thai massage originates from India and dates back between 2,500 and 7,000 years. It combines elements of yoga, Ayurvedic practices, and Traditional Chinese medicine.

The practitioner applies pressure and guides you through stretches and poses during the Thai massage session. The masseuse uses the body’s energy lines (sen) to stimulate acupoints and guide the massage.

Thai massage occurs on a comfy mat on the floor instead of a massage table. Unlike other massage types, you stay fully dressed in loose, comfy clothes. Wearing relaxed clothing allows the therapist to move and stretch your body more easily.

Thai massage benefits include:

  1. Increased flexibility

  2. Reduced muscle and joint pain

  3. Less stress and anxiety

  4. More energy

  5. Better circulation

  6. Improved sleep quality

We’ll get more into the benefits further below.

Thai Massage Techniques

Therapist stretching arms and back

Thai massage blends stretching and yoga-like poses, involving twists, pulls, and rocking motions. These moves aim to enhance flexibility, increase range of motion, and improve blood circulation.

Thai massage is unique for its combined use of compression and acupressure. The therapist uses hands, thumbs, elbows, and sometimes feet to apply pressure to acupressure points along the body's energy lines. This clears the body of any blockages, allowing for improved energy flow.

This type of massage is also different from Western massage techniques. It doesn't use oils or deep muscle kneading, and you stay fully clothed.

Every part of your body gets attention in a Thai massage, from toes to head, even your abdomen and spine. The aim is to make you feel better all over by easing tension and stress everywhere.

Thai Massage Benefits

Let's talk about the benefits of Thai massage. This old way of healing has many advantages, like making you more flexible and improving your overall health.

Let’s take a look at the positive results from a traditional Thai massage.

1. Lowers Stress and Anxiety

Thai massage is great for reducing stress, and there's proof. Research shows it can lower stress and anxiety. Findings show that Thai massage made a big difference in reducing the stress marker sAA in saliva (source: 2015 study).

Studies also show that Thai massage relaxes people so much that they sometimes fall asleep during the session. This relaxation also reduces anxiety and makes people feel more peaceful.

The mental relaxation from Thai massage is important for its health benefits. It helps keep our blood pressure in check and our hearts strong.

2. Reduces Back Pain

Woman happy with his back pain relief

Thai massage can help reduce back pain with its yoga-like stretches. That improves blood and oxygen flow to the muscles which helps fight muscle adhesions and pain from within.

It is also proven that Thai massage greatly reduces back pain. Its effects last for weeks, showing it's a good long-term solution without drugs (source).

Thai massage also helps the areas that support your back to reduce the pain. It targets key pain areas like the inner thighs and abdomen. This makes sure all areas affecting your back are dealt with.

3. Reduces Headache Pain

Woman getting head massage

Thai massage offers a soothing hands-on approach to alleviate the pain of headaches which can disrupt your daily life.

Thai massage targets areas like the neck with stretches and pressure points. This helps relax neck muscles, which can cause tension headaches and migraines.

Findings show that receiving Thai massages for three weeks reduced the intensity of headaches (source). It was also revealed that Thai massage helps with chronic headaches, reducing tissue hardness.

The methods of Thai massage can also reduce stress and anxiety, which are common causes of headaches.

4. Increase Flexibility

Woman getting stretched by therapist

Thai massage is a great way to make your body more flexible and improve how well you are able to move. Here's how:

  • Improves Blood Flow - Thai massage makes blood flow better. This helps muscles function better and joints move smoother.

  • Stretching and Yoga Poses - Thai massage ensures every part of your body gets good gentle stretches. It's done slowly, making it easier for you to move better over time.

  • Activates Joints - The massage helps your joints improve how fluid moves around them. This fluid reduces friction, making your mobility smoother and easier.

Thai massage can really help your flexibility if you are active. This helps decrease the chances of getting hurt.

5. Boost Energy

Woman running with full of energy

Thai massage is great for boosting your energy levels because it combines yoga-like poses with invigorating techniques. A study comparing it with Swedish massage found that Thai massage really increased both physical energy and mental alertness.

The focus of Thai Massage is using hands-on techniques to improve the flow of energy. It believes that stretching, pressing specific points, and improving blood circulation can all help give you a significant energy boost.

Unlike some massages that focus more on relaxation, Thai massage is all about boosting your body and mind energy. It focuses on moves that help get more oxygen and nutrients to your body.

6. Relieves Joint Stiffness

Woman getting stretched sideways

Thai massage is great for easing joint stiffness naturally, allowing you to move more smoothly and less painfully. It uses stretching and pressure on certain points to improve joint mobility and synovial fluid flow around your joints.

People who received a Thai massage and did wand exercises felt a lot less pain in a study about Thai massage and knee osteoarthritis. They also found it easier to walk, which means Thai massage helps with stiffness, making everyday activities easier (source).

Another study found that Thai massage works as well as ibuprofen for relieving pain in knee osteoarthritis. This shows how hands-on methods can help with joint pain (source).

7. Increased Circulation

The stretches and pressure in Thai massage wake up your blood and lymph systems. This means more oxygen-rich blood flows throughout your body, from your head to your toes.

It was discovered that Thai foot massage can assist people with peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes. It showed that the improved circulation from Thai massage offers more than just a moment of feeling good (source).

The boost in blood flow from Thai massage has great effects. It helps cells grow and keeps the heart healthy. It also improves balance and flexibility.

8. May Help Stroke Patients

Thai massage has the potential to benefit individuals who have survived a stroke. Studies suggest it may improve daily life, mood, pain, and sleep for those recovering from a stroke.

Research found that using Thai massage, herbal remedies, and physical therapies together for three months helped stroke patients a lot.

Thai massage works alongside regular stroke treatments to help people recover more completely.

9. May Relieve Urinary Tract Symptoms

It's an interesting fact that Thai massage might help with urinary tract problems. Studies suggest that this massage therapy can affect certain markers in the body that help with urinary issues.

A study found changes in the levels of a marker called MCP-1 after a Thai massage. It showed reduced inflammation in the urinary system (source).

Considering Thai massage as a solution can be useful for people who have urinary issues. This traditional massage is a natural and gentle way to relieve discomfort.

You should still consult with your doctor to see if this might be an option for you.

Risks of Thai Massage

Therapist getting ready to massage client

Thai massage has lots of health benefits, but it's not suitable for everyone. It's important to talk to your healthcare provider before scheduling a session if you have certain health problems. This is important for those with health issues such as:

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Osteoporosis

  • Neurological diseases

  • Coronary artery disease

It's not a good idea to try Thai massage when you're recovering from an injury. The massage could be too intense and might harm your injury. The same goes for people with cancer, pregnant women, and those recovering from surgery.

Thai massage might also influence your heart rate, which could be unsafe if you have heart problems. There's a risk of muscle or bone injury if the massage is too rough, especially without an experienced massage practitioner.

Consult with a licensed massage therapist to ensure your Thai massage is safe and helpful. This is important to handle the intensity of Thai massage and its impact on health conditions.

What to Expect During the Massage Session

Massage Therapist holding client

Getting ready for a Thai massage is easy. Wear loose, comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely. You don't need any special outfit.

The massage is done on a soft massage mat on the floor. This setup helps the massage therapist use their hands, elbows, knees, and feet to press and stretch your body.

Here's what happens during the massage:

  1. Starts From the Feet - The massage starts with your feet and goes up to your head. The therapist uses acupressure techniques and passive stretching as they move along your body.

  2. Incorporates Yoga-Like Moves - Next, you'll experience gentle guidance into different poses similar to yoga. These poses are aimed at improving your flexibility and increasing your range of motion.

  3. Firm Pressure and Gentle Stretching - Throughout the massage, the therapist will press firmly on pressure points and gently stretch your muscles. This helps loosen tight muscles and relax your body. They also won't use oils.

Thai massage sessions can be 60 to 120 minutes long. Longer sessions are good for fully relaxing and boosting energy flow. You'll feel very relaxed, more flexible, and less tense after your massage, giving you a peaceful and content feeling.

Thai Massage FAQs

1. What to Expect From a Full Body Thai Massage?

In a full-body Thai massage, the therapist uses their hands, elbows, knees, and feet to apply deep pressure. They also include yoga-like stretches to help you relax and release tension. You stay dressed in comfortable clothes during the massage. Many people feel more flexible, energized, and balanced inside afterwards.

2. What to Wear When Getting a Thai Massage?

Wear comfy clothes like loose pants and a t-shirt when getting a Thai massage. You don't need to undress because oils aren't used during the massage. So, you can stay fully clothed for the session, which makes it convenient and comfortable.

3. How Often Should You Get a Thai Massage?

Try getting a Thai massage once or twice a month to help your body stay healthy, reduce stress, and feel relaxed. If you have ongoing pain, try going every week or every two weeks at first.

Listening to your body and adapting your Thai massage frequency according to how you feel and any specific issues is crucial. Regular massages can be instrumental in preventing future injuries by enhancing flexibility and alleviating muscle tension.

4. How Long Is a Thai Massage Session?

Traditional Thai massages in Thailand can last up to 2 hours. In the West, they're usually shorter, lasting from 30 to 90 minutes. It's often suggested to go for a 90-minute session for a full-body treatment. You can try longer massage sessions, such as 120 minutes or more, for a more thorough and holistic experience.

5. Is Thai Massage Safe for Pregnant Women?

Thai massage can be beneficial for pregnant women only if it is done safely. Find a therapist with experience in prenatal Thai massage to avoid risky techniques such as pressing hard on the belly or intense stretches.

6. What Is the Difference Between Thai and Swedish Massage?

Thai and Swedish massages differ significantly in the core techniques used. Thai massage focuses on stretching and pressure points, targeting energy lines in the body. Swedish massage uses kneading and long strokes to relax muscles, often with oils. Thai massage is more active with stretching, while Swedish massage is calming and helps relax the body.