Massages are the stuff of holiday dreams and exotic getaways. But what if you knew that the massage could itself be almost as good as a workout, arguably better? A Thai massage at the hands of an expert masseuse promises to do wonders for your mind and body. Here’s why you should try it out!
What Is Thai Massage?
Thai massage is a form of vigorous massage that dates back thousands of years. The ancient healing system aims to rejuvenate and energize you. A therapist stimulates energy flow and clears “blockages” that are responsible for stress and tension. This is done through the use of gentle yoga poses and stretches that the therapist does by manipulating your limbs for you. For instance, stretches that lengthen your spine also help ensure smooth energy flow in the area, easing lower back pain. The massage of your face and head targets acupressure points that can help with specific problems in other parts of your body. Unlike other massages that need you to disrobe, with Thai massage you are fully clothed.
The treatment strengthens the circulatory system, relaxes your nerves, and relieves pain, besides helping maintain overall good health. It also helps relieve anxiety.1 Here’s a look at 8 benefits of a Thai massage and how much it could help you.
1. Reduces Lower Back Pain
Chronic lower back pain can be a nightmare to live with. But Thai massage could help. As one study found, patients with a lower back pain who were treated with the traditional Thai massage fared better than those who received joint mobilization therapy. While both treatments improved pain scores, the pain eased to a greater extent in the Thai massage group.2
2. Improves Range Of Motion
Thai massage hinges on assisted yoga poses to stretch your body. The stretching is accompanied by massage and pressing of specific pressure points. Research has found that like Swedish massage, Thai massage too can help improve the range of motion of your limbs and other parts of the body. Test subjects experienced a significant improvement in their shoulder and ankle rotation and flexion.3
3. Improves Mood And Eases Anxiety
Massages are a popular therapy from alternative and complementary medicine to treat mood disorders. It can ease both depression and anxiety.4 Researchers have found that Thai massage can help improve psychological parameters like mood, anxiety, tension, and even confusion or bewilderment. While Swedish massage is better known and more widely used in the United States, Thai massage could potentially be just as effective for these problems.5
4. Reduces Stress
Salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) levels is an enzyme found in your oral cavity that is an indicator of stress. When you experience acute psychological stress, your levels of sAA also go up.6 Thai massage has been found to significantly bring down levels of sAA in the body, an indication of its impact on stress levels. This deep massage also decreases levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol in the body and brings on a relaxation response.7
5. Treats Migraines And Chronic Tension-Type Headaches
In one study, people who had been diagnosed with chronic tension-type and migraine headaches were given a traditional Thai massage. The massage helped significantly decrease headache intensity in the test subjects who underwent the massage compared to those who were given a placebo ultrasound treatment.
The massage also helped increase the pain pressure threshold. In other words, the degree of tolerance to pressure before the onset of pain in their upper back muscles and posterior neck increased, indicating an improvement of the tenderness in these regions.8
6. Offers Relief For Osteoarthritis
Because of its effects on the musculoskeletal system, Thai massage can be used to help those with osteoarthritis, a condition that commonly causes joint pain in the hands, knees, lower back, and neck. As researchers found, traditional Thai massage helped improve symptoms of patients with knee osteoarthritis. Their test subjects were aged 50–85 years and were administered either Thai massage therapy or standardized physical therapy which used Swedish massage and strengthening exercises. Those who underwent Thai massage fared far better on the 6-minute walk test, a measure of improvement of the condition. Its effects on overall pain were similar to that of standardized physical therapy.9
7. Rehabilitates After Stroke
A stroke can be debilitating, leaving a person with physical deficits like motor problems as well as pain, depression, and emotional problems. Caregivers like nurses have mentioned how patients showed improvement in sleep, mood, and pain as well as ability to walk due to the reduced muscle spasms and stiffness after undergoing Thai massage treatments. In one piece of research, stroke patients who received Thai massage therapy for three months began to show signs of improvement as early as a month into the treatment. Significant improvements were found in daily activities as well as pain, mood, and sleep patterns.10
8. Improves Immune Functions
Thai massage can be performed as a dry massage without any oils. However, if you do include essential oils or aroma oils, it can bring added benefits depending on the oils you use. For instance, a lavender oil, a mood sedative, could ease anxiety and stress.11 In one study, Thai massage performed with ginger and coconut oil helped improve immune function in colorectal cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. After just three such massage sessions in a week, researchers noted an 11 percent rise in lymphocyte numbers.12
Find A Trained Therapist
Thai massage works on your circulatory and nervous system and affects your internal organs as well, which is why it is important that you only get the massage done by a trained therapist who has a good understanding of the human anatomy and how to massage and stimulate nerves and muscles.13
Who Should Avoid Thai Massage
Thai massage is a little more vigorous than many other massages. Also, as in the case of all massages, certain health conditions may exclude you from being able to try it safely. That’s because a Thai massage session may actually end up having an adverse effect on your system due to your other medical or health problems. If any of these apply to you, it may be a good idea to avoid Thai massage14:
- If you have any acute illness
- If you have hypertension
- If you are pregnant
- If you are being treated for, or have recently recovered from any kind of orthopedic condition/pain, in the joints/bones
- If you have had a surgery in the recent past or are recovering from it
- If you have a dermatological condition, sensitive skin, or a rash that could react to the use of massage oils or lotions if your therapist plans to use any
- If you are under 18
- If you are very old, this may be too strong a massage for you depending on your health
If you still wish to try it, do this only after consulting your doctor. You need to go to a trained, licensed therapist and must inform them of your health condition beforehand.
|↑1||Ryan, Colleen, Boonyong Keiwkarnka, and Manirul Islam Khan. “Traditional Thai massage: unveiling the misconceptions and revealing the health benefits.” Journal of Public Health and Development 1, no. 2 (2003): 69-75.|
|↑2||Furlan, Andrea D., Marta Imamura, Trish Dryden, and Emma Irvin. “Massage for low back pain: an updated systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Back Review Group.” Spine 34, no. 16 (2009): 1669-1684.|
|↑3, ↑5, ↑14||Cowen, Virginia S., Lee Burkett, Joshua Bredimus, Daniel R. Evans, Sandra Lamey, Theresa Neuhauser, and Lawdan Shojaee. “A comparative study of Thai massage and Swedish massage relative to physiological and psychological measures.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 10, no. 4 (2006): 266-275.|
|↑4, ↑7||Sripongngam, Thanarat, Wichai Eungpinichpong, Dhavee Sirivongs, Jaturat Kanpittaya, Kamonwan Tangvoraphonkchai, and Sutin Chanaboon. “Immediate effects of traditional Thai massage on psychological stress as indicated by salivary alpha-amylase levels in healthy persons.” Medical science monitor basic research 21 (2015): 216.|
|↑6||Petrakova, Liubov, Bettina K. Doering, Sabine Vits, Harald Engler, Winfried Rief, Manfred Schedlowski, and Jan-Sebastian Grigoleit. “Psychosocial stress increases salivary alpha-amylase activity independently from plasma noradrenaline levels.” PloS one 10, no. 8 (2015): e0134561.|
|↑8||Chatchawan, Uraiwan, Wichai Eungpinichpong, Suparat Sooktho, Somsak Tiamkao, and Junichiro Yamauchi. “Effects of thai traditional massage on pressure pain threshold and headache intensity in patients with chronic tension-type and migraine headaches.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 20, no. 6 (2014): 486-492.|
|↑9||Peungsuwan, Punnee, Phawinee Sermcheep, Papatsara Harnmontree, Wichai Eungpinichpong, Rungthip Puntumetakul, Uraiwan Chatchawan, and Junichiro Yamauchi. “The effectiveness of Thai exercise with traditional massage on the pain, walking ability and QOL of older people with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial in the community.” Journal of physical therapy science 26, no. 1 (2014): 139-144.|
|↑10||Sibbritt, David, Pamela van der Riet, Saowapa Dedkhard, and Kannapatch Srithong. “Rehabilitation of stroke patients using traditional Thai massage, herbal treatments and physical therapies.” Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao 10, no. 7 (2012): 743-50.|
|↑11||Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).|
|↑12||Khiewkhern, Santisith, Supannee Promthet, Aemkhea Sukprasert, Wichai Eunhpinitpong, and Peter Bradshaw. “Effectiveness of aromatherapy with light thai massage for cellular immunity improvement in colorectal cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.” Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 14, no. 6 (2013): 3903-3907.|
|↑13||Subcharoen, Pennapa. “Thai traditional medicine as a holistic medicine.” Traditional Medicine in Asia (2001): 301.|