Benefits of Thai Yoga Massage

Young woman getting traditional thai stretching massage by therapist
Thai massage includes some partner yoga poses. (Image: llhedgehogll/iStock/Getty Images)

When you think of massage, you probably expect to be a passive participant -- lying under a blanket as a masseuse presses and kneads your tight muscles. However, a Thai massage is a whole different experience. Yes, there's a masseuse using his palms to knead your muscles, but you'll also be twisted, stretched and have feet, thumbs and fist work your body. Asanas, or yoga poses, are also part of this Eastern massage tradition.

It may differ from the massage techniques to which you're accustomed, but Thai massage can be just as beneficial -- if not more so. The practice promotes positive energy circulation, so you feel balanced and rejuvinated. Thai yoga massage has numerous other benefits too, including reduction of pain and stress.

What is Thai Massage?

Thai massage is traditionally performed on the floor -- you lie on a padded mat as the masseuse guides you through partner yoga poses and manipulates your body into stretches. Some traditional massage techniques, such as acupressure, compression and joint mobilization, are also used, but no lotions or oils are applied and you remain fully clothed for the session.

Some centers may modify traditional Thai massage to be performed on a table due to regulations, space limitations or for patients who are unable to get up and down from the floor easily.

The man has massage - stretching move. Towel setup with spa flowers.
Stretching is an important component of Thai massage. (Image: Gudenko-Alex/iStock/Getty Images)

Enhanced Energy Flow

Thai massage works off the belief that tightened muscles lead to the diminished flow of energy in your body. When energy can't flow freely, you become inflexible, suffer pain and feel stiff. Overtime, this leads to shortened muscles and connective tissue that affects your posture, immunity and organ function -- all of which speed up aging and disability.

The pressing techniques used in Thai massage are designed to increase blood circulation to facilitate the better flow of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. It also helps your body naturally get rid of waste, such as metabolic byproducts and carbon dioxide, more efficiently.

Adding stretching to the massage process helps relax the muscles further, so they naturally regain natural flexibility and tone. You'll relieve chronic stiffness and experience improved mobility.

Pain Relief

Thai massage is an alternative way for people to deal with chronic pain, and can be quite effective for temporary relief showed a review of the research published in 2015 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. In the six studies reviewed, people reported a 25 to 80 percent reduction of pain that lasted up to 15 weeks following a Thai massage protocol.

Thai massage has been particularly effective as an intervention for people with scapulocostal syndrome, a painful condition that strikes the back of the shoulder blade. A study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in 2012 showed that people with the condition who participated in a total of nine 30-minute Thai massage sessions over three weeks, improved in terms of pain intensity, pain threshold and muscle tension. The Thai massage participants reported better pain relief outcomes than a group that underwent more traditional physical therapy treatments.

Professional thai masseuse is stretching female body. She is raising leg to her back. Young woman is sitting on floor. Her eyes are closed with pleasure
Certain postures relieve tightness in the mid back. (Image: YakobchukOlena/iStock/Getty Images)

Headaches

A specific type of Thai massage that involves applying pressure against specific meridians in the body, called court-type Thai massage, was shown as an effective treatment for people suffering from chronic tension headaches. The study, published in a 2015 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, explains that the relief may be attributed to how Thai massage stimulates blood and lymph circulation and relaxes the sympathetic nervous system.

Stress Reduction

More traditional therapeutic massage is often prescribed as a way to reduce stress and induce relaxation. Thai massage affords these same benefits. A study published in Medical Science Monitor Basic Research in 2015 tested the ability of Thai massage to reduce enzymatic markers of stress and, thus, a person's overall stress level. Researchers found that Thai massage was slightly more effective than simply resting in reducing psychological stress.

Young woman getting traditional thai stretching massage by therapist
Thai massage can include postures not appropriate for certain populations. (Image: llhedgehogll/iStock/Getty Images)

Precautions

Although Thai Massage offers multiple benefits, it may be contraindicated for some populations, including patients with cancer, who are pregnant and those suffering from back injury, such as a herniated disk. Also, if you are weak and infirmed, Thai massage in unlikely to be the right type of therapy for you.

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