It’s an interesting question that gets brought up a lot, especially by people who’ve never heard of it before. And any good answer to that question starts with explaining a treatment’s purpose, the versatility of the practice as a whole, how often you get a treatment, how many times per week you do your assigned exercises, the different styles of Thai massage that are practiced, and the education or certification required of each practitioner. That’s a big list of things to consider, but let’s start to piece together an answer for our original question: “What is Thai massage good for?”
Firstly, Thai massage is an incredibly versatile practice. It’s a form of bodywork that developed in the villages of Thailand rather than in a single teacher’s school and, as a result, it takes many different shapes. It could be easily tailored to focus more on flexibility and mobility by utilizing more stretches. It could also be largely focused on releasing muscular tension and “knots.” Alternatively, Thai massage could even be focused on relaxation and stress relief for those who lead a high-stress lifestyle, or even for those who have a medical condition that makes relaxation more difficult.
Thai Massage Keeps You Healthy!
On a therapeutic level, even though there is very little (high quality) research available, some evidence does actually suggest that these massage techniques return great health benefits like “reducing pain,” as this study comparing Swedish massage to Thai-style massage finds. There’s even some evidence to suggest improvements in bone health in postmenopausal women. As long as the practitioner has the proper education and understands the necessary contraindications for practicing their art, they have the ability to achieve some profound therapeutic results.
On a personal note, in my own practice I’ve managed to facilitate recovery and resolution from chronic pains and aid in the healing process associated with certain injuries.
By looking at the range of styles of what can be considered Thai massage, we can also begin to understand that the benefits of a treatment can change significantly depending on the case. There are styles that use oils and styles that use no oils; some that require manipulation tools, and some that don’t; ones that utilize herbal compresses and ones that don’t; styles where patients are fully clothed and styles that call for just a robe or towel; and some Thai massages are performed with the feet/knees/forearms and some styles use only the hands.
We utilize all tools within our repertoire as long as there is a clearly defined purpose. We assess the needs of your body and accordingly provide the most appropriate techniques.
Thai Massage’s Benefits to Athletes
Then, there are the applications for Thai massage in athletic performance. These can factor into both a practitioner’s pre- and post-workout routines (“workout” here meaning training or any other kind of physical movement regimen), and the treatments can again be tailored to match his or her needs. Our co-director Daniela Goode has been working with athletes for a number of years now and has seen firsthand the significant performance benefits of utilizing Thai massage in both the preparation and recovery phases of training. Take a look at our 1st issue e-magazine, pages 18-19 for more information.
So, in a nutshell? Thai massage is good for pretty much everything, as long as you find the right practitioner.
Enjoy your next session!