5 Effects of Thai Massage
What is Thai Massage?
Thai massage and stretching techniques have been used for centuries to restore energy and peace to the mind and body. Traditionally this ancient massage technique involves deep pressure along the body’s energy lines, muscle stretching and assisted yoga postures, releasing stress and tension, and improving flexibility.
The Science: Does it even work?
Thai massage has been used for years and has plenty of anecdotal evidence to support it, however the theory behind it is still heavily debated. In Thailand it is believed that the body has 10 main energy channels that can become blocked, causing pain and dysfunction. Thai massage therapists apply pressure along these lines to open them up and allow the normal flow of energy to resume. Whilst there is very little evidence to support the notion of the channels and elements theory, there is plenty of research to show that thai massage does actually work for other reasons.
1. Reduces stress
The application of pressure stimulates pressure receptors around the body, enhancing vagal activity and reducing cortisol levels. In other words, it actually makes us less stressed on a physiological level.
2. Lowers blood pressure
Massage therapy increases parasympathetic activity and the HPA system, thereby reducing our heart rate and breathing rate.
3. Reduces Pain
When something hurts we instinctively rub it; This is known as the pain-gate theory. Touching the body stimulates local receptors that go up to the brain, overriding the pain signals back down to an area.
4. Mood Booster
Human touch stimulates the release of oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone, which has an antidepressant effect. Massage also increases the delta wave frequency in our brains, helping us to sleep better and relax more.
5. Improved Flexibility
The passive stretches increase the range of movement available to the joints, and realigns disorganised ‘knotty’ connective tissue fibres that cause stiffness.
Traditional thai massage is usually carried out fully clothed, and without massage oil. Most places will provide thai massage ‘pyjamas’, but take comfortable clothing just in case. Silk poultices containing medicinal herbs and spices are occasionally used to warm and detoxify the body. The heat opens the pores of the skin, allowing the natural medicine heal the body, whilst the fragrant aroma of lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger and turmeric relaxes and revitalises the mind.
Thai massage is usually deeper and stronger, but the pain should be tolerable. If you are suffering with back pain or a recent injury be very careful – beware of a knee in your back, elbow digging in your shoulder blade or someone bending things the wrong way! As with any treatment, feedback is essential. Don’t be afraid to tell your therapist if something hurts, or if they should avoid treating certain areas. Most experienced therapists know how hard to push you, but there is always the possibility of an inexperienced practitioner who might be causing more harm than good. ‘No pain, no gain’ should not be applied here! Another reason a sound understanding of anatomy is essential for all types of massage.
It is normal to feel a little sore after treatment – drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins released during the treatment.
2. Massage therapy: understanding the mechanisms of action on blood pressure. A scoping review. Nelson NL.J Am Soc Hypertens. 2015 Oct; 9(10):785-93.
I am a Four Seasons Visiting Master again! I will be working in Chiang Mai, Thailand from the 13th – 22nd April 2018.