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What is Thai massage?

Thai Massage is a style of traditional medicine that uses acupressure along Sen and passive stretches.

Thai Massage is new to western spas, but it has been a style of alternative medicine for hundreds of years. A Thai massage is typically a full-body massage lasting up to two hours. It uses a combination of passive stretches and gentle pressure along the body’s energy line system to increase flexibility, relieve muscle and joint tension, and provide relaxation. Recipients wear loose-fitting clothing and lie on a massage mat or other cushioned floor mat.

Thai massage is found everywhere in Thailand for a low price, both in spas and kiosks on the streets. There are many schools where you can learn this style of massage. The most famous school is the Wat Po Thai Traditional Massage School, located in the reclining Buddha temple in Bangkok. Many people also travel to Chiang Mai to study at the International Training Massage School and the Old Medicine Hospital.

The popularity of Thai massage is increasing in Canada. Many larger cities have clinics or spas designed for massage on the floor. Other clinics offer a modified form of this massage where Thai massage practitioners work on a massage table rather than on the floor.


Traditional Thai Massage

Folk Thai massage is the most common style of Thai Traditional Massage in Thailand, originating and applied within family households and in the public arena.

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Traditional Thai Massage

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A typical Thai treatment begins at the feet and works up the body. Practitioners apply acupressure along energy channels using their hands, elbows, arms, knees, and feet. And they stretch the recipient by moving their body into yoga-like positions that help increase the range of motion. This stretching is why Thai massage is sometimes called lazy man’s yoga or assisted yoga.

Thai massage removes blockages that inhibit the body’s energy force (Prana). Using a combination of stretching and acupressure on pressure points and along energy channels (called Sen), a Thai massage practitioner works to restore balance to the body.

Thai massage has apparent benefits for increasing flexibility and range of motion (ROM), but there are other benefits. The stretches help relax your muscles, loosen your body and improve the ROM in all your joints. 

The movement in this style of massage helps to enhance blood circulation in the body, which brings more oxygen to your brain and lowers the chance of blood clotting. And a Thai massage encourages slow and deep breathing that balances your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The result is that your body functions more efficiently and faster.

A monthly Thai massage is helpful for those who do not get enough physical exercise. But the effects of regular Thai massage are cumulative. If the goal is health maintenance, recipients will feel better and have less stress and tension by having a Thai massage every week or two.


Nuad Boran means traditional Thai massage in Thai, and Nuat Phaen means Thai-style massage. Nuat Phaen Boran means ancient-style massage. And Nuat Boran translates as traditional Thai medical massage.

Folk Thai Massage

Folk Thai massage is the most common style of Thai Traditional Massage in Thailand, originating and applied within family households and in the public arena.

Royal Thai Massage

Royal Thai massage, initially intended for royalty but now endorsed by the Ministry of Thai Medicine, maintains a more significant distance between the practitioner and recipient.


The massage styles vary from north to south in Thailand. Northern Thai massage is sometimes called Lanna style or northern style and has many unique modalities. Massage in southern Thailand is sometimes called Bangkok massage or southern style.

Herbal Compress

Herbal Compress massage (Luk Pra Kob) uses a hot compress of medicinal herbs wrapped in cotton.

Tok Sen

Thai Tok Sen massage uses a wooden mallet and wedge made from the wood of a tamarind tree.

Fire Cupping

The Thai cupping massage technique uses glass, silicone, or bamboo cups that suction the skin.


Thai Oil Massage treatments mix Thai Traditional Massage, Ayurvedic and Western massage and Thai herbalism.

Foot Reflexology

Thai foot reflexology applies pressure to areas of the feet using thumbs, fingers, knuckles and a wooden massage stick.

Yam Khang

Thai Fire Therapy is a Lanna-style Thai healing practice in which a practitioner uses fire, oils, and their feet.

Ched Hak

Ched Hak is an ancient Lanna technique to remove toxins from the body by wiping or marking.


Thai Table massage is an adaption of Traditional Thai massage techniques for recipients lying on a table.


Thai Chair massage is an adaption of Traditional Thai massage techniques for recipients seated in a chair.


Tradition incorrectly traces Thai massage back 2,500 years to Jivaka Kumarabhaccha, a physician in India who was a contemporary of Buddha. Thai massage more likely began to evolve around one thousand years ago in present-day Thailand.

Most attribute the origin of this Thai massage to Buddhist monks. But Indian, Chinese, and other Southeast Asian traditional medicine systems also influenced Thai massage.

Traditionally, Buddhist monks performed Thai massage in the temples accompanied by other Ayurvedic healing practices like dietary advice, herbs and spiritual counselling. Families also practiced Thai massage at home and passed down their massage techniques from generation to generation.

Buddhist monks wrote formal manuscripts about Thai massage in ancient Pali. Many of these manuscripts were destroyed in 1767 by the Burmese invaders. Then, in 1832, King Rama III instructed Thai therapists to use the epigraphs at Wat Pho to reclaim the lost techniques.

Modern Thai massage is the product of a 19th-century synthesis of various healing traditions from all over Thailand. Since Thai massage practitioners have no single Thai massage routine or framework, a Thai massage in one region can differ from a Thai massage in another.

The Ministry of Education in Thailand regulates professional Thai massage practitioners. The Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI) promotes basic standards of study and practice of traditional Thai massage worldwide. THAI also offers information about Thai healing arts to the general public. The Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC) provides national governance in Canada.

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