Skill-Building for Thai Bodyworkers: Basic Anatomy Terms

Skill-Building for Thai Bodyworkers: Basic Anatomy Terms



Basic Anatomical Terms

With Vanessa Hazzard

Hello Healers!
Welcome to the first installment of my monthly series.  The Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series was designed to formally introduce you to your body! You will sharpen your anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology skills…while learning cool Thai Massage techniques to address the body’s needs. Each series will include:

  • Common conditions, disorders, body system, and/or injuries
  • Physical anatomy as it correlates to the sen lines
  • Applying Thai Massage techniques that will address featured condition(s)

If you have taken Thai massage classes before, you know that this modality was not designed for “spot treatments”. The goal is to remove stagnation within the sen lines (energy pathways) so that lom, or energy (which actually translates to “wind”), can flow more freely. This means that the client experiences a sense of ease (as opposed to dis-ease). This is done with compressions, massage, stretching, and movement. These physical techniques have energetic intentions. That being said, for the sake of making learning about the body more attainable, we will focus on one portion of the body at a time. The techniques shown should be included in a full body sequence for best results.
Who is This Series for?
The Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series is specifically for people that have taken at least one Thai massage course and do not have a strong background in anatomy. It is also beneficial if you have taken an anatomy course and wish to strengthen your knowledge. As I mentioned above, while Thai massage is an energetic modality, you are still manipulating the physical body. This series will help you know the names of things you are touching!
So, before we jump into specific conditions, let’s talk about basic anatomical terms. This will help you to navigate future blogs. Use this specific entry as a resource…it’ll make your life easier. I’ve included a PDF of this blog for future reference. We will be discussing:

  • The names of each directional plane
  • Movements within those planes

Basic Anatomical Terms


Planes are three imaginary lines penetrating the body to aid in visualizing the spatial relationship.
Sagittal– lengthwise cut dividing the body into left and right portions. Mid-sagittal means the cut divides the body into equal left and right halves.
Transverse or Horizontal – perpendicular to the sagittal plane.  Divides the body into superior (upper) and inferior (lower) portions.
Frontal or Coronal – perpendicular to both the sagittal and transverse planes.  Divides the body into anterior (front) and posterior (back) portions.

Movements: Sagittal Plane

Decreases the angle between two bones. It bends a joint, or brings two bones closer together.
Ex. My arm in the photo (elbow flexion). My model’s arms (shoulder flexion).
Increases the angle between two bones by straightening or opening a joint. Hyperextension is when a joint extends beyond its normal range of motion.
Ex. My model’s arms are in elbow extension.

A movement of the ankle that lifts the toes towards head.
Ex. Flexing the foot in a calf stretch

Plantar Flexion
A movement of the ankle that points the foot toward the ground.
Ex. Pressing the gas pedal

Movements: Frontal or Coronal Plane

Moves the limb(s) away from the midline (think “take away”)
Ex. Leg abduction to palm press leg muscles
Moves the limb(s) toward the midline (think “adding towards the body”)
Ex. Leg adduction to place the leg back to original position after performing technique

Ulnar Deviation

Radial Deviation

 Abduction and adduction at the wrist joint is called “ulnar deviation” and “radial deviation”.

Ulnar deviation is when it angles towards the pinkie finger side.
Radial deviation is when the hand is palm up and angles towards the thumb side.

Flexing the head or vertebral column to the side. This is a head and vertebral column movement only.

Movements: Transverse Plane

Turning from side to side. This is a head and vertebral column movement only.
Example: Shaking your head “no”

Medial/Lateral Rotation (Sometimes referred to as internal and external rotation)
These photos show internal and external rotation of the hip joint.
Medial rotates the body part towards the body.

Lateral rotates the body part away from the body.

Movement of the sole of the foot inward toward the midline.
Example: Twisting the foot at the ankle joint towards midline of the body.

Movement of the sole of the foot outward away from the midline.
Example: Twisting the foot at the ankle joint away from midline of the body.

Movement of the hand that turns the palm upward.

Movement of the hand that turns the palm downward.

Horizontal Adduction
A movement that adds the limb towards the body in the horizontal or transverse plane.

Horizontal Adduction
A movement that adds the limb towards the body in the horizontal or transverse plane.

Turns the part in a complete circle.

Thumb Opposition
This is the only joint that performs this motion. Thumb opposition is when the thumb and fingertips touch.

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Massaging My Mom After Surgery

A couple weeks ago, my mom had a partial gastrectomy. This surgery removed the lower part of her stomach. It is becoming a more widely used weight loss intervention. While the surgery went well, there was obviously a lot of discomfort. My mom had a hard time getting comfortable and having a full night’s rest. She was often woken up in the middle of the night from all of the pain she was experiencing.
I stopped by to see how she was feeling, and she told me about the discomfort and lack of sleep. She asked me to rub her back. Now, my mom, rarely asks for massages, and when she does, she only wants the lightest pressure ever. She’s the most sensitive client I’ve ever had…and I’ve had plenty over the years! The slightest bit of pressure, and she’s jumping off the table. So, I knew if she was asking me for a massage, she must’ve been in a lot of pain. Without hesitation, I gently rubbed her back in the area that was hurting. Because she can’t lay flat yet, I massaged her while she was sitting in a chair. The massage was less than 5 minutes but it made a world of difference.
The next day, on Facebook, she posted,
“Happiness is having a daughter that is the best massage therapist there for you when you need her most. Thank you Vanessa Hazzard.  I slept like a baby last night and no pain medication. Love you to the moon.”
While I love helping all of my clients become pain free, it’s nothing like helping out those closest to you. Not only is my mom the person that introduced me to anatomy and kinesiology when I was 10 years old, she is the backbone (pun intended) of our family. To be able to help the person that has helped countless others, both professionally and personally, is an honor. She’s since told me that she is counting down the days until the doctor gives her the okay to get deeper massage work on her back. Because of this, I’ve been doing my research!
I’d like to share some of it with you, in case you also end up working with post-surgical partial gastrectomy clients:

  • According to a study at Chungnam National University Hospital, the degree of pain [after the partial gastrectomy] was significantly reduced according to post operation day and quality of sleep was significantly increased (Asian Oncology Nursing 2012).
  • Complications such as postoperative bleeding, delayed gastric emptying, early satiety, and nutritional deficiencies may occur in some patients.
  • Abdominal massage can help with hypertrophic scarring (adhesions)
  • In most cases, after 6 weeks post-surgery, clients are able to receive massage. Any time before then, request a doctor’s note.
  • Once client is cleared for massage, depending on sensitivity to pressure, they may need to be worked on side-lying. (They may be able to sleep on their stomach, but sleeping and having pressure applied while laying prone, are two different sensations. Always check in with them, and adjust accordingly.)

I’d like to hear about any experiences you’ve had working with post -surgical clients. Tell me about it in the comments section!
Asian Oncol Nurs. 2012 Feb;12(1):69-76. Korean.

I Gave My 8-Year-Old a Deep Tissue Massage

My son, Phoenix, and I were coming up the stairs after grocery shopping. When we get inside our apartment, he says, “Ah, I hurt my back mommy! I need a massage immediately!” Now, my son is a bit dramatic…and by a bit, I mean extremely. You would think the sky was falling…all day, every day! That being said, he’s never asked for a massage for pain relief before. In fact, I didn’t even think he knew that massage could do that!

 Phoenix falls asleep ANYWHERE!

Most parents massage their kids when they are little. Being that Phoenix has a massage therapist for a mom, he is no different, except maybe in the way I use massage. Phoenix was never the kid that needed a relaxing massage to go to sleep. This kid never had a problem sleeping! He’s been sleeping through the night ever since he was a few weeks old. I know, I was super lucky! In fact, if I tried to cuddle or massage him when he was falling asleep, he’d get agitated. When I do massage Phoenix, it’s after he showers. I use really thick oils and creams for his incredibly dry skin and eczema, so the massage is somewhat vigorous.  He’s also used to receiving Thai massage on occasion (which I’ll talk about in a later blog). Those are the only two contexts he knows massage…so I thought.
Given all this, I was kind of shocked when he ask for a massage because his back hurt. When he flung the bag of groceries on the floor, he did so in a way that hurt his right rhomboid. I sat him on my lap, and brought his arm across his body. I pressed his right pec backward while manipulating his scapula, then I massaged his right rhomboid and levator scapula from that position. He let me know when I found the spots that hurt, and then breathed a sigh of relief once the pain was gone.  While massaging Phoenix, I realized that I’ve never done deep work on a body his size before. I was surprised to feel how tense his little muscles were. The whole process was quite intuitive though…and kind of fun!

silly phoenix

Phoenix getting ready to take over the world!

There’s a lot of myths about deep tissue massage (again, the subject of a later blog), one of which I’ve heard is that you shouldn’t do that particular kind of massage on minors, or smaller people. I’m not sure how that myth got started. Working on my son, who is both small, and a minor, I can tell you that idea is erroneous. There was no way I could’ve given Phoenix a fluffy “spa massage” and still alleviated his pain. The dude needed the works!
Even though the massages Phoenix received in the past weren’t aimed at pain relief, the fact that he had decreased pain as
a side effect, prompted him to ask for a massage when he was in pain. I’m glad that he instinctively knew what to do to take care of himself.