Thai Massage is for More Than a Good Stretch

Thai Massage is for More Than a Good Stretch

By Vanessa Hazzard

Originally featured in Massage Today July 2018 Edition

Thai massage is the most well-known branch of traditional Thai medicine. What we currently practice as
Thai massage has been highly influenced by Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, along with
existing indigenous Thai healing practices. Like the Thais, wellness practitioners in the U.S. have also
blended healing practices from around the globe.
Because of the dynamic stretches, massage therapists in the West tend to gravitate towards Thai massage for
use on clients that aim to increase their flexibility. While this is one benefit, this ancient modality is way
more than just stretching.

In Thai massage theory, it is believed to be 72,000 invisible energy pathways, called sen lines, in the body.
Only 10 of those sen lines have been “mapped” on the body and are used during sessions. The sen are
conduits for an energy called, lom, which translates to “wind.” The goal is to remove stagnation within the
sen lines so that lom, can flow more freely. This means that the client experiences a sense of ease (as opposed to dis-ease). This is done through compressions, massage, stretching, movement, as well as an opening mantra recited before laying hands on the client. These physical techniques have energetic intentions. They’re meant to balance the total body and
spirit of the recipient. As research into Thai massage grows, studies have been confirming what practitioners
in Thailand have known for years. This modality is, in fact, beneficial for an array of physical and mental
conditions.

Mental Health

Thai Massage supports mental well-being and has been shown to decrease depression and anxiety. It decreases psychological stress by increasing parasympathetic activity. This activity slows the heart rate and allows the body to “rest and digest”. In 2014, a study was published in Clinical Interventions in Aging that examined how effective Traditional Thai Massage was in treating muscle spasticity, functional ability, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in stroke patients, versus conventional physical therapy (Thanakiatpinyo, et. al. 2014). The results showed that both Thai Massage and physical therapy both helped decrease muscle spasticity, functional ability, and quality of life. Yet, Thai Massage was the only modality that significantly decreased anxiety and depression.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition that is the result of abnormal brain development or brain injury. While it can occur prior to birth or during labor and delivery, each person with cerebral palsy will have varying levels of functionality. This can range from being completely immobile to only needing a minimal amount of help with daily tasks. Individuals with cerebral palsy may experience:

  • Physical limitations and loss of function and mobility
  • Difficulty with muscle coordination, control, tone, and reflexes
  • Difficulty with balance and posture
  • Fine or gross motor skills challenges

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand concluded that “Thai Massage decreased muscle spasticity and is suggested to be an alternative treatment for reducing spasticity in young people [6-18] with cerebral palsy” (Malila et.al. 2015). Although treatment and therapy can help manage the effects it has on the body, the damage to the brain is permanent.

Diabetes

People with diabetes may experience lack of balance, coordination, and muscle weakness. Peripheral neuropathy, also common amongst diabetics, is nerve damage resulting in a burning or tingling sensation, particularly in the hands and feet. Thai foot massage, which uses thumbs and reflexology sticks, has been shown to be beneficial for diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy. Results of a study performed at Khon Kaen University showed that “Thai foot massage is a viable alternative treatment for balance performance, ROM of the foot, and the foot sensation in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy” (Chatchawan et. al. 2015).

Knowing the benefits of Thai Massage outside of increasing or restoring flexibility, opens up opportunities for bodyworkers to help a wider array of clients. Whether performed in a Traditional Thai Massage, or in conjunction with western therapies, our clients will benefit from our greater understanding of the applications of this modality.

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Are you interested in studying Thai massage? Come to join me in Koh Samui, Thailand for the Thailand Healing Arts Retreat in June 2019! Learn more by clicking here!

References

Chatchawan, U., Eungpinichpong, W., et al. (2015). Effects of Thai foot massage on balance performance in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy: a randomized parallel-controlled trial. Med Sci Monit Basic Res. 2015; 21:68–75. doi: 10.12659/msmbr.894163. PMID: 25892354.

Malila, P., Seeda, K., Machom, S., Eungpinithpong, W. (2015). Effects of Thai massage on spasticity in young people with cerebral palsy. J Med Assoc Thai. 2015 Jun; 98 (Suppl 5): S92–S96.

Thanakiatpinyo, T., Suwannatrai, S., Suwannatrai, U., Khumkaew, P., Wiwattamongkol, D., Vannabhum, M., Kuptniratsaikul, V. (2014). The efficacy of traditional Thai massage in decreasing spasticity in elderly stroke patients. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 9, 1311–1319. http://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S66416

 

 

More than Stretching: Five Other Reasons Thai Massage is Good for You

More than Stretching: Five Other Reasons Thai Massage is Good for You

More than Stretching:

Five Other Reasons Thai Massage is Good for You

With Vanessa Hazzard

Originally Published in My Area Yoga 
Thai Massage has been known for its dynamic stretches, since becoming popular in the United States in the 1990s. It looks more like yoga than what we in the west consider to be massage therapy. In fact, it is often called, “lazy man’s yoga”. While people tend to flock towards Thai Massage to help with their flexibility, this ancient modality is way more than just stretching. Here are five other reasons why Thai Massage is one of the best healing modalities you should make a part of your self-care arsenal.

Mental Health

Thai Massage supports mental well-being. It is no secret that nurturing touch can be calming and is even necessary for proper human development. Massage therapy in general is known for its stress relieving qualities, and Thai Massage is no exception. It has been shown to decrease psychological stress by increasing parasympathetic activity, which slows the heart rate and allows the body to “rest and digest”. Thai Massage has also been shown to decrease depression and anxiety.

Pregnancy

Prenatal Thai Massage shares the benefits of both massage therapy and yoga. Pregnancy changes the body dramatically over nine months. Movement combined with muscle manipulation, allows the muscles and tendons to be well-conditioned in preparation for childbirth. Safely applying the techniques slowly and gently will help alleviate stress and pain. Along with decreasing muscle and joint tension, Thai Massage improves sleep and holds space for a deeper connection between mother and child. Pregnant moms that will benefit from Prenatal Thai Massage are:
  • Healthy women who are not experiencing any medical issues that would prevent them from receiving massage and/or yoga.
  • Moms that are physically active and want to remain so during pregnancy. This includes runners, yoga practitioners, dancers, professional athletes, etc.
  • Clients that are severely allergic to most massage lubricants, and wish to stay fully clothed.
  • Women that are uncomfortable disrobing due to PTSD from physical or sexual abuse.

Tension Headache

Tension headaches are triggered by stress and feels like a tight band around the head. The pain can travel to other parts of the neck and shoulders. Oftentimes, tension headaches disrupt sleep and everyday life activities. These disruptions lead to more stress…which leads to more headaches! It’s a vicious cycle! Thai Massage helps relieve tension headaches by using acupressure on the face, scalp, neck, and shoulders, along with gentle joint mobilization. The combination of these methods can decrease tissue rigidity, improve sleep, and alleviate overall feelings of pain and discomfort.

Cerebral Palsy

Prenatal Thai Massage shares the benefits of both massage therapy and yoga. Pregnancy changes the body dramatically over nine months. Movement combined with muscle manipulation, allows the muscles and tendons to be well-conditioned in preparation for childbirth. Safely applying the techniques slowly and gently will help alleviate stress and pain. Along with decreasing muscle and joint tension, Thai Massage improves sleep and holds space for a deeper connection between mother and child. Pregnant moms that will benefit from Prenatal Thai Massage are:
  • Healthy women who are not experiencing any medical issues that would prevent them from receiving massage and/or yoga.
  • Moms that are physically active and want to remain so during pregnancy. This includes runners, yoga practitioners, dancers, professional athletes, etc.
  • Clients that are severely allergic to most massage lubricants, and wish to stay fully clothed.
  • Women that are uncomfortable disrobing due to PTSD from physical or sexual abuse.

Diabetes

Tension headaches are triggered by stress and feels like a tight band around the head. The pain can travel to other parts of the neck and shoulders. Oftentimes, tension headaches disrupt sleep and everyday life activities. These disruptions lead to more stress…which leads to more headaches! It’s a vicious cycle! Thai Massage helps relieve tension headaches by using acupressure on the face, scalp, neck, and shoulders, along with gentle joint mobilization. The combination of these methods can decrease tissue rigidity, improve sleep, and alleviate overall feelings of pain and discomfort.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Month

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year. Most likely, we all have had at least one massage therapy client that has dealt with mental illness at some point in their lives. As Memorial Day approaches, I am reminded that many of us work with veterans. Those who have served in the armed forces are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder than other populations. Those symptoms may affect how they react to otherwise benign situations in the treatment room.
Last year, I attended a Yoga for Trauma and Recovery Teacher Training through the Transformation Yoga Project. I received a wealth of knowledge and met some pretty incredible people along the way. During the meditation portion of the training, I reflected on the various ways healing modalities, such as massage and yoga, can affect people living with psychological distress.
As massage therapists, we know that positive, informed touch can be transformative. To learn more about depression and massage therapy, check out my online continuing education course Depression 101.