Getting a massage typically means getting your muscles rubbed by a masseuse in order to loosen them and help you relax. But there are many different types, usually coming from very different traditions. A Thai massage is a traditional treatment from (funnily enough) Thailand.

If you get a proper Thai massage your masseuse will have been trained for at least 800 hours. In Thailand, this is the standard for all registered spas and parlours. In other countries a general rule is that the better quality generally the venue is, the more likely staff are to have been fully trained.

History

Despite the connotations of seedy parlours, Thai massage actually has a very rich tradition. It comes from a combination of ancient Indian medical principles and Buddhist relaxation rituals. In fact, it is said that the founder of the practice treated Buddha himself – presumably without a happy ending (or with an enlightening one).

The true experience will involve a number of Eastern medical experiences, combining the body manipulation itself with cupping, acupuncture and some yoga poses. You may also be in a room with a number of other patients receiving the same treatments.

How it works

In a legitimate Thai massage the receiver is fully clothed throughout the process. Rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is pressed down, stretched out and rocked in order to relax the person receiving the treatment. The treatment is given lying on a mat, and it will generally follow the lines of the body (feet to hip along the leg bones, for example, or along the spine).

Joints like fingers may also be pulled and cracked in order to loosen them and further relax the person being treated.  The masseuse may also (if they are light enough) walk along the back of the person they are treating. The full process can take up to two hours, and because it is all done on a mat there are often up to a dozen different treatments going on in the one room.

What does it do?

Despite the connotations that have come from many Thai massage parlours being fronts for sex services, the treatment itself can be incredibly useful. All of the stretching involved keeps people who go regularly supple and traditional yoga enthusiasts find them very helpful.

Athletes and other people who routinely exert themselves can also benefit greatly. Regular Thai massage reduces the risks of muscle cramping and soft tissue damage by stretching the muscles, increasing flexibility and treating soft tissue damage.