There are some interesting similarities between Thai Massage and Sports Massage, but also very big differences. But let’s first take a quick look at what both types of massages entail.
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Sports Massage is a general term for modern massage therapies that primarily focus on treatments for athletes and martial arts practitioners, and most commonly address physical issues caused by repetitive and strenuous activity.
A Sports Massage treatment is typically applied on a massage table, and used to speedup recovery after a (sports) performance, to maintain physical capacities and stimulate performance, or to warm up before a performance in order to reduce risks of injury. Additionally, Sports Massage often uses massage oils and creams, and especially targets those muscles and soft tissues that are used in (a specific) sport(s) or physical activity.
It’s customary to apply Classic Massage techniques into Sports Massage (think of effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement, and vibration), but theoretically one could use the techniques of any massage treatment modality to achieve the goals set in Sports Massage.
Traditional Thai Massage
Thai Massage — also called Thai Yoga Massage — is an ancient Thai healing modality applied fully dressed on the floor on a massage mat, and without using oils or creams, and typically defined by its wide range of assisted Yoga-like stretches, acupressure and pressure techniques, and the application of Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Indian Yogic concepts.
It’s generally given as a head-to-toes Full Body Massage, and traditionally used as both preventive and curative medicine. Moreover, a broad variety of tools and devices may also be used during a session, such as wooden sticks, shawls, brushes, and herbal compresses.
Characteristically, traditional Thai Massage is applied as a holistic massage treatment — often with spiritual connotations — based on the manipulation of Life Force Energy which is thought to flow through the so-called Energy Channels across the body.
Thai Massage in a much lesser degree focusses on only certain muscle groups. It works rather as a whole — for one’s entire being — trying to stimulate and balance the interaction of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of the receiver.
Thai Massage and Sports Massage
Both Thai Massage and Sports Massage can promote flexibility and range of motion, reduce physical and emotional tensions, alleviate pains, accelerate healing processes, and improve general health and well-being, to name some of their possible effects.
Because of it’s very broad variety of techniques, Thai Massage can be (and is indeed sometimes) integrated into Sports Massage to enhance the modality (but seldom the other way around). Typically, the massage therapists would use one or more of the many advanced stretches and acupressure techniques from Thai Massage to treat the client.
On the other hand, Thai Massage by itself was (and still is) also used as a type of Sports Massage. Actually, in many ancient Asian cultures and countries, such as in India, China, Korea, Japan, and also in Thailand, massage therapy was applied to prepare martial art fighters and soldiers for action, and to relax or heal them afterwards.