It’s not uncommon that Thai Massage schools, institutes or teachers sometimes omit or forget to tell that Traditional Thai Massage (Nuad Thai) is not an isolated phenomenon within the healing arts of Thailand. And that it’s certainly not only about “Wellness” or “Relaxation.”
In fact, Thai Massage is an integral part of Thai Traditional Medicine (TTM) — a holistic Thai traditional healing system. “Traditional” doesn’t mean forgotten, obsolete, or not used. On the contrary, in Thailand, Traditional Thai Medicine is very much alive.
Since the late 1980s, TTM has seen a remarkable revival and interest. Not only in Thailand. It has been very much adopted by the West as a result of the search after complementary and alternative medicine systems. And this process is still continuing.
The classifications of Thai Traditional Medicine know some variations, but in this post we use the description where TTM is considered to be constituted of three branches:
- Herbs and Diets
- Buddhism, Shamanism, and Animism
- Energy Work
Seen with Western eyes this could be roughly translated as:
- Nutrition, Diet, and Medicines
- Psychoanalysis and Religion
- Fitness, Sports, and Bodywork
Apart from the tools, I would say that the main difference with common Western healing methodology is the fact that Thai Traditional Medicine is applied holistically.
Instead of “shopping around,” in Thailand one would go to a Traditional Medicine hospital or clinic, get diagnosed (by a Thai Traditional Medicine Doctor) and will subsequently be sent to the different departments (in the same hospital or clinic) to receive the necessary (combined) treatments.
That is, when Thai people choose Traditional Medicine. Conventional Allopathic or Modern Medicine is also widely spread in Thailand and of excellent quality, reasonable costs, and equally often used, if not more.
Another important difference with Western Medicine is that the applied medicines (i.e. herbs) are usually not chemically produced. Likewise, the diagnostic process in TTM is mostly done the old fashioned way, that is, by reading the pulse, checking colors (of hands, eyes, tongue, and so on), feeling the differences in hot and cold of bodily areas, checking range of motion of the various body parts, “intuition,” and so on.
For now I won’t dig any deeper into this vast realm of Traditional Thai Healing. The idea is to realize that Thai Massage is an integral part of a larger healing system, one in which Thai Massage has its place but should always be considered in relation to its counterparts.