In this article we give a brief overview of the better known types of Thai Massage and Thai Healing Arts treatments available, practiced, and taught in Thailand.
For an in-depth discussion and a complete overview of all Thai Healing Arts and Thai Massage modalities, Traditional Thai Medicine concepts, and the context wherein the Thai Healing Arts are practiced in Thailand, you may take a look at our Thai Healing Arts Reference eBook offering.
Thai Amatarot Massage
Amatarot (Amata Rot) is a relatively new Lanna therapy—supposedly about a 100 years old—that uses a wooden stick or rod with various appliances stuck to the end of the rod, with which the patient is treated. Depending on the goal of the treatment the appliances used may differ.
Thai Baby & Infant Massage
Thai Infant or Baby massage is often applied using relaxing or soothing oils and creams. With older children, a Thai Massage without oils can become more suitable. Sessions are rather short.
Thai Bamboo Massage
Polished, hollow bamboo rods and sticks of different sizes and diameters are used – warm or cold – to roll or glide on muscles to soften, relax and stretch them. Although the bamboo rods can be used on every part of the body, they are specifically applied for working on the legs (thighs and calves), neck and shoulders, and arms.
Thai Barefoot Massage (Walking Massage)
Specifically in Northern Thailand and among certain Hill Tribes, so-called Walking Massage or Thai Barefoot Massage is a popular form of Thai Massage application. Treatments solely using the feet have a more ‘earthy’ quality than the ones done with the hands or other parts of the body. In general, more pressure can be applied also. Sometimes practitioners use a stick, rod or rope to keep balance while ‘walking’ over the patient.
Kud Thong –Thai Childbirth Massage
Usually, Kud Thong Massage is not given before the 28th week of the pregnancy. Mind that we should not confuse Kud Thong with the more general and relaxing Thai Pregnancy Massage which is typically given between the third and eight month, having another aim.
The goal of Kud Thong is to soothe tension in the womb, help to position the baby better, help the baby to move more freely, reduce pressure on the urinary system, and prepare and relax the future mother for an unchallenging labor (delivery) process.
Thai Chi Nei Tsang Abdominal Detox Massage
Chi Nei Tsang or Thai Abdominal Chi and Internal Organs Massage is a healing massage modality combining traditional Chinese, Thai Massage and meditation techniques while focusing predominantly on the abdominal area. Usually, hands, palms, fingers, knuckles, and elbows are used to apply the massage, and sometimes the feet.
Thai Cupping is a therapy treatment that uses small heated cups to create suction on the skin. In the past, traditionally, hollow bamboo cups were used instead of glass cups. Cups are usually applied to the back, arms, legs, hips and sometimes also to the stomach, neck or face.
Thai Facial Massage
Several concepts can be applied within a Thai Facial Massage session: the use of reflexology i.e. Thai acupressure points, cupping, peeling, Thai herbal mixtures applied as masks, scrubs, the use of essential or base oils, and also massage which consists of rubbing, pulling, kneading, pressing, circular movements, squeezing, and shaking techniques, and so on.
Thai Fire Therapy Massage (Yam Khang)
Thai Yam Khang, Thai Fire Therapy or Thai Fire Barefoot Massage is an ancient Northern Lanna style Thai healing modality that uses heat, oils, and solely the feet to massage the body of the patient. With the hot foot dipped in oils the therapist treats the patient, meanwhile using a wooden stick to keep his or her balance. When the foot gets cold, the process of dipping and heating is repeated.
Thai Foot Massage & Reflexology
Thai Foot Massage is a combination of Massage and Reflexology and it incorporates pressing on so-called reflexology or acupressure points. A session can be done with or without using oils or creams. A Thai Foot Massage practitioner may use thumbs, other fingers, knuckles, elbows, forearms, the knees and feet and certain tools (often wooden sticks) to work on the feet.
Thai Hand Massage
The therapist typically uses massage (rubbing, sliding, kneading), acupressure, pressure, mobilizations, reflex points and Thai energy lines to treat the hands, underarms, and wrists. Additionally, it’s a technique useful to learn for self-massage.
Thai Herbal Compress Massage (Luk Pra Kob)
Herbal Compress Massage is sometimes also referred to as Herbal Ball Massage, Hot Herbal Ball Massage (although cold herbal packs are used likewise), Herbal Packs Massage or Herbal Stem Massage.
Thai herbal treatments are used to soothe and to relieve pain and inflammations. Important in the application are the selection of herbs with therapeutic qualities, such as prai, ginger, turmeric, kaffir lime, camphor, tamarind and lemongrass. Typically, a mix of herbs is wrapped in a compress, then steamed (in bamboo or electrical steamer) and when hot, applied to the body by pressing, gliding or smearing in circular, linear and/or rolling movements.
Thai Herbal Steam & Heat Treatments
Thai Herbal Steams, Baths and Soaks are a quite common form of treatment in Thailand applied in Thai spas, salons, parlors, Buddhist temples, and saunas, but certainly also by individual healers and practitioners.
Herbal steam, vapor, and heat treatments are used to treat both body and mind with the idea that scented, healing aromas soothe and relax, and through inhalation and absorption can also cure internal ailments.
Thai Jabkasai Testicles Massage
Testicles Massage, Jabkasai or Jap Kasai has been practiced in Thailand for centuries. The therapeutic treatment is done directly on and around the testicles. The penis, in fact, isn’t touched.
Thai Jap Sen or Nerve Touch Massage
The Jap Sen or Nerve Touch Massage style is a Thai Massage style characterized by “grasping or plucking the sen lines” and was founded by the late Lek Chaiya also known as “Mama Lek.”
The Jap Sen technique is best to be seen and felt to understand thoroughly – the muscles, tendons and nerves are grabbed and “rolled over,” which can be done gently or more firm, while during a session deep (acu)pressure using the knees, elbows, feet, heels and thumbs is applied also.
Thai Karsai Nei Tsang Genital Detox Massage
Karsai Nei Tsang is a traditional form of therapeutic genital healing and sexual organs detox massage originating and exercised in Thailand and applied for both men and women.
Thai Lanna Detox Massage (Ched Haek)
Ched Hak Thai Massage is an ancient Lanna detox technique that uses claws of animals (which died naturally and without suffering) in the procedures during the treatment.
The instrument used, blessed and considered of power, is wiped on the receiver’s body, while the therapist gives prayers and chants of empowerment, purifying and cleaning the receiver, and bringing vitality and universal forces to the receiver.
Thai Oil massage & Aromatherapy
Thai Oil Massage and Aromatherapy are two distinct modalities. Thai Oil Massage is about giving deep pressure, gliding, rolling, stroking, rubbing and stretching movements using the palms, thumbs, elbows and knees in combination with the application of (warmed) base oils (not necessarily special oils or essential oils).
Aromatherapy massage is based on the idea that adding scented plant oils and/or plant essential oils to a base oil addresses specific ailments or needs of the receiver.
Thai Postpartum Care & Massage (Yu Fai)
Thai Traditional Postpartum Care and Treatments are still popular in current Thai culture and are continued by specialized Thai Midwives and close female family relatives of those who give birth.
Traditional Postpartum care in Thailand is related to the concept of “regaining heat,” called Yu Fai. Practices include ‘lying by fire,’ dietary restrictions, application of hot herbal compresses, herbal steam treatments, hot baths and taking in hot drinks, and other activities that prevent “heat loss” like for instance keeping the body covered, sexual abstinence, and avoiding a windy environment.
Thai Prenatal Massage (Pregnancy Massage)
Thai Massage for Pregnant Women is part of Traditional Thai Midwifery practices. Thai Massage applied for pregnant women can help to alleviate fatigue, (lower) back pain, pain in the legs and feet, and generally help to stretch and relax muscles and joints, and increase flexibility and energy levels.
Many of the so-called Thai Pregnancy Massage treatments offered are in fact full body Thai massages done in “the side-position” or (partly) with the woman lying on her back. The side-position means that the massage is done with the woman lying on her side(s) and not on the stomach or back.
Thai Loincloth Stretching Massage (Pa Kao Mah)
The Pa Kao Mah (Pa Kao Ma or Pa Kao Mai) is a Thai Sarong, Scarf or Loincloth. Of late, using the cloth in a Thai Massage session is rising in popularity. During the session, the Pa Kao Mah is wrapped around the body or certain body parts, such as the neck or legs, and with slowly pulling, sliding and lifting movements the receiver is gently stretched.
Thai Scraping treatments are very similar to Chinese Gua Sha, of which the latter has become a rather popular treatment and training modality in Thailand in the past ten years. The treatment is done by so-called scraping, which is done with an oil and a scraping tool.
Thai Table Massage
Thai Massage done on the massage table is often a controversial topic: some don’t consider it Thai Massage, others say it is, although practitioners need to adjust their working position to do about the same as Thai Massage on the floor.
Thai Tok Sen
Thai Tok Sen is an ancient Northern Lanna Thai healing practice, which incorporates the use of a short-handled hammer and a chisel/wedge of wood, bone or ivory to rhythmically tap along the Thai Sen energy lines of the body.
Thai Traditional Bone Setting (Thai Chiropractics)
Thai indigenous healers set broken bones by pulling them back into place and the area around the fracture is stabilized with wooden sticks and the like. Sometimes herbal compresses are applied also and various rituals and incantations are performed to speed up the healing process.
Then there are also the so-called “Bone Cracks” or “Cracking” in Thai Massage. Usually, cracking (or realignment) happens spontaneously during a Thai Massage session when muscles get relaxed: bones or joints simply go/flip back into their natural position, which feels and sounds like a “pop,” “click,” or “crack.” It can also be done deliberately.
Thai Traditional Massage (Nuad Thai)
Thai Traditional Massage (Nuad Thai or Nuad Boran) is an integral part of Thai Traditional Medicine and an ancient form of Thai Healing Massage, Body and Energy work based on passive yoga, deep stretches and (acu) pressure.
Using stretching exercises, yoga poses and pressure along specific energy channels or meridians (the so-called Thai Sen Energy Lines), our mind, body and energy system can be brought into cooperative harmony. Traditionally Thai Massage is applied clothed, on a mat, on the floor.
Thai Traditional Midwifery (Moh Tum Yae)
In Thailand, Thai Traditional Midwifery treatments and care (Moh Tum Yae) comprises of knowledge of holistic healthcare and the wisdom handed down by Thai ancestors.
The traditional knowledge has been preserved by generations past, and its goal is taking care of women and their babies in the period of pregnancy and in the afterbirth or postpartum period.
Thai Traditional Pharmacy & Herbal Medicine
The Traditional Thai Pharmacy practice comprises of the use of medicinal materials or components derived from plants, animals or minerals, which are used as traditional medicines. Furthermore, it involves the art of compounding those ingredients into various dosage forms of Traditional Thai Medicine recipes.
Thai Traditional Yoga (Reusi Dat Ton)
Traditional Thai Yoga (in Thailand called Reusi Dat Ton or Reu-Si Datton) is an ancient form of Thai Bodywork, and part of Traditional Thai Medicine. The work consists of breathing exercises, self-massage, self-stretches, and a variety of poses and sequences which are performed in standing, sitting, or lying positions.
Thai Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana is a word in the ancient Pali language (Middle Indo-Aryan Indian language) which, depending on certain interpretations, is translated as “insight,” “seeing clear,” “see into,” “see through,” and many other translations related to “experiencing or realizing truth.”
During centuries past, several Vipassana movements, schools, lineages and styles have developed, but actually it all comes down to cultivating certain meditation techniques to finally reach “seeing clearly” that there is no permanent Self or “I” (the illusion) and that there never was, thereby ending our suffering.
Traditional Thai Womb Lifting is an ancient Lanna Thai healing modality.The practice of Womblifting involves hot sea salt crystals in a clay pot wrapped in medicinal leaves and applied as a compress. It subsequently involves acupressure on the abdomen, legs, buttocks and back. The uterus is manipulated directly externally with the hands on the abdomen.
Thai Yok Thong & Uterus Massage
Uterus Massage or Yok Thong works directly (internally and externally) on the uterus and ovaries.
It can be applied both during the pregnancy, typically in the last months, or as a postpartum treatment to realign the uterus and ovaries, or in generally for women experiencing issues with the genital organs.
Traditional Lanna Thai Massage
Lanna Thai Massage differs somewhat from mainstream Traditional Thai Massage. The main goal of Thai Lanna Massage is to relieve tensions and stiffness (the latter perhaps to do with the mountainous area in the North), and it’s usually applied softer and more gently than Southern style Thai massage.
Northern Style and Southern Style Thai Massage
It’s generally thought that Northern Style Thai Massage incorporates more stretches and “range of motion” exercises, also being performed slower than Southern Style which supposedly would incorporate more acupressure Sen energy line work and a faster pace.
Royal Style and Rural Style Thai Massage
The Royal Style (or Rajasamnak Style) was/is practiced at the royal courts or for highly placed officials and the focus is on acupressure. Today, in Thailand, it’s most often positioned as Therapeutic Thai Massage or Thai Massage for Health. It’s closely associated with Southern Style Thai Massage.
Rural Style (or Chalosiak style) is much more liberal and the therapist may use thumbs, palms, arms, knees, feet, elbows, in fact any part of the body that can be useful giving pressure or acupressure. The practitioner often works very close to the body of the receiver and stretches and lifts are an integral part of the treatment. Rural style is mostly associated with Northern Style Thai Massage.