The Old Medicine Hospital, located in Chiang Mai and officially called the Thai Massage School Shivagakomarpaj & Old Medicine Hospital, has been the leading Thai Medicine and Thai Massage institute in the North of Thailand from the 1960’s up to the beginning of the 21st century.
In the past ten years, the school has perhaps lost some of its luster, but it’s still, after the Wat Po Medical Massage school in Bangkok, one of the most renowned Thai Massage institutes in Thailand and around the world. Many contemporary Thai Massage training schools in Chiang Mai have been founded by former teachers and practitioners from the Old Medicine Hospital.
Among the most notable ex-teachers you’ll find, for instance, Ajarn Pichest Boonthumme and John Settakorn (ITM Massage School). Moreover, several well-known Western Thai Massage lineages, such as the Sunshine Network and Lotus Palm, are deeply influenced by the Shivagakomarpaj lineage.
Note that the name “Old Medicine Hospital” is somewhat ambiguous, because it doesn’t refer to an “Old Hospital,” but to “Old Medicine.” Old Medicine in the sense of “Traditional Medicine” or “Ancient Medicine.”
History of the Old Medicine Hospital
The school and clinic was founded in 1962 by Ajahn Sintorn Chaichakan (Ajahn Sintorn passed away in 2005) and was the first in Chiang Mai to open its doors to Western tourists who wanted to learn Thai massage. Ajahn (Master) Sintorn Chaichakan is honored as the founder of the school’s tradition of Thai Massage — the Shivagakomarpaj Lineage.
Ajahn Sintorn studied traditional Thai Medicine at Wat Pho (Bangkok) in the late 1950s. After his studies he stayed on as a teacher at the Wat Pho Medical School for four more years. Before that time, Wat Pho did not formerly teach Thai massage, and Ajahn Sintorn was a key figure in starting the Thai Massage program of Wat Pho in 1957.
When he returned to Chiang Mai in 1962, he started practicing medicine on the grounds of several city temples. Ajahn Sintorn adapted his practice of massage and herbal medicine to include aspects of northern Thai culture. An important change he made to the Wat Pho massage routine was to slow it down, as he said “to suit the laid-back style of Chiang Mai natives.”
He also focused on local herbal knowledge, integrating treatments that were not part of the Wat Pho tradition. In 1973, Ajahn Sintorn established the current facility.
Current Thai Massage Course Programs
The Old Medicine Hospital currently runs 4 levels of Thai Massage training, each program with a duration of 30 hours (5 days).
- Thai Massage Foundations Course Level 1 and Level 2 are in fact the complete Thai Massage foundation course.
- Thai Therapeutic Massage Course Level 3 goes a bit deeper into therapy aspects of Thai Massage and also covers the basics of Herbal Compress Massage.
- Thai Therapeutic Massage Level 4 is the school’s full Thai Massage therapy course, including Sen Sib Energy Lines knowledge and practice.
Additionally, the school runs an Introduction to Thai Massage course (18-hours, 3 days), Aroma Oil Massage course (30 hours, 5 days), Foot Massage course (12 hours, 2 days), and Thai Herbal Hot Compress course (7 hours, 1 day).
Several training courses of the Old Medicine Hospital are NCBTMB approved (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork) and allow for valid Continuing Education Units (CEU) valid in the USA. These include the Thai Massage Foundations Level 1 (30-hrs), Thai Massage Foundations Level 2 (30-hrs), and the Foot Relaxation Massage Level 1 (12-hrs) courses.