7 Traditional Thai Massage Benefits Plus Side Effects

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Ideally, a massage makes you feel good. Whether strictly medical or otherwise, they can be relaxing, pleasurable, and liberating. There are many techniques and methods, each with its origin story and traditions. A massage has great potential for results, and more so when administered by a professional. Here are our 7 Traditional Thai Massage (TTM) benefits, plus side effects that you may encounter.

I consider getting a professional massage to be a day for celebration. Sure, I’d love it if I could get one every week, but alas! I don’t because of reasons. Also, while we’re hovering around the topic of things I’d love – a Thai massage in Thailand is on my bucket list. Until then, there are many qualified and licensed traditional Thai massage therapists here in the States, though it is considerably more expensive.

What Is A Thai Massage? 

Woman receiving a Thai massage with stretches.

Woman receiving a Thai massage with stretches.

Thai massage has its origins in Buddhism. The Buddha’s doctor invented it some 2,500 years ago. Since that time, it has spread to different areas of the world, and over the generations various elements became part of the lore and philosophy which surround the practice. There are influences of China, Japan, and India in this bodywork, but it remains a standalone method.

Whether you get a massage on the regular or not, Thai massage therapy is something to consider at least once, if only for the experience. Unlike other practices, a Thai massage is often given on a mat placed on the floor, and the one getting the massage remains with their clothes on. Some establishments offer variants, such as table Thai massage and Thai massage with oils, but the classic and traditional one calls for a floor mat and loose clothing.

This form of bodywork takes advantage of active and passive stretching techniques (the latter being very yoga-like), and it manipulates the body to induce a state of deep relaxation. It’s predicated on using the lines of energy which crisscross our bodies. One thing I like about Thai is that the connection to Ayurveda is more pronounced than in other kinds of massage, and that holds a lot of appeal for me personally. Working different lines of energy means that you can hit several birds with one soft stone.

Traditionally, Thai massage, sometimes referred to as “massage thai”, was invented to help those who were practicing long hours of meditation. As such, it can increase joint mobility and flexibility by stimulating the production of your body’s natural joint-lubricating fluid. It gets the blood going and nourishes your organs and various tissues in the process. You get moved around a lot when you receive a traditional Thai massage, though this is not true in all cases.

Seven Thai Massage Benefits For Your Health

Scientific and clinical research doesn’t support the benefits of Thai massage 100%. Some call it a placebo and nothing else, and there is no doubt that there is a highly subjective element to the technique. When it comes to the mind and body connection, there are no metrics with which to quantify success and positive results. Therefore the benefits of Thai massage – as opposed to other forms of massage – are controversial.

It’s called alternative or traditional medicine for a reason. It’s not trying to comply with some modern society’s views, nor with its standards of medicine. Maybe you will reap the rewards of Thai massage, and maybe not. It’s really personal, because it’s based on your body and its flow of energy (or lack thereof). Here are seven benefits of Thai massage, some of which are shared with other modern and ancient massage techniques.

1. Pain And Stress Management

Woman receiving a Thai massage.

Thai massage offers pain relief.

Back pains and muscle tension are some of the most popular reasons for signing up for a traditional Thai massage. Helping the muscles unwind and getting the blood to flow are constituents of many massage techniques.

Ironically, there are those who say that Thai massage is a painful ordeal in and of itself. Remember that any massage may carry a “so good it hurts” kind of warning, but it is important to distinguish good pain from bad pain. Also, some may experience soreness immediately after the massage due to the different angles in which the body is being manipulated.

2. Flexibility And Range Of Motion 

Because of its close association with yoga, the stretches performed in a traditional Thai massage could improve the mobility of the body’s joints. This aids in the range of motion and in flexibility, by and large. It may not happen after a single session, but after some time you could discover that you’re able to boldly go where you were not able to before.

3. Energy Booster

Again, the connections within the body’s pathways of energy is what this technique is about, and it is where it stems from. Unblocking certain areas help the life force within you become more available in the body, just as certain nutrients and practice increase bio-availability. As a result, you may experience an increase in energy, which lasts well beyond the session and opens doors of vitality.

4. Headache Relief

This one benefit could be particularly useful for those who suffer from chronic headaches, specifically tension headaches. And just to be clear, migraines are a different kind of beast altogether, and are not coupled in with ordinary headaches in this case.

5. Overall Health And Wellness

Woman receiving a Thai massage.

Thai massage improves health and wellness.

Inspired by yoga and ayurvedic medicine, a Thai massage aids in a wide variety of conditions: from asthma and bronchitis, to irregular menstruation and digestive issues. Mentally, there are those who claim it helps with depression, hysteria, and mental disorders. Ideally, this kind of massage complements other forms of treatment.

6. Rest & Relaxation

Like many other forms of massage therapy, traditional Thai massage can help to put your body and mind at rest. For some – despite the pulling and moving and physical manipulation – this will express itself as the massage is going on. Others could feel it more after a massage has taken place And some still may find that there is no real attribute of rest that can be associated with the technique, not in the traditional sense of rest, anyway.

Even if you don’t feel rested during the process or right after it, there is a good chance that the movements and improved flow of energy will help to better guide your mind and body towards a more restful night’s sleep.

7. Positive Emotions

Girl with arms up in field.

Thai massage can increase positivity.

Plainly put, traditionally Thai massage can help you feel better about yourself. Your body may be experiencing different things, depending on your muscles and joints, etc., but you also may find that your mind and general feelings are leaning more towards positivity and wholesomeness. Other forms of massage, as well as aromatherapy, definitely share this trait.

Thai Foot Massage Explained

Reflexology foot massage

Thai foot massage.

In Quintin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction, two characters are debating the nature of a foot massage, and whether it warranted their friend being thrown out of a four-story window by a jealous husband. Well, with a Thai foot massage, the chances of someone throwing you out a window are probably much slimmer. I would say you have a better chance of becoming relaxed and seriously at peace. 60-40, at the very least.

A Thai foot massage is all about the reflexology points of contact under the feet. Much like the traditional body massage is about realigning the pathways of Chi and removing blockages, stimulating the feet affects different organs and systems. When properly executed, a Thai foot massage can help the body’s immunity, balance, and wellbeing. Unlike the traditional Thai massage, this one will often involve oil.

For some, a small tub with hot water and essential oils of peppermint and lavender will suffice. That is all well and good, but when you want to go the extra mile for your feet (and the rest of your body), consider getting a professional Thai foot massage.

Can Thai Massage Be Harmful?

Just about any massage could be harmful when administered improperly. It’s important to get the massage at the hands of a certified therapist. Thai massage incorporates some elaborate and complex moves and doing it wrong could end up harming the one getting it.

If you are recovering from any kind of physical injury (like a sports or workout injury), or if you are pregnant, or taking restricting meds, or suffering from any chronic condition – you must take caution and not put your body through too much too fast. Speak to your massage therapist before you start the process.

As for side effects, muscle soreness or sensitivity, or redness in the areas of the massage are a possibility. One masseuse remarked that a traditional Thai massage is a highly concentrated session, and that because of its intense nature it could also cause side effects. A more standard table massage also holds that possibility, but to a lesser degree, since a Thai massage manipulates the body with more vigor.

Also, there is the possibility of internal or external bleeding. This is an issue because the massage is traditionally carried out with both parties wearing clothes. If there is a pre-existing condition of some kind, this needs to be known.


While it does have its roots in Buddhism, your massage therapist need not be a Buddhist. Massages are indeed wonderful, and a Thai one can be a very awakening and useful experience. The thing you need to make sure is that your massage therapist is qualified and licensed. Again, we’re dealing with manipulation of the body, and you can’t let just anybody touch you that way.

As a receiver of the massage, you find that you twist, you stretch, you feel pressure, you bend, you move. And as you do, you can feel those waves of energy as they move around your body. Not everyone feels these currents, but some feel them during and after. Many describe it as an odd sensation, but not an off-putting one.