Masseuse doing massage on Asian female body in the spa salon.

When you think of massage, you probably expect to be a passive participant — lying under a blanket as a masseuse presses and kneads your tight muscles. However, a Thai massage is a whole different experience. Asanas, or yoga poses, are also part of this Eastern massage tradition.

This practice promotes positive energy circulation, so you feel balanced and rejuvinated. Thai yoga massage has numerous other benefits too, including reduction of pain and stress.

What Is Thai Massage?

Thai massage is traditionally performed on the floor — you lie on a padded mat as the masseuse guides you through partner yoga poses and manipulates your body into stretches. Some traditional massage techniques, such as acupressure, compression and joint mobilization, are also used, but no lotions or oils are applied and you remain fully clothed for the session.

Some centers may modify traditional Thai massage to be performed on a table due to regulations, space limitations or for patients who are unable to get up and down from the floor easily.

Enhanced Energy Flow

Thai massage works based on the belief that tightened muscles lead to the diminished flow of energy in your body. When energy can't flow freely, you become inflexible, suffer pain and feel stiff. Over time, this leads to shortened muscles and connective tissue that affects your posture, immunity and organ function — all of which speed up aging and disability.

The pressing techniques used in Thai massage are designed to increase blood circulation to facilitate the better flow of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. It also helps your body naturally get rid of waste, such as metabolic byproducts and carbon dioxide, more efficiently.

Adding stretching to the massage process helps relax the muscles further, so they regain natural flexibility and tone. You'll relieve chronic stiffness and experience improved mobility.

Pain-Relief Properties

Thai massage is an alternative way for people to deal with chronic pain, and can be quite effective for temporary relief, according to a review of the research published in 2015 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. In the six studies reviewed, people reported a 25 to 80 percent reduction of pain that lasted up to 15 weeks following a Thai massage protocol.

Thai Massage and Headaches

A particular type of Thai massage that involves applying pressure against specific meridians in the body, called court-type Thai massage, was shown to be an effective treatment for people suffering from chronic tension headaches. The study, published in a 2015 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, explains that the relief may be attributed to how Thai massage stimulates blood flow and lymph circulation and relaxes the sympathetic nervous system.

Thai massage also helps reduce stress, which can contribute to headaches.

Precautions and Considerations

Although Thai massage offers multiple benefits, it may be contraindicated for some populations, including patients with cancer, those who are pregnant and those suffering from back injury such as a herniated disk.