East Versus West in Massage
Thai Massage and Western Massage are quite different, and in more ways than in their techniques. In Western countries there is an ongoing effort to prove scientifically how and why massage is beneficial.
Most of the massage therapy profession has accepted science as their official or at least unofficial regulator.
Therapists feel compelled to demonstrate that their therapies hold up to the demands of science, and that they comply with scientific standards.
What do massage therapists have to do to not get sued?
Western therapists have to function within the framework that the effectiveness of massage has to be proven by scientific methods in order to prevent allegations of unproven, unscientific, or unsubstantiated claims in regards to the therapy.
Wow – what a mouthful that was! If you think I am exaggerating, read some of the disclaimers on massage intake forms that you have to fill out before you receive a session.
Massage therapists in the West go through great lengths to state that they do not fix, cure, diagnose, treat, prescribe, or improve any medical condition, and that only doctors can do such things.
Gasp! I know, they have to do that so that they don’t get sued.
Common sense to the rescue
Let’s use some common sense here. Before the advent of medical science, people all over the world were treated with all kinds of natural and traditional therapies and remedies.
Sometimes they worked – and sometimes they did not.
Today we have modern hospitals. Sometimes their therapies work – and sometimes they do not.
The one big difference is that hospitals and their treatments, medications and procedures are one of the leading causes of death in the US.
In comparison, tell me how many people died on massage tables!
Does anyone really believe that a well-trained massage therapist who has maybe a decade of experience of working with and directly touching hundreds or thousands of people cannot ever improve any medical condition?
Compare that to a typical doctor who is forced by the insurance companies to spend as little time as possible with patients, who hurries into the room, and then spends five minutes with you without hardly touching you at all.
And then they leave you with a prescription of chemicals which they often know very little about except what a pharmaceutical rep told them.
My disclaimer about medical science
I want to put it on record that I have the greatest respect for many incredibly useful medical procedures.
Modern doctors can do amazing things when they stitch together victims of horrible accidents, or enable amputees to function again, or replace worn out joints.
But at the same time the track record of modern medical science for curing most chronic and immune system related diseases is very poor.
Massage in Thailand is very different
Now let’s compare this to the Asian model, especially Thai Massage. In Thailand generally nobody has to fill out intake forms, nobody sues massage therapists, and no therapist has to comply with scientific demands.
Massage therapists or other natural healers can diagnose conditions to the extent of their knowledge, and they can treat such conditions to the extent of their abilities.
If what they do is not working, then clients vote with their feet. They go to another Thai Massage therapist, or they try their luck elsewhere, like in a doctor’s office. Or they can do both.
No Thai Massage therapist has to explain scientifically what exactly their therapy is doing. No client expects that either.
The foundation of Thai Massage
The therapists don’t know anything about the science behind it because the entire model of Asian natural medicine is not so much based on anatomy, physiology and science.
Instead it is based on invisible energy flow and energy lines that cannot be seen by the eye, nor through a microscope, nor can they be detected in a test tube.
But the energy can be felt by experienced therapists, and it can be affected by Thai Massage treatments.
Can Thai Massage fix or cure anything?
From my vantage point of having lived in Thailand for two decades, I know from personal experience that Thai Massage can and does improve many conditions. Some of those cannot be improved by medical science.
After all, a stiff neck is certainly better treated by massage therapy than by chemical muscle relaxants.
And stress, a leading cause of so many diseases, is treated more effectively by massage than by chemicals.
Here in Thailand everyone knows that some massage therapists are fairly useless while others are incredibly good and effective.
So – people who need quality health care simply go to the good ones.
Here Massage is not a luxury treatment like in western countries. Most people in Thailand can afford a massage without breaking the bank.
There is no competition here between massage and medical science. They coexist quite peacefully.
East and West can help each other out
Does this mean that everything is better in Thailand? No, that’s not the point. We are comparing two very different systems.
But one thing is sure – it is definitely more relaxing and much easier to deal with the massage system in Thailand.
The Asian model could benefit from some western input like more anatomical knowledge or more exposure to additional healing therapies that are more widespread in western countries.
And the western model could benefit from the more energy-focused and holistic approach of eastern therapy.
Massage in Thailand is easier, cheaper and often more fun
Anyone who has ever been in Thailand knows the great feeling of being able to get a full body massage or even a quick foot massage almost anywhere and for very little money.
You can get treatments on the beach, on the sidewalk, in open air massage shops, in temples, in busy markets and malls, in airports, in spas or in your own home.
Nobody has to worry about privacy since it is all done fully dressed. Intake forms do not exist and neither do legal threats.
Ethics rules are very flexible since massage in Thailand is often as much a social event as a therapy.
You don’t have to budget a session since you can get one starting from US $5.- per hour.
Some things in life are better felt than explained
In Thailand people generally don’t discuss the scientific benefits of massage so much. They just know from personal experience that it works.
After all, when you fall in love with someone, would you feel better if you would know exactly which neurons fire, which nerves send your feelings to which place, and how much your skin temperature changes in passionate moments?
Some things are better experienced than dissected. Or, in other words, the experience of Thai Massage is more important than the science behind it.
For you, if you must know the science, at least make sure you don’t think about it during your session. You will feel and benefit more that way.
How can you learn authentic Thai Massage?
Thai Healing Massage Academy provides a wide range of online training courses that are tailored to western therapists, yet incorporate the energy focus and holistic approach of Thai Massage in Thailand.
The author, Shama Kern, has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 2 decades. He is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.