There are different attitudes regarding the healing arts when looking in from the outside.
Some people’s views of Thai Massage therapy and other massage therapies are holistic, enlightened, and progressive. Such people encourage them, recognize their value, and are open to integrating them with other medical treatments.
But there are others who are rather ignorant or distrustful, don’t see much value in massage besides relaxation, and would not even consider it a valuable therapy. This applies to a good section of the medical establishment.
Let’s look at both of these attitudes.
What is massage good for?
Recently I watched a short video in which a massage therapist listed some benefits of massage. She looked professional, her work looked good, and I imagine that it felt great.
She explained that massage increases circulation, eases tension, brings more blood flow to an area, eases the ischemic points (whatever that is…), and has a positive impact on the parasympathetic nervous system (I have heard that word somewhere…).
Then she said that “often people ‘claim‘ to be more relaxed after the session”, and that “some people ‘claim‘ to have decreased blood pressure after the session”.
Why do people get Thai Massages or any massages?
Probably this therapist was good at what she was doing and she meant well with her listing of benefits.
But to me, it shows a sorry state of affairs in the world of healing arts. I mean, let’s be realistic, the ischemic points or their parasympathetic nervous system are not exactly on their list of main reasons why people go to get a massage!
I can just see the pressure that massage therapists are exposed to by the legal and scientific community to explain what they are doing in sometimes ridiculous terms that mean next to nothing to most people.
The one thing that she never mentioned in her list of benefits was that massage feels great! For me and most people that’s one of the biggest reasons why we love massage.
I understand that “feeling great” is not a scientific benefit and doesn’t show up easily in a test tube. By the way, neither can the feeling of love you have for your spouse or your children.
After a great massage session, what is it that most people say? “Oh, that felt wonderful”. Well, maybe there are some that state that their ischemic points responded well, but I have never met them, and I have been doing professional Thai Massage work on clients for over 20 years.
Claims, common sense, and the law
This massage therapist stated super-carefully that some clients ‘claim‘ that they are “more relaxed and that their blood pressure went down”.
I can just see her anxious boss and her eager lawyer standing behind her and telling her to never make any claim on her own that massage really does anything useful.
If a client wants to make a claim, that’s fine. And if the scientists say that bodywork has some real benefits, that’s okay.
However, we as professional massage therapists can only politely nod but never acknowledge that massage really does have some amazing health benefits.
After all, we could get sued, our license could get revoked, or we might have to pay a big fine for saying that massage fixes or heals anything.
What’s the price for freedom of expression?
I find this quite sad. While I know that the massage community wants to protect itself and its clients from unqualified practitioners and outlandish claims, how much freedom of expression do we have to give up in exchange?
To how much control of the scientific and legal system do we have to be subjected in order to prevent the consequences of any potentially incorrect statement?
Even if we have seen amazing results, health benefits, and even cures with our own eyes as a result of our work, we are not allowed to say so. This seems to me like throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Why are the ones who know most about the benefits of massage therapy – the ones who are actually doing it every day – restricted to say the least about the benefits of their work?
The exception is if they can back up their statements with scientific research compiled by people who have never done a real massage with their own hands.
Experience versus evidence
Don’t years of experience count for something? Don’t the success stories from all our clients add up to credible evidence? Why can a physician, scientist, or even a layman talk about healing, but we cannot?
Why can’t we say that our work can indeed heal and fix some things if we have seen it so many times? Why does our massage license disqualify us from even mentioning healing?
Our safety record is infinitely higher than the one of the official medical establishment. After all, how many massage sessions have ever led to the death of a client?
Nobody can claim that their work heals or fixes everything, not the massage community and not the medical establishment.
But they all can heal and fix some things sometimes. Guarantees are out the window for any kind of healing system, at least on this planet.
A Thai Massage healing story I witnessed in Thailand
Let me tell you a real story. A few years ago I met a very sick American man here in Thailand. He had a disease that was slowly paralyzing him – Parkinson’s.
When I first saw him, he could only shuffle along very slowly while two assistants held him by both arms. He looked like he was on the way out, and rather sooner than later.
Two years later he was still in Thailand, and he was able to freely walk, swim and travel by himself. He was not 100% cured yet, but the difference was like between night and day.
The best doctors in the US had not been able to reverse his condition, but when he came to Thailand, he chose a different approach.
He went for regular healing and massage sessions with several well-known therapists, and slowly his condition improved.
His primary therapy was Thai Massage, and after two years of regular treatments, he had a new lease on life. I have seen this with my own eyes since he is a friend of mine.
If I were an American massage therapist, I had to say that he ‘claims‘ to have been healed. His ‘claim‘ is so obvious to me and everyone around him, but I guess he has to wait for his doctor to confirm to him what he already knows beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Can useful laws turn into muzzling the massage community?
I understand that there need to be some regulations that help to weed out potential bad apples.
But muzzling an entire healing arts community and subjecting them to an ever-increasing control of the medical and legal establishment doesn’t seem to me the right way to go about that.
There needs to be a better balance. No massage therapist should have to be afraid to state that massage can have some amazing health benefits and can and does heal or improve some conditions to a certain extent.
Thai Massage in Thailand is less restrictive
Luckily I live in Thailand where such restrictions hardly exist.
Here Thai Massage therapists don’t have to watch every word they are saying for legally correct content, and neither would anyone ever think of suing their therapist.
Here nobody has to tell their patients that “some of our clients ‘claim‘ to be more relaxed after the session”, and nobody cares about the ischemic points.
Thai Massage is very popular here in Thailand and people get treatments because it makes them feel great and it helps their health in many ways – and they know it.
No offense is intended for my colleague who made the video. I know she did what she is supposed to say under current regulations, and I am sure her work feels better than what she portrayed in her massage video through her words. At least it looked that way to me.
Some in the medical community are coming around
Not all is bleak, however. Gradually more doctors and some clinics are acknowledging the benefits of massage therapy. Generally they do not consider it a therapy by itself, but they see it as a complementary or alternative treatment.
For example, some chiropractors are working together with Thai Massage or other massage therapists to add to the benefits of their treatments.
Some doctors recommend massage therapy to their patients, and some insurance companies cover the cost – at least in certain cases.
Or here is a plastic surgery clinic that recommends massage therapy as part of recovery after their procedures:
Why Are Massages After Surgery So Important?
What you can do to improve the perception of the healing arts
It is important to raise awareness of the beneficial and healing potential of Thai Massage and other massage therapies.
- You can actively reach out to Chiropractors, for example, and offer to explain these benefits or cite examples of productive cooperation between therapists and doctors.
- You can join holistic associations and support them with outreach or article writing.
- You can attend fairs where massage treatment booths are available and pass out fliers with relevant information.
- You can join online groups or forums and talk about massage benefits in terms that are easily understood and coincide with the experiences of massage therapists.
- You can share stories on social media about healing and successful treatments from the massage community, such as the story I shared above.
- You can research and refer to articles from the medical community like the one mentioned above.
- You can pass out interesting and enlightening information sheets to your clients and encourage them to share them with their friends.
And another step – share and comment on this article
To be politically correct, I will say that this is all just my opinion and you are welcome to have another one. If you do, why don’t you leave a comment below? And if you agree with me, leave a comment as well.
If you know about any interesting cases of healing or improvement through massage therapy, please share them in the comments.
And if you feel inspired to learn more about Thai Massage, here at Thai Healing Massage Academy we have been providing excellent resources since 2001:
The author, Shama Kern, has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades. He is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.