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The 5 Myths of Thai Massage Training

the truth about thai massage

There are several stereotypes that are often repeated and might prevent you from adding Thai Massage training to your list of skills. Let’s look at them closely and separate the truth from fiction.

Myth #1: Thai Massage is painful

This is just not true! How can I be so sure? Easy – from the feedback of my clients. I have been both practicing and providing Thai Massage training for over 20 years, and I have never hurt any client unnecessarily.

However, I can tell you why this perception exists. First, let’s rephrase the statement to ‘Thai Massage is potentially painful’.

Why is that so? There are two reasons:

1. There are many stretches in Thai Massage. If you take them too far, they can easily become painful for the client.

2. Thai Massage makes plenty of use of elbows, knees, and feet. It is easy to cause pain with those techniques.

thai massage elbow in back
Thai Massage elbow technique

Swedish Massage, for example, uses hardly any stretching, little elbow work, and no knees or feet.

In addition, long strokes on oiled skin are less likely to cause pain than the direct linear pressure of Thai Massage.

What does this mean? A rookie Swedish massage practitioner is much less likely to cause pain than a rookie Thai Massage training graduate.

Fact: Thai Massage can be done in a very gentle way. You can literally put someone to sleep during a session.

You can put your clients into a blissful and trance-like state that makes them feel like they are walking on clouds after the session.

Conclusion: Strong pain is NOT caused because Thai Massage is by its nature painful, but it is caused by inexperienced, insensitive, not well-trained, or even brutal therapists. In the next section you will find out why there are some of those around.

==> Related reading: Thai Rocking Massage, a painless and unique system 

Myth #2: Thai Massage can be learned in a short course

In Thailand, where I have lived for two decades, it is very common to see one, three, or five-day Thai Massage training courses advertised with the guarantee that you will learn to do a two-hour session. In the Western world short courses are also commonly promoted.

While you might be able to do some rubbing, pushing, yanking, and stretching for two hours after a 3 or 5-day course, you will not be properly trained to understand the subtleties and the sensitivity that is required for doing effective and high-quality work.

Such short courses can be a good starting place, but if they are confused with the actual training that is required to be a good therapist, then all I can say is: “Clients beware”!

Myth #3: Thai Massage training is always better in Thailand

This is not true!

Nowadays there are many excellent teachers in the Western world who have developed unique and highly effective styles.

Some have moved away from the traditional style which is typically taught in Thailand and have blended it with elements from yoga and other modalities.

The fact is that most of the creative development, most of the recent evolution of Thai Massage, has taken place outside of Thailand and has taken this ancient art to new levels.

If you think about it, the same thing has happened with yoga. Almost all of those famous yoga styles have been developed in the last few decades by Western practitioners.

==> Related Reading: How The West Rescued Yoga And Thai Massage

It can be cheaper and more fun to study in Thailand, being in exotic surroundings, the tropical environment, and the immersion in a different culture. But it is not true that the actual Thai Massage training will necessarily be better there.

Actually, sometimes the opposite is true, especially in smaller schools where teachers hardly speak any English and do not have very high standards.

Myth #4: Thai Massage mostly consists of stretches

If you watch YouTube videos, you will mostly see an unending array of stretches. Most of them are done on flexible yogi women who can easily be twisted into a pretzel shape.

Thai Massage back stretch
You better be a yogi to handle such a massive Thai Massage stretch!

But the reality is different. Your average session doesn’t always look like that.

The average Thai Massage in Thailand consists of more muscle and pressure techniques than stretching. You can easily do an entire session without a single stretch, and it can be a great massage.

I know this for a fact since I have done it countless times over the years, and I have received lots of such non-stretch sessions.

You cannot do a two-hour Thai Massage session with one stretch after another unless you want to drive your clients crazy. This would not be a massage anymore but a high-intensity workout session.

Also keep in mind that stretching should never be done on cold muscles. It should always be preceded by lots of warming and loosening techniques that prepare muscles for possible stretching.

Myth #5: Thai Massage is linked to eroticism and sensuality

Fact # 1:  Massage in general has always and will always be used as a come-on for erotic affairs. It doesn’t matter if you are in Hanoi (Vietnam), Bangkok (Thailand), Amsterdam (Holland), or San Francisco (USA).

If you walk around in the red light district of any major city or read the classifieds in the newspaper, there will always be lots of sensual massage on offer. 

It’s not just Thai Massage. It’s done with any kind of massage. And this will never change.

Fact # 2: Although sensual massage has no place in professional therapy, outside of that massage lends itself very well to a prelude to intimacy within relationships or marriages.
And there is nothing wrong with this at all. Just the opposite, in fact. It can be a wonderful relationship enhancer.

Fact # 3: It is true that Thai Massage has been exported by Thai women, especially to many European countries, who provide ‘extra’ services as part of the massage.

But none of these three facts have anything to do with the actual, authentic, therapeutic Thai Massage training which is part of a healing system that has been effectively practiced for hundreds of years.

Many things in life can be used for more than one purpose.

Just because knives can be used for violent purposes doesn’t mean that they are inherently bad and that you will not use them to slice your bread or cut a melon.


Just because drunk drivers can cause unspeakable suffering doesn’t mean that cars are bad and that you will never again drive one.

And just because Thai Massage or any massage is sometimes used for purposes that have little to do with therapy and healing does not reflect on its tremendous potential as one of the most amazing and effective healing arts in existence.

Quality Thai Massage training is one of the best investments you can make in your healing arts career.

Thai Massage Online Training

Would you like to learn Thai Massage? Thai Healing Massage Academy can help you with an in-depth online training program that will turn you into a well-rounded, holistic, and highly competent practitioner.

Shama Kern, founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy

The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage AcademyHe has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades, and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.

19 thoughts on “The 5 Myths of Thai Massage Training”

  1. Shama this is very well written and informative piece on Thai Massage.Thanks for posting it. Dr.Jitu Rajgor,India.

  2. Hi Sharma,

    There are too many busybodies in this world who think they know it all, they mostly hear it third or fourth hand, some have experienced pain because of incorrect massage. But instead of stopping to think or check the source what they heard has to be true they read to many news papers which are mostly half truths. Unfortunately they wouldn’t know the full truth if it came up and bit them.

  3. This is a great article Shama and so so true! Thai is by far one of the most beneficial stand-alone natural bodywork systems I have ever seen.

    • It’s funny Mark, a few days ago I read a youtube comment by someone who adamantly insisted that Thai Massage has no health benefits and that the entire system was copied from western massage styles. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry about so much ignorance.

      While living in Thailand for two decades I could easily observe the effects and benefits with my own eyes, what to speak of the countless people I have been fortunate enough to be able to help with their issues throughout my Thai Massage career.

      Thai Massage and Yoga Therapy have been incredibly useful and effective for many hundreds of years, and they will keep doing that.

  4. Great article, Shama! I always love getting your emails and reading your blogs! There are many myths about Thai Massage and massage in general. As we bodyworkers continue to educate the public and not give merit to the myths we will continue to soar. I am looking forward to your Thai Back Massage course. Thank you for all you do to share your gifts with the world.

  5. I love reading your posts :) I learned Thai massage from a Vietnamese family that I worked for, in their spa. I’ve often been borderline interrogated by new clients who are used to a specific method of TM from another practitioner. “Are you sure this is REAL Thai massage?” We all have our own style.

    • So true – I am glad that we all have our own style. Otherwise there would be only cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all Thai Massage sessions. :)

  6. Great Article Shama! So excited about your new video too!
    Because of your training I have massage therapist asking “where did you learn that?” Get ready for some new students. They love the rocking technique.

  7. Great Article Shama! So excited about your new video too!
    Because of your training I have massage therapist asking “where did you learn that?” Get ready for some new students. They love the rocking technique.

    • The rocking is the “great equalizer” for Thai Massage. It feels better for the client, is better for the hands and wrists of the therapist, and it can have an almost trance-like effect.
      There are lots of rocking techniques in our Thai Back Massage course as well.

  8. Thanks Shama,these myths are all true and I have heard them for a very long time.Just today I was chatting with my client who has just returned from Thailand and when I asked about Thai Massage, he said he did it and it was painful. Some of my clients always describe Thai massage as in your myths above – the sensual bit, the painful stretches in addition to not being not relaxing at all. But all those have never stopped me from wanting to learn it, and, all in all as a massage therapist, I have to make sure my client is comfortable with all the movements I make to his or her body. Thanks for the explanations about these myths, Shama.

    • I also heard these myths so many times that I just had to write this to set the record straight. I am glad that you never fell for them and are taking steps to learn this wonderful art!

  9. Thank you! Thank you so much for writing this Sharma. If only more people understood these myths. It is so necessary for more prospective Thai massage students to hear this/understand this.


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