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The No-Pain-No-Gain Myth In Thai Massage

No-Pain-No-Gain-  No Thank You!

How often have I heard this myth, that Thai Massage is painful. After working on countless clients over the last 18 years, nobody ever told me that my sessions are painful.

My wife has been doing Thai Massage sessions for as long as I have, and nobody complains that her sessions are painful either. Actually both of us have put hundreds of clients into a wonderful trance-like state with our sessions.

Where does this myth come from?

First of all there are some people who believe that if it’s not hurting, it can’t be therapeutic. That’s called the “no-pain-no-gain theory”.

Then there are many Thai Massage therapists who are not well trained and have never developed much sensitivity in their hands. And they will easily cause pain.

Is there any amount of truth in the myth?

However some degree of discomfort in a massage session can be normal and acceptable. Wait – didn’t I just say that Thai Massage is not painful? Am I contradicting myself now?

What is the difference between good pain and bad pain?

Here we are getting into the subtle art of understanding and managing pain or discomfort in Thai Massage therapy. There actually is such a thing as “good pain” and “bad pain“. How do we tell them apart and how are they defined?

You will find out the answers to these questions when you watch the revealing video below. This knowledge is essential for any therapist since we will all be confronted with this issue throughout our career.

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Shama and Jang500pxThe author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 18 years, and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.

Related Reading:
The 5 Myths Of Thai Massage
Thai Massage Contraindications

13 thoughts on “The No-Pain-No-Gain Myth In Thai Massage”

  1. I’m a massage therapist that normally likes to feel pain when receiving a massage, because my muscles are so tight that I really had benefit especially with stripping/milking technique.
    I think that if the receiver can breathe throught the pain and doesn’t hold the breath you can go a little bit over the limits also with the thai massage…wich means over with the stretching

  2. shama this is very good i like it because i am wrestling in india that time every day similar thai massage we each other wrestler guy

  3. Dear Sharma and all,
    Thank you for your videos and dedication to Thai Massage I find always very informative.
    I am agree with this video about pain my only concern is that it is not have been taken into consideration the fact that very often is not the therapist but the client who ask for deeper and deeper pressure even though when they cannot handle it.
    Thank you again for your dedication.

    • This is true, Isaac, that the client may be the one who is asking for stronger pressure. However if the therapist only applies “good pain” by working slowly and sinking into the muscle with body weight instead of muscle power, and by checking with the client via the one-to-ten questioning method, then we can accommodate the client without going too far.

  4. Well…i m curios now, Shama what do you mean for one to ten?
    I would say that in a session if i ask to focus on neck and back i spend one hr on neck and back…i think it s also the duration in certain area that need just more work…cause if you dedicate 5 min on neck and you go deep or you only do some stretching…the client is gonna have still pain…but speding the whole time in the areas that needed you are gonna make the clients feels great for a longer period of time

    • Monica, the one-to-ten method is a very useful way of giving the client a way to express the level of intensity of the massage in numbers. I teach this system in detail in my courses. However I didn’t invent this – many therapists are using a version of the one-to-ten method.

      And yes, if the client has an issue in a particular area, I spend more time on it, sometimes the entire session like in the case of neck work for example. I have often done sessions where I worked the entire time on the shoulders, or on the back, or on the feet, or on the neck. Massage doesn’t have to be a whole body session necessarily every time.

      I just gave my wife a long back-only massage because that’s what she really needed and wanted! 🙂

  5. I am Karunesh/Yoga & Poweryogateacher/M/53 from India. I want to learn your Thai Yoga Massage course. I read your mail to me about the course. Just tell me wheather you are taking any exam for passing out the course, before certification, as it is very necessary.

  6. Dear Shama,

    At first, I need to say, I’m very glad I have found your site!

    So,my question (the first, but not the last!) is about the “whole body session”..

    Wherever I have studied before, I have heard: “You can make focus according your client’s needs, but as it Thai massage, all body must be touched”.. That’s about the Sen Sib. (And, honestly, I’ve this way taken for myself, and like it) And what I mean now. When we use to touch any extra area, have we give “more western type of Thai massage” ?

    • Hi Alena, I am glad you like my site! 🙂

      I have never subscribed to the idea that you must always do a full body session – for the simple reason that many times it takes most or all of the session to work out an issue somewhere in the body. There just isn’t enough time to do real therapeutic work and work on the entire body in every session.

      There are other massage modalities here in Thailand which only work on specific areas of the body, like Thai Foot Massage (only feet) or Chi Nei Tsang (only abdomen).

      In most massage shops here in Thailand you can get sessions which focus on specific areas like the back, or neck and shoulders, or neck, head and face.

      I agree that it is beneficial to work on the entire body. However working only on a certain part of the body is not “westernized massage”. It is done here in Thailand just as well.

      Sometimes you just have to be practical. If a client only books one hour and has serious back and shoulder problems, you just won’t have time to do a full body session AND work effectively on the back and the shoulders.

  7. Hi Shama, My normal oil massage has improved a great deal since applying your slow and sustained techniques to it. I agree with you in that there is a ‘relieving sensation’ with correctly applied pressure.
    Also – your article on ‘fancy techniques’ is somewhat of a relief to me to read. Whenever you tell anyone you do Thai massage they instantly think you will walk on them or their experience isn’t ‘complete’.
    Thanks so much for your valuable input and for dispelling these ideas.

    • Sheila, I received similar feedback from other readers who were relieved that they were not expected to perform fancy acrobatics on their clients. Actually, in my 15 years of doing Thai Massage I have never once “walked” on any client, and I don’t like therapists walking on me.

      I think the walking thing is mostly an invention by small and light therapists to get the maximum power out of their bodies for working on much larger clients. But there are other and better ways of doing this which do not require doing a tap dance on someone’s back. 🙂

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