There are many similarities between Sports massage and Thai massage, and many obvious differences, though many practitioners feel they are extremely compatible and combine the two to great affect.
Sports massage is one of the most popular western therapeutic approaches to massage. It is not a general relaxation massage, but one focused on reducing tension, pain, injury and increasing the performance of the body. It is generally a deep massage that works on the principles of muscle, bone and nerve function. Usually given on a massage table, with the use of oil, sports massage employs a range of various techniques to stretch and realign the muscles of the body. This will often include a number of applied stretches. It is common to undergo a postural assessment before a session, for the practitioner to consider where the person’s problem may ultimately lie. The focus of a session will be to relieve symptoms of pain in the area affected, but also in areas not directly affected but indirectly causing the symptoms. Following a session, suggestions may be made for a routine of exercises to be practiced at home, to build on the improvements made during the massage session.
Sports massage is not merely for the benefit of the sports person – in fact, it is far more common for the average person seeking sports massage to be an office based professional suffering with upper back, neck and shoulder tension and pain, or lower back tightness, weakness and pain. It is beneficial for everyone.
Thai Yoga massage, often referred to as just Thai massage for short, is part of the ancient and traditional medical system of Thailand. Practiced by at least one member of most households, it has been used as a general preventative healthcare system among Thai families. The Thais are not knowledgeable of anatomy and physiology like practitioners of western massage techniques such as sports massage, but approach the massage from an understanding of energy channels that run through the body, like blood vessels and very similar to the Chinese meridians of acupuncture. Thai massage manipulates the energy channels of the body primarily, and the joints, muscles and soft tissues secondary. It is given with the recipient fully clothed, wearing loose comfortable attire, on a futon mat on the floor.
The massage is given in a very slow, meditative and mindful way. The practitioner uses technically brilliant body mechanics to transfer body weight, rather than muscle strength, and will use most parts of his/her body to administer the massage. Deep, slow squeezes and compressions are applied, but Thai massage is most renowned for the amazing myriad of applied yoga stretches, that challenge and open the recipient’s body, leaving them feeling relaxed, energised, taller and more expansive.
Thai massage can be given for general relaxation or healthcare, or can be focused on a more specific therapeutic outcome, akin to sports massage. It is particularly beneficial to the average person who sits at a desk all day, with little movement of their body. The stretches and manipulations of Thai massage really get the energy flowing that often becomes stagnant when we are stationary for long periods.
Many of the techniques of sports and Thai massage are very similar, such as the compressions and stretches, and Sports massage can and will often be applied over clothing or towels. Some practitioners have studied both and will combine them for very effective results.
Contrary to what some may have heard, good, skilfully applied Sports or Thai massage will not cause you traumatising pain or leave you bruised and aching for days. You may experience some therapeutic ‘good pain’ that affects an immediate feeling of relief, but no more.