Thai massage differs radically from ‘Swedish Massage’ (often called ‘Classical Massage’) which is the most widespread technique of massage in the West. That kind of massage is very much restricted to working with the muscles and soft tissue. There is no doubt but that such relaxing massage plays an important role in a world dominated by haste and stress but in Thai massage the aspect of muscular relaxation is only a secondary goal. Contrary to Swedish massage, traditional Thai massage does not primarily work with the physical body but rather with the energy body of man. The kneading of muscles which dominates in Swedish massage is absent in Thai Massage, energy points are pressed or general pressure is used instead. There is a lot of stretching involved and many exercises might be described as ‘applied Hatha Yoga’ or applied physical Yoga’. The tradition is more or less lost in India nowadays, as Ayurvdedic massage and Indian Yoga massage have evolved in different directions. But the Yoga background of Thai Massage is obvious from all the beautiful postures used.
Physiotherapy and Chiropractic in the West are closer to Thai Massage than Swedish massage is, but these techniques also ignore manipulating the energy points and the energy flow of the body, their theoretical foundations are based on the anatomical structure of the body. A search for massage theories and techniques in the West which are more closely parallel to Thai Massage brings to mind reflexology, where a workout on energy points is done well.