Thai Massage Intro -49 Thai Modalities

 Midwifery has a long-standing tradition in Thailand, playing a crucial role in the healthcare system. Historically, midwives were highly respected and sought after for their expertise in assisting women during childbirth. They provided prenatal care, attended deliveries, and offered postpartum support to new mothers. Midwives in Thailand were trained in traditional practices and techniques, passed down through generations. These practices included massage, herbal remedies, and the use of specific positions during labor. Midwives also significantly promoted maternal and infant health, educating women on nutrition, hygiene, and breastfeeding. Today, while modern medical facilities have become more prevalent, midwifery still holds an important place in Thai culture, with many women choosing to give birth with the assistance of a midwife. The traditional knowledge and skills of midwives continue to be valued, ensuring safe and holistic care for expectant mothers and their babies.

Midwifery is a part of Traditional Thai medicine that combines a mix of natural practices with folklore, rituals, and legend and extends well past the day of the birth itself. 

Before Western hospital births became the norm in Thailand, the mother and newborn remained inside the birth room for one month to complete the Traditional Postpartum practice called Yu Fai. This practice is related to the concept of “recapturing the heat” to satisfy the belief that fire and heat scare off evil spirits. Methods included consuming hot drinks, lying by the fire, specific dietary restrictions, abdominal binding, warm herbal baths, and other activities that prevent heat loss like sexual abstinence, continually keeping the body covered up, and avoiding the weather.

 During this month, Thai mothers receive other herbal services, including massage with an herbal compress known in Thai as “Luk Pra Krob,” heating the birth canal area by sitting over a herbal hot charcoal seat, abdominal salt herbal massage, and herbal sauna steam treatments. 

Today, the Yu Fai tradition continues to be practiced by women in Thailand’s rural countryside, yet it has made a comeback in urban settings and is also gaining popularity in the west. As a “natural” alternative to western-based medicine, Traditional Thai medicine has gained interest among pregnant women in urban areas who are beginning to use a modified version of Yu Fai to fit a new generation of mothers. Today in Thailand, there’s a continuous effort to integrate Thai Traditional Medicine into the national health care system, combining modern contemporary methods with traditional knowledge.

The practice of massage in Thailand has undergone significant changes compared to its traditional roots. Traditionally, massage in Thailand was primarily used for therapeutic purposes, focusing on the manipulation of pressure points and energy lines in the body. However, in recent years, the popularity of Thai massage has grown exponentially, leading to a shift towards a more commercialized and tourist-oriented approach. Today, Thai massage is often offered in spa settings, with an emphasis on relaxation and pampering. While the traditional techniques are still utilized, the overall experience has become more standardized and less focused on the therapeutic benefits. Despite these changes, Thai massage continues to be a cherished part of Thai culture and remains a popular choice for both locals and tourists seeking relaxation and rejuvenation.

The actual bodywork consists of an array of techniques, including slow, rhythmic compressions and stretches along the pathways in the body along which your life force flows, also called Sen in Thai. Depending on the purpose of treatment, a Thai Medicine Practitioner may utilize other external therapy techniques such as kneading; point pressing; joint range of motion, rubbing; squeezing; pressing; plucking; pulling; beating; rolling, and/or vibration to treat the physical body.

The Thai word Nuad translated into English is “massage.” Bo-rarn translates as “ancient”. So, Nuad Bo-Rarn means “ancient massage”, or “ancient healing way”. Nuad Bo-Rarn is an effective healing method that combines acupressure, compressions, movement, and passive yoga-like positions to restore the mind, body, and spirit. 

The integrated approach stimulates the body’s natural healing ability by unblocking the flow, resulting in an enlivened calm with the recipient. The foundational concept is about Metta (the act of loving-kindness) to restore the unimpeded movement of life forces through the body.

poh-chá-naa • nutrition

gaan • task;work; job

The process of providing nutritional counseling happens in tandem with other Traditional therapies and begins with the same assessment, which may include iridology, numerology divination, studying the qualities of the tongue, three pulse analyses, and other observations such as stool and urine analysis. These factors provide the basis for identifying behaviors that need to be changed.

The nutrition counselor provides support and follow-up care to help people make and maintain the needed dietary changes. 

Nutritional counseling used to be an integral part of a visit to a Thai medicine practitioner in Thailand. In the past, these practitioners recognized the importance of diet in maintaining overall health and well-being. They would provide patients with personalized dietary recommendations based on their specific health concerns and conditions. This holistic approach aimed to address not only the symptoms but also the underlying causes of illness. By incorporating nutritional counseling into their practice, Thai medicine practitioners helped patients make informed choices about their diet and lifestyle, promoting a balanced and nourishing approach to healthcare. However, as modern medicine and practices have evolved, the focus on nutritional counseling has diminished, and it is now less commonly emphasized during visits to Thai medicine practitioners. Nonetheless, the historical significance of this approach highlights the traditional wisdom that recognized the vital role of nutrition in promoting health and healing.

Divination is an integral part of Thai medicine practice in Thailand. Thai medicine practitioners often rely on various divination techniques to gain insights into the health and well-being of their patients. These techniques include palmistry, astrology, and the use of sacred objects.

In 19th-century Siam, people would have consulted a divination specialist (mor doo) on matters of love and relationships. This divination manual contains horoscopes based on the Chinese zodiac, including drawings of the animals in the 12-year cycle. Most interestingly, the manuscript describes lucky and unlucky constellations for couples, considering their characters and their horoscopes. It would appear that a hot-tempered couple would have a better chance of living happily together than a demonic male and an angelic female.

 Bone setting is a traditional practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. Based on the belief that misaligned bones can cause health issues, this technique manipulates bones and joints to alleviate pain and restore alignment. Thai medicine practitioners apply pressure and gentle movements to affected areas, using hands and sometimes tools, to realign bones and promote healing. Bone setting is often used to treat musculoskeletal injuries like sprains, strains, and fractures. It is also believed to improve blood circulation and relieve tension in the body. This traditional practice has been passed down through generations and is still widely used in Thailand today.

Many practitioners and people who like to get Thai Massage treatments are familiar with the cracking sounds in Thai Massage. The best known and most applied are those rendered to the hands, fingers, feet, and toes, but ankles and wrists are also likely to crack during the session. The so-called “Bone Cracks” or realignment happens automatically and spontaneously during a Thai Massage session when tension is added along fascial planes while bodies are trusting and people are relaxed. Bones and joints simply go back into their rightful positions, which might feel and sound like a “pop” or “crack.”

The massage practitioner can also help crack or realign bones by using certain manual techniques putting specific pressure on surrounding areas and supporting the posture for immediate realignment. 

In Thailand, every type of chiropractic adjustment is in the massage therapist’s realm, including neck cracks and back/spine cracks

Chét hâek is a traditional Thai medicine technique widely used by practitioners in Thailand. This ancient healing method involves the use of a small, sharp instrument to make tiny incisions on the skin. These incisions are strategically placed along the body’s energy lines, known as sen, to promote the flow of energy and restore balance within the body.

Thai medicine practitioners believe that Chét hâek helps to release blocked energy, remove toxins, and stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. The technique is often used to treat a variety of ailments, including chronic pain, digestive disorders, and respiratory conditions.

During a Chét hâek session, the practitioner carefully selects the points where the incisions will be made, based on the patient’s specific needs. The instrument is typically a small, sterile needle or lancet, gently pressed against the skin to create the incision. The depth of the incision is minimal, ensuring that the procedure is safe and relatively painless.

After making incisions, the practitioner may apply herbal remedies or medicinal oils to enhance healing and provide therapeutic benefits. The patient may feel a tingling or warming sensation as energy flows freely through the body.

Chet haek is a traditional Thai healing practice that combines herbal medicine, massage, and acupressure to address underlying causes of illness and promote overall harmony of the body, mind, and spirit.

In Thailand, Chét hâek is considered a valuable and respected healing technique. Many Thai medicine practitioners undergo extensive training to master this ancient art. They study the body’s energy pathways, learn the proper techniques for making incisions, and become well-versed in the various herbal remedies and oils used in conjunction with Chét hâek.

While Chét hâek may seem unconventional to those unfamiliar with Thai medicine, it has been practiced for centuries and continues to be an integral part of traditional healing in Thailand. Its effectiveness in promoting overall well-being and treating a wide range of ailments has made it a trusted and sought-after therapy by many.

Bpào is a traditional Thai medicine tool used by practitioners in Thailand. It is a small, cylindrical wooden stick that is typically made from a specific type of tree called the “Bpào tree.” The stick is used for various therapeutic purposes, including massage and acupressure techniques. 

When using Bpào, the practitioner applies pressure to specific points on the body, targeting energy lines known as “Sen.” By applying pressure with the stick, the practitioner aims to stimulate the flow of energy, release tension, and promote overall well-being. 

Bpào is often used in conjunction with other traditional Thai medicine techniques, such as herbal remedies and stretching exercises. It is believed to help balance the body’s energy, relieve pain, and improve circulation. 

In addition to its therapeutic benefits, Bpào is also used as a diagnostic tool. Practitioners can assess the condition of a patient’s body by observing the response to pressure applied with the stick. This allows them to identify areas of imbalance or blockage in the energy flow. 

Overall, Bpào is an integral part of Thai traditional medicine, used by practitioners to promote physical and mental health through targeted pressure techniques and energy balancing.

Jòp kà, also known as the Removal of toxins and evil with an egg, is a traditional Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. This technique involves using a fresh chicken egg to diagnose and treat various ailments and remove negative energy from the body. 

During a Jòp kài session, the practitioner rubs a raw egg over the patient’s body, focusing on areas of pain or discomfort. The egg is believed to absorb toxins and negative energy, which can manifest as physical or emotional ailments. 

After the egg has been rubbed on the body, it is cracked open into a glass of water. The practitioner examines the egg contents for abnormalities or illness. The egg yolk and white’s color, consistency, and texture can provide valuable insights into the patient’s health condition. 

Based on the findings, the practitioner may recommend specific treatments or herbal remedies to address the identified issues. These treatments can range from massage and acupuncture to herbal compresses and dietary changes. 

Jòp kài is widely used in Thailand as a complementary therapy to conventional medicine. It is believed to help detoxify the body, release blocked energy, and promote overall well-being. Many Thai people seek out Jòp kài practitioners for a variety of health concerns, including chronic pain, digestive issues, and emotional imbalances. 

Overall, Jòp kài is a unique and ancient practice that continues to be valued by Thai medicine practitioners for its ability to diagnose and treat ailments, as well as cleanse the body and mind of negative energy.

Spirit Doctors:

Predominantly chosen by the spirits themselves, the Mor Pi or Shaman is the village’s connection with the spirit world. Through near-death experiences or divination by a group of village elders, the Mor Phi become healers because they are in touch with where ancestors and spirits dwell. Using mostly trance to connect with their guiding spirits, this type of treatment is affected in the spirit world, or the shaman may prescribe specific ceremonies to the client. 

หมอผี, or spirit doctors, are an integral part of Thai medicine practice in Thailand. These practitioners possess the ability to communicate with spirits and channel their healing powers to treat various ailments. The practice of หมอผี is deeply rooted in Thai culture and has been passed down through generations.

Thai medicine practitioners who specialize in หมอผี undergo rigorous training to develop their spiritual abilities. They often retreat to remote areas or temples to meditate and connect with the spirit realm. Through this process, they establish a strong bond with the spirits and gain their trust and guidance.

During a healing session, a Thai medicine practitioner who practices หมอผี will enter a trance-like state and allow the spirit to possess their body. The spirit then uses the practitioner as a vessel to diagnose and treat the patient’s ailments. This can involve various methods such as herbal remedies, massage, or spiritual rituals.

The use of หมอผี in Thai medicine is not limited to physical ailments but also extends to mental and emotional well-being. The spirits are believed to have a profound understanding of the human psyche and can provide guidance and healing on a spiritual level.

In Thailand, หมอผี is widely accepted and sought after by many individuals who believe in the power of spirits and traditional healing methods. These practitioners are highly respected in their communities and play a crucial role in providing holistic healthcare.

In conclusion, the practice of หมอผี is a unique and deeply ingrained aspect of Thai medicine. It combines spiritual beliefs, traditional healing methods, and a deep understanding of the human body and mind. Thai medicine practitioners who specialize in หมอผี provide a valuable service to their communities by channeling the healing powers of spirits to treat various ailments and promote overall well-being.

Magical Tattooing:

This tradition is widely known among travelers in Thailand today and has ancient roots all over Southeast Asia. “Sak” means “tattoo,” and “yant” means yantra, a mystical diagram found throughout Dharmic religions. These tattoos draw inspiration from Buddhist, Brahman, and animist imagery and incorporate sacred geometry and magical incantations (kata) written in the Khmer version of Pali Sanskrit, known as Khom.

There are three categories of a yantra tattoo. For the most part, the intention is that of protection and to ward off evil and hardship. This type would normally be selected for someone who has a dangerous profession, such as a police officer or a driver. Another is one that benefits the wearer, such as making them more articulate and expressive. A third type is that which affects people around the wearer, such as invoking fear. These would be the kind of tattoos worn by a Muay Thai fighter.

“Sak yant was influenced by the Khmer language since around 1,200 years ago. The language has no power in itself. But power comes from the tattooing ceremony.”

The magic of the Yantra tattoos is believed to bestow mystical powers, good luck, or protection. The potency of sacred tattoos is believed to decrease with time, so to recharge them each year, sak yant masters celebrate the Wai Khru ceremony with their devotees. The observance of certain rules and avoidance of taboos, such as abstaining from certain types of food, are also required for the bearer to enjoy the desired effect. 

Sak yant designs are also applied to one’s vehicle to protect from the danger of the roads. Other surfaces, such as painted or cloth objects, are also employed to carry the images that can be placed around the house to increase wealth or attract a lover’s interest.  

สักยันต์, also known as magical tattooing, is a traditional practice in Thailand that holds deep cultural and spiritual significance. Thai medicine practitioners, known as “ajarns,” utilize this ancient art form as a powerful tool in their healing practices. These tattoos are believed to possess mystical powers and provide protection, luck, and various other benefits to the wearer. Ajarns, who are highly respected and revered, undergo rigorous training and possess extensive knowledge of sacred symbols, mantras, and rituals. They use special ink and traditional bamboo needles to create intricate designs on the skin, incorporating sacred texts, deities, and mystical creatures. These tattoos are believed to harness spiritual energy and provide a connection to the divine. Thai medicine practitioners use these tattoos to treat physical and spiritual ailments, enhance personal strength, and promote overall well-being. The process of receiving a magical tattoo involves the physical act of tattooing and the spiritual rituals and blessings performed by the ajarn. The wearer must adhere to certain guidelines and rituals to maintain the power and effectiveness of the tattoo. The Thai practice of สักยันต์ continues to be an integral part of traditional medicine in Thailand, deeply rooted in the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Herbal Compresses:

The practice of using heated herbal compress poultices for therapy in Asia may date back 5,000 years. In Thailand, the herbal compress is referred to as luk pra kob, translated as “herbal pressing sphere.”

This practice is devised to relieve pain and inflammation, aid digestion, and ease recovery after childbirth. Therapeutic herbs, including plai, ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass, are wrapped in muslin fabric to form a compress poultice. This herbal pressing sphere is heated in a steamer and then applied to the body in circular and rolling movements.

The compress is made using a combination of healing herbs that are individually processed by chopping and grinding, then bundled together according to recipes that vary by practitioner and what is being treated. The most likely application would include heating the poultices and placing them directly on the skin to soothe muscular aches and swelling, but practitioners may also choose to use them for cooling.

The herbal compresses’ popularity is mainly due to their effectiveness in preparing the body for more in-depth work and the ease they create for the practitioner to realize desired changes. In ancient times, Thai royalty used luk pra kob in elaborate treatments. After returning from battle, Thai soldiers also used luk pra kob to recover from aches and pains.

Scholars believe that herbal compress therapy was brought to Thailand by monks from India to establish the first Buddhist monasteries in Thailand around 200 B.C. Evidence suggests that luk pra kob originated in Thailand’s rural folk medicine and was passed on by secret manuscripts containing recipes that changed hands from teacher to student.

Herbal compress therapy is more popular today than ever in Thailand and is offered throughout the country in storefront massage establishments as well as high-end spas.

ลูกประคบ, also known as herbal compress massage, is a traditional Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It involves the use of a heated compress filled with a blend of herbs and spices. The compress is applied to the body through gentle pressing, rolling, and kneading motions. This technique is believed to help relieve muscle tension, improve blood circulation, and promote relaxation. Thai medicine practitioners often incorporate herbal compress massage into their treatments to address various ailments, such as muscle pain, inflammation, and stress. The herbs and spices used in the compress are carefully selected for their therapeutic properties, which can vary depending on the desired effect. Overall, herbal compress massage is a popular and effective practice in Thai traditional medicine.


The ancient practice of cupping therapy is found in traditional medicine systems in every continent worldwide. There are many different ways to employ the treatment, with the most common being Fire Cupping and Suction Cupping. Fire cupping uses glass cups applied to the skin using a flame placed momentarily inside the cup to create a vacuum as the heat dissipates. Some think of this method as a reverse massage.  Instead of applying pressure, the fascia is drawn up into a vacuum created inside a cup over the targeted areas.  The cups typically stay in place for around 5-15 minutes and may or may not be painful or uncomfortable. Depending on where they are placed, I have a love/hate feeling from the cups, but the immediate relief I get from pain in one of my knees is incomparable.  Cupping is a therapeutic and diagnostic tool that can treat a wide range of issues, from illness to acute and chronic injuries, making it a versatile and effective option..

สูญญากาศ, also known as cupping, is a traditional Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction, which promotes healing and improves blood flow. The cups are typically made of glass or bamboo and heated before being placed on the skin. As the cups cool, they create a vacuum effect, drawing the skin and underlying tissues into the cup. This technique is used to treat a variety of conditions, including muscle pain, inflammation, and respiratory issues. Thai medicine practitioners may use cupping and other holistic treatments, such as herbal remedies and massage, to offer comprehensive patient care. Overall, cupping is an integral part of Thai traditional medicine and continues to be practiced widely in Thailand today.

Scraping is a lesser-known technique that uses a tool to gently rub the skin, drawing out heat and stagnancy, alleviating pain, releasing the tension, and softening adhesions. Known as Gua Sha in China, Cao Dió or “coining” in Vietnam, and Koodt in Thai, this technique is beneficial, safe, and easy, with an ancient history in many cultures.

การครูด, also known as scraping or gua sha, is a traditional Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It involves using a tool, usually made of buffalo horn or jade, to scrape the skin in order to release tension and promote blood circulation. The practitioner applies gentle pressure and strokes the tool along the body, targeting specific areas of discomfort or pain. This technique is believed to help stimulate the flow of energy, or “lom,” in the body and restore balance. Thai medicine practitioners often use scraping as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, combining it with other therapies such as herbal remedies, massage, and stretching exercises. The practice of scraping has been passed down through generations and is deeply rooted in Thai culture. It is valued for relieving muscle tension, reducing inflammation, and improving overall well-being.

Yam Kahng is a Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It involves the use of a special technique to massage and manipulate the body’s energy lines, known as Sen. This technique is performed using the hands, fingers, elbows, and sometimes even the feet. Yam Kahng seeks to enhance the body’s innate healing abilities and restore energy balance.. Thai medicine practitioners use Yam Kahng to treat a variety of ailments, including muscle pain, joint stiffness, and fatigue. The practitioner applies pressure to specific points along the Sen lines, using a combination of techniques such as kneading, stretching, and rocking motions. This helps to release tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Yam Kahng is often used in conjunction with other traditional Thai healing practices, such as herbal remedies and dietary recommendations. It is considered an integral part of Thai medicine and is widely practiced throughout Thailand.

The term, Tok Sen, like many Thai idioms, is derived from the sounds that are made during the event. Tok Sen makes reference to the instruments as well as the application of the massage. Tok refers to the mallet’s sound when hitting the wooden implement, and “Sen” relates to the lines in Traditional Thai medicine. Hence, the Tok Sen massage uses a wooden mallet to strike a selected implement, often made of wood from the tamarind tree. The objective is to stimulate points and lines within the body. What really makes the Tok Sen massage stand out from other massage modalities is that it combines the deep vibration produced by the wooden instruments with manual pressure and passive stretches to make changes within the body, mind, and spirit and reinstate well-being.

ตอกเส้น (Tok sen) is a traditional Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It involves using a wooden hammer and a wooden stick to gently tap along the body’s energy lines, known as Sen lines. The wooden stick is usually made of tamarind wood, which is believed to have healing properties. The tapping creates vibrations that are believed to help release blockages and restore the body’s energy flow. This practice often treats various ailments, including muscle tension, pain, and stress. Thai medicine practitioners believe that Tok sen can help balance the body’s energy and promote overall well-being.

Bloodletting is a specialized technique of Traditional Thai Medicine that aims to restore balance in the human body using the targeted draining of blood from specific locations. As such, it has been used historically to treat ailments stemming from inflammation, such as a sore throat or other disorders. The practitioner may employ cupping as a means to draw the blood out and evaluate it visually.

Bloodletting, known as ผ่าเลือดออก in Thai, is a traditional practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It involves the intentional removal of blood from the body for therapeutic purposes. Thai medicine practitioners believe that bloodletting helps to balance the body’s energy and promote overall health and well-being. 

During a bloodletting session, a Thai medicine practitioner will use various techniques to extract blood from specific points on the body, such as acupuncture points or areas believed to be congested or blocked. These techniques may include using a lancet or a small needle to make a small incision on the skin or applying suction cups to draw out the blood. 

The amount of blood extracted during a bloodletting session is carefully controlled, and the practitioner takes into consideration factors such as the patient’s age, health condition, and specific needs. The process is typically performed in a clean and sterile environment to minimize the risk of infection.

Thai medicine practitioners believe that bloodletting can help to remove toxins from the body, improve circulation, and stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. It is often used as a complementary therapy alongside other traditional Thai medicine treatments, such as herbal remedies, massage, and dietary adjustments.

It is important to note that bloodletting should only be performed by well-trained and experienced Thai medicine practitioners who have a deep understanding of the practice, its potential risks, and its benefits. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified practitioner before undergoing any form of bloodletting or other traditional medical treatments.

Nûat Karsai:

Therapeutic visceral manipulation of the reproductive organs, most commonly male reproductive organs.

นวด กระษัย (Nûat Karsai) is a traditional Thai practice that is used in Thailand. It is a therapeutic massage technique that focuses on the genital area and aims to improve overall health and well-being. 

During a Nûat Karsai session, the practitioner applies gentle pressure and strokes to the genital area, including the testicles, perineum, and pelvic region. This technique is believed to stimulate blood flow, release tension, and promote the balance of energy in the body.

Thai medicine practitioners use Nûat Karsai as a holistic approach to address various health concerns. It is believed that imbalances in the genital area can lead to physical and emotional ailments. By applying specific techniques and pressure points in the genital area, the practitioner aims to restore balance and promote healing.

Nûat Karsai is often used to address issues such as fertility problems, sexual dysfunction, urinary problems, and hormonal imbalances. It is also believed to help with the release of emotional trauma and stress that may be stored in the pelvic region.

Thai medicine practitioners undergo extensive training to master the techniques and principles of Nûat Karsai. They deeply understand the body’s energy pathways and how to manipulate them to promote healing and well-being.

It is important to note that Nûat Karsai is a specialized practice that requires the expertise of a trained Thai medicine practitioner. It should only be performed by professionals who have received proper training and certification.

In conclusion, Nûat Karsai is a traditional Thai practice used by Thai medicine practitioners in Thailand. It focuses on the genital area and aims to improve overall health and well-being by stimulating blood flow, releasing tension, and promoting balance. It is used to address various health concerns and is performed by trained professionals.