Thai Foot Massage Guide

Thai Foot Massage is a combination of massage and reflexology and is about using massage to open up the Thai Sip Sen Energy Channels, stimulate the flow of vital or life energy, while incorporating pressure on so-called reflexology or acupressure points.

A Thai Foot Massage session can be done with or without using oils or creams. When oil is used there’s more sliding and stroking, without oils there is typically more acupressure, and/or mobilization or stretches applied.

A practitioner may use thumbs, other fingers, knuckles, elbows, forearms, the knees and feet and certain tools (often wooden sticks) to work on the feet. The client usually sits on a comfortable soft chair leaning back, and the practitioner would sit on the floor or on a little stool.

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Very often the treatment is extended to the calves, or even to the whole leg, and at the end of a session often a bit of arm, shoulder and neck work is applied also.

Like Traditional Thai Massage, Thai Foot Massage is very popular in Thailand. And surely, after a long day standing or walking, a session is not only pleasant and good for the feet, but in fact for the whole body. Foot Massage typically incorporates the idea of Reflexology, which means that pressing on certain therapeutic points (acupoints) under, on the sides, or on top of the feet, will benefit the whole body and notably the internal organs.

Thai Foot Massage and Reflexology is a blend of both ancient Indian Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts and techniques, and historically it was only practiced at home, by local healers, and in Thai temples (the so-called “Wats”) by Buddhist Monks. Today, it is available virtually everywhere in Thailand, on public markets, in massage parlors, on the beaches, and so on, and increasingly in the rest of the world in spas and massage salons.

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The treatment is strongly influenced by Chinese Reflexology and you’ll find a number of massage schools in Thailand offering Thai Foot Massage and Reflexology training, while at the same time — without seeing any contradiction — mentioning that it’s based on Chinese Reflexology acupressure points (like, for instance, the Wat Pho Medical Massage School’s Foot Massage course).

When it comes to “pressure point maps” of the feet, we need to be cautious. There are a variety of different maps and charts available, which often seem to contradict each other. Neither should we compare Thai Foot Reflexology with Western Reflexology, although there are certainly quite some parallels.

The benefits of Thai Foot Massage include an improvement of blood circulation, improvement of lymphatic drainage, a boost to the immune system, improved mobility and range of motion, stress reduction, a better sleep, better mood and concentration ability, and a feeling of general well being and calmness.

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Thai Reflexology (often called Thai Foot Massage), and western Reflexology, can be done with the help of a wooden massage stick, or it can be done without it, just using hands and other body parts.

To feel good, or to get the best therapeutic effect? Are those two options mutually exclusive, or could they possibly be combined into one?

Often the argument is that there is more therapeutic effect with the stick. In my experience as a teacher of Reflexology and Thai Foot Massage, this is not necessarily true.

The therapeutic effect does not come from just pressing harder and deeper. It is a misconception that therapeutic effect equals intensity of pressure, especially if this pressure is painful.

A good Thai Foot Massage or Reflexology session is not just a matter of where to press and how hard to press. It is a matter of providing a holistic, wonderfully relaxing, refreshing, invigorating, and healing experience.

Some western reflexologist’s position is that the main purpose of their work is to stimulate a healing response by pressing on specific reflexology points, even if the experience is not very pleasant for the client during the session. Their main focus is on therapeutic results.

The other camp takes a different approach by focusing more on providing a relaxing and enjoyable experience along with the therapeutic work. This version is more of a blend between reflexology and foot massage. That’s how it is generally practiced in Thailand.

There is no doubt that the stick makes it easier for the therapist, but often at the expense of an enjoyable experience for the client.

There are uses for the Thai Reflexology stick, however. For example, if a therapist has small hands and works on a client with large feet, then the stick can be a useful tool – as a supplement to the hands, not as a replacement.

Thai Foot Massage Guide
Thai Foot Massage Guide

This is different from automatically using the stick on everyone – necessary or not, beneficial or not. The stick should not be used automatically, but only when necessary, and it should not provide an inferior experience for the client.

There is no question that the human hand feels better than a wooden stick. It is much harder to make pressure feel good with the stick. Why?

The stick is hard, and the therapist cannot feel anything when pressing with it, whereas a trained human hand is very sensitive and can feel even the smallest knot or irregularity on a foot.

It is possible to develop good skills with the Thai foot massage stick and make it feel better for the client. However in my experience the vast majority of therapists who used the stick on my feet did not have such a refined skill level and just caused me discomfort and pain.

The stick is a good tool to have available for Thai Reflexology sessions – but more as a tool for certain situations and clients, and not as standard practice for every client in every session.

What if there was a way to combine all these elements in your work?

  • Maximum therapeutic effectiveness
  • A great client experience
  • No need for the stick
  • No stress or overuse of the hands of the therapists

Such a system actually exists. It is the best of both worlds because it largely eliminates the need for a wooden stick, it provides excellent therapeutic results, and it provides a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the client.

The secret is to greatly improve the way how you use your hands.

Instead of working mostly with thumbs and fingers, you can do the following:

  • Make extensive use of your knuckles
  • Support your fingers better
  • Use techniques in a more therapist-friendly way
  • Use better body mechanics

This system is taught in our Foot Massage And Reflexology training courses and our treatments.

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