Forget the Adage No Pain, No Gain

Forget the Adage No Pain, No Gain

The reputation of Thai massage being painful is misguided. When done correctly, it should be soft and deep, not painful.

Whenever my partner and I travel, we plan and book Thai massages in whatever city we visit. I like to call our trips Thai Mass-Odysseys. We have had many delightful appointments in Canada and worldwide but also had a good share of unpleasant Thai massages.

Thai massage sometimes has a reputation as being a type of massage that is painful. Many first-time clients might think a Thai massage will hurt and may be adverse to receiving one. Others hold the mantra that a good massage should be painful and accept Thai massages that leave them feeling uncomfortable and sore. That is unfortunate.

When done by a practitioner with proper training and a good sense of touch, the acupressure and the stretches in Thai massage should not be painful. As one teacher told me, Thai massage should be soft and deep. To many, this sounds like a contradiction. Shouldn’t a massage be hard to be deep?

This teacher’s analogy, the best I have ever heard, is that pressure in a Thai massage should be like pushing a heavy boat away from the dock. If you push hard on the boat, you won’t move the boat. You will rock the boat.

To move the boat, you must apply firm, consistent pressure, but only to the point where the boat will begin to rock. You continue to hold that pressure just at the point where the boat resists, and it will then start moving away from the dock. Then, to keep the boat moving, you must follow it with this same consistent pressure. If you don’t move with the boat, the boat will stop moving. And if you start pushing too hard again, the boat will stop moving and begin to rock.

Thai massage can be soft and deep in precisely the same way. Whether applying acupressure or a stretch, a good Thai massage practitioner should be in tune with the recipient’s body and sense the point at which their muscle is resisting. The practitioner should then maintain that exact pressure until the muscle relaxes, at which point the practitioner can move deeper into the muscle tissue with acupressure or deeper into the stretch, keeping the same amount of pressure.

So, forget the adage that there is no gain without pain. When done correctly, Thai massage should not be painful. If you feel a Thai massage practitioner is applying too much pressure for comfort or stretching you to the point where you hurt, ask them to use less pressure. And if you have a terrible experience, keep that practitioner from ruining it for all Thai massage. Good skill comes with patience, intuition and experience, and there are many excellent practitioners for you to visit.

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