Thai Massage Vs Swedish Massage: what's the difference?

After our article about acupuncture vs massage, we decided to cover this new topic regarding the famous Thai massage and the more classic and soft one, the Swedish massage. They both have the same goal: relaxation, pain relief, reduce anxiety, activate blood circulation and so on… We are happy to get you trough all the differences between these 2 techniques wich, I personally, both love! By the way, if you are into acupuncture (or don’t know the difference with massage) you should have a look at this article.

Before we dig into the topic, we'd like to remember you that there are more than 200 differents types of massage and sub-techniques (for example deep tissue, hot stone massage, trigger point massage, chair massage, Swedish massage, Thai massage, Californian massage) and sometimes it can get tough to choose between all these.

But hey, you are not alone! Today we will introduce you to the Thai and Swedish massage, give you some useful information on both types to help you decide wich one to try next time you go to a Spa or massage therapist!

Let's start with the Swedish Massage

This one is often the most common type of massage technique people choose when they go to a Spa or wellness center. Why ? Because it is known as a soft massage (like the Californian one) and it's a good one for a first massage session, to get the feelings etc.

swedish massage

The Swedish massage is, most of the time, done on a massage table and require the patient to undress.

-> Check out which is better, Massage Chair Vs. Massage Therapist

Why the Swedish massage is underrated ?

It is funny because, on one side, this massage is tremendously utilized in a lot of wellness center for the reasons we said above (relaxation, first-time massage experience...) BUT on the other side way underused by the massage therapist, paradoxical right?

The main reason is that they acknowledge the Swedish massage as a "relaxation massage" only and not a therapeutic one. But we tend to forget that stress is the starting point that cause of many diseases and this massage is perfect to prevent this.

If you want to learn more about why this massage is underrated there is a good article to read here.

Swedish massage is known as a relaxing massage utilizing 4 main manipulation methods. Let's have a look at them:

  • Sweeping strokes, these are usually at the beginning and at the end of the massage.

  • Kneading, the masseuse kneads the muscle to release the pain and stretch it.

  • Friction and application of deep pressure to particular spots done with fingertips, knuckles and the thumb.

  • Rhythmic tapping, this involves fast movements resembling chopping or pounding.

As we said earlier, If you are looking to begin your massage experience then this is proly the kind of massage to look out for. And, of course, you can enjoy the Swedish massage as a couple in every Spa wich is such a great experience to share!

A small video which explain well what's the Swedish Massage by @Howcast

What about Thai massage?

This massage technique, always described as 'lazy yoga' utilizes the same principles such as the Swedish massage. Thai massage also stimulates the acupressure points in relation to energy line.

This massage does also provide a pain relief, stretch tightened muscles, relieve joints and release tension, clear your mind (and way more).

thai massage manipulation

A Thai massage will leave you feeling relaxed and energized, in addition, a Thai massage uses the technique of blocking blood flow then releasing it after 30 seconds through the application of sustained pressure.

-> Check out the difference between Shiatsu vs. Swedish Massage

Quick infos

If you don't like to undress for a massage for any reason, it is good to know that a Thai massage is always done either with your clothes on or with a specific "costume" given by the therapist before the session.

The massage is done on the floor (on a thin mattress) and not on a massage table like the Swedish one.

Last but not least, if you love oiled massage, Thai massage won't best the best option for you!

In regards to positions, unlike the Swedish massage, which requires you to lie on your back or stomach most of the time, a Thai massage uses a wide range of position and requires a bit more physical flexibility.

Some position can be a bit uncomfortable sometimes depending on people but keep in mind that the manipulation is for a good cause: release the pain and feel better afterward.

Thai massage also uses stretching. The stretching techniques involve placing your body in various positions to apply pressure on various zones and trigger points of your body.

The therapist will use his hands, knees, foot and so on depending on wich body-part he is working on. It sounds a bit scary at first when u see it but it is not dangerous at all if the therapist knows his job.

-> Check out which is better for chronic pain, Acupuncture VS Massage

Did you know ?

In the west, this is referred to as 'Thai yoga massage' or just 'yoga for lazy people'. This is because the entire body is placed in different positions which are similar to the asanas in yoga.

The only difference between yoga and the Thai massage is that unlike yoga where you need to do all the movement yourself and in control of your body, in a Thai massage you just have to let go and relax and let the masseuse take control of it.

-> Check out these Lymphatic drainage machine benefits

A real Thai massage session should be 2 hours. Most of the Spa center and Therapist do only 1 hour (for economic reasons mostly) BUT this massage has been developed for a 2 hours manipulation.

The main reason for this is because you have a lot of different positions to do if you refer to the ancestral this massage technique. Once you reach a sensitive zone on the body you have to fix it (or at least work on it) before moving to another part of the body, that's how it works and why you need 2 hours.

If you go to Asia, you'll see that Thai massage is more than just a simple relaxation massage. In fact, it includes a lot of spiritual and meditative habits.

For example, the masseuse may say some words before she manipulates your body as a prayer and focus on bringing true health and wellness to the client.

Check this video to see how a real Thai massage session looks like !​

If you are lucky, you'll enjoy some herbals and essential oils hot cotton bags during the massage on specific part wich have been treated to help release toxins and knots.

Thai massage is more dynamic and suits anybody who does not mind being tossed and flipped around in unexpected positions.

It may not be as relaxing as a Swedish one to some people, but it is wonderful to alleviate pain and tiredness after a hard days work or just to treat chronic pain.

So what's the best massage between Thai and Swedish ?

I guess you already know the answer right ? There is no right or wrong answer to this question.

Our advice would be to try both and figure out yourself wich one give you the best results in term of global feelings, pain relief, relaxation etc.

Keep in mind that a Thai massage will always, by default, be stronger than a Swedish one and can be a bit less "enjoyable" during the session because it is more considered as a "massage treatment"​

Thai Massage Vs Swedish Massage
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