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Case Studies: Holistic Effects of Thai Massage

by Susan Lorrimer(more info)

listed in thai yoga massage and bodywork, originally published in issue 207 - June 2013

Thai massage is performed using rhythmic thumb, palm and elbow pressure, muscle compressions and stretching along these energy lines. Thai massage cited benefits include:

  • The removal of blockages in energy lines to promote an increase in energy levels;
  • Relaxation and removal of stress from body and mind;
  • Acupressure and stretching techniques to bring about pain relief;
  • Relief of muscular tension and an increase of flexibility in muscles and limbs;
  • Aids harmonization of imbalances in the nervous system and improves blood and lymph flow. 

In the following two case studies the holistic effects of Thai massage can be observed.  In both cases the relaxation started on the physical level and progressed to encompass mental and emotional improvements.  Both case studies show the participants ‘coping’ more effectively and becoming more positive in their attitudes which enabled them to manage their stress levels and make changes to their lifestyles.

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Thai Massage - Case Study 1

E will undergo six one-hour Thai massage treatments.  Treatments 1-3 will be at weekly intervals and treatments 4-6 will be at monthly intervals.

She has not tried Thai massage before but has tried Swedish massage which had been effective for neck and shoulder tension due to long periods sat at the computer.  She is open to trying treatments other than the conventional medicine route.

E has had chronic tennis elbow for the past 3 years and has had physiotherapy massage and cortisone injections; these gave limited relief and so E decided on surgery which has improved the condition; she now has 85-90% movement and strength back in the arm.  She is not currently taking any medication.

Presenting Symptoms

Emotional exhaustion, lack of energy, drained and fatigued, struggling at work all week and dreading not being able to last the week (partially due to several stressful events over the year); longstanding reactive depression.

Lifestyle and Diet

E has a healthy diet.  She is a non-smoker but she does drink most nights (up to two glasses of wine).  She is overweight.

Weekly Thai Massage - Treatments 1-3

E experienced feelings of wellbeing from week 1.  She felt better, and aches and pains were reduced.  After week 2 she feels that she looks up when walking, and has the feeling of being pulled up rather than slouching and looking down.  E started exercising, first by taking the dog for long walks and then by using the exercise bike and an exercise dvd.  She stopped drinking as she felt that she did not want to put alcohol into her body. 

E’s energy levels are elevated and she feels invigorated and alert with more confidence.  She has lost weight and this is contributing to her self-esteem. Stressful events are more easily dealt with, as for 1 hour a week during Thai massage everything is good and this gives her the feeling that maybe things aren’t as bad as she thought they were.  Her depression is also reduced so the knock on effect is that she has more energy.  She finds herself moving more than before.  She has experienced a physical and emotional effect - feeling taller and with repeated confirmation that everything isn’t as bad as it was.  She is more conscious of her posture and therefore lifts herself up and walks taller.  She feels very relaxed during Thai massage.

She had been treated for tennis elbow recently and after Thai massage she realized she had been nursing her arm and not using it much.  After the manipulations in Thai massage she now has more confidence in it and is using it more now.  Thai massage has been of more benefit than just exercise or other complementary therapies overall.  The after effects of Thai massage lasted a few days.

E is now eating better and exercises more.  She feels her emotional and physical exhaustion have been addressed and her depression has lifted. She is confident that when she is not feeling great she now knows that there is something that can set her back on track fairly quickly.

Monthly Thai Massage - Treatments 3-6

Having monthly Thai massages has given E a change of focus from the weekly treatments.  She explained that this is because she is different in herself and doing different things to when she first started her Thai massage treatments.  This is due to the fact that many of her issues of fatigue, low self-esteem and depression have been alleviated and that she now has something that she can rely on to help her to stay positive within herself. 

E was initially concerned that the good feelings about herself would not last but now feels that this is not temporary, but will last and is more solid. 

During treatments 3-6 I became more in tune with the client; she feels that these more intense treatments have brought her up a notch - she feels more energetic, more flexible and in control of her body as a system and more aware of the way it moves.  She feels like a whole new person.  She has excess energy to use more productively.


E came for Thai massage with many presenting symptoms, mainly mental and emotional with the added symptom of fatigue and lack of energy.  Over the 6 treatment period, these symptoms have been completely addressed.  This appears to indicate that Thai massage works on a mental and emotional as well as a physical and energy level. 

It appears that the result of Thai massage working on various levels has allowed E to take control of her own life and body and to become more confident with better self-esteem.  As E put it “I feel like a whole new person”. 

As a therapist I would interpret the results as Thai massage working on various metaphysical levels and its effectiveness may also be influenced by the client’s receptivity - consciously, sub-consciously or energetically.

Case Study 2 - Thai Massage

David came for his first treatment having tried a few alternative therapies in the past, namely chiropractic massage for physical complaints, and faith healing which he found useful psychologically. He is 64 years old and hearing impaired.

On consultation, he expressed the following: his mental tension tends to collect as physical tension especially in his shoulders.  He has night cramps in his calves and front of his hip (which started in childhood).  He controls these with quinine which he has been taking for 4 years.  He is quick to go into depression and tends to feel that what he does isn’t good enough and worries that he will make mistakes; he had a work stress-induced mental breakdown in 2004.

Medication: quinine, psychoactive medication.

Presenting symptoms:  he finds it hard to relax and is quite often stressed and tense; very drowsy at work at lunchtime and in the evenings. 

Expectations and/or desired results from Thai massage are:  the ability to be more alert and stay alert and also to waste less energy being stressed and tense; release of endorphins; ability to “unbox” his separate symptoms, look at them holistically and gain insight into them; find tools that work for him;

Weekly Thai Massage - Treatments 1-3

After the first Thai massage David felt his muscles begin to relax.  He noticed feelings of relaxing deep muscles and felt tension inside had been released.  He felt more comfortable in his body - this was an immediate effect.  He experienced feelings of wellbeing and felt like springing up after the treatment.  He feels that the effects of Thai massage will be cumulative.

He has been feeling more positive after the third treatment even with stress at home, including the stress of a minor car collision. After the massage in week 3 he feels he can talk about his stresses and problems whereas before he was too wound up to speak about them.  He couldn’t have talked about his problems even two weeks ago (after the first massage) but he feels that the 3 massages have released him enough to be able to talk about them.

He feels that Thai massage is an inter-body treatment, very holistic and feels this is why it is having a psychological and physical effect.  Muscles that have been tight for years are being released and this is partly why he is feeling better. He feels he has a way to go to get to the bottom of his problems to release them all, but is hoping that, as a result of Thai massage, he will learn how to relax some of the muscles.  He now knows what it feels like to relax which he hasn’t known before.  It gives him a start point to know what he’s aiming for. 

His relaxation level has improved.  He is more alert in the daytime but still has tiredness at lunch time (he puts this down to his body clock ‘siesta” time’).  Whereas before the Thai massages he would drop off to sleep, he now just feels dozy.  He feels that he is back to being the whole ‘him’ again.  Feels this could be partly due to the Thai massage.  He feels that Thai massage works on a level other massages don’t and cannot praise it high enough.  The effects typically last 5 days but he feels he will see a build of effects over time. 

He feels now that he is feeling better that he wants to do all the physical jobs he has been meaning to do - this, he feels, is due to his muscles feeling released and he wants to capitalize on this and build on it.  He wants to work on what works (physically and mentally) and if he can, feeds this back into his system.  He feels it will be a major two-way process of feeling better and better - the potential is fantastic.  He feels that Thai massage should be available on the NHS and everyone should have access to it! 

His issues of fatigue and lack of sleep have been addressed to a considerable degree by the treatments - he definitely feels more sprightly.  Part of the fatigue comes from the stressful situations going on (which can’t be changed) but there is no doubt whatsoever, he feels,  that the Thai massage has hugely helped him to relax more;  his response to the stressful situations are much more positive so it has lifted him out of a negative spiral.  He doesn’t know whether this is a coping strategy but rather more that the massage has got to something he wasn’t even aware was a problem - the Thai massage is unwinding this and making it possible for him to feel better, sleep better, feel more positive and that’s making him approach things more positively. Instead of going down he is coming up, finding ways of dealing with it which are either coping strategies or genuinely finding ways to approach the thing and breathe better which is lifting him up - he feels it’s like a spiral - he’s spiralling into the good areas rather than being sucked down by it. 

It then has a huge effect on his relationship, as he can now help to hold his partner up.  If they are both down it is much worse than if one is up.  He feels that it is great to be able to help his partner (she has noticed the good effect of massage on him).  He feels he now has tools to make himself feel better.

Monthly Thai Massage – Treatments 4-6

D feels that the weekly treatments have a more cumulative effect and addressed his issues of alertness.  Having a longer period between treatments has less effect on his alertness.  He has realized that he may wake up in the night and start to worry and go over things in his mind which keeps him awake - he uses herbal calm tablets to help him go back to sleep.  He does tend to ‘crash out’ around 8pm and still drops off to sleep around lunchtime at work.

D feels good mentally and physically after Thai massage and the effects last a couple of weeks.  He feels that Thai massage makes him feel less stressed and more comfortable physically.  It also helps him stay on a level where he can help himself heal.  D opened up a bit more about the mental and emotional problems he faces and his struggle to come to terms with them and find ways of changing them.


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About Susan Lorrimer

Susan Lorrimer, Founder and Operator of Sumay, is a qualified holistic therapist and Thai massage practitioner with over 10 years’ experience in her field and is one of the region’s leading complementary therapists. Susan studied holistic therapies in the North East and at the “Old Medicine Hospital” in Chiang Mai, Thailand, considered to be one of the world’s leading schools for healing massage, massage therapy, massage theory and therapeutic relationships.

Sue created Sumay to bring the benefits of a holistic therapy to a wider audience, helping organizations in both the private, public and third sectors to deliver workforce well-being and health interventions. Sue provides various corporate in-house workshops and is also available for providing holistic therapy training for private or public health care providers. Susan may be contacted via Mob: 07854 092303; 

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