I have been asked many times about the difference between Swedish massage and Thai massage since I started my own massage service in the UK. This article will give you a simple comparison and make it quite clear for those who have asked this question.
Swedish massage and Thai massage are very different both in their techniques and in their philosophies. Swedish massage is a Western modality and Thai massage is Eastern and originally comes from India, dating back about 2,500 years.
Swedish massage is well known as the classical or relaxing massage as it uses five main techniques; stroking and gliding, kneading, rubbing, pounding and shaking. These techniques are based on Western anatomy and physiology and their aim is to achieve relaxing and healing effects.
Thai massage is often described as “lazy yoga.” It uses quite similar techniques as Swedish massage, but Thai massage also stimulates the acupressure points in relation to the concept of energy lines in order to provide relief, to stretch and loosen tightened muscles, to release tension and relieve joints. Thai massage leaves you feeling relaxed and energised. In addition, Thai massage uses the technique of blocking and releasing the blood flow by applying sustained pressure for around 30 seconds to the areas where legs and arms meet the torso. This is a real circulation booster. When the pressure is released, you suddenly feel a rush of heat as blood floods back along your limbs.
Swedish massage uses essential oils or lotions to suit the client’s skin type. The client is undressed and may cover themselves with towels; thus the massage space must be private. For a Swedish massage, the client lies on a massage table (usually padded for extra comfort). In contrast, there is no need for oil to be used in Thai massage, so the client can remain fully clothed and privacy is not usually required. Generally, a Thai massage is done on a floor mat.
With regard to positions, a Swedish massage requires the client to lie on his/her back and stomach most of the time but does not require much physical flexibility. A Thai massage, on the other hand, requires the client to lie on his/her back, stomach and side, as well as to sit. It can also be more physically demanding and requires more flexibility.
These then are the main differences between a Swedish massage and a Thai massage.