Thai massage therapy requires extensive training, and the preeminent place for it is Wat Po in Bangkok. The school offers three certification levels, with the third one alone requiring 800 hours. (Graduates are issued a certificate from the Thailand Ministry of Public Health.) There are numerous programs around the world with solid training as well, but many die-hard therapists make the pilgrimage to Thailand to acquire at least some authentic knowledge base.
Eric Spivack, who is a Thai massage practitioner and instructor based in Seattle, Washington, found this out first hand. Plagued with repetitive neck, shoulder and hand injuries, Spivack considered giving up his practice—and then he attended a Thai massage demonstration. “It was the first time I ever saw a therapist use feet,” he says. He has now been to Thailand 10 times, studying under nearly two dozen different teachers, and runs his own Thai massage school, Soaring Crane Massage & Acupuncture in Seattle.
A licensed massage therapist should ask you about your health history before the massage. Thai massage may not be safe for someone with health conditions such as disk herniation, osteoporosis, recent surgery, or cardiovascular disease. If you're considering trying Thai massage, it's a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before getting treatment to discuss whether it's appropriate for you.
Sometimes confused with pressure point massage, this involves deactivating trigger points that may cause local pain or refer pain and other sensations, such as headaches, in other parts of the body. Manual pressure, vibration, injection, or other treatment is applied to these points to relieve myofascial pain. Trigger points were first discovered and mapped by Janet G. Travell (President Kennedy's physician) and David Simons. Trigger points have been photomicrographed and measured electrically and in 2007 a paper was presented showing images of Trigger Points using MRI. These points relate to dysfunction in the myoneural junction, also called neuromuscular junction (NMJ), in muscle, and therefore this technique is different from reflexology, acupressure and pressure point massage.