If only a gentle touch filled with love
and care can make you feel relaxed, then imagine the ultimate
effect that you will get from a professional massage.
According to the book The Touch of Love, Thai
Massage (written by Sombat Tapanya), massage is an art
of healing originated some 5,000 years ago. It was mentioned
in an ancient Chinese medical textbook in the reign of Emperor
Wendi (179-157 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty and in an Indian Ayuraveda
Book that "Massage is a self-healing method."
Hippocrates (460-380 B.C.), who received
an honour as "the father of medical study", stated
that "a physician needs to specialize in several things
but being an expert in massage is a must."
There are several kinds of massage and each has its unique benefits.
However, this article will deal only with the area of foot reflexology
here to read the full story of "Thailand -- Paradise for
History of Foot Massage
The foot reflexology massage's history dates back to the reign
of Emperor Wendi but its most flourishing period was in the
Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Later, the foot reflexology massage
was spread into Japan. Yet, there were some specialists in China
who did not pass their knowledge to others or did not make any
written records. This resulted in the degeneration of this art
of healing. Fortunately, the foot reflexology massage was brought
to the Western countries when more and more Westerners started
to get in touch with the Chinese around the late Manchu Dynasty
Reflective zones of the feet
Then in 1913, Dr. William Fitzgerald, an
American doctor, wrote an article about foot reflexology massage.
He developed a systematized chart of longitudinal zones in
the body. The 10 zones, ending in the fingers and toes, illustrated
reflex areas with their corresponding connections, as well
as physical conditions influenced by the connection. Fitzgerald
discovered that pressure on one part of a zone could affect
other parts of the body within that zone. That's how this
ancient modality was restored in the Western countries. And
it was V. M. Bechterev, a Russian physiologist who coined
the term "reflexology".
Afterwards, Fitzgerald's zone theory was
further studied by Dr. Shelly Riley who added horizontal zones
across the hands and feet to determine individual reflexes.
After that, Eunice Ingham, a physical therapist and associate
of Riley, refined the zone therapy into therapeutic foot reflexology
through full scale researches with hundreds of clients. She
made an anatomical model in which the organs of the body were
mapped out on the feet. Her findings, published in 1938, resulted
in more precise identification of reflex points and gave us
the framework of foot reflexology as it is known today.
Foot Massage in Thailand
A La Loubere's Chronicle, written in the reign of
King Narai (1656-1689) mentioned the popular use of massage
in ancient Siam: "In Siam, when one fell ill, his
or her cousins would have him or her massaged."
Furthermore, it was said that King Chulalongkorn (Rama V,
1868-1910) was so fond of this method of rejuvenating that
whenever he went out to visit his subjects in remote areas,
at least one masseur was included in his entourage.
Different points of foot
Thus, the art of massage has been practised
and developed for centuries in this country. And Thai foot reflexology
massage* has been enhanced by comparison with other varieties
such as Chinese massage, Korean massage and Japanese massage
to bring out the supreme benefits of this modality. Nowadays,
Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School is the centre of massage
services and study in Thailand.
*A description of Thai massage was carved on stone tablets which
were fixed on pillars and along the corridor of the ordination
hall of Wat Pho by Rama III's command. These stone inscriptions
are still in good condition today.
The Practice of Foot Reflexology Massage
Not all foot massage is reflexology, even though some non-reflex
varieties can be a very rejuvenating experience, and help boost
the energy circulation.
The genuine reflexology is the application
of pressure onto particular areas of the soles of the feet.
A reflex action in another part of the body is stimulated
by the manipulation of each specific area. Unlike other massages
that use thumbs, palms, hands, elbow, knee and foot, foot
reflexology massage uses hands, fingers and a wood stick with
cream and oil.
According to Chinese medicine, the sensory
nerves of the internal organs that spread throughout the body
are mainly gathered around the soles of the feet.
Therefore, the massage is effective in
stimulating the functions of the internal organs. Another
advantage of this therapy is that there is no risk. Expert
masseurs will deal with the critical points on the feet with
utmost care. The pain felt there will disappear when the masseur
finishes the process.
of Foot Reflexology Massage
1. It can relieve pain and stiffness caused
by too much exercising or using muscle for too long.
2. It can help prevent and cure many symptoms such as headache,
stress, asthma, constipation, sinusitis and migraine.
The blood circulation system will be boosted.
4. The body's function will be naturally turned into its homeostasis.
1. The massage must be done with accuracy to avoid wrong reflection
which will cause muscle infection.
2. One should not receive a massage until at least one hour
after a meal.
3. After receiving a massage, one is required to drink water
to eliminate toxin and lactic acids developed during the massage
Wood stick and cream used
in foot reflexology massage
4. Pregnant women, menstruating women and
people who are bleeding either internally and externally are
not allowed to receive foot reflexology massage.
5. Both masseur and client are prohibited from washing hair,
hands, feet or taking a bath within one hour of foot reflexology
massage in order to prevent the body's elements from the effect
6. Foot reflexology massage can be given every day but the
total duration of both feet in a day should not exceed 45
minutes. However, only ten minutes is allowed for patients
who used to suffer from heart attack.
Students paying utmost attention
Opinions on Thai Massage
As foot reflexology massage is a safe healing method full
of benefits and is conveniently administered, the number of
people interested in this field is increasing. The following
are two foreigners' opinions on Thai massage:
Jana Oldag practising foot massage
Kerry Brooksbank, a 34 year-old English
massage therapist told Thaiways that she took Thai massage
course because she would like to apply the knowledge to her
career. She added, "Thai massage is well known in
England. It is stronger than other types of massage.
But after completing the course, I will give a softer Thai
massage to my clients as the English people prefer softer
Jana Oldag, a 24 year-old German, unemployed, said that she
heard the name of Thai massage for the first time from a friend
of her father's. It interested her a lot. Ms. Oldag aimed
to operate her own massage service in Germany but she needed
a certificate to do so. That is why she enrolled in the Thai
As long as human beings are threatened by ailments and troubled
by stress, the art of massage will certainly continue to exist
and develop. If you would like to try massage, there are thousands
of massage shops and spas around Bangkok and other tourist
cities in Thailand offering services at reasonable fees. Three-to
five-star-hotels in tourist cities usually provide their clients
with spa and massage services.
• Note: Wat Pho, a tourist
attraction famous for its Reclining Buddha, is located behind
the Grand Palace on Sanamchai Road, Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok. See
Map of Bangkok (A3).
• Special thanks to Khun Preeda Tangtrongchitr, Director
of the Thai Traditional Massage School, Wat Pho, for giving Thaiways useful information and allowing us to take