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A Study in Bliss: Thai Foot Massage

A component of Thai massage, Thai foot massage was born out of the Ayurvedic medical system in India thousands of years ago.

<p>Photographs: Theodore Flagg; Post production: David Rose</p>

A component of Thai massage, Thai foot massage was born out of the Ayurvedic  medical system in India thousands of years ago. It has evolved and the form practiced today reveals influences from the medical systems of China and other eastern Asian countries. Says Lisa Jacobs, a licensed massage therapist based in Asheville, N.C.: “Techniques include and alternate between the stretching of the feet, stimulation of Sen lines [energy pathways], massage techniques using the hands, massage techniques using a wooden tool, stimulation of reflex points with the wooden tool, and pressure applied through a towel-wrapped foot.” There are, in fact, enough techniques used in this extremely thorough foot and lower leg massage to encompass a two-hour session. “Because of its penetrating tissue work, it is ideal for the treatment of plantar fasciitis and other common foot ailments,” says Jacobs. Dancers, hikers, and athletes also enjoy its benefits.

“After receiving a Thai foot massage session, most people experience a profound state of relaxation. Most of my clients sleep very well that evening,” she says.  

 <p>Photographs: Theodore Flagg; Post production: David Rose</p>

A Comparison of Thai Foot Massage and Reflexology

Thai Foot Massage

> Works on entire lower leg, knee, and foot

> Generally stimulates reflex points

> Intention is to bring body into balance

> Use of fists and knuckles along with thumbs

> Use of wooden tool for reflex points and deeper applied pressure

> Use of Sen (energy) line map

> Wrap feet or lower leg in towel

> Traditionally a session starts with a foot bath and then a prayer to pay respect to the father of Thai massage (medicine) and to wish the recipient of the massage good health and happiness



> Just feet

> Uses precise and specific stimulation of reflex points

> More diagnostic approach

> Mostly uses thumbs

> No tool used — need to use thumbs for deeper work

> Use of “zones”

> No wrapping of feet

> No foot bath or prayer


Chart courtesy of Lisa Jacobs (

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