Massage therapy

History, Benefits & Techniques of Thai Foot Massage

When you have had a hard day at work or you have been for a long hike, the bottom of your feet may ache. Laying down on your couch with your other half rubbing them for you can feel incredible. The release of tension and the mood calming effects can feel amazing.

This is because the foot is believed to have pressure points that can affect the whole of the body and the energy within it. The next time that you are having your feet rubbed, why not see if you can find out which part of your body or the changes to your feelings as different areas are being touched.

The history of the Thai foot massage

The Thai foot massage is not a practice on its own. Originating with the Chinese who had been using the foot massage for at least 5000 years, the practice made its way to Thailand. Once the Taiwanese began to introduce their traditional philosophies into the practice new understandings and uses became apparent. This is where the therapy was improved and perfected. While maintaining the traditional Chinese concept of reflexology and techniques that were practiced by locals healers and Buddhist Monks the ancient Indian Ayurveda traditions began to be blended in.

While the Chinese concept of reflexology concentrated on a philosophy called Qi; an energy that flowed through the body through dense networks of pressure points, all of which reach the foot, the Ayurveda focussed on Prana Nadis. The Prana Nadis individual networks that allow the energy to flow. There is believed to be 72000 channels within the human body and the Ayurveda concentrate on the main ones which are otherwise known as the Ten Sen.

Both philosophies agree that the function of energy flow is essential in stimulating organs, emotional and physical balance as well as for harmony within the body.

In 1930 and American specialist named W. Fitzgerald and colleague E. Ingham became interested in the foot massage and the effects that pressing on one area in the foot could have on other areas of the body. Fitzgerald spent considerable time improving what he described as a map of the reflexology zones. This became the Western equivalent to the Thai foot massage.

The Thai foot massage, although acknowledging these zones and incorporating the pressure placement on the points as suggested by reflexology, continued to concentrate on the Ten Sen or Sib Sen as otherwise called to stimulate the flow of the life energy.

What are the Ten Sen or Sib Sen?

  • Sen Sumana (respiratory, abdominal, heart, lungs and stomach)
  • Sen Ittha (head, nasal, kidneys, urinary and ability to sleep)
  • Sen Pingkala (gallbladder, liver, kidneys, eyes and shoulders)
  • Sen Kalathari (emotions, psychological and spiritual)
  • Sen Lawusang (ears and face)
  • Sen Ulangka (ears, sleep and skin)
  • Sen Sahastsaangsi (eyes, chest and lower abdomen)
  • Sen Thawari (face, eyes, fever and joints)
  • Sen Nanthakrawat (genitals, hormones and abdomen)
  • Sen Kitchanna (libido)

Which Sens are important in a Thai foot massage?

Sen Sahatsarangsi is an energy line that is important within Thai foot massage. Starting just below the belly button, it continues to run down the left hand side of the body where it passes through the ankle and underneath the foot. It then travels back up the body where it will reach the throat, jaw and left eye. The Sen Sahastsarangsi, is important in a Thai foot massage because it is a source of pain relief for conditions that are connected to the eyes, lower abdomen, and chest. For example, red and swollen eyes or diminished eye function are affected by this energy network. Research also shows that unblocking the Sen Sahastsarngsi can improve manic depression, facial and leg paralysis, as well as urogenital complications.

The Sen Thawari follows the same path as the Sahatsarangsi but on the opposite side of the body. This line is used to support the treatment for fevers, toothaches, appendicitis, and knee joint pain.

Sen Ittha begins at the left thumb, travelling down through the belly button, the abdomen, groin, and left thigh. As it reaches the knee it crosses over the leg to the outside of the thigh. It then travels back up the body through the body to the head. This line has several networks that come off of it, a large network reaches down to the foot. Within a Thai foot massage the Sen Ittha can be reached through the foot and has been found to treat headaches, nasal issues and urinary tract infections, in addition to insomnia, intestinal problems, and knee pains.

The Sen Pingkhala is similar to the Sen Ittha but runs down the right side of the body. It is an essential energy line for difficulties with the gallbladder, liver, lungs, kidneys, and eyes.

The Sen Kalathari starts also starts at the belly button and splits into four different directions. Running down the inside of the legs and under the feet, this prana Nadis spreads out so that it reaches each individual toe on both feet. The Sen Kalathari is considered to be the psychic and emotional line which concerns the movement of your body and the way your muscles interact. It is especially important in the treatment of arthritis, shock, epilepsy, and depression. Some research has also indicated that it is a good treatment for schizophrenia, hysteria, and trauma.

As with the Traditional Thai massage and the Thai fusion massage the intuition of the therapist is very important. According to the Thai philosophy a therapist must be able to read and understand the energy flow of their clients body so that they know which area to attend to and when. In tr Thai spirit a practitioner may do a foot massage while they are in a meditative state. In this way they are able to work as one joined being with the patient instead of as two separate entities.

What is a Thai foot massage?

A Thai foot massage may or may not use oils and creams. If the essential oils are used then it will provide the benefit of the foot massage as well as the healing ingredients of the plants that make up the oils. Oils allow for the massage to be dominated by stroking techniques, without oil acupressure and mobilization stretches will direct the session.

When you arrive for your treatment you will have a short consultation so that the therapist can understand what ailments or injuries you have and what you hope to achieve from the session.

For a Thai foot massage you are likely to be asked to sit on a chair while the therapist will sit either on the floor or a stool in front of you.

As the massage will be for your feet and lower legs it is useful if you wear shorts or loose fitting trousers so that access can be achieved easily.

There are many parts of the body that the therapist may use to work on your feet. This can include thumbs, fingers and knuckles, as well as their knees and feet.

With these body parts, the therapist will apply pressure to the points on the feet that the Sen lines inhabit. This is carried out gently and methodically to ensure that the energy flow is restored. This stimulation will follow the energy lines throughout their trajectory so that there is an overall feeling of wellbeing.

Some therapists will also use a piece of wood, known as a traditional Thai massage stick, possibly made out of bamboo, to rub the bottom of the foot so do not be surprised or panicked if you see this tool emerge.

Lasting between 45 and 90 minutes you will have another consultation once the therapy has been completed so that you know what to expect, what results were hopefully achieved and how many sessions would be preferable.

It is often helpful as well if the arms, shoulders and neck have a small work up to ensure that the energy is able to flow throughout the body.

Does Thai foot massage really work?

In 1998 Ungpinjpong and Montri decided to put the massage to a test. By giving a Thai foot massage to 20 people for 45 minutes. As with a Thai foot massage, the Chinese acupressure zones were also pressed. The researchers found that all of the patients felt well and relaxed after the session.

In addition, Janepanich and Tuchinda found 45 people to receive a Thai foot massage. While constantly applying pressure to the upper part of the right leg they massaged both lower legs while the patient laid down. The study concluded that both feet increased in temperature, the heart rates decreased and the blood pressure significantly reduced.

Benefits if a Thai foot massage

Through a Thai foot massage the energy systems of the whole body can be reached. Using the acupoints and energy lines that are found all over the feet the benefits can stretch to every part of the body, physically and mentally.

The benefits include

  • Reducing stress.
  • Assisting relaxation
  • Improving blood circulation
  • Detoxification and strengthening of the immune system
  • Improving circulation in the legs and feet
  • Stimulating lymphatic drainage
  • Boosting the immune system & encouraging physical healing
  • Helping to increase oxygen in the body
  • Reducing stiffness and improving flexibility
  • Improving concentration and clarity of mind
  • Improving symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Boosting flexibility and durability of the feet
  • Curing edema caused by pregnancy or extended standing

It is also particularly beneficial for the following conditions and ailments

  • Back and other chronic pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Allergies
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout
  • Migraine
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney and digestive problems

Side effects of a Thai foot massage

The Thai foot massage does not have any side effects which makes it a wonderful therapy for improving and managing illnesses. There are some situations where the therapist will be more careful than at other times. For instance, individuals who suffer with diabetes or are of an older age will experience more gentle rubs and pressures as they are likely to bruise easier than others.

Even doctors and primary physicians are able to testify to the benefits of the Thai foot massage. There are situations when you should double check with them first though as this therapy does impact the circulatory system. These situations include

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and coronary artery disease.

It is also worth checking if you suffer from osteoporosis or neurological diseases which can affect the spine.

Even if you have any of these conditions, a Thai foot massage is not ruled out. If you have been given the go ahead by your doctor then your therapist can adjust the intensity and pressure forces to suit your needs.

What will I feel after a Thai foot massage?

Once the Thai foot massage has been completed you should feel relaxed and revived. As the energy flows will be circulating better within your body the toxins and metabolic waste will begin to be broken down. For this reason it is very important that you keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

How often you get a Thai foot massage after the initial one can vary according to the condition or ailment that is being treated. When you have your consultation with your therapist you can agree the best ongoing treatment plan for you and book in for your next session before you leave if you wish to.


Originating in China over 5000 years ago the foot massage made its way to Thailand where it was matched to the Ten Sen or energy networks within the body. Practiced by local healers and Buddhist monks the Thai foot massage, which was once only carried out by important people with strong religious ties, became available to the whole of the world.

Through the energy systems which pass through the feet, the whole of the body can be relaxed, destressed and healed. Whether this is the physical or mental manifestations of the conditions, the feet can unblock and stimulate the energy networks.

With an array of benefits that range from improving symptoms of depression and anxiety to improving flexibility the Thai foot massage is suitable for chronic pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, arthritis and much more. As the intensity of the therapy can be altered to meet your needs, there are very few reasons as to why you should not have a Thai foot massage.

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