By Elefteria Mantzorou, certified Thai therapist and instructor
Thai Foot Massage (TFM) is probably the most popular massage technique applied in Thailand. It is offered virtually everywhere – from the most luxurious spas down to the noisiest markets. This is mainly due to the fact that it is cheap and that it can be applied anywhere, without any special or expensive equipment. I have found it even in very remote areas of Thailand, like jungles etc.!
There are also many Thai foot therapists, as the required training is by far easier compared to that required for Thai Massage, because TFM is practiced on very particular areas of the body: the foot and the lower leg.
Benefits of Thai Foot Massage
- Its training lasts much less than the reflexology training (1 weekend for TFM in Thailand usually, 6 months – 2 years for reflexology training in Europe).
- Its training is much cheaper compared to the reflexology tuition fees.
- Its techniques are very effective , pertaining to its goals, which are the relief of lower leg and foot pain, stress relief and sometimes the relief from some types of headache.
- It can be applied very easily at home and actually in any space, without professional equipment.
- With the proper additions, it can be transformed in an elegant spa service.
A historical comparison
Thai Foot Massage is more ancient than reflexology (dates back to 2000 BC). Anyway, western reflexology was invented on 1913, and it is based on the belief that certain areas / points of the foot correspond to certain organs / systems of the body. Imentionthissimplyasanobjectivefact. The antiquity of a method is no assurance of its value, and of course the opposite is also true.
It should be mentioned that many TFM techniques are of Chinese origin. In fact, Thailand and China are neighboring countries, and a large part of Thailand’s population is Chinese (about 10%). On the other hand, western reflexology originated in the US.
I guess you have seen some traditional artifacts that depict feet with certain symbols drawn on them. Generally, these feet belong to deities (like Buddha, Krishna, etc.). The message is that although the feet are the humblest part of the human body (a widespread belief in Asia) , these deities are so powerful that even their feet bear auspicious symbols (like lotus flowers, certain weapons and animals, etc. ).
There are some artifacts that depict foot maps (organ symbols on feet), or even people offering foot massage (like some ancient Egyptian art). However, these “maps” do not bear the strict reflexology correspondences that connect foot points to organs, and are quite vague.
The Thai foot points
Thai Foot Massage contains some special acupressure points, but these are not necessarily identify with there reflexology correspondences. Moreover, the Thai foot points do not have strict organ correspondences. When I asked my teacher (in Chiang Mai Old Medicine Hospital) about the significance of the acupressure points on the feet , he replied “It is for health”.
Of course, I should mention that there are many maps and approaches to TFM in Thailand. Moreover, TFM may contain techniques with towels, wraps, and various wooden tools, and each massage school utilizes its own percentage of these tools in its bodywork.
Thus, reflexology and TFM have some common points, but they are not identical and do not originate from common sources.
A TFM therapist cannot claim he / she is able to treat internal disorders, as he / she will be unfamiliar with the typical reflexology protocols. Thai Foot Massage ‘s goal is the relief from stress, the general prevention of disease, the energetical balancing of the human body and the relief from local pain (e.g. like the pain that accompanies plantar fasciitis). And it is very successful in that! Of course, the experienced massage therapist, who has studied anatomy and pathology, may be able to offer some relief to a client that suffers from a myoskeletal disorder.