What is the difference between a Thai massage and a Swedish massage? They are different in many ways, such as in the techniques used, the philosophies, the use of oil, how clients dress, and the benefits. Knowing the differences between Thai massage and Swedish massage is essential in making a decision about which one is best for you.
In this article, we have listed all the key differences to help you make the right decision.
The Differences Between Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage: Summary
Dress: Swedish massage uses essential oils or lotions; therefore, clients are undressed and covered by a towel, lying face down on the massage table. There's no need to undress for Thai massage since the oils used are not essential oils and are often not applied. You can wear loose comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely.
Techniques: Thai massage applies pressure onto acupuncture points to stretch and loosen muscles. Swedish massage, also called 'soft massage', mainly uses techniques that include stroking and rubbing. Rather than just using hands, fists, forearms, and elbows — the standard tools of the Swedish masseuse — the at large Thai masseuse may use legs and feet during the massage.
Positions: A 'lazy yoga massage' gets its name from the fact that during a Thai massage, clients are rocked or stretched by the masseuse in various positions. During a Swedish massage, a client usually lies on the massage table on his/her stomach.
Benefits: Thai massage is more dynamic and focuses on enhancing the energy flow. It has a bit more of a healing affect than Swedish massage, which is more focused on relaxation, mainly using long strokes and rubbing techniques to relieve stress and pain.
Seeing Bangkok with ease
In Bangkok, our tour guide, Ying, was wonderful. She navigated all the sights with ease, gave us interesting tidbits on Thai culture and history, helped us pick the right food at all the restaurants, and was just a pleasure to be around. We had a great time, and it was so nice to not have to worry about any of the details.More
Diane Elkins, Nov 2023
Thailand -insights, no stress and amazing team
My husband and my Thailand trip was fantastic, stress-free and educational thanks to the amazing team coordinated by Albee at Asia Highlights. The whole team was incredibly accessible, responsive, sensitive to our needs and lovely to work with. End-to-end, the trip was truly remarkable and the knowledgeable and dynamic tour guides and drivers made it especially memorable!More
AndrewsFamily, Oct 2023
Informative & Thorough / Thanks Sharon!
Sharon the advisor that helped me was so thorough & informative and explained the details of the tour including questions about visas and what is included vs what is not included in the tour packages. I would recommend them to explain tour packages that would fit the schedule of your pending travels.More
Chris, Sep 2023
Easy, fast responses
I worked directly with Monica in Asia Highlights. She was incredibly helpful and answered all of my questions quickly. Working with her made the whole process easy and we are so excited for our trip!More
Diana B, Sep 2023
Stress free Thailand
Alisa has organised our 14 day Thailand holiday for 2024 for my family & I. She has been very accommodating & super quick with all of our requests & we cannot wait for a stress free holiday! Thank you Alisa!More
Alana Mitchell, Sep 2023
Family Trip to Thailand-Cambodia
All of our guides were very nice and knowledgeable, but we have a special mention to our guide in Cambodia, Chan, he was very kind with us and it was very amusing. He went the extra mile for us. We really enjoyed our holidays!More
José Antonio Carrillo de la Pl, Sep 2023
Asia Highlights and Sharon
Asia Highlights, specifically Sharon, has been wonderfully helpful as we get ready for a 2024 excursion to Thailand. We are beyond excited, and much of that has to do with the personalized attention that we have experienced with Sharon. She has been extremely responsive, obliging, and focused as she helped us design a tailor made itinerary. All of our questions have been addressed, our needs have been met, and the path has now been set for a very exciting trip.... thanks to Sharon.More
Marcy Hoenig, Sep 2023
I was planning a trip to Thailand to…
I was planning a trip to Thailand to especially see the Lantern Festival this year for our birthdays!! It’s been on our bucket list, but we were completely lost on how to go about planning for our trip. We’ve never really booked tours before but Alisa was extremely helpful, knowledgeable, flexible and efficient in providing all the information we needed to make our decision on the best tours and tickets to purchase. Thank you so much!!More
https://www.trustpilot.com/reviews/64d9a5a4657e4b39f768a21e, Aug 2023
I would definitely recommend Asia…
All of our guides were wonderful (Mr. Bank - Bangkok and Ms. Kai in Phuket & Khao Sok plus antoher guide who assisted in Koh Samui). Sharon took care of tours, private drivers, flights and hotels within Thailand and our trip went off without a hitch. The hotels were great and the transportation always arrived on time and with a clean,More
Guinevere Provance, Aug 2023
WOW! I’ve traveled Asia some & I must say Sharon & Asia Highlights made this trip so much more enjoyable and easyMore
Stephen Hollis, Aug 2023
Alisa has has been great to work with
Alisa with Asia Highlights has has been great to work with. Very friendly and responsive.More
Ana Rausch, Aug 2023
Using Sharon right now to book our…
Using Sharon right now to book our upcoming trip to Thailand. She has booked everything that we asked for. Has answered all of my inquiries, which has been many! Looking forward to having a great girls trip in ThailandMore
Tracy, Aug 2023
Thailand, Singapore, Bali
In Thailand, Tanny and Nori(Suparp), were both incredible! They were both fun, funny, and full of knowledge and made sure we got the full experience. They went the extra mile and always made sure we had cold bottled water and towels to cleanse our hands. In Singapore, Nicole was an absolute gem. She was so kind and knowledgeable and guided us in the right direction to make our day as enjoyable as possible. She helped us choose a top notch local lunch and coffee spot in China Town and taught us so much about the country! In Bali, Emon was an absolute joy. He was very knowledgeable and kind and absolutely made sure we were feeling comfortable and was willing to be flexible with us. He was fun to converse with and made our time traveling between destinations so enjoyable! I cannot recommend Asia Highlights enough! Accommodations, travel arrangements and guided tours were all a breeze.More
Cassi Thunker, Jul 2023
Very supportive ! I have received eticket for Sky Lattern Festival very fastMore
Chi?n Nguy?n Ng?c, Jul 2023
My experience in Chang Mai with Asia Highlights
I greatly enjoyed my experience with Asia Highlights for a trip I booked to Thailand.All of my interests were catered too. My guide in Chang Mai Gemma was excellent.I truly felt the soul of Thailand culture and Buddhism.More
Richard, Jul 2023
A pleasure to plan with
Well, this has been a painless and pleasurable process to find such a wonderful company. I had specific dates and places to be and Sharon worked with me diligently to refine the schedule and costs to suit my travel needs and budget. She informed me of a special tour on the dates I am to be in Thailand and I added that to my previous plans.More
Chris Williams, Jul 2023
Large multi-generational holiday in Thailand
The holiday was wonderful. Our guides, Mr Monchai (Bangkok), and Ms Tipagorn (Tippy) (Chiang Mai) were exceptional. Travelling in a large multigenerational group with many children requires patience and our guides truly understood that. Mr Monchai and Ms Tippy shared their extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions. While everyday was busy, having them greet us with patience and a smile truly made this a memorable holiday. The hotels we stayed at were equally wonderful and went above and beyond to celebrate not only my parents 50th anniversary but also celebrate 2 milestone birthdays that occurred. We will cherish this holiday for many years to come. We hope to use Asia Highlights again.More
CL, Jul 2023
I never used a travel agent in my life
I never used a travel agent in my life, but Sharon for Asia Highlights did a phenomenal job helping planning and coordination a family vacation. The best part of working with Sharon was that she maintained an open line of communication and provided answers to my question well within 12-24 hours. Additionally, Sharon was flexible and customized our vacation to my families needs. Overall great experience.More
Antione Barry, Jul 2023
Great company to plan a trip to Southeast Asia!
Sharon Haung has been wonderful to work with! Very patient and accommodating. Responds immediately given time change and is prepared, prompt, and professional.More
Debi Hinerfeld, Jul 2023
We took a 15 days trip (10 days Vietnam and 5 days Thailand …
It was an amazing experience the guides and drivers were there awaiting for us at each airoport for a transfer to the hotels also on time for all the tours all the guides were so lovely , very experienced and spoke very good English , one of the days on tour in Thailand I lost my phone in a temple in Bangkok mr chai went out of his way in a middle of thousands of visitors and managed to find an bring it back to me I found that amazing , also while on a trip I contacted Jason li out tour organizer few time via whatup and he replied and helped on the spot I recommend asiahilights 150% The quality of the service hotels the guides the drivers outstanding From start to finish ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT ????More
SIMO el ghobar, Jun 2023
Which Is Better for You - Thai Massage or Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage is better for people who:
- mainly want to feel relaxed and relieve stress
- love an oiled massage
- don't mind being half-naked
- are new to any kind of massage experience, as it is more gentle or soft compared to Thai massage
- are lacking in flexibility and feel awkward about being tossed around and stepped on
Thai massage is better for people who:
- want a body treatment more than just a relaxing experience
- want to improve their overall well-being and enhance their energy levels
- are shy about undressing in front of a masseuse
- don't like oiled massages
- have a mid-range of flexibility and can endure the manipulation by the masseuse
- want this must-try experience when they are traveling in Thailand
Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage: Modalities and Physiology
Thai massage, also known as hard massage or lazy yoga massage, has been taught and practiced in Thailand for thousands of years. It is based on the Eastern understanding of anatomy and physiology. The principles are based on the body's energy paths. Thai physiology believes that disease is the result of blocked energy pathways associated with spiritual beliefs. Therefore, Thai massage is mainly aimed at improving the energy flow in your body. The better your energy flows, the better your body works.
Swedish massage, which is most commonly seen and popular in the West, often known as classic massage, relaxing massage, or soft massage, is based on the Western understanding of physiology and anatomy. The aim is to promote relaxation and, to some extent, heal the body.
Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage: Techniques
Thai Massage Techniques
1. Thai massage works on your entire body! Compared to Swedish massage, Thai massage is more dynamic and invigorating. The masseuse uses every part of her body, the hands, elbows, forearms, knees, shins, and even feet, not only to stretch you but also to apply pressure on your muscles and loosen your joints. The masseuse may even walk on or sit on you if it is needed, to apply just enough pressure on certain parts of your body. As a result, your entire body is stretched, pushed, pressed, rocked, and vibrated.
2. Stretching in Thai massage involves more motions than Swedish massage. The masseuse places your body in various positions to apply pressure on various zones and trigger points of your body. This is where the yoga position part of massage comes from.
3. Technique for blocking the blood flow. This is only used in Thai massage and it is used on specific parts of the body, usually areas where the legs and arms meet at the torso. The masseuse will apply sustained pressure on your blood flow for about 30 seconds; then, when released, the flow of blood enhances the effect of the massage.
Swedish Massage Techniques
Swedish massage is more relaxing compared with Thai massage. It incorporates five major techniques:
1. Stroking and gliding: These are long, sweeping strokes, which are usually used at the start and end of a massage.
2. Kneading and rolling: just like kneading dough, the masseuse kneads the muscles to release any pain and to stretch them.
3. Pounding or drumming: These are fast percussion movements, such as tapping, chopping, and pounding. They are gradually falling out of favor with clients as they are not as relaxing as the rest of the techniques.
4. Friction: Friction and the application of deep pressure to particular spots are done using the fingertips, knuckles, and the thumb.
5. Shaking or vibration.
Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage: Positions
During a Thai massage, the client may change his or her position multiple times as conducted by the masseuse. The masseuse (usually a middle-aged Thai female) will stretch or fold the client's body into several yoga-like positions (such as the positions shown in the picture below) in order to focus better on specific areas and increase the effectiveness of the massage.
This is why Thai massage is also called lazy yoga massage. You don't need to put any effort into the movement, just relax and let go of your body, and let the masseuse take control of it. The masseuse knows what she is doing, and you don't really need to worry about being overstretched or hurt unless you step into a really low-end street massage shop where the staff either skip the part of the massage that includes position changes or they don't do it correctly so it may be uncomfortable.
Swedish massage rarely needs any position changes. It's like those typical stereotyped Western massages that are shown in many movies or the photo below. The client is undressed and covered by a towel. He/she lies on the massage table on his/her stomach with his/her back exposed to the masseuse. The back is the major part of the body to be worked on by the masseuse. Again, the client doesn't need to do anything but just relax and enjoy being stroked.
Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage: Privacy
A Thai massage doesn't necessarily include the application of any essential oils or lotions, so you can stay fully, or at least partially, dressed. Often, you will be provided with a specific garment by the therapist before the session. So, if you aren't that comfortable with massages that involve being undressed, such as a Swedish massage, a Thai massage obviously suits you better. A Thai massage can be conducted on a mat on the floor, in a room offering a good view in a spa center, or even on a park pathway where tourists can sit down on a chair and be fully dressed.
A Swedish massage has to be done in a very private room since you will be half-naked, lying face down on the massage table just covered by a towel.
Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage: Benefits
Both Thai and Swedish massage are beneficial to a client's overall health and well-being as they relax muscles and relieve back pain, let the body recharge and allow the client to feel energetic.
Thai massage involves many motions and a bit more flexibility. It's more dynamic. The masseuse focuses on energy flow or the body's joints to enhance the energy's efficiency within the body, so it has more healing affects than Swedish massage.
Swedish massage, on the other hand, is more focused on relaxation, using long stroking, kneading, and rubbing techniques to put your body at ease, to release cramped or tense muscles and, to some extent, release stress and pain, leaving your body feeling recharged.
Tour Thailand Your Way with Us
Want to enjoy the luxury experience of an authentic Thai massage? Visit Thailand with us, and you will be in the right hands for an extraordinary journey. Booking with Asia Highlights means you can rely on our extremely professional staff who will craft the perfect itinerary for you and ensure you enjoy a luxurious and professional Thai massage experience.
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
- 9-Day Thailand Family Tour
- 10-Day Best of Thailand Tour
- 11-Day Best of Thailand and Cambodia Tour
- 12-Day Thailand Family Holiday
- 12-Day Essential Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Tour
- 12-Day Thailand Wonders Tour
- 13-Day Essence of Thailand Tour
- 14-Day Classic Vietnam and Thailand Tour
- 15-Day Best of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Tour
- 19-Day Highlights of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
- 19-Day Singapore, Thailand, India and Nepal Tour
- 20-Day Siem Reap, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Phillippine and Taiwan Tour
- How to Plan Your First Trip to Thailand — 7 Easy Steps
- How to Plan a 3-Week Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Couple’s/Family Tour
- How to Plan a Trip to Thailand and Cambodia (2024/2025)
- How to Plan a Thailand and Vietnam Trip (2024/2025)
- How to Plan a Trip to Singapore and Thailand 2024/2025
- How to Plan a Trip to Japan and Thailand
- Best & Worst Time to Visit Thailand 2024, Rainy Season? (Not when you think!)
- How Long to Spend in Thailand: Itinerary Ideas from 1-3 Weeks
- 2 Weeks in Thailand: 3 Top Itineraries for First-Timers, Couples, and Families
- 2-Week Itineraries in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (2024/2025)
- How to Plan a 2-Week Thailand-and-Cambodia Itinerary (2024/2025)
- How to Plan a 3-Week Thailand and Cambodia Itinerary (2024/2025)
- Thailand Weather in January: Which Island/Best Places to Visit
- Thailand Weather in February: Which Island/Best Places to Visit
- Thailand Weather in March: Temperature, Places to Visit, Travel Tips
- Thailand Weather in April: Temperatures, Places to Visit, Songkran Festival
- Thailand Weather in May: Too Hot & Rainy? Best Places to Go and Travel Tips
- What's the Weather Like in Thailand in June?
- Thailand Weather in July: Temperatures, Best Places to Visit
- Thailand Weather in August: Temperature and Best Places to Go
- Thailand Weather in September: Temperature, Best Places to Visit
- Thailand Weather in October: Still Rain? Where to Visit?
- Thailand Weather in November 2023, Travel Tips for First-Timers
- Thailand Weather in December 2023: Travel Tips & Places to Go
Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.