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Traditional Thai massage and deep tissue sessions are treatments that you may not associate with the gentle movements of the masseur’s soft hands. And you’re right! While both are painless, they need a lot of intense pressure and firm techniques on the part of the massage therapist, yet, that’s where their similarities end. Thai massage has ancient traditions, while the official history of deep tissue treatment dates not earlier than the mid-1800s. The first one emphasizes stretching and acupressure, unlike deep tissue treatment, and it’s often called a “lazy yoga massage”. Both types of treatment have their own specific techniques, focus areas, and benefits. Let’s take a closer look at Thai massage vs deep tissue compare their unique features and figure out which one is the best for you!

Thai Massage vs Deep Tissue: Weighing Your Options

The main differences between Thai massage vs deep tissue are quite obvious – the first one is much older and promotes health and wellbeing, while deep tissue is more often associated with injury remedies and athletes’ treatment. What about other factors? To present them all systematically and transparently, we grouped the differences between these two forms of treatments as follows:

  • Techniques & Methods
  • Purpose & Benefits
  • Pressure & Intensity
  • Focus areas & Targeted concerns
  • Experience & Sensation
  • Suitability & Contraindications
  • Budgeting

#1 Techniques & Methods

As you might know, the biggest differences between Thai massage vs deep tissue lie in the way they are performed, that is, to a large extent – their specific techniques.

While deep tissue treatment requires focused techniques such as circular strokes and kneading, a traditional Thai session involves stretching and moves that are both more fluid and rhythmic. A traditional Thai treatment also emphasizes various stretches similar to yoga practice, while deep tissue massage therapy does not.

Deep tissue treatment requires you to lie down on a special massage table, whereas a Thai one is most typically performed on a floor mat. That kind of surface allows a much wider range of motion, since in Thai practice, unlike in deep tissue treatment, you won’t only be lying on your back or stomach.

#2 Purpose & Benefits

Whereas they both may target similar concerns, Thai and deep tissue treatments also have some specifics when it comes to their amazing health benefits. Deep tissue massage’s purpose is to break up muscle adhesions and improve healing, while Thai treatment affects your body by improving its flexibility, bringing relaxation, and increasing joint mobilization.

If your aim is to lessen your sports injuries’ effects and release your body’s tension and chronic pain, a deep tissue treatment can be a better match, whereas a Thai session is a great procedure for improved movement, circulation, and a flow of life energy.

#3 Pressure & Intensity

Deep tissue treatment requires deep pressure during the entire session, whereas a Thai one uses more superficial pressure and touch. Thai treatment isn’t gentle stroking but lots of pulling and stretching, while deep tissue involves a lot of intense pressure.

To follow your progress, a massage therapist can make an agreement with you to measure the intensity of deep tissue treatment on a 1 to 10 scale, and a Thai procedure has a completely different approach from what you may be used to. During your session you will be pulled and stretched with thumbs, elbows, and knees, so it may feel very intense too, but in a different sense than in the case of deep tissue treatment.

#4 Focus Areas & Targeted Concerns

Deep tissue treatment is quite targeted, whereas Thai one tends to be rather a full-body experience. Deep tissue massage uses firm and deliberate pressure to reach and affect certain pain spots in your body, while Thai treatment involves diversified methods on the whole body.

During a Thai massage, a therapist uses their feet to apply extra pressure on target areas of the whole body. In deep tissue treatment, on the other hand, a therapist applies deeper penetration on focus problem areas such as the neck, back, or shoulders.

#5 Experience & Sensation

Thai treatment is a great option if you want to be involved and play an active role, while deep tissue is passive from your side, with the therapist doing all the work. If a treatment that’s halfway to an assisted yoga session sounds interesting to you, then Thai massage may be a more exciting option than deep tissue.

Thai treatment is a very invigorating and active experience, whereas deep tissue seems to be an absolute dream for stiff muscles and specific pain knots. During Thai treatment the therapist may push, pull and move you around, so you certainly won’t fall asleep during your session!

#6 Suitability & Contraindications

While most people of a wide age range and in good health conditions can benefit from massage therapy, there will always be certain contraindications. You should contact an experienced specialist who will help you choose the solution that will serve you best.

Deep tissue treatment might be dangerous if you take medications that increase the risk of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis, while Thai sessions can pose health risks during pregnancy and after you have just undergone surgery. People with certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, shouldn’t get a Thai massage, whereas low blood pressure or orthostatic hypotension is a concern in deep tissue therapy sessions.

#7 Budgeting

Before you decide what type of treatment to choose, ask yourself what results you want to achieve. All in all, you are the one who knows best what kind of massage therapy will be suitable for your health and well-being, with the help of professional knowledge, of course!

What exactly do you need? Deep Tissue Thai
Specific muscle pain relief
Full-body relaxation
Injury relief
Flexibility improvement
Tension headaches relief  
Active participation

Remember that the most important issue before starting any massage therapy is to consult a specialist. A properly educated and experienced therapist will review your health condition and medical history. Based on this information and a medical interview with you, they will determine what type of therapy treatment will be most effective for you and good for your well-being.


Juntakarn C, Prasartritha T, Petrakard P. The Effectiveness of Thai Massage and Joint Mobilization. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2017 Jun 30;10(2):3-8. doi: 10.3822/ijtmb.v10i2.350. PMID: 28690703; PMCID: PMC5495387.

Koren Y, Kalichman L. Deep tissue massage: What are we talking about? J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2018 Apr;22(2):247-251. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2017.05.006. Epub 2017 May 17. PMID: 29861215.

Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage. UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.