Thai Massage vs Ayurvedic Massage vs Swedish Massage

These three different forms of Massage are compared for the novice in order to understand the differences between them. You can try Thai Massage, Ayurvedic Massage and Swedish Massage at al Covo and compare them yourself in reality-


1. Considered Role in Health

Ayurvedic massage is just one part of the Ayurvedic system of natural medicine. The same goes for Thai Massage which is only one part of the entire system of Thai natural medicine. Thai Massage has its roots in the Indian yoga system. Both systems are part of a greater system of natural medicine – Ayurveda and Thai natural medicine, where the intention and focus on working with the energy channels of the body. In Ayurvedic massage marma points can be used, similar to those in Shiatsu although different techniques.

Swedish Massage, in contrast, has a more scientific approach through core anatomy and physiology rather than the theory of body energy lines. Also in contrast, Swedish Massage doesn't get recommended by the health systems within its core countries in such a distinguished manner - it is seen more as a luxury. However some private health providers will pay for subscribers to use Swedish Massage for stress or anxiety, Swedish Massage is much less recommended and less widely used within its health systems than Thai and Ayurvedic Massage in their respective countries.

Ayurveda, Thai and Swedish Massages all offer a holistic approach to living and well being and massage is only a part of following the science of life.


2. Use of Oils

Thai Massage uses no oil, or if they do offer oil as an option, the quality of oil massage in Thailand is often not very high.

Ayurvedic Massage and Swedish massage both always use oils. The benefit of warm oil is a soothing and nourishing soaking to the skin, lymph, blood and nervous system. It is able to shift toxins from positions of weakness in the body where they naturally gather. It is able to ground and support the emotional state. It is able to support the natural lubrication systems of the body. But here is a major difference:

  • In Swedish massage the oil is primarily a tool to facilitate sliding on the skin.
  • In Ayurvedic massage the oil is part of the therapy and is at least as important as the massage itself, if not more so.
  • Only in Ayurvedic Massage is the oil always warmed and herbal.

Actually there is not just one type of oil used in Ayurvedic Massage, but a combination of several oils with specific healing and therapeutic properties. In this respect, an Ayurvedic client may consider the oil as a higher priority than the therapist who is providing the treatment, which is different to a client's considerations when booking or analysing a Thai and Swedish Massage treatment. Sweidsh Massage will use just a carrier oil unless an Aromatherapy Massage is chosen, which requires a different knowledge and skill from the therapist, similar to that choice made by the therapist for an Ayurvedic Massage.

After an Ayurvedic Massage, the client often undergoes a steam sauna for 10 minutes to open the pores in order to facilitate the penetration of the oil into the body. After that, the client may use a towel to rub off the excess oil, but is often told not to take a shower for at least 2 hours to allow the oils to do their work. With Swedish Massage, often no advice is given to open up pores and less consideration given to the basic carrier oil used, and clients may well be offered a shower.

Oil is Ayurvedic massage's great strength - as it is a complex, warmed and herbal blend designed around the client's constitution.


3. Ease of Implementation

Thai Massage is much easier to implement since it can be done fully dressed, without a massage table, without oil, and without a private room - on the beach or a floor for example. Comfort can be improved with the use of a low level mattress. Thai Massage is therapist friendly since the therapist can work mostly with body weight without much muscle effort. Thai Massage also enables the therapist to use their legs and feet and torso. In Swedish and Ayurvedic Massage, the therapist works exclusively with hands and arms, and often uses more effort and muscle strength in order to provide the massage. Using oils means that Ayurvedic Massage and Swedish Massage only take place in private places where the client can undress and be treated. Althrough both use tables or couches, the implementation of Ayurvedic Massage differs from Swedish massage:

  • Part of the session (often the first part) is done while the client sits on a stool or chair
  • The therapist rubs oil all over the head and hair and starts with a vigorous head massage. This is often separated out as an extra or a treamtent in its own right (as an indian Head Massage) for Swedish massage clients.
  • The tables can often very basic, with a non adjustable wood frame with no face cradle. So lying prone with the head turned sideways can be stressful for the client's neck. Swedish Massage offers the client more comfort and often electronic chairs to ease the client up and out and to lie in tmore comfort during different stages of the treatment.

Swedish massage treatments place more emphasis on the location and ambience of the room, where candles, scent, and comfort for the client are highly prioritised characteristics of the treatment. While Swedish Massage is not easily and readily available in the street, the high level of client comfort is Swedish massage's strength over the Thai and Ayurvedic Massage. The variety of public places and ease of implementation is one of Thai Massage's greatest strength. 


4. Availability of treatment options

All systems offer full body massage. However, within full body massages, Ayurvedic and Thai Massages concentrate more on joints, head/neck and shoulders, arm and hand massages than Swedish Massage. Ayurvedic Massage is particular focusses on the head through Indian Head Massage and Shirodhara - a warmed oil flow directly on to the third eye (forehead). Thai Massage also concentrates more on foot and leg massage than Ayurvedic and Swedish Massage. Swedish Massage will tend towards concentrating on the back, although Swedish Massage will provide treatments on just the legs. Thai and Ayurvedic Massage offer hot herbal ball/compress massage, which is unavailable within Swedish Massage. Swedish Massage is often used as the underpinning base level of expertise for many massage therapists in the West - and additional qualifications and experience are required of the therapist in order to offer a greater range of options around the body, for example an extra Sports or Remedial Massage qualification will be required to enable a therapist to concentrate on just the shoulders, knees or hips.


5. Effectiveness of manipulations

Thai Massage has many body manipulations and stretches which do not exist in Ayurvedic massage or Swedish Massage. Swedish Massage may not involve any stretches at all - as it can be left exclusively to the more advanced Sports and Remedial Massage treatments. Ayurvedic Massage offers some stretches. This is Thai Massage's great strength.


6. Cost

Ayurvedic massage requires a massage table, good quality oils, a private treatment room, a sauna, sheets and towels, and is therefore the most expensive to offer. Swedish Massage requires all the above except the range of quality oils and no steam sauna afterwards. Thai Massage requires nothing more than a blanket, a mat or a carpet. Therefore you can find Thai Massage sessions in Thailand for a fraction of what you pay for an Ayurvedic massage in India and a Swedish Massage in the West. This is another key benefit for Thai Massage.


7. The impact of the therapist

Auyrvedic and Swedish Massage is quite harmless. Even if the therapist is not so good, nothing bad happens. Thai Massage however can be a painful and/or unpleasant experience if it is done by an insensitive or not well trained therapist. Thai Massage requires a lot of skill for body manipulation. Therefore the choice of therapist is more essential in Thai Massage. They must provide the treatment with a loving kindness. In Ayurvedic massage you can argue that the therapeutic oils will always have a beneficial effect even if the massage itself is not so good. In Thai Massage however it depends 100 percent on the skill and sensitivity and experience of the therapist. In Swedish Massage, you can leave very disappointed with a poor therapist and poor oils. Swedish Massage however requires the therpiast to have completed Anatomy and Physiology modules - including blood and nervous circulation, muscles, bones and joints, hormones and skin - which are often lacking in Thai and Ayurvedic therapist stuides. Knowledge and application of Anatomy and Physiology is probably one of Swedish Massage's strengths - provided the therapist is skillful to work with this knowledge.


Personally I like the fact that I can get a Thai Massage instantly in many places in Thailand – in an actual massage shop, in a market, or at the entrance of a mall. It requires next to no planning and it can be had for very little money. For me, all the amazing body manipulations of Thai Massage are something I really like and value.

Ayurvedic massage is much more involved, more expensive, and cannot be enjoyed anywhere in public places, even outside of India. However it is a pleasant and beneficial experience to appreciate the value, scent and feel of warm aromatic oils on the skin and a more thorough head and hair massage offering what many consider to be the Indian Head Massage and Shirodhara as part of the full body massage.

Swedish Massage is the most comfortable for the uneasy or shy client and a good base level for many therapists to start their knowledge and experience of massage.

All can be very healing and effective, and you can choose from your experience by the day or hour, environment or mood, which one may be right for you.