Top 3 Reasons Why Nuad Thai Massage is on UNESCO Heritage List

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In December 2019, Nuad Thai was added to the prestigious UNESCO Heritage List. According to Unesco, the Thai Massage has its “roots in self-care in Thai peasant society of the past, where every village had massage healers whom villagers would turn to when they had muscle aches from working the field”.

This intangible cultural heritage list is separate from the world heritage list, which recognizes buildings and sites of prominence. There are 549 items on the cultural heritage list – split into three categories – from 127 countries. Nuad Thai is on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity listing.

Top 3 Reasons Why Nuad Thai Massage is on UNESCO Heritage List

  1. Nuad Thai is an expression of love and care for others and it strengthens social solidarity, enhances self-reliance and is a quality that has inspired and come to define Thailand as a caring society.
  2. The continuation of this Thai tradition helps uphold the community’s identity, which is firmly anchored in its history and local wisdom.
  3. Nuad Thai, or traditional Thai massage, serves as a sign of recognition of this folk wisdom-based medicine and of traditional medicines in general around the world.

Nuad Thai – Traditional Thai Massage

Nuad Thai, when translated to English, means Thai Massage. Many people who tried this form of massage believe that it helps in reducing stress, boosting energy, and enhancing athletic performance. Thai massage uses gentle pressure and yoga-like stretching techniques to relax the entire body.

Thai Massage works the whole body using a series of movements that are similar to yoga stretching. A trained therapist will use their palms and fingers to apply firm pressure to your body. You’ll also be “twisted” and stretched into various positions. You can wear comfortable, loose clothing during the massage.

In this article, we will focus on the difference between Thai Massage and the typical Swedish Massage, which is sometimes called the “Classic Massage”.

Clothing – On or Off?

Swedish Massage uses essential oils or lotions. As such, clients are undressed and covered only by a towel, lying face down on the massage table. While Thai Massage also use oils, these are not essential oils and are often not applied. Hence, clients are typically not required to undress or allowed to wear loose, comfortable clothing. In addition, massages are done with the client lying on a mat or firm mattress on the floor.

Strokes – Gentle, Soothing and Relaxing?

Thai Massage – There is constant body contact between the therapist and client, but rather than rubbing on the muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, “twisted” and stretched; the client will be positioned in a variety of yoga-like positions during the session, which is also combined with deep static and rhythmic pressures.

Swedish Massage – More relaxing compared with Thai Massage. It incorporates:
– Sweeping strokes, which are usually used at the start and end of a massage.
– Kneading strokes, which “kneads” the muscles to release any pain.
– Pounding strokes, which are fast percussion movements, such as tapping, chopping, and pounding.
– Resistance strokes, where the application of deep pressure to particular spots is done using the fingertips, knuckles, and the thumb.

Positioning – Up Dog, Down Dog?

As mentioned above, Thai Massage works the entire body using a series of movements that are similar to yoga stretching. So if you are thinking that you need to adopt specific yoga poses by yourself in order to receive treatment, you may be pleasantly surprised!

Thai Massage is also commonly known as “lazy yoga massage” because you don’t need to put any effort into the movement. The therapist knows what he/she is doing, so just relax your body and let the therapist take control of it.

Unlike Thai Massage, Swedish massage rarely requires the client to move, let alone change positions. The therapist will begin the session with the client facing down on the massage bed or lying on his/her back, and flipped over at the halfway point.

Whether you prefer Thai Massage or Swedish Massage, you will be delighted to know that both types of massages will last between 60 – 90 mins.


Massage is a huge business in Thailand and it is regulated by the Public Health Ministry. While Thai Massage is offered by both “spas” and “massage parlours”, the legal difference between a “spa” and a “massage parlour” is unclear. To protect your interest, it is advisable to patronize only legal businesses.

Please click on this link to get more info on UNESCO’s website: