The What’s Up Guide to the Styles of Massage in Chiang Mai

In recent decades, the variety of massages available in Chiang Mai has undergone something of a renaissance. Although the traditional Thai massages that masseuses and masseurs have practiced for generations are still a staple on the menus of Chiang Mai massages shops and wellness spas, the choice has been enhanced by aromatherapy, foot and herbal compress massages.

Many of the facilities also offer other massage genres which include hot stone, cream and reflexology plus Japanese Reiki laying on hands treatments. We have provided a few details about what to expect from the popular massage choices in Chiang Mai. Check out the recommendations on the What’s Up Chiang Mai pages for the best Spa Treatments and Thai Massage Shops.

Last Updated: June 2019

 Chiang Mai Massage Choices: 
 Aromatherapy Massage | Foot Massage | Herbal Compress Massage | Hot Stone Massage | Oil Massage | Thai Massage | Further Reading

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Traditional Thai is still the most popular massage choice in Chiang Mai. These massages showcase Lanna and Thai traditions and usually start off with a clasped hands wai of greeting. Masseuses then manipulate the recipient’s body lines, sen, by squeezing, pressing, slapping and stretching. The masseuse uses knees, hands and even feet during the stretching part of this therapy. The strength of the movements depends on whether a relaxing or healing massage has been asked for. Traditional Thai massages relieve pain, help blood circulation and induce slight but temporary feelings of euphoria.


Foot Massages are heavenly experiences after days spent tramping around the sights or shopping. As well as the many massage shops and spas in Chiang Nai, visitors are able to enjoy foot massages at locations like the Saturday and Sunday Walking Street Markets. Recipients usually sit in armchairs or loungers and their feet are washed with water before the massage proper begins. Foot massages involve the pressing of pressure points with rounded off wooden sticks and the stretching of toes. The grand finale is the application of a refreshing balm.


The herbal compress massage is a deep-heat application which is invigorating and guaranteed to take away aches and pains. These massages are also good for circulation and reducing swelling and bruising. Leaves such as those of tamarind and kaffir lime trees and the likes of turmeric and camphor are wrapped in fabric poultices. The wrap is then steamed before being pressed on to the body or being used to gently tap it. Herbal compress massages are sometimes offered in combination with Thai massages.


Said to contain a range of benefits for both the body and mind, aromatherapy massages are one of the most popular choices. Aromatherapy is a variation of a standard Thai massage which sees the masseuses work aromatic oils into your skin with their hands. It is more a relaxation treatment than curative and alleviates problems such as insomnia, backaches, muscle pain and headaches. Oil essences used in aromatherapy treatments come from eucalyptus, lemongrass, tamarind and other natural extracts. The oils are inhaled as well as permeate the skin during the massaging application.


Oil massages are similar to aromatherapy, but masseuses work naturally concocted oils into your skin by kneading and pushing. Most Chiang Mai spas and massage shops have their own recipes for the oils, but typical ingredients might include coconut extract, eucalyptus and lemon grass. In addition to rehydrating dry or sunburnt skin, oil massages are relaxing and beneficial to blood flow and aching muscles and tendons.


Although not a typical Thai treatment, many spas in Chiang Mai now offer hot stone massages. For this massage, smooth heat absorbing stones are steamed or heated in water before being gently applied to the body. The heat of the stones enables deeper penetration than standard massages and tends to work well when suffering from tired muscles or pain. Due to the heat, therapists do not usually offer this treatment to pregnant women or people with heart conditions or high blood pressure.