The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Making Thai Massage Healthier Part II - Avoid Snapping Elbows or Knees Backward

The previous two posts told a little about Thai massage, and some of the benefits and pitfalls.

Some massage practioners say that Thai massage is an "energy-based" system, not a physical one. However, there are direct physical moves that bring direct physical change, both good and bad.

Many of the Southern Thai massage styles consist mostly of pressing, without many stretches. Northern style Thai massage adds many stretches. Stretches can be helpful to restore length to tight muscles so that you can restore healthy body positioning. For example, in the photo at left, the legs are lifted so that the front of the hip is gently stretched. The practitioner (man doing the lift) puts his foot on the back of the person's hip, to safely keep the lower back from being overly-arched by the stretch. The stretch concentrates on the front hip muscles where it is needed. This is a beneficial stretch because the front of the hip is often tight from long sitting and faulty standing positioning. This Thai massage stretch, done right, can restore length to the front hip muscles. In the photo above left, the knees bend the normal way the knee joint moves and the hip gets a nice stretch.

There are a few moves that are usually better to skip. Some practitioners may straighten your elbow or knee too much - photo of knee hyperextension at right, below. They may push your elbow or knee backward to assist the overly extended position, even sometimes adding a forceful snap.They may bend your knee toward your chest, then hold your heel and let the leg drop straight, letting the force snap the knee. The elbow and knee joints are not shaped to hyper-extend. Hyperextension means to go more than a normally straight position. Hyperextending the knee or elbow can wear at the joint and strain the cartilage.

It is not usually healthful to snap a joint, especially repeatedly over time, to reach the end of its range of motion. Although many of us learned to do this in massage school, and were taught that the snapping and hyperextending motion has benefits, it is better to skip joint snapping, and do other moves that have benefit without harm.


Previous Fitness Fixer on Thai Massage:


Photo 1 Good knees - copyright © Dr. Jolie Bookspan
Photo of hyperextended knees by

  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No

About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.