Traditional Thai Massage is part of Traditional Thai Medicine, which is in part derived from Buddhist Medicine. According to Traditional Medical Theory, the human body is constituted by the 5 elements Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and Space. In order for the body to be healthy these elements must be in the correct relationship with each other. Each element is not a thing in itself, but a quality of experience, Earth is the experience of solidity, Water of liquidity, Wind is movement, Fire is change and heat etc. Just as in nature these experiences are in correct relationship to each other, so in the body. The 5 elements are so arranged in the body so as to exhibit 5 distinct layers: skin, tissue (muscle and fat), channels (nerve, blood, tendon and ligaments), bones and organs. Any problem in the 5 elements could manifest in each or all of the layers. The purpose of Traditional thai Massage is to identify the problematic relationship of the 5 elements and locate its cause in the 5 layers , and then seek to resolve the imbalance. Most problems are related to the tissue and channel layers and involve blockage in the movement of blood, but also nerve function.
Traditional Medicine grew out of empirical observation of nature and the human body, there is nothing in the traditional teachings of Anatomy and 5 elements and layers which is disproved by science. The element Wind is not a superstitious belief in some esoteric life force flowing through the body, but the clear understanding that health is dependent on the flow of blood, nerve, nutrients and the correct function of each part, winds is movement! The channels (Sen) are not invisible esoteric pathways, but very clearly defined as Blood vessels, nerve, tendons and ligaments.
Unlike the Chinese concept of Meridians and Chi, or the Indian concepts of Nadis and Prana, traditional thai medicine theory is very clear and verifiable, a testimony to the pragmatic Thai mentality. So, whilst Traditional Medicine practice does involve elements such as magic and supernatural belief, when it comes to the physical manipulation of the body, the concepts developed are clear and scientifically verifiable.