Today I got hammered, Thai style. Tok Sen.
“Tok” literally means to tap or hit something, while “Sen” refers to the Thai energy meridian lines in the body. Put those two things together and you get a specialized massage treatment which has evolved and is very popular here in Northern Thailand. The body’s sen lines are rhythmically tapped with a wooden mallet (usually crafted from tamarind wood) creating a deep, resonating, physical-acoustic healing vibration which clears blocked energy and opens the healing channels for restored natural balance. Why tamarind wood particularly? In Thai mythology, the large tamarind tree with its huge canopy and even deeper roots is considered a mediator between the human world and the world of the ancestor-spirits.
Having broken my left arm in 6 places about 4 months ago, I am anxious to regain full use and mobility without pain. The Dr says it may take up to a year and I may never regain full usage. I don’t accept that prognosis, but let’s just gently say we still have a ways to go. Sigh. To the untrained eye, it looks like I have 80-90% usage of my arm, but I have no strength in it (can’t even prop myself up with it in bed), drop things all the damn time (we have a serious crockery-glassware deficit at home!) and I often wake with pain after rolling onto my arm that makes it hard to sleep again. Hence the desire for a circuit breaking treatment. The x-rays show all 6 fractures have knitted cleanly, 100%. And yet I can’t move it fully, open my elbow joint properly, carry more than 2kg on that side nor get through a day without pain.
So, Tok Sen it was today.
Is Tok Sen gentle and pleasant? Errr not if you are injured. ‘Hypnotically painful’ for me today, but admittedly, I am recovering from multiple fractures. Something one needs to breathe through if one is injured, most definitely. But incredibly effective. One just breathes into the rhythmic, almost melodic, sounds and tries to release resistance. Breathes out when she hits super tight sore spots. The Tok Sen to the lower part of my back where there is no injury was surprisingly pleasant and rhythmic, although probably not for people who lean towards soft, stroking, gentle massage.
The improvement in the range of motion in my arm after the treatment today was amazing. She alternated between Tok Sen on my shoulders and mid-back all the way down to my pelvis, and strong trigger point Thai-style massage all over my neck, back, arms and hands, down to my hips. For one solid hour.
How do I feel? Warm and glowing all over, tired, pummeled, and like every bit of fascia, muscle and soft tissue is rearranging itself around my newly healed bones. Which is probably exactly what IS happening. Bruising? Nope. Most definitely not if done well by a well trained professional, although I do feel like I have done 973 push-ups and then some.
Expensive? 250 Thai baht for the hour’s session. Which works out to about US $7.55. Very affordable by western standards – for a Thai person it’s about half a day’s wages.
Is she trained or just a village lady who learned from her grandma? Actually, she is remarkably well trained. And accredited by the Thai government’s Dept of Public Health.
She has been practising for 6 years now and was recommended to us by our dear friends at Baan Tung Boon Lom Homestay, just across the rice-fields.
Is it a one-off treatment? For injury rehab (like mine) Pii Sriphan (means older sister Sriphan, in Thai) recommends a treatment every 3 days. So I’m back there again in a few days, to be hammered some more.
Yes, you CAN learn Tok Sen here in Chiang Mai? Where would I recommend? The famous Old Thai Medicine Hospital would be my first choice and recommendation for authentic, Thai teachers and excellent accreditation.
Can you come and have a treatment with Pii Sriphan when you are in Chiang Mai? Sure! Her English isn’t great but given the proximity to our Pure Thai Naturals office, we’re always happy to take you round, introduce you, translate as required and help get you settled.
Her shop is clean, easy to get to using the yellow songtaew from the North Gate (fixed price is 16 baht) and yes, her shop is air-conditioned.
Grateful for local, natural medicine. But missing my bathtub like never before after that hammering this afternoon.