Dr. Jivaka was a famous doctor at the time that had an interesting life story. He was an orphant and studied medicinal plants for many years.
Later in life he became the private doctor of a powerful king in the region of India.
He also massaged members of the original Buddhist community, the first "Sangha". In fact, he has even been mentioned in the Tipitaka writings.
It was through Buddhist monks that the art of Thai massage then found its way to Thailand. Especially here monks practiced and developed this unique form of bodywork for centuries.
They used Thai massage to heal laypeople, and to deepen their meditative practices.
After they spend many hours without movement in deep meditation their bodies were naturally tired and stiff - Thai massage helped them to regain their flexibility fast.
Two kinds of Thai massage emerge throughout the millennia - the rural style and the royal style.
The rural style is the one that has lots of animistic elements involved, and magic. Thai shamans practiced it and midwives.
The royal style was a much more scholarly style that was practiced in the palace of the King of Siam. It was also more polite, for example the massage therapist would not utilize his feet to massage a person of royal decree but only the thumbs.
Nowadays it is a sad reality that oftentimes prostitutes and brothels refer to their services as "Thai massage" - but it is important to make the distinction that Thai massage has nothing to do with erotic massage. This is much more a development of recent times and can in large part be accredited to the presence of soldiers during the Vietnam War in Pattaya.