Are Massage Chairs a Legitimate Fitness Recovery Tool?

are massage chairs a legitimate fitness recovery tool?

The use of a massage chair as a sports fitness recovery tool isn’t always the easiest to debate, as different viewpoints and purposes make it an interesting debate to determine their status to those who do rely on them.

While some would prefer to use them as proper ways to merely relax, others might find a use for them with traditional ways of delving into fitness recovery. For the most part, it’s not an entirely easy topic to entirely pinpoint, especially when some aspects of the discussion might not have immediate agreements between either side; that being said, there are a multitude of ways to view what makes both sides of the argument easy to follow before deciding if massage chairs truly are sports fitness recovery tools or not.

A major issue that some critics would mention is that massages, in general, are less about fitness and more about wellness. Relieving stress; technically, this is true given that the human body isn’t involved with moving at a rapid pace when it’s being massaged, but there are ways to justify how it’d keep the human body fit. This argument is defended with the aspect of the human body relaxing from any pressure it had throughout any tiring experiences. These include tough working conditions and not having any time for a break during a job. While it’s not entirely 1:1 with stating that receiving a massage doesn’t fit in any fitness category, it does have an assortment of benefits to the human body’s recovery nonetheless.

In this article, we shall go over what makes a massage chair work for sports/injury recovery before determining how legitimate they are as fitness tools. Afterward, we will discuss what would disqualify them as fitness tools. This will be worth breaking down for those who are in the middle of deciding what they really want out of a massage chair.

How Do Massage Guns Work?

The concept of the DIY massage tool, also known as a percussion massage gun, is not a new or unusual concept, and yes, it can be good for you. Percussion massage gun types of tools have been around for decades. Most therapists and doctors would agree that stimulating muscle tissue increases circulation, relieves tension, and ultimately reduces pain. Furthermore, studies have shown that myofascial release and trigger point therapy has multiple benefits.  

Alternatively, the average user doesn’t know how to operate the tool properly and does more damage than good.  Therefore, it’s easier for massage gun marketers to rave about the “no pain, no gain” effect than share the honest truth of the studies about their products.

If only uses understood what the percussion massage gun is doing to their body when improperly used, even the most affordable massage gun wouldn’t sell on Amazon. 

To better understand what a percussion massage gun does to your body, let’s dive into the layers of tissue and muscle. Your skin, or dermis, is the first layer of tissue protecting your internal structure. With any massage therapy tool, the dermis is the first layer to respond to the touch. Underneath your skin are lots of blood vessels and nerve endings. These nerve endings and blood vessels are protected with layers of collagen and elastin fibers. Which vary greatly with age, gender, and health.  

If you’re young, strong, in good health, and have tough skin, you are likely able to resist the high-frequency vibrations of a massage gun. Alternatively, if you have soft skin, you’re probably going to feel uncomfortable with the force of even the lowest setting on the massage gun.

Deeper we have – subcutaneous fat. Resting below your skin, fat acts as a cushion for your body. Depending on the area of the body, age, sex, and overall fitness, the thickness varies. Users that have more subcutaneous fat the less sensitive you feel from the percussion massage gun pounding. 

The next layer is – skeletal muscle. Thicker and denser than fat, skeletal muscle consists of mostly protein, actin, and myosin. On the outside of the muscle are a fibrous spider web support and protection layer called fascia (hence, myoFASCIAL release therapy)

A John Hopkins study, Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue surrounding and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. When hammering into this area with a high intensity motor, we can rupture blood vessels, create inflammation, and ultimately cause bruising.

The goal of massage therapy is to increase blood flow that transports beneficial oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. When we shatter these pathways, we counteract the potential gains.

Effectively, when you push the massage gun into your muscle, the skin, fat, fascia, nerves, and blood vessels are having to resist hundreds of forceful up-and-down reps. If you believe the hype of the “no pain, no gain”,or “go heavy or go home effect”, then you, unfortunately, think it’s ok to clench and put up with the agony, and hope for the moments of recovery after the pounding.

INCORRECT! If your body is in pain, your nerves are sending signals to your brain begging you to stop. You’ve entering fight-or-flight mode. Shutting down pain receptors to endure the trauma. When you finally release the trigger, you feel relieved. But this isn’t muscle tension relief. It’s the relief from your massage gun’s hammer and the soreness will be worse the next day.

If you use a massage gun, make sure you understand how to operate it.

How Do Massage Chairs Work?

Massage chairs fill in the same purpose that traditional massage therapists have: providing a body’s soft tissue manipulation from rubbing onto the skin where it feels sore. What makes them different from the traditional massage sessions is the position that a receiver is in; rather than lying flat on a floor or on a table, they are sitting down or in a zero-gravity posture and are given unique pre-programmed massages provided to them automatically. Regular massage chairs allow the relaxing comfort of a person receiving the massage as they would in a traditional method.

A massage chair giving a massage is usually given to the back and upper body of a person, including the head, neck, and back of the legs and especially the feet (reflexology). These kinds of massage chairs are generally not portable, and clients don’t need to remove any clothing articles in order to receive a massage via a massage chair. Massage chairs can take place in different settings such as in-home, in-businesses, and events among other quiet and relaxing destinations.

They make use of internal electronic motors and gears that provide the massage to their users instead of another person. Their functions usually vary from how accessible the controls are on top of the levels of intensity and where they want to receive the massage. Regardless of what kind of massaging chair is used, the general benefits given to those receiving a massage include lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate than before the massage, as well as relaxation and metabolism added to the user.

Would Massage Chairs work as Fitness Recovery Tools?

In a time where massage guns are purchased in favor of massage chairs, some might find the massage chair to be archaic. Understandably, they’re not going to be for everybody in a generation where people prefer to have more accessible items, especially ones that have a bit more convenience than their predecessors had. If we were to set that aside, massage chairs do provide their users an extremely good amount of treatment if they’ve previously had a stressful day or night, but how well they truly work as sports or fitness recovery tools mainly depends on their benefits towards their users.

As previously mentioned, massaging chairs allow the user to receive a multitude of benefits that are good for their body, including the aforementioned reduction of health risks as well as an increase in metabolism. These two benefits ensure that stress and anxiety are no longer concerns as the user recovers from sore muscles, and they’re always benefitting for a user’s back or legs as commonly demonstrated by many users. Some people who receive chair massages praise the methods for the ability to keep necks from getting stiff, and others find them to be helpful for simulating chiropractic maneuvers. Enhanced blood circulation and oxygen flow are brought up as well.

So while not on the same level of motion and activity that other sports and fitness recovery tools would usually provide, massage chairs make up for it by focusing on the mental and physical wellness of anyone who wants to use them to enhance how they’re currently feeling. One of the nicer aspects of massage chairs is how both versions of said chairs provide users with similar yet different experiences, so those who’d prefer the “old-fashioned” way of recovering from stress would happily make do with these chairs. On top of the aforementioned benefits, having them in-home or office after a workout is very beneficial to your body’s overall health and wellness as well as muscle recovery.

What Disqualifies Massage Chairs From Being Fitness Tools?

Now we shall break down what would truly count as arguments that would go against the use of massage chairs. The points made for the pro-chair section might seem critical, but the cons that we’re about to go over might make some readers have a change of thought. While some individuals may prefer to stick with the massage guns, we’re still going to set those aside and focus on the massage chairs as if they’re the best option for massage therapy by yourself. Regardless of the defenses made for massage chairs, they aren’t always going to have the same equal treatment as other sports and fitness recovery tools.

Without a large number of studies to reflect on, it’s not as easy to determine how legitimate massage chairs can be as fitness tools, but plenty of triathletes will confirm that they’re a go-to option for recovery. For example, while they’re great for soothing most muscles and provide the relief anyone would ask for, they’re not going to be as effective when they only reach certain spots. Additionally, some won’t find them as good for rehabilitation and firmly believe that they’re only good for relaxation and nothing else. Although in a time of a pandemic, where therapists are quarantined they may be the best and only solution for providing a massage.

The Best Recovery Tool Final Verdict

As we’ve discussed throughout the article, while massage chairs may not be for everyone, especially if there is cheaper technology out there, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t possess an impressive amount of versatility for anyone wanting a more traditional method of stress relief and injury recovery. As they sometimes say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Replacing the massage chairs entirely would kind of feel like a betrayal to anyone who’s used the items and loves them in their lives. That and the reliance that some athletes have with them still allow these devices to be integral as an impressive tool for their sports, fitness, or injury recovery.

While some think massage chairs are not on the same level of qualification that other “fitness tools” have, they do make the most out of what they can provide as far as pain relief and injury recovery are concerned. More so than massage guns that have caused injuries to those who are not professional massage therapists or even have a clue to how to best massage their muscles or injuries for recovery.

The human body needs more than just exercise and proper nutrition to be healthy; so long as its tissues are given the right amount of massages after a long day of anxiety and stress, it’d reduce any health issues related to a heart rate or blood flow. Overall, it fills in the gap of a fitness recovery tool without the need for a therapist, trainer, or any other person.