Whether you have access to a massage chair, massage therapist, foam roller, lacrosse ball, or other massage devices like a TENS Machine the benefits vary but all have a lot of similarities. There are many pieces of rehabilitation equipment out there available for home and clinical use. With all of these offerings at various price points and function, there is something for everyone to benefit from massage.
The benefits of massage therapy and other rehabilitation equipment can be explained by the concept of gate theory.
In a 2015 study by Wamontree et al. in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science talked about this theory when facilitating a study using the Theracane and similar rehabilitation devices.
The researchers state that the physical pressure from a stimulus (massage therapist, massage chair, or other rehabilitation equipment) act to stimulate pressure sensor in the nerves of the body part which “closes the gate” from allowing further pain signals to reach the spinal cord and be perceived by the brain.
The Gate Theory
Gate theory is important because the effects of closing the gate are reduced sensitivity which can be correlated with a lower pain perception and greater range of motion within that body part.
Over time this could allow for improved symptoms and creates opportunities for stretching and strengthening the muscle groups to rehabilitate the injury or reduce and prevent future discomfort.
Starting with the benefits of massage therapy this article will cover specific uses and benefits of various pieces of rehabilitation equipment. Before engaging in any of the methods make sure that you are understanding of your body and if you have any contraindications.
A short list of reasons to not use massage therapy includes edema, blood clots, open wounds, and other skin conditions. Make sure your massage therapist asks about your health and that you understand your individual situation prior to using any pieces of rehabilitation equipment.
Massage therapy is a long-standing professional field that provides rehabilitation and recovery service through physical stimulation by a licensed provider to a wide variety of the population from athletes to weekend warriors. Massage therapy takes many forms including relaxation, deep tissue intervention, and many more.
Depending on your needs you may be able to walk in or schedule an appointment to a clinic or seek a referral from your physical therapist or primary care doctor for a specific type of massage therapy within the rehabilitation process.
Massage therapists work within clinics, spas, personal homes, and even the industrial setting to provide for their patients. The settings in which massage therapists work are as diverse as the services they provide.
Think of traditional massage therapy with a licensed massage therapist as the gold standard for massage benefits. This service does not fall under self-care as you need someone else to perform the service for you.
But the goals of the massage therapist and the benefits of that service are the same as the self-care tools I am about to describe. These tools may not be as effective as having someone work on you but they can be effective and important for lasting pain management and recovery.
Benefits of Using a Massage Chair (and other rehabilitation equipment)
Moving towards a self-care approach massage chairs are often discussed as viable ways to self-care and recovery.
There are many benefits of massage therapy and massage chairs. However, there are also many differences. While massage therapy is known to increase circulation, reduce tension or tone in the muscle, and increase the range of motion, massage chairs are restricted by the techniques that is mechanically available within the product to accomplish those same benefits.
Massage chairs can also cost a lot of money, sometimes into the thousands. At the same time, massage therapy can also be expensive and therapists charge anywhere from $50-$100 an hour depending on their expertise and your needs.
Considering what your needs are before engaging in either massage therapy or purchasing a massage chair is important. Consult your provider and as their recommendations in relation to you as an individual.
You can find pretty cheap back massage cushions that work as good as a full body massage chair. This is the one I have and it works for me when I watch TV in the couch.
There is also good neck massagers that you can buy pretty cheap. After scrolling through Amazon I found 3 neck massagers that are both affordable and seem to be good for a neck massage. Some of them can be moved to other parts of the body as well, like to the lower back.
FITFIRST Neck and Shoulder Massager this one is one of those you strap over your neck with straps for your hands, I believe it can be used for you to manually apply pressure. Hangsun 3D Neck and Back Shoulder Massager MG600, this one looks pretty much the same but has got better reviews.
I’m pretty much spit-balling here but I also found one that looked like a neck pillow that is battery-driven! Zaichen Travel Pillow and this one were also very cheap.
Foam rollers are becoming more and more popular as rehabilitation equipment options expand. They are great whether you are in a sport as an athlete, physical therapy, or exercise for your health. I also put together a list of the best foam rollers for overweight people. Foam rollers are portable and variable pieces of rehabilitation equipment. Unlike massage chairs, you can take them with you to the gym, vacation, in the car, and can be purchased for as low as $20.
Another name for foam rolling specifically is self-myofascial release. This is the concept of using physical pressure by rolling your body over the foam roll to stimulate the muscle and fascia reducing tension and gaining all of the additional benefits of massage previously mentioned.
The guidelines for foam rolling are that you should roll 1 inch of your body per second. This is a slow pace to make sure that there is enough time for the myofascial to release and benefits of the activity to occur.
One of the best parts about foam rolling is that it takes little time (10-20min) and can be done before, during, and after exercise. The foam rolls come in various densities with the densest foam rolls being most aggressive and possibly most uncomfortable to use. Some have textures of them to also enhance sensation.
To find the best foam roller that suits you, start with the least dense and un-textured roll.
Keep in mind that foam rolling initially will be uncomfortable as you attempt to reduce tension and increase circulation within the specific areas of the body you are working on. Breathe through discomfort and stop altogether if there is any pain.
You may need to take breaks and circle back to those sensitive areas over time to reduce sensitivity. Expect several weeks before feeling the “afterglow” effects of traditional massage therapy.
I have used so many foam rollers in my line of work but have pretty much never given the different kinds of models any thoughts. So I did what I had to, I found 3 different foam rollers for different kinds of needs! 2 of them in which I use myself and one that was ridiculously expensive but looked pretty awesome.
High Density Foam Roller From D-Fit By Deawna
I can’t be a 100% sure that this is one of the ones I like from the clinic but it looks identical and the price was lower than I expected.
AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller
I have tried this model, but it really doesn’t do it for me. I need more grip haha.. Maybe if you have severe back problems and want to start carefully, this one is pretty cheap. There are tons of models like it – I just picked the first one I saw.
TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller
This one is quite expensive (I think) for being a foam roller – but it seems to have its advantages.