Sunday, March 15, 2009

Massage Chairs, Pro and Con

The idea of Massage Chairs gaining market share may infuriate the average massage therapist, yet it's worth discussing the Pro's and Con's of usage.

I found this clip on where Pro Golfer Tim Clark is giving a testimonial for Human Touch's HT 1650 and HT 7450 Massage Chair Models. Being familiar with both I decided to watch the clip.

My own take on massage chairs is unusual. Being a massage therapist, I've been a bit of a snob about them. I tried one 20 years or so ago and decided I could get a beating for free and there was no point in paying for a chair to do it. I avoided them like a plague.

Two years ago I began working in a back care store and found it necessary for my work to try one we offered as a product. I was instantly converted to a believer. These massage chairs have come a long, long way.

Now, before you accuse me of selling out, I have to say that technology has changed these chairs a lot. Yet they aren't necessarily a complete package. Nothing can beat the human connection of safe, nurturing touch.

Do they replace the value of a REAL massage? - No.

Can they benefit the user in reducing stress and relaxing stiff, sore muscles? - Yes, absolutely.

Are they going to reduce my massage customer base or make it harder for me to attract traditional massage business? My experience has revealed otherwise.

Some customers have been established after telling me touch makes them uncomfortable, and yet they tried the massage chair and shifted their perspective. Some customers have liked the idea of a pre-massage warm-up in a chair before their regular massage session. Several clients that own them haven't changed their massage frequency at all.

Using a massage chair every day at the store, I can't believe how helpful it has been. Especially over the duration of a years time.

Yet massage therapist tend to scorn these chairs as competition, and that's worth discussing. The discovery process I experienced really shifted my attitude towards benefits that can be gained. And, while not a good match for everyone, there are some points to be made.

  1. Used as a supplement, massage chairs can benefit a customers overall stress reduction.
  2. Health themes such as improved circulation and relaxation are a natural fit.
  3. Some touch issues can be overcome by utilizing a massage chair.
  4. Used as a marketing tool massage chairs can be a draw that sets your practice apart.
  5. Having one in the waiting room can facilitate increased educational dialogue.
  6. Regular use of a massage chair can make Massage Therapy more specific and effective for long term issues.
  7. (My favorite:) As a Massage Therapist I can consistently get the massage I need to continue to produce my best work, and in such a way that it reduces time constraints. I can also manage repetitive strain and other physical challenges that massage as a trade can produce.
  1. There are health caveats for people with pace makers and blood pressure issues.
  2. Aging can make bones too brittle to risk injury in a massage chair.
  3. Massage chairs have greater up-front cost, however per session costs reduce continually over time.
  4. Massage Chairs do not have tactile sensitivity that communicates user discomfort.
  5. Space requirements can pose a challenge.
  6. Some Massage Chair users do not see added value in traditional massage delivery.
  7. Appropriate location can be limited to home or office, and massage chairs are generally not portable.
So this is just food for thought, but as massage trends shift, it's important to have the conversations that help us all make better lifestyle and health decisions. Like Professional Athletes, massage (chair or traditional), can help Massage Therapists and vocational athletes to manage and maintain health.

The YouTube video following is just one example of how and where massage trends are shifting as the population becomes more aware and open to the benefits massage can provide.

What are your thoughts, and what pro's and con's have I left out? If a customer asks your advice on a massage chair, what can/will you say? If you had use of one how might that change your health, business, marketing approach? Clearly there's more to be shared.

Tim Clark's Testimony for Human Touch:

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