In today’s stressful world, back massagers are all the rage due to the comfort and pain relief that they offer. However, it is hard to choose the best back massagers when you don’t understand certain things about them.
In this article, I will guide you through the different mechanisms, types, and massage options you can get from a back massager in order to help you make an informed decision before you finalize a purchase. So, scroll down and let’s get started!
Back Massager Types
The first thing you need to know is that there are a number of different back massager types available in the market. Whether you are looking for a cheap yet convenient option or a great investment to suit your needs, there is surely a type that is perfect for you.
Basically, back massagers can be classified into two major types: electric and non-electric. Under these two main types are other more specific subtypes with each their own advantages and disadvantages. Here they are:
Electric Back Massagers
Chair Type Back Massager
Chair back massagers are the type of massager that also serves as a piece of furniture that you can add to your bedroom or living room and on which you can sit every day. These massagers are usually the most expensive. They also occupy a considerable amount of space.
However, these are probably the ones that offer the closest massage to a hands-on or full body massage. They offer similar levels of relaxation and pain relief without the need of another person.
A chair massage pad is the next best thing to chair massagers. These are the ones that you attach to a recliner or your favorite chair by hooking them over and under the seat. Most of these offer full back coverage.
They are cheaper than chair back massagers and provide almost the same massage. The difference is that you can remove the pad so you can use the chair as you normally would if you want.
Handheld Back Massagers
Handheld back massagers come in the form of a pad or wand with massaging balls at the tip. Like a back scratcher, you operate this by controlling and maneuvering the tip around the body using your hands. These are great for targeting specific areas of body pain and tension.
You can either get a cordless portable handheld back massager or one that you plug in. These are also relatively cheap. The downside of handheld back massagers, however, is that you can only use them for as long as your hands hold up or you may still need someone to help you with the massage.
This literally means what the name entails. Belt massagers are those that are wrapped around the lower back area like a belt. For an upper back massage, you can also drape it on your shoulders. The massage this offers can also get deep or more intense in key areas.
Pillow or Cushion Massager
This one is probably the most common type of back massager you see in offices, homes, and even cars. These are shaped and designed to specifically massage the lower back or neck areas. However, you can simply adjust the position in order to target other areas that need pain relief such as the upper back, thighs, legs, and more.
3 – Prong Mini Massager
The 3-prong mini massager is another handy and convenient device that is used to release tension and work out knots. It has three prongs or legs that may also heat up or vibrate. These can be battery operated, rechargeable, or non-electric although the electric types are more common.
While a TENS unit is technically not a massager in that it does not have rotating or kneading mechanisms to work the muscles, I included it here since it serves a similar purpose of pain relief and relaxation.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and a TENS unit or device comes with multiple electrode pads that send small electric currents across the skin to stimulate the nerves in different body parts.
These currents or pulses are used to relieve pain. Most TENS units are used in healthcare facilities and hospitals, but there are types that can be safely used at home.
Non-Electric Back Massagers
A cane massager is a very simple tool with an ergonomic design. It has a hooked end, several prongs, and balls that are meant to dig and massage into the muscles. You can maneuver and control it to any body part. The depth of the massage, intensity, and pressure depends on your hands.
This type of massager is similar to a cane massager except that both ends have hooked shapes. It also has strategically positioned nodes and prongs with balls on the ends to work on stiff body parts.
Wooden Ball Massagers
There many different types of wooden ball massagers that you can find in the market. These may have originated and are often used in Asian countries. However, the pressure and intensity of the massage still depend on the therapist or the person who is giving the massage.
You simply have to run the balls up and down the back or skin to loosen up tight knots and release muscle tension.
A foam roller is a cylinder with a soft or hard rubber or plastic exterior. It has patterns and protrusions that provide the pressure and relief for tensed and stretched muscles. Foam rollers come in different sizes for massaging different parts of the body. The largest is similar to a small log on top of which the user lies and rolls it up and down the back.
Different Massage Types
The next thing you need to know is that there are different massage methods and types. Some electric massagers have options or settings that allow you to choose among a few types of these massages.
Knowing what these mean and what benefits they can be helpful in deciding which back massager or program will be best suited for your needs.
Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage and bodywork based on traditional Chinese medicine principles. This focuses on targeting pressure points in combination with the stretching and rotation of joints. The idea is to release the energy and pressure to allow the muscles to relax.
The benefits of Shiatsu massage include the restoration of the body system’s natural balance, relieving pain, and loosening tight muscles. This type of massage is very beneficial to anyone especially those people who work all day and have hectic schedules.
The intensity level of Shiatsu massages is high.
Many massagers offer vibration massages that combine shaking, jostling, or vibrating movements with kneading and strokes. This stimulates and soothes the body depending on the amount of pressure and the speed.
Vibration massages help in relaxing the muscles, especially on the lower back and abdomen. These areas do not need as much pressure, which is why vibration, a low-intensity massage, is suitable.
Kneading refers to the circular motion usually applied simultaneously on both sides of the spine. This method focuses on giving comfort and pain relief through the loosening, stretching, and lifting of tense muscles.
This massage is often used on very tense spots and stubborn knots. It is great for athletes and other people who engage in high-stress activities on a daily basis. Kneading massages also help improve your posture and balance through high-intensity massaging.
Rolling is a massage technique wherein constant, uniform pressure is applied as a tool, or the hands are rolled gently up and down the back, close to the spine. The motion is supposed to warm up and loosen the muscles, which is often a step in preparing the body for a deeper massage later on.
This low to medium intensity technique also helps ease muscle tension but is mainly effective in relaxing the lower back. It is great for those who have physically challenging jobs that put pressure on specific body parts especially the lower back.
Percussion massage traditionally involves rapid, repetitive movements over specific areas of the body in even but short sequences. In a massage parlor, the therapist often uses the wrists or hands to deliver soft blows to the body alternately.
This is used to relax tense muscles on the shoulders, neck, and back. Training athletes who rely on muscle strength benefit greatly from this type of low to medium intensity massage.
Compression is basically the application of pressure on certain body parts or muscles to aid in relaxation. Massagers with compression often use massage nodes that rotate and push on tense muscles.
This massage type improves the massage experience by putting extra pressure on the muscles to release pain and tension. Active individuals, sports players, and runners are the people who could benefit greatly from this high-intensity massage.
Spot massages are meant to stimulate and smooth a particular body part through targeted motions with pressure. This helps release tension and stress to soothe tight muscles. This medium intensity massage is done on body parts where chronic tension or recurring knots are felt.
Electric massagers usually come with heat options since this provides an extra relaxation feature. Heat enhances circulation for that soothing sensation that allows the whole body to relax. Some people like heat during massages while others prefer massages with no heat.
How does a Massage Work?
Massages work in various different ways, but the two main physiological effects of the body to massages can be classified into either a relaxation or a mechanical response. When these two happen together, the body experiences immense emotional, physical, and mental benefits.
The relaxation response refers to the predictable involuntary responses of the nervous system to touch, stimulation, and different massage techniques. It is as if the body is invited to relax.
Combined with pain relief, the relaxation response results in a slower breathing rate and heart rate, lower blood pressure, muscle relaxation, and a decrease in stress hormone production. It is also associated with increased levels of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that affects one’s thoughts and emotions in a positive way.
When the relaxation response happens, the physical and mental effects of stress are reduced. The risks of stress-related problems like sexual dysfunction, insomnia, anxiety, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, fatigue, as well as psychological and digestive disorders are lessened.
When pressure is applied to certain body parts and soft tissues, there are physical effects to the body, called mechanical response. This leads to two major changes: an increase in circulation and the relaxation of soft tissues.
Improved circulation means that lymph and blood will be delivered more efficiently to the cells of the body. This is partly due to the physical stimulation and also the release of chemicals as part of the relaxation response.
When circulation is good, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells is also improved. This means that cellular health is boosted and your tissues function better. The removal of toxins and wastes is increased which results in reduced swelling and inflammation.
This refers to the normalization, health, and relaxation of the body’s soft tissues which include connective tissues, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. All of these are connected to nerves.
Thanks to massage therapy, painful spasms and contractions of the muscles are stopped or prevented.
Nerve compression is also reduced. Let me explain this further so you can better understand it. When muscles contract, the nerves surrounding them may become pinched or compressed. When the muscles are relaxed, the nerves are also released and so are able to get proper nutrients for efficient functioning of the organs and muscles connected to them.
Stimulating soft tissues allow you to release this compression that results in a better balance and alignment of tissues and nerves.
Since organs share pain pathways with nerves, muscles, and bones, they can also benefit from a massage. For example, menstrual cramps and lower back pain are highly associated with each other. Massaging the lower back will then help relieve menstrual pain.
That’s pretty much all the important stuff you need to know in order to make the most of your back massager or make a good decision when purchasing one. Remember, no matter the type, brand, or model, the best back massagers are those that serve their purpose fully.
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or other concerns, please feel free to leave them down below! Don’t forget to share this article with your loved ones as well!