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Massage chairs can help ease aches and pains

Massage chairs can help ease aches and pains

last updated: October 02, 2008 04:39:28 PM

Anne-Marie Kessler has a hard time sitting still -- except when she sinks down into the depths of her reclining massage chair.

"I really don't know how to relax," says Kessler, who suffers aches and pains, including arthritis in her back and leg muscles prone to cramping. "I always want to do something, and when I sit down I get bored.

"But not in this chair. I can fall asleep in it," she says. "I like to sit in the chair and get comfortable, and it's nice because I can get a massage anytime I want to."

Convenience is one reason people turn to massage chairs, says Craig Clark, manager of The Bone Store in Fresno, which sells a variety of comfort products, including the chairs. Although a good massage from a licensed professional can help alleviate pain and tension, sometimes it's just not possible to schedule an appointment.

"If you go out in the garden at 7 at night and your shoulder starts hurting, go sit in the chair," Clark says. "If you want to relax before you go to sleep, go sit in the chair. The chair is always waiting for you."

Kessler, of Riverdale, discovered the perks of the chair when visiting a friend earlier this year. That friend, Joann Schilling, bought a chair about five years ago to help ease stiffness from sitting in a wheelchair all day.

"I sat in her chair, and I thought, 'This is nice. I might as well get one,' " Kessler says.

She bought a Human Touch chair at The Bone Store in Fresno for around $3,000.

Prices for Human Touch chairs range from $2,400 to $4,800. Chairs include leg attachments for calf and foot massages, remote control incline and automated 15-minute programs; massages also can be customized. The chairs mimic the techniques -- kneading, rolling, compression and percussion -- used by professionals.

The Bone Store also sells iJoy massage chairs. Although these offer the same type of massage, they are a little less automated, and leg attachments are sold separately, says Chad Galley, the store's manager. Prices range from about $750 to $1,000. Galley says the iJoy is more popular because it's more affordable. He calls all massage chairs "a luxury item."

"You don't have to have one, but they are nice," he says.

Maureen Moon has been a licensed massage therapist for 26 years. She also gets regular massages and sits in her Human Touch chair several times a week.

"It's a great thing to have, but I wouldn't substitute it for the human touch," says Moon, a past president of the American Massage Therapy Association who has her own practice in Colorado. "It's really good to use in between your massages."

Moon says there are a few drawbacks to her chair, including that it doesn't massage the arms, hamstrings and quads or "go deep enough into the glutes." However, "It works great for the back and the calves and stretches the spine well," she says.

A chair also can't adjust to a person's needs, says Vern Saboe, president of The American College of Chiropractic Orthopedists, which recognizes the Human Touch chair as a beneficial supplement to back-care therapy.

"It's not as good as a human doing a massage on you because there's no substitute for someone saying, 'Oh, right there' or 'A little more to the right.' You can't tell the chair that," says Saboe, who has two Human Touch chairs for patients at his chiropractic clinic in Albany, Ore. "But if you just can't afford an hour massage every week, get a chair, and then every so often, complement it by going in and getting a massage from a person."

Schilling used her Human Touch chair every day for several years until her granddaughter became a massage therapist; now she gets massages once a week and rarely uses the chair.

But a chair, she says, is "great for anyone who doesn't have their own masseuse. A human massage gets to some spots better, but the chair does a lot."



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