I am a massage junkie. I used to get a massage once a week for stress and to soothe the pains of overdoing it both at work and while exercising. I eventually pared it down to once every two weeks, then only occasionally, and now it’s probably been a few years. That’s because of the cost of a massage ($65+ a session), the inconvenience of getting an appointment, getting to an appointment, and then getting home afterwards.
I have seen alternatives to human massage in the mall of all places, with a funny looking contraption that you lay face-down on, and a box/bag of some sort lays down on top of you, then a thing moves around. And it was $10 in the mall – in the middle of the hallway – not really a relaxing environment. I’ve also seen all manor of devices that try to do the trick, from wands to pillows to backrests to chairs. And none that I’ve tried have done the trick.
I met Ken at the local chamber of commerce. He offers free trials of a Migun health bed in his Chapel Hill, North Carolina store. I’d never heard of it, and being the massage junkie, put it on my list of things to do. I was a bit apprehensive, since I knew that the free trial would be accompanied by a sales pitch. But I had to try it. And the sales pitch was really low key. “Try it and see if it’s for you.” That was it. They let you keep coming to try it – you eventually but special sheet that fits the bed that you wash. They let you keep coming even if you don’t buy a bed – though you’ll need to start paying a few dollars for sessions eventually.
Su and Ken of Migun of Chapel Hill, NC standing next to a Migun health bed with the padding pulled to the side. You can see the heating elements and the tracks that the elements move along. It’s hard to see, but the elements also move closer and further away from the user at certain positions on the track, resulting in more or less pressure. Towels and a sheet additionally control the amount of pressure.
I tried it. After the first visit, I wasn’t sure about it, and went back a second time. I found the experience to be different than a human massage. For one, the massage works on both legs and both sides of your back at the same time while you lie face up. And it has heat (like the popular hot rocks massage), and two “hands” that work your back – from neck to coccyx, and two that work your legs. The proclaimed benefits and comparisons had me a little uneasy (accupuncture? I don’t want to get stuck), but they’re more figurative than literaly. It seems to me that you’re getting a massage, with excellent heat, and good acupressure therapy, too.
The experience was rewarding, yet different than a human massage. Definitely different than a $20 heating pad or a $99 chair massage mat. Compared to a human massage therapist, there is no specific work on one aching part, except for the auxiliary heating elements. But it is with your clothes on, and in 35 minutes rivals a 60 minute massage. No oil or other lotion, and you keep your clothes on!
So the question is – will this replace humans? And seeing that it is a class II medical device, does it really work? I think it works – for some conditions and ailments. Just like asthma medicine won’t cure athletes food, this isn’t a cure-all for everyone. And it has limitations in terms of what it will work on. But it does work the back and legs, and heat can be put on other spots of the body.
I see it as both a vital component for the ultimate home gym/spa (a decent massage any time you want in your own home) and as a complement to a human massage therapist. At a cost of a few thousand, you’d earn back your money within a year, as compared to a human massage therapist. If more than one family member uses it, then you’d earn back your investment in less time. At a gym, spa, or medical office, you might break even within a few months. And the benefits are those of a massage – with the inherent risks of that type of treatment.
The technology behind it seems to be sound – moving heat and pressure, controlled by a computer. I am reminded of the original Apple Laserwriter, in both the price point and the possibilities of the technology. And as I am sitting here, sore from sitting in the chair most of the day, I think of when I can get back to the Migun store for another trial, free or paid, until I can decide on what my birthday present will be next year. If I use HSA dollars, I could potentially get 1/3 off the cost through tax savings of using pre-tax dollars. If my doctor writes a prescription I don’t pay sales tax. Hmmm, the benefits of consumer driven healthcare…
Jonathan Pletzke is a consumer expert on health insurance and author of the health insurance book Get a Good Deal on Your Health Insurance Without Getting Ripped-Off, available online and at bookstores nationally. Additional details can be found at the consumers health insurance book and resources website www.BestHealthInsuranceBook.com. Copyright 2007-2008 Aji Publishing.