Advancements in technology has created some great conveniences for all of us. When electronic massage chairs came out, they appeared commonly in many retail settings; especially in malls. More recently we might see them scattered throughout airports or even available for home-purchase. Even though they’re convenient, they’ll never replace massage by a human.
Let me tell you why:
There’s something to be said for the power of touch. As yet, we don’t even really know the full extent of how human contact provides all of the benefits it does – and we may never truly know all the component parts. In some ways, I hope we never do – because we won’t be able to emulate it with technology unless we quantify all the aspects of touch.
When we place our hands on one another, it produces immediate and prolonged effects on our psycho-emotional state. Anxiety, stress and depression are all reduced with massage by another person and as yet, machines cannot produce the same effect. We get greater feelings of happiness and friendship, when we get a massage from someone; and we often become fast-friends.
Even through massage chairs now have numerous adjustable settings, it’s just not a responsive tool. A significant part of massage work involves sensing where restrictions are and tailoring the massage specifically to the tension profile of your body. Not only does this mean that you get a better massage with the perfect amount of pressure, you’ll also find greater tension release. Often the areas in our body that are painful are actually not the original source of tension, so the ability of a human to follow and find the original issue isn’t replicated in massage chair technology.
Human massages also provide many different forms of sensory input, where chair massage does not. When we make physical contact with one another, more than just pressure-information is conveyed. Temperature, texture, consistency, firmness and emotional information are all conveyed and interpreted by human contact. These factors significantly influence our internal biological response to touch, and (at least at this stage) machines cannot replicate this.
As humans, we are social creatures and we need the contact of others (both physical and otherwise) in order to thrive. Even though it might sound a little funny, the relationship you build with your massage chair will never equate to the relationship you have with your massage therapist. Even though it doesn’t talk back, or give you exercises to do at home. 😉
Does this mean we should get rid of massage chairs? No, they have their place in providing a relaxing, kneading pressure for anyone on the run. Just know that a massage by a machine will never give you the same benefits or experience as a massage by another human.
This article was originally published in our Quarterly E-Magazine: Technology & Touch Edition! Check it out for more.