From time to time I am asked if we carry medical massage chairs. That question used to perplex me because I was not aware of any massage chairs that were specifically "medical" massage chairs. I know that some companies use the term "medical" in the name of their chairs and I know that Luraco considers their chairs medical massage chairs. But, what would a medical massage chair be?
What is a Medical Massage Chair?
There is no definition in our industry of a medical massage chair, that I am aware of. There are health benefits that are associated with massage chairs and I have written about them in great length before. I suppose those benefits could be considered "medical" benefits, but are they really? The interesting thing is that most, if not all, massage chairs provide those health benefits. If that is the case, are they not all "medical massage chairs"? Could they also be considered "chiropractic massage chairs" or "holistic massage chairs" or "therapeutic massage chairs", since those terms also connote health?
This is why I am not a big fan of the term "medical massage chairs". Does the term "medical" mean that there is medical benefit from the massage chair? The dictionary defines "medical" as "relating to illness and injuries and to their treatment and prevention" (Collins English Dictionary). So, yes, a chair can offer medical benefits by that definition. But, if that is the determination of whether a massage chair is a medical massage chair, then every massage chair would be a medical massage chair, since, as I mentioned before, every massage chair offers treatment and prevention of musculo-skeletal injuries (I wouldn't say that they treat illnesses, per se, so they are not medical in that sense).
I spoke to this topic in my July 25, 2022 Massage Chair Industry Update video. One of the comments left was from my friend and colleague, Robyn Readicker of Luraco Technologies. They consider their chairs medical massage chairs and she gives fair reasoning for the use of that term. Here is what she said:
Hi Dr. Weidner, I always love your weekly updates and found the segment at 13:15 very interesting. We agree with you about companies that puts "Medical" in their brand's name (and even goes so far as to show doctors endorsing their chairs) which is very misleading to consumers. I have personally tried to track down some of these doctors and can't find that some of them exist. Sadly, there is a lot of deceptive marketing done which intentionally makes the learning experience difficult for first-time buyers. We have great empathy for people that are misled without having a way to tell people to keep their eyes wide open and ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. It impacts all of the legitimate manufacturers who abide by truth in marketing. With that said, since Luraco uses "medical massage" in our chair's official brand names, I want to share Luraco's positioning on how our chairs qualify as having proven medicinal benefits that validate our claims. From the early R&D stage, Luraco designs our massage chairs to focus on acupuncture pressure point therapy along with targeting muscle groups that positively respond to massage therapy. Our chairs just don't jiggle the user, they are designed to bring the best in medical benefits. Luraco chair massages don't just feel good, they do good things for the body. We walk the walk and confidently talk the talk. Our confidence comes from a study conducted by Weber State University (Utah) that was a first-of-its-kind, scientific study by a 3rd party source. They had 521 participants using Luraco massage chairs and measured the impact of massage chairs on Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, Perceived Stress, and Perceived Pain by taking before-use and post-massage chair-use readings. Its purpose wasn't to do a chair-by-chair comparison but to identify the medical benefits of massage chair therapy. This independent study's report can be found at https://luracochairs.com/endorsements-videos. We would be happy to send a copy of the official study.
Massage Chair Health Benefits
I appreciate these comments and the reference to the Utah study, of which I am quite familiar, but Robyn's comments speak to what I have been saying, albeit slanted toward the Luraco brand. Here is a list of some health benefits (or "medical"benefits) that can be provided by massage therapy (extrapolated to apply to massage chair therapy):
- Muscle relaxation
- Acute & chronic muscle stiffness and pain - can result in reducing or eliminating back/neck/shoulder pain, headaches, hip pain, and sciatica
- Improved sleep
- Enhance better posture
- Slow down the spinal degenerative process by introducing localized motion to vertebral segments
- Increase range of motion/flexibility
- Deeper breathing capacity
- Enhance toxin elimination with improved blood & lymph flow
- Reduce blood pressure
- Increase endorphin level
Medical Massage Chairs - HSA Covered?
The term "medical", in terms of a massage chair brand, model, or feature, will have no bearing on whether 1.) your HSA plan (Health Savings Account) will cover it, or 2.) whether a retailer will be able to process your HSA debit card.
1.) It is always best to contact your HSA administrator (number should be on the back of your debit card) to make sure your plan will cover a massage chair. Most do, but check to be sure. If it does cover a massage chair, you will most likely need to pay for the chair yourself and then submit the receipt to your HSA administrator for reimbursement.
2.) I mentioned that it is not whether the term "medical" is included in the product name that determines if your HSA debit card can be used at an establishment to purchase that product. Retailers that can accept your HSA debit card have been tagged as providers of health products. Most, if not all, massage chair retailers are not considered health providers, but furniture/electronics stores.
In summary, my feeling is that all massage chairs are "medical" massage chairs because virtually all of them provide the same health benefits (or medical benefits). If you would like to add anything to this conversation, please leave comments below.
Dr. Alan Weidner