Machine vs Hand Massage


We’re in the 21st century now. Medics often don’t have to cut people open to remove gallstones, they put an ultrasound machine on the surface and the high-energy waves smash the stones. Geologists send vibrations deep into the earth to map what’s underneath. Likewise we have percussion (vibration) massagers that have hammer pads that send vibrations deep into muscles. We can smash gallstones with sound and bounce vibrations off bedrock. How does using vibration massage compare with using manual massage?


Manual massage can vary dramatically in effectiveness. Some manual massage is mainly soothing and relaxing, which is great if that is what one is after. As a practitioner who deals with musculoskeletal complaints though we mainly look at the issues that are deeper and need more than a superficial massage. While in Thailand this author visited a genuine Thai masseur. It was very painful at times, but awesome in it’s effectiveness. Likewise, as discussed later there are machines that are merely superficial, while others much more capable.

Relaxation massage

Vibration massagers can be soothing and relaxing, but probably not as much as a good manual masseur.

Deeper penetration

On the other hand for deeper work vibration massagers have a distinct advantage over a manual masseur. If a masseur wants deep penetration he or she has to literally squash the underlying muscles. The deeper it goes the more pressure, and the harder the masseur has to work. More pressure often equals more pain so the muscles tighten up, which is the opposite of what one is trying to achieve.

Contrast this to a mechanical percussion massager. It sits on the surface and sends it's vibrations deep into the muscles. Vibration relax the muscle and there is no painful "digging in". To massage a small deep section a masseur may press in his or her thumb. To get deeper he or she may use an elbow, increasing the area and the pain. Obviously a amount of physical effort and the amount of pain inflicted puts a limit to this. On the other hand the mechanical massager is only limited by the size and shape of the hammers and the power of the motor, so a larger area can be deeply penetrated with comfort.

Using a DrGraeme massager at home is convenient and allows regular repetitions

Variation in machine massagers

As an example, the ability of a large powerful professional massager such as a G5 stand mounted massager to penetrate deeply and work on a larger area clearly well exceeds that of even the best manual masseurs. In effect, they can do in 5-10 minutes what would take a manual masseur an hour, without the pain. On the other hand, according to a published study on consumer hand held massagers done by UK university researchers, this was not so for those massagers marketed to consumers (that was before we started building serious machines). They tested a large range of massager such as those seen online and in stores, and deemed them to be clearly less effective than professional manual massage.

Using a DrGraeme massager at home is convenient and allows regular repetitions

Knowledge and operation

Put simply, the hands of a masseur are connected to a brain. They have the ability to evaluate tissues. Most professional masseurs have reasonable training and experience enabling them to evaluate non-complex problems. For more complex problems they can interpret guidance from practitioners with higher levels of training. On the other hand, massage machines don’t have a brain. They need guidance. This means that if someone without the appropriate training uses one on themself or someone else the results certainly would not be guaranteed. The recommended way is to have a professional do an examination and determine the best management of a condition and what massage is needed, then follow his or her instructions..

Regular repetition

The value of repetitions

The following examples show the value of repetition.

  • Research shows that long standing muscular issues require a large number of applications of therapy over time to remedy.
  • Professional sports people and athletes have long known the benefits of regular massage.
  • Studies now show considerable health and wellness benefits by a regular simple massage.

Simply, the major benefits from massage appear to be gained by regular repetitions over time. With all things being equal 20-30 massages will be a lot more beneficial than one or two. This is where machine massagers have a massive advantage over manual massage. They allow the option of self home massage, which allows practically unlimited quality professional standard massage, without the major issues of cost and convenience.

Cost of massage

Cost wise, for machine massage there is an initial investment to buy a massager and get some advice. For our DrGraeme massagers the cost is only about the same as some masseurs charge for an hour session. After this one can have a massage every day if one wants. On the other hand, for manual massage one usually has to pay for each session.

Convenience of massage

Convenience wise the machine again wins hands down. Visits to a masseur usually require an appointment and travel, while the massage machine can be usually be plugged in next to your favourite lounge chair.


As long as it's used appropriately, if we compare what can be achieved by a powerful professional massage machine such as the previously mentioned G5 to that by a masseur it's a no contest. The G5 is clearly superior. On the other hand, as found in the UK study a lot of the massagers available for consumers are not so effective. At DrGraeme it has always been our goal to pack the penetration of a G5 into an easy to use hand held massager that patients could afford.

Even if the effects of using a machine and manual massage were equal the benefits of home use of a massager with a serious machine under proper advice are clearly greater. This is because they allow a much greater number of repetitions of therapy. As with most things, consistent repetitions over time will produce far greater results than a once off or occasional effort.

A measure of the effectiveness is that our DrGraeme serious hand held massagers are successfully used by a huge number of practitioners and their patients. If you have an issue that requires massager they will likely be a very effective solution that will be extremely economical as a once off investment and on a per massage basis. They can be purchased direcly from us, or from many clinics across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.