Good vibrations: do electrical therapeutic massagers work?

Ergonomics. 2005 May 15;48(6):680-91. doi: 10.1080/00140130500070988.


Health, leisure and beauty activities are increasing in popularity, with a particular emphasis on self-help and alternative health practices. One product type that has increased sales with this expansion is the hand-held electric massager. These are products that use vibration as a means of alleviating muscular strains and pains, as well as promoting relaxation. Paradoxically, these products are extremely popular as gifts, but are soon discarded. A multi-disciplinary research team was commissioned by a British manufacturer of electrical consumer products to investigate user attitudes and perceptions of existing massagers, to identify areas of user dissatisfaction. The manufacturer was also concerned about a possible stigma attached to these products because of an association with sex aids. This paper provides an account of the perceptions of both consumers and therapists regarding the use of these products. Identifying the differences between the perceptions of consumers and therapists should help provide a basis for effective integration of user needs, manufacturer requirements, designers' skills and sound therapeutic practice. The results provide insight to support the development of more effective hand-held massagers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Electronics
  • Equipment Failure
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Massage / instrumentation
  • Massage / methods*
  • Occupational Therapy* / instrumentation
  • Physical Therapy Specialty* / instrumentation
  • Vibration