Jigsaw Massage vs. Traditional Massages

Jigsaw Massage vs. Traditional Massages

As jigsaw and other machine-based percussive massagers explode in popularity, many athletes have started to ponder the difference between jigsaw massage and traditional massage.

Although the Man vs. Machine battle has raged on since the Industrial Revolution, the discussion for massages is a bit more intricate. Traditional massages are praised for the relaxing warmth of human touch, and a skilled Licensed Massage Therapist or rehabilitation expert can work wonders for the human body. However, jigsaw massages add an element of portability and effectiveness that is hard for any human to compete with.

So, which form of massage is better? Let’s explore.

In the Blue Corner: Traditional Massage

Massage has been around for thousands of years and different types emerged independently from various corners of the world. Archaeological evidence traces the origins of massage to Egypt, China, India, Japan, Korea, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia, with the earliest depiction found in The Tomb of Akmanthor (“The Tomb of the Physician”) dating back to 2330 BC.

While there may not be one single globally accepted form of massage that is “traditional,” the same image of a massage or exercise tables, towels, and relaxing flute music tends to come up for most Americans and Europeans. For the sake of simplicity, this article refers to your typical Swiss massage strokes.

Swedish massage hit the scene in 1878 AD, when Johan Georg Mezger, a Dutch massage practitioner, gave five basic massaging techniques French terms and coined the “Swedish massage system” phrasing. As personal fitness and athletics became increasingly more popular in the 20th century, recovery wasn’t far behind, and Swedish massage became a mainstream attraction due to its simplicity, diversity, and effectiveness.

The five basic Swedish massage techniques are:

  • tapotement (performed by rapid tapping or drum with light to medium pressure)
  • effleurage (sliding or gliding down the length of the muscle, usually with some type of oil)
  • petrissage (performed by kneading out particular “knots”)
  • friction (done cross or alongside muscle fibers)
  • vibration or shaking (done on specific muscle groups)

Each of the massage strokes delivers a specific effect. For example, tapotement is the foundation of percussive massage, which has proven to be an incredibly effective way to treat muscle fibers (up to 30x more effective than other types of massages, according to this study).

Traditional Massage Pros

  • Usually performed by a Licensed Massage Therapist or personal trainer, so they require little to no effort on the individual’s part.
  • The masseuse is able to feel specific knots and work on your body with your feedback in real time.
  • Licensed Massage Therapists are also required to have an in-depth understanding of general human anatomy and musculature.

Traditional Massage Cons

  • Traditional massages require someone to perform them on you. Sure, you could attempt to do them on yourself and even hit some muscle groups within reach, but it’s ultimately more time consuming and less effective.
  • Costs can add up. Assuming a $60 hourly rate, bi-monthly massages would run you $1,440 per year. For athletes that need regular massage rehabilitation and recovery to perform at their best, recovery-based expenses add up quick.
  • Lost logistical time. The driving to and from, waiting rooms, payment counters, etc., is time that could be spent doing other things - like training!

In the Red Corner: Jigsaw Massage

Jigsaw massage is a more modern invention in the physiotherapy world. By utilizing the same concepts behind percussive massage (the rapid, even sequences of tapping with medium to light pressure) and adding the high-performance element of a machine.

A jigsaw is a rig fitted with custom massage heads that are designed for human body impact and massage. Each massage head serves a specific purpose such as deep tissue, pinpoint, or general all-purpose.

Jigsaws can essentially administer the same amount of percussive blows that a trained masseuse can in a much smaller time frame.

Jigsaw Massage Pros

  • The sheer effectiveness of the machine alone makes jigsaw massage stand out as a quick and easy form of muscle recovery. Many personal trainers and Licensed Massage Therapists have started to incorporate a jigsaw into their massage and recovery routines not just because it’s easier, but because it works.
  • The fact that you can do a jigsaw on a majority of your own muscles offers a considerable advantage.
  • Jigsaw massages are much more portable than, let’s say, an entire human masseuse. You can keep them in your gym locker, gym bag, or trunk of your car (which is where most masseuses draw the line for the services they offer).
  • Jigsaw massagers are also much more cost efficient in the long-term than regularly scheduled massages. For example, a $199 set equals out to roughly $8.30 per massage, assuming the bi-monthly massage example from above.

Jigsaw Massage Cons

  • Performing a jigsaw massage on yourself has its limits. Much like performing a massage on yourself, some muscle groups are better left to a partner.
  • Requires some level of knowledge of human musculature and anatomy. You should have some understanding of what muscle groups you want to target to ensure maximum effectiveness and least risk for injury.
  • In order to get the same level of “instant feedback” as you would with a masseuse, you’ll need to establish a workable mind-body connection.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, if you had to pick a jigsaw massage or a traditional one taking the above information into consideration, the decision will come down to how your body feels and responds to each type of massage, and which one is financially sustainable for your regular recovery.

Since no two bodies are identical, listening to your body goes a long way in the physical therapy world. Jigsaw massage and traditional massage share one mutual goal, but approach it from two distinct methods.

We recommend mixing it up, such as utilizing jigsaw massagers to help get your body warmed up before exercise and to keep your recovery streamlined in between traditional scheduled massages.