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Home » Reviews

Massage Hand Tool Review

Submitted by on May 27, 2009 – 6:34 amOne Comment

As my personal massage practice grew, I became quite concerned over the mechanics of my hands, particularly my thumbs (no big surprise there!).  Every time I performed muscle stripping techniques, I could feel the strain on my joints & wondered if each time I was shortening my career.  In addition, my thumbs and some fingers hyperextend, which increased my concern over my longevity as a massage therapist.

So, I began experimenting not only with my hand mechanics, but also with the use of hand tools.  Today I would like to share my independent review of three common massage tools on the market.

Knobble II (Company Link)
This was the first hand tool I purchased, with hope that it would allow me to use my entire hand to deliver the pressure.  I chose this over the Original Knobble because I did not want to use a wood product.  I don’t care what anyone says about the benefits of using wood, it is a porous material and I don’t wish to use it directly on the client’s skin.

Pros:

  • Smooth, hard material
  • Easy cleanup between clients
  • Easy to generate deeper pressure

Cons:

  • The handle caused too much stress on my wrist
  • I found it difficult to perform trigger point work with the ergonomics
  • Because it is held in the palm, less than ideal tissue “feel” is transmitted through the tool to my hand

Thumbsavers (Company Link)
I next found an ad for the Thumbsavers in a massage journal and thought this would be an interesting device.  By splinting the thumb, I would be able to perform very specific trigger point work with hopefully better feel of the tissue.

Pros:

  • Very good transmission of tissue feel to my hand
  • Prevents hyperextension of thumb
  • Easy cleanup (soft plastic material)

Cons:

  • With prolonged use, I felt some compression strain in the interphalangeal joint of my thumb
  • Also felt more strain at the base of the first metacarpal joint (at the wrist)
  • Base of the tool will rub and sometimes irritate the webbing of my thumb

Therapist’s Thumb (Company Link)
I found this tool when searching the web for other available massage tools & became intrigued.  The design seemed straightforward & effective, as I could still use my thumb for feel and precision, but the force would be generated by the hand grip.

Pros:

  • Very good transmission of tissue feel (about equal to the Thumbsavers)
  • Smooth hard plastic (easy cleanup between clients)
  • Able to generate good pressure (Although since it is still using the thumb I could not safely generate as much as the Knobble II)
  • Pressure is disbursed into the hand grip

Cons:

  • Two sizes-fit all — The design still causes my thumb to hyperextend slightly when using this tool.
  • Squeezing the hand grip with pressure can cause some strain to the finger flexors
  • Because of the length of the tool, it is difficult to effectively work in some parts of the upper shoulders and neck

For my body mechanics, I do still brace by thumb even if it is using a hand tool.   The best thing I have done is monitor my body mechanics to use my thumbs and braced fingers as little as possible.  I now mostly use knuckles, elbows and forearms to release the tissue (as well as stretching), and then utilize braced thumbs or hand tools to work out any lingering problem areas.

All in all, I find myself returning to the Therapist’s Thumb more than the other two massage tools when my client needs muscle stripping.  I don’t believe there is one “perfect” massage tool out there, but I will continue to experiment with others as they catch my attention.  So if you have suggestions for my next trials, please let me know!

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One Comment »

  • Eric Winter says:

    Hey Therapist alike,
    After getting the basics in training and education about Sports massage in School (2 years ago); I realized that as an work-out fanatic, Muscle Wisdom had provided a thorough and advanced knowledge about sports massage. I have worked in the gym setting for 8 months prior to the CEU and I felt that I was missing something; even after I recapped on the text books and videos from school and the Internet.

    Now after 9 months post Muscle Wisdom training, I have confidently accessed and provided quality Sports Massage for all my clients at the gym and I’m booked solid two weeks in advance!

    Thanks for the knowledge,
    Looking forward to the upper extremity training in Chicago!

    -Eric Winter