Electronic massagers or weight-loss belts are being marketed as one-stop treatment for all problems. But doctors say mechanical health gadgets are a waste of money and may do more harm than good.
You have to read the fine print carefully for health warnings, which are never prominently displayed. “These gadgets are a strict no-no for pregnant women or those with bone or nerve disorders. We never recommend any electronic gadgets to our patients,” said Dr Arun Garg, consultant neurologist at Max Healthcare.
“Normally, pain receptors respond to any external heating or mechanical stimulation. Sometimes, repeated stimulus lowers the resistance level, more specifically among the elderly or among people with muscle disorders. Whenever the tissue is sensitized, even the non-painful stimulus can cause pain.”
In malls, where these electronic products are on display for free trials, salesmen usually assure consumers that there are no side effects. This is misleading.
Sukanya Sinha (name changed) fell into this trap. She tried a foot massager that gave her leg pain severe enough for her to end up in bed for four days.
“The salesman offered a free foot massage using a gadget on display and I got tempted as I suffer from pain in my legs regularly,” said Sinha. “When the session ended, I realised I couldn’t move. I developed excruciating pain that shot up to my knee and refused to die,” she said.
Sukanya is upset that the salesman did not warn her about the possible side effects that the gadget could have on her. “Neither did the salesperson tell me anything nor was there a warning board mentioning the dos and don’ts,” she said.
Companies insist that health warnings are mentioned on the product guide and the website. “People with ailments should ask the salesman if the product is safe for them to use. Also, if the salesman notices a physical ailment, he warns customer of possible side effects,” said Raghavendra Singh, senior general manager, Osim India.
He, however, admitted that health warnings are not prominently displayed in shops. “We shall take up the issue with the management, like making warnings more visible for the benefit of the consumer,” he said.
Doctors say gadgets bring few health benefits. “Manual massage is always recommended over electronic massagers as the pressure set in the machines are usually uniform and can’t differentiate between the tender parts of the body and the stronger ones, which can withstand pressure,” said Dr Sumit Singh, associate professor in neurology department at AIIMS.
He advises patients to go for long walks and eat healthy to lose weight instead of using slimming belts. He also suggests manual massages instead of the electronic ones. “It should be mandatory for companies selling health-related electronic products to warn the buyer of their side effects before recommending them or offering them for a trial,” he said.