Can You Use a Massage Chair with a Pacemaker?
Pacemakers are a crucial technology that has mastered the rhythm regulation of human heartbeats by delivering electricity to the heart. For some, this device is necessary for proper heart function. However, it does come with some risks and limitations that can be encountered in everyday life. These are often other devices and forces that can interfere with the pacemaker’s electrical signal.
Can you use a massage chair with a pacemaker? Many massage chairs incorporate magnets into their design, and this can adversely affect the performance of a pacemaker. It is not recommended for those with pacemakers to use massage chairs as magnets have the possibility of preventing the pacemaker to fully function or send important signals.
Not all massage chairs will contain magnets, but many newer models will. It is recommended that those with pacemakers stay away from magnets in general, as they can cause discomfort and also impact the proper functionality of the device. We will go over why these magnetic forces are dangerous and alternatives you can take advantage of.
Why You Should Not Use A Massage Chair with a Pacemaker
Pacemakers rely on electricity for power and need consistency to regulate the beat in one’s heart. Placing magnets near or on a pacemaker can cause the device to change its rhythm. This can be incredibly dangerous for people who depend on the use of a pacemaker for that consistency. You may not know if a specific massage chair has magnets, but many do.
A massage chair uses magnets for a variety of reasons, according to How Stuff Works:
- Motor function: Allow the mechanical devices providing the movement to easily shift within the chair for a variety of massaging patterns
- Operational design: A combination of electrical and mechanical mechanisms work together with the assistance of magnets
- Unique therapy techniques: Some massage chairs also take advantage of magnetic therapy as a pain reliever to improve blood flow
This impact of magnets on a pacemaker is called electromagnetic interference, and with increased contact to magnets, the pacemaker’s ability to function can become impaired with changes to the rhythm. This is most common with highly powerful magnets (most commonly found in hospital settings), but any contact can lead to potential changes or discomfort.
If electromagnetic interference occurs due to contact with certain electronic or magnetic devices in your everyday life, it can result in:
- Reduced performance: The pacemaker may not properly regulate heart rhythms, which can result in too slow or fast of a heartbeat. If you start to feel symptoms related to a malfunctioning pacemaker, you should consult a doctor immediately.
- Shocks: The electrical and magnetic fields can sync together to send your heart unnecessary shocks that may be painful. In some cases, when your body needs the shocks, you may not get them due to this interference.
- Discomfort: You may notice discomfort when in contact with magnets and other electrical devices. This is usually located close to the implantation site, and you should remove yourself from these situations at the onset of these feelings.
In severe cases, the pacemaker may not make necessary changes or give the appropriate electrical signals for proper heart function. To avoid these dangerous outcomes, doctors and researchers recommend that you keep your distance from magnets and electric fields that are found in everyday items (including music devices, metal detectors, cell phones, etc.).
A massage chair does not possess incredibly powerful magnets, similar to those found in the other devices mentioned above but is still a risk that should be avoided. Most people are not aware of the magnets that exist in massage chairs, and this can lead to problems. If you feel any interference or difference in the pacemaker function, you should limit that activity.
Best Practices for Magnets with a Pacemaker
As a general rule, all magnets, including those found in massage chairs, should be avoided for those with pacemakers. Because they can cause a pacemaker to change or cease function, you should do the following:
- Avoid direct contact or close contact over a longer period
- Keep magnets a safe distance (at least 6 inches) from your pacemaker
- Cease any activity or remove nearby devices when you feel a change
Because a massage chair will bring you in very close contact with these magnetic forces, using them poses a risk. While this risk is somewhat low due to the weaker magnetic power, avoiding this activity ensures greater levels of safety and precaution.
The only time it is okay for you to being near magnets or using a massage chair is if you are not dependent on the pacemaker for heart function. This will further decrease the risks of the pacemaker not doing its job and leaving your heart in irregular rhythm patterns. You must consult your doctor to see if you would fit into this description.
Alternatives to Massage Chairs for Those with Pacemakers
Using a massage chair is an incredibly relaxing activity that you may be bummed about missing out on if you have a pacemaker. Fortunately, there are alternatives to massage chairs that can provide similar levels of comfort and relaxation. To uphold the greatest levels of health and safety, we suggest you check out some of these alternatives.
If you are looking for some stress or muscle pain relief, you could:
- Get an in-person massage: While these may be more expensive than using a massage chair, they are not only safer but are more effective. This will be a more thorough massage experience that will result in greater muscle contact.
- Tens machine: A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator can be used on your lower body to send electrical pulses to the muscles for increased blood flow and painkilling effects. This needs to be placed a good distance from the pacemaker and should be used at the doctor’s recommendation.
- Use a lower-body chair: If you do use a massage chair or similar device, make sure it is only operating on your lower body to maintain the necessary 6 inches from the pacemaker.
- Use a doctor recommended one: You should consult your doctor before attempting to use a massage chair. They will give you their recommendations for the best massage chairs without magnets so that there is no pacemaker interference.
- Non-electric massage tools: You can use massage tools that do not require any magnets or electricity to operate. These include foam rollers, using lacrosse or hard balls at trigger points, massage sticks, and even scalp massagers!
Finding alternatives to massage chairs or avoiding them completely is our recommendation to limit any possible negative impacts that the magnets could have on the electrical circuitry used in the pacemaker.
This list gives you a good idea of what other tools and equipment you should exercise caution while using with a pacemaker.
Exercise Caution with Pacemakers
If you have a pacemaker, you are well aware of the many activities that may pose a risk to your heart’s health. A massage chair can be tricky because many do not know that they contain magnets that could be another source of electromagnetic interference. Exercising caution in these situations is imperative to prevent any potential issues.
The most common problem you will see with massage chairs is most likely discomfort. The magnets found in these chairs are not powerful enough to be a significant danger when in contact, but consistent contact can lead to greater problems. We recommend adding massage chairs to the list of things you should avoid if you have a pacemaker.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS