Online tools such as ChatGPT and Bard are gaining popularity at an astonishing rate, bringing with them a newfound appreciation for the power of artificial intelligence. This cutting-edge technology is revolutionizing the way we interact with machines, and the potential applications are limitless. From personalized customer service to medical diagnosis, the impact of AI is already being felt across a range of industries.
Artificial intelligence has even entered the world of massage therapy.
In recent years, mobile apps and virtual massage therapists powered by AI have been developed to enhance access to, and quality of, health and wellness therapies. While we recognise the potential benefits of using AI in massage therapy - we have even applied it ourselves, as highlighted below - it is important to acknowledge that AI is still in its very early stages of development.
This article aims to examine the impact and relationship of artificial intelligence with massage therapy. It will probably come as no surprise that we believe natural, (huma) hands-on massages are still the best choice for protecting and restoring mental and physical wellness.
The most common use of AI in massage therapy today is through apps designed for mobile devices.
These apps typically use artificial intelligence algorithms based on personal preferences and factors input by the user to create customised massage experiences.
A relatively simple example is where AI is used to create detailed instructions on how to perform a certain type of massage. At The Massage Rooms, a couple of years ago, we painstakingly put together a step-by-step guide on how to perform a great foot massage on yourself. We’re pleased to say we’ve had lots of great feedback about it! But would an AI generated version be better? We don’t know … but we know for sure that it would be generated a lot quicker today using machine power than it took us!
Other examples of where AI might be used in a massage related app include creating a personalised music playlist that matches the treatment style and duration perfectly. The choice of music might be selected by the algorithm based on the machine’s knowledge of how the treatment will progress through the duration. For example, softer slower tempo music could be selected for the cool down phase of a deep tissue treatment with faster, louder tracks during the intensive middle phase of the massage.
Even our on demand web-based booking app uses basic AI powered technology to help customers find the most appropriate mobile massage therapist for their location.
The next potential use of AI in massage therapy is one we’re very much looking forward to! That’s the use of machine technology to help prepare essential massage oils that match each customer’s personal preferences.
Over time this could mean that the cost of high quality, personalised oils that offer additional therapy benefits could come down and be more affordable for many people. It would also help free up our massage therapists so they can spend more time focusing on how to massage their clients even better!
There is even talk of virtual massage therapists! A virtual massage therapist can certainly look and sound the part. Just check out the video below for a great example.
However, can a virtual massage therapist perform a real massage? Especially one that is delivered with the power of genuine human empathy, to help heal mental issues too? We believe not!
We believe probably the most powerful, near-term, benefit of AI in massage therapy will be to help personalise the experience for the customer.
Massage apps can be effectively used to obtain data on user preferences and personal situations. This could help quickly highlight any massage contraindications with high levels of accuracy as well as provide specific treatment suggestions for the real-world therapist so that the practitioner can adjust their treatment accordingly to maximise the health and wellness benefits for their client.
As with any health advice generated by AI, it is advisable that it be independently reviewed by a qualified health professional before being applied.
The power of technology has made on-demand massages available to many more people more quickly and more conveniently.
People can use a website or app to save money on travel and get much more detailed, accurate and timely information on everything from the availability of massage therapists in their area to the most appropriate treatment to choose for their needs.
A key concern around the increased use of AI in massage therapy (and many other areas) is that of a reduction in the level of human interaction.
It is well accepted that some of the most effective benefits of massage arise from its tactile nature. Whilst visual or vocal therapies can be helpful, we believe the power of human touch is something altogether more powerful.
We are not just talking about physical benefits here. AI can of course also be used in the creation of advanced robotics such as machine arms that can perform advanced massage techniques from effleurage to tapotement with extreme precision.
However, therapeutic massage is not just about the physical benefits. It's also about creating a safe space where people feel comfortable to relax, de-stress and connect with other human beings. The emotional support and human interaction that an experienced and empathetic massage therapist can offer is, in our opinion, a truly essential part of massage therapy that just cannot be replaced by AI.
And so in conclusion, we believe that for now … and most likely forever … real massages carried out by humans with both the appropriate technical skills and levels of empathy will remain a crucial and highly valued part of protecting, maintaining and restoring mental and physical health and wellness.