Your may have spotted Vitality Swings, often known as “Chi Machines,” on Amazon recently. They’re gaining traction, especially on TikTok; perhaps it’s a case of delayed gratification, given they were featured on The Doctors TV show about a decade ago. Back, neck, and hip pain alleviation, as well as fibromyalgia and lymphedema relief, are all claimed benefits (swelling caused by the build-up of lymph fluid throughout the body).
While you may be familiar with the term chi (or qi) from Traditional Chinese Medicine, R. Alexandra Duma, DC, DACBSP, a sports chiropractor at FICS, a fitness recovery and wellness studio in New York City, says that’s not where this swing originates from. “The Chi machine was invented in Japan in the 1980s,” she explains, adding that it is used for “passive aerobic exercise,” which entails “applying steady movement and pressure to regions of the body by an outside source, which may be another person or a motion machine.”
So, do you require one? What purpose does one of these swings serve?
What is the function of the Chi Machine?
There is evidence that the Chi Machine can help reduce lymphedema, according to a small clinical experiment published in Lymphology (“33 persons with persistent secondary lymphedema; 28 females and five males, aged 39 to 88”). (Keep in mind that this is a short study from over 15 years ago, funded by what looks to be a Chi Machine brand.)
The remainder of the claims—boosting your immune system, enhancing circulation, massaging “body and internal organs,” improving “cell oxygenation,” helping weight reduction, and reducing anxiety, fibromyalgia, and back pain—are all unsubstantiated. There appears to be no peer-reviewed literature to support any of this.
Is the Chi Machine beneficial to your health?
It most certainly might be! “As long as the motion is modest and controlled,” says board-certified pain management physician Kaliq Chang, MD of Atlantic Spine Center in New Jersey, this swing could be beneficial to your spine health.
Dr. Chang notes that intervertebral discs (the material between your spine’s vertebrae) “have no blood vessels—think of it as a sponge.” This walking-like motion helps massage the disc, allowing it to remove waste and inflammatory chemicals while also introducing new blood and healing proteins.”
Duma concurs. “I can understand how this machine could aid with circulation and lymphatic drainage, especially if you’re on your feet a lot. It appears to be a promising method for loosening stiff joints and leg muscles.”
“This is especially beneficial for people with degenerative disc disease or disc herniations, as long as the pain is not exacerbated,” adds Dr. Chang.
Before you use a Chi Machine, there’s a few things to know.
Always be cautious when it comes to your spine. “There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all,” argues Duma, adding that the same principle should be applied to this machine. “Before using it, a conversation with a healthcare expert is recommended to ensure there are no contraindications. I would not recommend this to someone who has recently suffered a fracture.”
Dr. Chang feels the same way. “Those with acute, severe back pain episodes are not ideal candidates for this treatment because muscular spasms may prevent motion and promote additional inflammation in the spine,” he explains.
Is a Chi Machine right for you?
If you don’t have degenerative disc disease and your PT, chiropractor, or spinal doctor hasn’t advised one, according to the doctors… You most likely do not require one of these swings. However, if it’s calling to you, chat to your doctor first and get cleared for some at-home swinging.
At the end of the day, it comes down to your budget, according to Duma. “I believe that prior to using this gadget, paying money on a proper evaluation and diagnosis from a healthcare professional would be beneficial.”
Got lower-back pain? Follow this 13-minute guided stretch to alleviate it:
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