Before I tried the CERAGEM V6 thermal massage bed, my familiarity with automated massage devices went as far as the pedicure chairs in nail salons and an electronic neck massager my husband bought me for Mother’s Day. Though these machines were somewhat enjoyable, the vigorous kneading and tapping never quite convinced me I was getting a “real” massage. That required human hands, right?
The CERAGEM V6 is a thermal massage bed that has been cleared by the FDA as a Class II medical device. Instead of hands, it relies on specialized heated massage rollers to offer full-body thermal therapy up to 149°F, mimicking a hot stone massage. Unlike those standard massage chairs at the nail salon, the CERAGEM V6 doesn’t treat all bodies the same. Instead, its patented scanning technology finds each person’s unique acupressure points to deliver a customized massage, taking body weight and height into consideration.
My massage takes place at a retail store in the Brea Mall, located right next door to a busy Nordstrom department store. Despite its high-traffic location, the store is surprisingly tranquil. The massage beds are positioned in separate cubbies so customers can try them out in privacy as they would at home. The first thing I notice when I lay down on the CERAGEM V6 is how comfortable I feel before the massage even begins. The device looks deceptively rigid as if you’d be stretched out on a table or maybe a thick yoga mat, but when I stretch my body out, I can see why it’s called a bed.
The store manager Eric slips on my compression boots, places a heated massager on my belly complete with cozy pockets for my annoyingly cold hands, and sets my massage level to 1. The intensity level goes up to 9, but I’ve just told him about my history of scoliosis (which he shares) and my preference for gentle massages.
As the machine starts up, the rollers trace the length of my spine and Eric shows me some data on the remote. The machine is detecting my areas of tension and acupressure points and adjusts its settings to deliver the right pressure and focus according to my needs. He explains that the CERAGEM V6 is equipped with rollers that pivot around each bend and curve of my spinal column, a function that sets this model apart from its predecessor, the CERAGEM V4.
When Eric leaves me to enjoy the “Relaxation” massage for 16 minutes (each massage mode has different settings for length and focus), I really settle in. As the heated rollers make their way down my spine, I feel the usual knots in my shoulders and lower back ease up and start to relax. Thanks to my mostly sedentary lifestyle as a writer, these knots are a constant presence. The machine seems to know this, as the rollers return to my tight spots to apply more pressure and heat.
Even though I’m wearing a sweater on this rainy January day, I feel as if I actually am getting massaged by hot stones. Except I’ve never had a massage like this while lying on my back, which makes it even more enjoyable. Not that my front side is being neglected–the heated massager on my belly is vibrating, which Eric said is meant to aid digestion, but it’s not as intense or even ticklish as I’d imagined. And with the slight pulsation of my legs thanks to the compression boots, I feel like I’m getting a full-body massage from multiple hands at once. Meanwhile, soft classical music plays near my ears, another detail of the massage bed that makes me think I’m at some high-end day spa and not a store at the mall.
As the massage goes on, I feel myself gradually relaxing more and more. I’m suddenly aware of how much stress I’ve been holding in my body and even how much resistance I had when I first walked in the store, expecting the same kind of prodding delivered by a standard massage chair. But the experience is gentle and efficient, just what I’d expect from a trained masseuse.
When the massage is over, I feel relaxed but not drained as I usually do after a massage. Eric comes to check on me and hands me a cup of water.
“If I had one of these, I’d want to use it every day,” I tell him.
“That’s encouraged,” he says. He tells me that just as you would see and feel the benefits of exercise the more often you do it, the more you use the bed, the better you’ll feel. The recommended usage time for a Ceragem bed is twice daily, once in the morning and once at night.
I’m already thinking about where I would put the bed in my own home, though I’m curious about how the Ceragem products compare. Eric isn’t pushy, though. He tells me the chairs are free to try out in the store as often as customers would like. He’s not denying that the machines are expensive, but he reminds me that they’re an investment in health. As a spa membership holder, I’m a firm believer in this.
Leaving the store, Eric tells me to come back anytime and the other friendly staff members wave goodbye. They’re all beaming and even though it’s gloomy outside, I’m beaming, too.
Visit a CERAGEM store for yourself today.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist specializing in health and wellness. She has written for TIME, Health, Glamour, Parents, Women’s Health, VICE, and the Telegraph.