Late last summer, I attended a three day myoskeletal alignment workshop in Melbourne, Florida. One of the instructors, Danny Christie, was from the UK - which is relevant to this story. British people, besides having really cool accents, tend to use different terms than we Americans for everyday objects: a car trunk is a boot; they go on holiday; the ground is the floor; and gas is petrol. But aside from that, the "really cool accent" also produces different pronunciations for everyday words: basil; vitamin; aluminum; privacy; garage; and most close to my heart - massage.
So when Danny was speaking about using the "boofer" on his clients, I had to try to figure out if this was a term or pronunciation issue. The problem was, everyone in the class seemed to know what he was talking about. I had to raise my hand. "What is a boofer."
"A car boofer," he said politely.
Still didn't get it.
"A boofer, like you use to make your car shine," he explained.
"Oh, a buffer, like a car buffer." I got it...but I didn't.
Danny went on to explain that he has been using car buffers, also known as rotary or orbital buffers, for years on his clients, most of whom were athletes. He told us that he once went on tour with a professional tennis player as his personal massage therapist, and that before each match he would "boof" the guy to get his muscles warm and ready for competition. Following the match he would "boof" him to aid in muscle recovery.
Percussive tools (vibrating machines) have long been used in massage therapy, but the buffer was a new one on me. When I got home I got online and tried to find where I could get one of these things to use in my practice. I found several massage-specific machines ranging in price from $120 to $300. This would not do. Danny said he used a car buffer so I headed to Harbor Freight and bought one for $20. This would have to do.
I was apprehensive about using it on my first few clients because I was trying to explain to them that I was about to use a car polisher on their body as part of their treatment. But they're good sports, my clients are. They let me use it on them, and with the exception of one person (who sneezed every time I got it near her traps) they loved it. At first I used it as a finishing touch on the back and hamstrings, but soon I was using it throughout the massage session on the quads, tibialis anterior, IT band, basically wherever I felt my hands couldn't get the job done. That's not to say that a session in my office is 60 to 90 minutes of skin polishing. It's a great tool, like a rolling pin for stubborn hamstrings or my homemade racquetball and drumsticks for tapotement to "wake up" the muscles.
Here's the great thing about the buffer: it rotates, vibrates, provides a wide area to cover large sections of muscle tissue, or, if turned on its side, provides penetrating treatment for a small and specific area of the body. But is there any science behind using it other than it feels good?
One of the aforementioned massage-specific buffing companies out there is BelleCore. And they do quite a thorough job explaining the clinical benefits of their buffer, the BelleBodyBuffer. According to their website, the BelleBodyBuffer allows for more targeted therapies (IT band, plantar fasciitis), provides larger surface area than most vibrating devices which results in better tolerance (pacification of pain and mechanoreceptors), multi-directional shear forces provide easy and effective myofascial release without additional manipulation, and faster, more effective and longer lasting increase in perfusion/warm up of tissues. All for only $120.
Basically theirs does for $120 what my Harbor Freight model does for $20. But I must admit it looks like theirs would have certain ergonomic advantages for the therapist because of its light weight and smaller size. I would also imagine it would be a bit quieter than mine, but I can't say for sure.
Regardless of where a therapist gets the buffer, it is a wonderful tool to heat muscle tissue, break up scar tissue, dig deep into crunchy IT bands, increase blood flow, and on top of it all it feels great in that it's both relaxing and energizing. And from what I've read, more and more bodybuilders and athletes are making the buffer a part of their daily warm-up / recovery regimen. And if nothing else, people will see your shiny glow from miles away.