A Working Parent’s Review of the Marc Pro Recovery Device
I wish I could start this review by saying that I’m typing this as I sit with the Marc Pro hooked up to my traps and shoulder blade muscles, contracting and relaxing my overworked muscles as I knock out another blog post. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to realistically find a comfortable working position while using the Marc Pro. And come to think of it, this device doesn’t really pair well with eating, conversing with other people (read: non-athletes or children who look at you like an alien is squeezing the life out of you), or performing general office activities like filing or charting. I’d really hoped I’d be able to multitask with the Marc Pro hooked up to me.
To elucidate, you are supposed to be in a comfortable, relaxed position when using the recovery tool. Their instructions caution that it won’t have the desired recovery effect if you are unable to prevent your muscles from guarding against the contractions. That is, if the electrodes are hooked up around your shoulder blades or your arms, you pretty much have to sit in a chair and do nothing for 30-60 minutes. I’ve tried eating a snack or using my phone during this time, but unless you construct an elaborate contraption to position your phone or book or whatever the exact proper focal distance from your face, you’ll be hard pressed to do too much on your phone when your whole arm is twitching rhythmically every second. I’ve tried timing my scrolling or typing so that I’m typing for one second, relaxing for one second, typing for another second, etc, but that gets unproductive and frustrating really quickly.
Eating a snack is just a joke. Unless you’re sitting on the couch with your legs out in front of you with the Marc Pro attached to your quads. That could work. But any upper-body recovery time with the device pretty much relegates you to a chair alone with your thoughts (or with the one movie you’ve propped up in front of you!) Eating while wearing the Marc Pro brings to mind an image of a toddler listening to pulsing techno music while attempting to eat food with a fork for the first time.
And for the best results for your hamstrings and calves, you are looking at a face-down position on the couch, which prevents you from really doing much else at the same time.
As for how I feel after using the Marc Pro, I feel amazing. Unicorns are fluttering around a dreamy-rainbow landscape in my muscles. I feel not-sore the next day (er, at least *less* sore). I realize soreness is totally subjective and there’s a significant possibility that a placebo effect is responsible for much of how I feel. But I can convince myself that the relentless pulsing feels like a massage and I can totally feel the lymph moving in the proper direction.
The Scientific Part:
I don’t know that I completely buy-into the descending-amplitude-wave-pattern that supposedly differentiates this machine from a cheap TENS unit. It claims to contract the muscle and then relax it slowly so that your lymph can flow out and metabolites can be cleared from the muscles. This is contrasted against a TENS unit, which just contracts and relaxes the muscle normally, blocking the pain-pathways to the brain, resulting in temporary pain relief. But the company makes it sound fancy on the website and Kelly Starett recommends it, so they got my dollars! (Actually an eBay seller who used the unit less than a dozen times and was selling his used Marc Pro for less than half of the price of a new unit got my dollars).
My Physiotherapy coursework that covered various types of muscle stimulation including interferential current, TENS machines, and Russian stimulation, never mentioned this particular type of wave-pattern and it doesn’t seem like there is a lot of information (outside of the information the MarcPro company provides) explaining how this type of waveform would actually translate to a difference in how the muscle contraction pattern allows for different recovery states.
So in summary, I’m taking off my science-based-research-hat on this one and just going off of how I’ve been feeling after using the device. I really do feel great. But I find myself seriously limited in the amount of time I can actually sit around and hook up to this machine. I’ve even tried hooking the electrodes up to my quads or glutes once I crawl into bed at night. There doesn’t seem to be any time-based contraindication to this device, so I figured if even if I fell asleep, no long term-damage would happen, and I would potentially actually be using this device to it’s fullest recovery potential. But just a heads-up, even if you manage to wrangle the electrodes and cords off your body and back onto their docking pad in the dark, you may still have a strange night. I found it wasn’t uncommon to get a few intense muscle contractions both during and after use of the device. Like intense enough to have to shut off the unit and let my muscle relax for a second. Not quite a cramp…but like it would cramp up soon. And I did have some interesting/terrifying dreams the nights I used the machine right before sleeping. For example, I woke up during the night I used the machine on my glutes, wondering why I was being stabbed in my butt with needles.
So before you purchase the device, which I do think is a nice recovery tool, I’d urge you to consider how much time you actually have to dedicate to sitting or laying around doing nothing. And also consider that there are certain recovery benefits from actually sitting around doing nothing…so how much of the recovery effect is coming from the device, and how much is coming from laying down for an hour with no work or childcare responsibilities? With all the recovery tools out there, from foam rolling and self-myofascial release work with a ball, to Voodoo flossing, to active-recovery-style walking and cycling, is the Marc Pro the right fit for your busy lifestyle?
As for me, I’m happy that I bought it, and also trying to stay optimistic that I will be able to find a few chunks of time each week to actually put it to good use.
Have you been thinking about trying a Marc Pro? What’s holding you back other than the price tag? Or have you tried one already? Post your comments below to let me know what your experience has been like so far.