Health: `It feels like pygmies dancing across my back'

It has nothing to do with sex, but devotees claim that bonging, the latest fitness craze to reach us from California, relieves the parts other back cures fail to reach.

Bonging - not to be confused with a similarly sounding word, although proponents say the results can be equally satisfying - is the latest Californian health craze to hit the UK. Hailing from the Orient, bongers are traditional massage tools that give an invigorating, Shiatsu-like massage that you can do to yourself if self-flagellation is your thing. Celebrity bongees include Madonna and Courtney Love and massage therapists are now using them to ease tension knots other forms of massage cannot reach.

You'll soon be able to bong around town, as from the end of September bonging will be available at three venues in London's West End, including Selfridges department store. Bonging will also be popping up in desk-top massages in the workplace; when used in conjunction with back massage it wakes you up - so you won't fall asleep at your computer after a session.

Bongers - which look like rubber balls on sticks - are used rhythmically to drum out your knots. It's a bit like tenderising a steak. Most back pain is caused by overworked muscles that contract suddenly, turning into hard knots. Basically, if you have back pain, your body is crying "help! bong me!" (well, this is the explanation given by the makers of bongers).

Bonging is supposed to soothe headaches (nine out of 10 headaches are caused by tight neck muscles); to do the trick you bong the neck gently on both sides of the spine for 30 to 60 seconds.

It is also claimed that bonging is an enemy of the dreaded cellulite - it is said to encourage the blood to flow through capillaries, thereby improving circulation.

But what do the back specialists think of bongers? Dr Douglas Diehl, a chiropractor from the US, says: "Bonging is a great technique to relax your muscles, especially your shoulders. But it does not have a lasting effect and should not be used on anyone suffering from acute back pain or on an injury."

Originating from "do-in" - an ancient Japanese massage technique - bonging is believed to relieve trapped energy. In Chinese medicine energy is known as "chi" - if you are healthy, your "chi" should be flowing. Christine Lyons, a 24-year-old accounts assistant, was bonged out after her session: "I work on a computer most of the day," says Christine, "so my shoulders get really sore and that is where I hold all the tension - so it is really nice to be bonged in that area. I don't like anything too gentle as it doesn't really get rid of the knots, although it's not like someone beating the living daylights out of you - it is a nice feeling. I've got a pair of bongers at home. I use them after work sometimes if I've got a headache."

Bonging is also particularly suitable for a small person working on a large back as it is difficult to reach all the knots. But it is not great if you are feeling faint or if you are pregnant. You can bong away quite happily on most parts of the body, including the soles of your feet (bong! go for those reflexology points), pectorals and leg muscles but avoid the kidneys in the lower back area.

I was excited at the prospect of my first bong, as the label on the bongers clearly states that this will give your body paroxysms of unbridled ecstasy - which I am quite into. After an enjoyable back massage (fully clothed) the therapist bonged up and down the side of my spine - percussion-like, moving out to my shoulders and back, hitting my knots. Mmm! I thought when it had finished - bong me some more. Comments from seasoned bongees extracted from Bonger News, a Californian newsletter include: "It feels like a thousand pygmies dancing on my back", and: "This is like a mugging" to: "I feel as if I've just finished riding my lawnmower."

If there are certain areas you can't reach with the bongers you could also try the Backnobber, also imported from California. It's a giant plastic tube with a chunky knob at each end. You just hook one end over your shoulder and, holding it firmly, press one of the knobs into your knots.

The Backnobber helps to relax tense muscles in the back, neck and shoulders. It should be used over light clothing, so you can knob in polite company or while watching television or before and after a workout. But don't overdo it until you've got used to it.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions