I tried BackHug, the world's first robot therapist, and the results were surprising

Could it relieve my lower back pain? I put it to the test to find out...

(Image credit: BackHug)


“Oh good Lord” was the initial thought that ran through my mind as two small delivery guys lugged the small coffee table sized device known as ‘BackHug’ into my tiny front room. I’ve been doing weightlifting for years so back pain, especially in the lower region, is something I’m all too familiar with. But BackHug is the world’s first robotic therapist that can relieve tension and stiffness in your back, shoulders and neck. Would it be that different to other massage products on the market? Would it actually work? I put it to the test to find out.

Unlike massage tools that target stiff muscles, BackHug is the first device designed to loosen stiff joints. Its 26 mechanical fingers are what delivers the magic which, according to its founder, Chongsu Lee, an engineer-turned-physiotherapist, is the root cause for aches and pains in our body. It’s been eight years in the making, has gone through 100 iterations and now it was in my living room.

Testing out BackHug


As I previously mentioned, BackHug is about the size of a small coffee table, which I don’t think is bad. However, for those living in hobbit holes (like myself) or tiny flats, this could be an issue. It’s pretty heavy and slightly awkward to manoeuvre, so it definitely requires two people. Also, the on/off switch is located right underneath the device. You have to get on your hands and knees to find it, which I think people with severe mobility issues may struggle with. 

To get started, I had to download the BackHug app and complete a questionnaire so it could decipher from its 2,000 programmes the right one for my back. The app is very user-friendly and there’s some interesting questions, like how far you can touch up your back with your thumb. From there on it’s pretty straightforward, you lie on BackHug and hit ‘start session’ on the app. It then scans your spine and adjusts the fingers accordingly, the foot rest lifts up and away you go!


(Image credit: BackHug)

It definitely didn’t feel like a hug for my back, that’s for sure. In fact, the first five minutes of my 20 minute treatment was pretty painful. However, during a phone call with Chongsu I was reassured that this is completely normal. You can also pick the treatment duration in the app, adjust the pressure strength of the fingers and how fast or slow you want them to go. The sides also heated up, which was a pleasant surprise and after the initial pain, eventually I was able to relax.

The results

Afterwards, I was a little stiff and had a bit of an uncomfortable night's sleep. But I wasn’t expecting miracles from my first treatment and it’s to be expected if your body has been manipulated for a period of time. I was keen to persist with the treatment though and did seven 20 minute sessions in total.

It wasn’t until my fourth session, and speaking to Chongsu on the phone, that I realised there had been some progress. I could almost sleeping through the whole night and, as a result, my mood improved. Even my landlord said there was a ‘glow’ about me. I’m not saying the pain had disappeared, it hadn’t, but it was definitely more manageable throughout the day and wasn’t as irritating. 

Chongsu also pointed out during our call that alongside BackHug you need to make other good lifestyle choices in order for it to be effective. For example, if you sit for long periods of the day, which puts a huge amount of pressure on your back and hip joints, you can’t expect BackHug to be the be-all and end-all to resolving this issue. It doesn’t claim to be a ‘miracle product’, which is something I forgot when using it. 

The verdict

I don’t think I tested BackHug for long enough, but from the time I did spend with it the results were positive – I had a less painful sleep and I could get through my day without constantly being in pain. 

In terms of price, it’s £99 a month to have BackHug for a year and £4,150 to fully purchase – so it’s not the most cost-friendly product when you compare it to something like a massage gun (albeit, they only massage your muscles, whereas BackHug targets stiff joints). However, it could still save people money from weekly physio or massage sessions and you've got the convivence of it being right there in your home. You can also trial the product for 30 days for £99 before committing to a monthly fee. It's also not a medical product, so for more serious back issues you're best seeing a professional in person.

Overall, I think it's a decent product that combines clinical experience and science, to help relieve people of every day pains. The main pain point for me though is the price.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.