Massaging system

Surgery: kinesitherapy – Kinesitherapy – Device with applicator having specific movement

Reexamination Certificate

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Reexamination Certificate




1. Field of the Invention
The present invention is directed to a massaging system, and more particularly to a massaging system utilizing a pressurized fluid to inflate and deflate selective ones of expandable bags arranged in an array for producing a massaging action to a human body.
2. Description of the Prior Art
U.S. Pat. No. 4,622,706 discloses a prior massaging system in the form of an air mat which comprises an array of expandable bags. A source of pressurized air is connected to the individual bags for selectively inflating and deflating the bags to give a massaging force applied to a human body lying on the mat. However, since the force generated by the inflation of the bag is distributed over substantially the entire surface of the bag, it is difficult to concentrate a relatively large force to a particular portion of a human body, failing to realize a strong massage action. This problem is somewhat solved in another massaging system as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,741,218. The patent utilizes a plurality of air bags each actuating an applicator in the form of a kneading ring so as to force the applicator against a user's body by inflating the corresponding bag. Thus, the inflation of the bag is translated into the massaging movement of the applicator. However, there is required a complicated structure for supporting the applicator on the bag in such a manner as to transmit the inflation of the bag made of the flexible bag to the massaging movement of the applicator made of a hard material. In fact, the applicator is mounted on a separate plate which is in turn supported to a base frame through a link mechanism allowing the applicator to move towards away from the base frame, while the bag is placed between the base frame and the plate. The use of such supporting mechanism makes it difficult to realize a compact massaging system at a minimum number of components, and particularly to design the massaging system which covers a wide area of the human body, yet which is light-weight and compact sufficient for easy adaptation in a bed, a bed, backrest of the chair, or even in a band placed around a leg or arm of the user.
The above problem and insufficiency have been reduced in a unique massaging system of the present invention. The massaging system comprises a base sheet carrying a plurality of expandable bags arranged in a plane of the base sheet, and a charging and discharging unit connected to the bags for selectively supplying and discharging a pressurized fluid into and from the bags so as to inflate and deflate the bags, selectively. At least one applicator projects from each of the bags and is adapted in use to come into contact with a portion of a human body for applying a massaging action. Each of the bags has a flexible top end wall which is capable of deforming into a curved contour when being inflated. The applicator is made of a hard material and projects directly from the top end wall of the bag as an integral part of the bag such that the applicator is caused to displace in a direction different from a direction along which said bag inflates and deflates principally, as a consequence of that the flexible top end wall deforms into the curved contour. Thus, the applicator can concentrate a massaging force resulting from the inflation of the bag to a particular portion of the user's body, giving a relatively strong local massage action for optimum treatment. In addition, since the applicator takes a lateral movement in the direction generally perpendicular to the inflating direction during the inflation of the bag, the applicator can give a rubbing action, in addition to the pressing action, to the user's body for realizing effective and comfortable massage treatment analogous to that made by a human therapeutic massager.
Accordingly, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide a massaging system which is capable of giving a relatively strong massage treatment locally to a particular portion of the user's body in an effective and comfortable manner, even with the use of the pressurized fluid for inflating and deflating the bags.
Preferably, each of the bags is formed of a flexible material in its entirety including the top end wall. Each of the applicators is made of a hard material which is inserted into a flexible sheath bonded to the top end wall of each bag. Thus, the applicator can be easily integrated with the bag without requiring any additional intervening supporting mechanism, assuring easy fabrication of the system.
The base sheet may be shaped into a rectangular configuration having a length and a width, and carry the bags which are of elongated configuration extending along the length of the base and are arranged in parallel with each other. The applicator on each of the bags is in the form of an elongated fin extending along a length of the bag, thereby enabling to concentrate the massage action over an extended portion of the user's body at a time.
In this connection, each bag may be provided with a parallel pair of the applicators which are so positioned on the flexible top end wall as to displace distal ends of the applicators away from each other as the bag is caused to inflate. Therefore, the applicators in the pair can act to stretch the portion of the user's body confined between the applicators, thereby realizing a comfortable treatment.
The bag is preferred to have a side wall in the form of a bellows so as to inflate the bag sufficiently without necessitating any substantial elastic deformation of the bag.
The charging and discharging unit responsible for inflating and deflating the bags may be configured to include a charging pump of supplying the pressurized fluid into the individual bags respectively through fluid channels, and a plurality of two-way valves provided respectively in the fluid channels for charging and discharging the pressurized fluid into and from the bags to inflate and deflate the bags. A suction pump is included to be connected to the valves through a common exhaust path for positively discharging the pressurized fluid out of the bags. Thus, the bags can be inflated and deflated at an increased rate to strengthen the massage action applied to the user's body.
The charging pump is connected to a common feed path from which the individual fluid channels are branched. The system may be additionally provided with a single temperature control unit which is disposed around the common feed path so as to heat or cool the pressurized fluid being supplied to the bags. Whereby, the user can enjoy the massage treatment in combination with a hot or cool treatment.
Alternatively, a plurality of temperature control units may be provided respectively around the individual fluid channels in order to control the temperature of the bags individually for realizing an optimum temperature distribution over the assembly of the bags.
It is preferred that the bags are grouped into a plurality of modules each having more than one bags. The modules are arranged within the plane of the base sheet to constitute a two-dimensional array having rows and columns of the bags. The system includes a controller which is programmed to inflate and deflate the bags successively along either one of the rows and columns. Thus, the massaging action can proceed selectively in different directions for optimum treatment to different portions of the user's body. In this connection, the bags of the elongated configuration extend along one of the rows and columns in parallel with each other within each module. The bags in each module are controlled to inflate and deflate successively to give a massaging wave proceeding in the order of the bags for applying successive treatment over a wide area of the user's body.
The base sheet may be made flexible to be deformable together with the bags into a desired contour so that it can be wound around arm or leg of the user to give the massage treatment thereto.
Further, at least one of the bags may be disposed to have the c


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