If you come back from work with aches and discomfort, suffer from chronic pain in your back and neck, or have just started recovering from an injury and can’t afford to pay for weekly therapy sessions, you may want to consider a massage chair.
While the first massage chair actually appeared in the early to mid 50’s, these devices have come on significantly in the past few years, allowing us to stay in the comforts of our homes and cut out the need for weekly, expensive therapy sessions.
But, with that evolution has come a lot of confusion as well. There is now a mound of models on the market and that’s not to mention the huge variety of features they all have to offer.
With that in mind, we’ve created this comprehensive guide about massage chairs. In it, we’re going to take you back to basics and tell you what a massage chair really is. We’ll check out their parts and have a closer look at how they work.
We’ll tell you about some of their benefits, highlight some of the different types on the market, look at various specifications you should check out, and of course, share some of the most reputable manufacturers in the industry today.
Lastly, we’ll tell you how to use a massage chair safely and highlight some cleaning and maintenance tips. So, without further ado, let’s get started:
What Is A Massage Chair?
As the name suggests, a massage chair is a chair that gives people massages without the need for human interference. It cuts out the usual costs associated with receiving a massage and allows people to receive a massage whenever suits them, from the comforts of their homes.
While massage chairs started off as a chair made of old scrap materials, they now come in a huge variety of shapes, and sizes, as well as a variety of different materials. Here are some of the parts commonly found in a massage chair:
Massage Chair Parts
Massage chairs come with multiple different parts some of which include various vibrating mechanisms that offer a human-like massage to the user. These vibrating mechanisms are accompanied by rollers, gears, and different types of motors.
The number of mechanisms used completely depends on the type of massage chair, as well as the model and the year it was created in. Not only this, the number of rollers depends on whether the chair is a simple or complex massage chair.
How Does A Massage Chair Work?
The concept of a massage chair is quite straightforward. Basically, the massage chair has a device inside that provides vibrations and other movements that massages the person sitting in it.
As mentioned above, certain massage chairs only have simple robotic elements, while others offer full body massages, much like those you’d receive from a therapist. Moreover, modern massage chairs can even mimic specific types of massage techniques.
Some of the most common, modern techniques used in massage chairs involve water to massage away stress and tension, as well as airbags that squeeze the user’s muscles in order to improve blood circulation through the body.
Most massage chairs come with built-in remote controls, while others have infrared body scanners, and can even monitor the user’s response to the massage as well as adapt to these responses. Lastly, some models use voice-activation software.
The Benefits Of Using A Massage Chair
There are many benefits of owning a massage chair, and here are the most important ones.
A massage chair supports the spine in a horizontal position. Because we spend a lot of our time either standing, walking, or sitting on hard chairs, our vertebrae can often compress nerves, thus damaging the alignment of our spine.
A massage chair helps relieve the tension surrounding our vertebrae which then gives space to the spine to lengthen, allowing the spine to realign.
You don’t need us to tell you how relaxing a massage is! By lowering your stress levels, you’ll automatically reduce the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which will lower your blood pressure.
Good circulation is extremely valuable to the body’s ability to heal. A massage chair allows you relax muscles as well as increase blood flow to your organs and tissues.
Stimulates Secretion Of Endorphins
In addition to all the above benefits, research indicates that a massage releases further endorphins and other neurotransmitters which, in turn, reduces the perception of pain, thus lowering our stress levels further.
The Different Types Of Massages You Can Get From A Massage Chair
Different massage chairs use different massage techniques depending on the model. They can be programmed through their controls system according to the user’s personal preference. Here are some of the different massage techniques you can normally choose from:
Shiatsu translates directly to “finger pressure”. This massage technique is similar in nature to acupuncture as it involves applying pressure on the various pressure points in the body. It is a traditional eastern form of massage.
A Swedish massage involves rubbing and applying pressure on various muscles with the aim of relaxing them through deep massage.
Rolling is one of the most common types of massage techniques found in massage chairs. It involves rollers which massage the user’s back with the aim of warming up and loosening up all the muscles.
As the name suggests, a percussion massage is when the chair makes quick alternating tapping strokes onto the user’s body. This promotes circulation and relieves muscle tension.
Kneading is more like a deep stretch massage than its above counterparts. The chair lifts and stretches the muscles to relieve tensions and improve circulation. This type of massage is known for reducing toxins.
The Different Types Of Massage Chairs
While you may associate the word massage chair with a big, comfortable, robotic armchair like those you see in an airport, they used to come in a much more traditional form. Here is a brief explanation about both:
Traditional Or Portable Massage Chair
A traditional, or portable massage chair is an ergonomically designed chair that patients sit on in order to receive a massage from a trained practitioner. This type of chair allows therapists to massage and manipulate the entirety of the back, shoulders, head, arms, and neck.
These massage chairs are extremely handy for massage therapists because they are designed to be portable and the patient does not have to undress to receive a massage on a traditional chair.
Robotic Massage Chair
As mentioned before, a robotic massage chair has a variety of electronic mechanisms that allow it to provide users with various types of massages while they simply sit in their seat.
These types of chairs do not require a practitioner and come with controllers that allow you to change the type and intensity of the massage as well as the amount of time the massage will last for.
There are three common types of robotic massage chairs, these are:
Zero-Gravity Massage Chairs
Based on the concept of weightlessness that astronauts feel when in outer space, zero-gravity massage chairs place your body in a gravity neutral position. This position can help reduce stress and tension, as well as boost your circulation and lower your heart rate.
Adding a level of recline to your massage boosts all the benefits already offered by regular robotic massage chairs.
Full-Body Massage Chairs
You’ve probably guessed that a full body massage chair offers a massage to the entirety of the body. Traditionally, these types of robotic massage chairs use both airbag and roller massages at the same time in order to offer a full-body experience.
This technique offers one of the most advanced full-body massages on the market, and both mechanical systems can be adjusted through a simple controller depending on your preferences.
Ottoman Massage Chairs
Ottoman massage chairs look more like therapeutic devices and are therefore less popular from an aesthetic point-of-view. Modern models are retractable making them great if you want a full massage experience but have a small home.
The Ottoman massage chair allows people of virtually all heights and sizes to experience a full body massage as it extends that little further than other types.
Specifications To Look Out For When Choosing A Massage Chair
Because a massage chair is such a huge investment and there are a variety of options now available on the market, it is important that you know what to look out for before purchasing your own.
Let’s check out some of the main specifications to look out for when choosing a massage chair:
Size And Weight Capacity
You need to first consider who will be using your massage chair. Are you and the people who live in your household of average size? If so, virtually any massage chair will be suitable from a height and weight point of view.
That said, if you’re particularly tall, you may want to look for a model that has extra leg extenders and an adjustable neck rest. This goes for short people too.
If you are shorter than the average height, you may find that your feet sit where your calves should and your neck where your back should.
This could be extremely uncomfortable with the wrong pressure being put in the wrong places. It could also lead to injury and headaches in some cases.
The Type Of Motor
A massage chair’s most important component is its motor. Without the motor, the massage chair cannot work and therefore becomes just a normal chair.
This motor is designed to power all the mechanisms within the chair, including airbags, rollers, nodes, controllers, and more. The motor is responsible for making these parts move in a variety of ways depending on the model, its capabilities, and your personal preferences.
The Chair’s Upholstery Material
Choosing the right upholstery and chair materials is essential to your massage chair’s lifespan. While most people associate leather to massage chairs, modern models now come in a variety of synthetic materials that are created with durability in mind. Here are some key differences:
A leather massage chair is not only stylish but extremely durable. That said, while some people like the old leather look, others do not. If you’re not into shabby chic interiors than leather may not be the best option for you.
Massage Chair Materials
We say this because a massage chair is not used like any normal chair in your home. The leather will move in all directions on a daily basis as well as fall victim to varying temperatures from the motor, and other features.
With the above in mind, more modern models come in synthetic materials that are more durable. These high-end and technologically advanced massage chairs are designed to withstand the heat as well as other forms of wear and tear associated with these machines.
Synthetic material massage chairs can be more expensive than their leather counterparts, however, they are known to last longer.
Massage chairs often come with a variety of programs to choose from that target specific areas of the body as well as specific health issues you may be facing.
While low-end massage chairs are very limited to simple rolling and vibration massages, their higher-end counterparts can help put your entire body at ease for hours on end.
Different types of massage programs
As mentioned above, massage chairs can offer a huge variety of different types of massages, some of which include vibration, reflexology, shiatsu, tapping, kneading, and many more.
They can also target very specific areas of your body and any problems you may be facing, for example, an injury.
Also, higher end massage chairs often have a menu of pre-programmed functions for you to choose from as well as heat features and advanced functions such as zero-gravity and inversion therapy functions.
The different positions that your massage chair offers will once again completely depend on the model you choose.
For example, some come with controllers that allow you to simply push a button in order to set your massage chair in the position you want it in, and others require you to pull or push a lever that springs the chair back into a reclined positions.
Massage Positions In Massage Chair
Aside from their ability to recline and sit you up straight, massage chairs are able to massage different areas of your body. Some massage chairs offer leg, foot, arm and wrist massages while others offer simple back massages.
Some massage chairs use rollers to deliver these types of massages whereas others use airbags. Advanced massage chairs sometimes offer a thumb-like massage head which resembles the feeling you get when being massaged by a therapist.
Special Additional Features
In addition to all the above, advanced massage chairs come with a heat feature which uses infrared heat to offer you a more effective massage which has a positive impact on your muscles, allowing them to relax more quickly.
While we mentioned this before, some advanced models offer additional arm, wrist, leg, and ankle massages. Also, certain models do a full scan of your spine and then personalize your massage based on your body shape.
Reputable Massage Chair Manufacturers
Now that we’ve gone through everything you need to know about massage chairs, we’re going to highlight some of the most reputable manufacturers in the industry today.
Kahuna is a massage chair provider who has grown with the evolution of the product all the way back since 1997. The company creates ergonomically designed and modern products with advanced massage system technology.
It is the number one recommended brand online and all its chairs are FDA approved as medical devices. In addition to all the above, you can benefit from awesome customer support as well as monthly social media promotions.
Human Touch has designed its products with quality, innovation, and affordability in mind. With over 35 years of experience in the massage chair industry, Human Touch has won multiple Design Journal Awards for Design Excellence.
The company is known for using luxurious, top-grade, natural materials some of which include steel, wood, and leather in a huge variety of colors, finishes, styles, and sizes.
One of the company’s most unique selling points is its ability to create patented technology with intelligent ergonomics and incorporating it into products that can be used in virtually any environment.
Panasonic is a well-known brand that engineers high-quality home solutions that are designed to help the lives of consumers. From outstanding televisions and cameras to cooktops, and of course, high-tech massage chairs.
Founded in 1967 and based in the U.S., Panasonic has a huge variety of products, is the holding company for approximately 580 subsidiary companies, and employs more than 330,000 staff across North America, Europe, and India, among other areas.
Titan is one of the world’s leading distributors of electric massage chairs, foot and handheld massagers, back pain relief products, and fitness machines among other health-related products.
In addition to offering some of the best retail prices currently on the market, the company prides itself in providing exceptional customer care. Headquartered in Texas, Titan World LLC. is also home to Osaki and Titan brand.
Safety Precautions You Should Take When Using A Massage Chair
While massage chairs have been proven to have their own set of unique health benefits, they do need to be used with a level of precaution. As with any machine, they can be dangerous if not used correctly. Here some massage chair safety tips you should follow:
Turn It Off When Not In Use
Massage chairs have a variety of electrical mechanisms in them. With that in mind, it is essential that you turn your massage chair off and unplug it when not in use. This will ensure your chair is not left on to overheat and potentially malfunction.
Meet These Basic Conditions
You must meet the minimum requirements on the instructions manual before using your massage chair. For example, make sure you are of age, the right height, and the right weight for the chair.
Be the right size for your massage chair
You must also ensure that the room your chair is placed in is not too damp, cold, or hot, as this could not only ruin your chair but lead it malfunction. Also, make sure you and your loved ones do not stand on the chair as some areas are more sensitive than others.
Only Use Your Chair For A Limited Amount Of Time
Your massage chair is not designed to be used all day, every day. Try to only use it for 30 minute periods and do not massage one area of your body for more than 5 minutes at a time.
Please note, it is not advised to use your massage chair as a substitute for prescribed medicines.
Do Not Use Your Chair If It Has A Defect
If you unpack your chair and notice there is a defect, do not turn the chair on. Call the manufacturer or dealer who sold it to you and ask them for a new one. Be sure to inspect your chair before using it.
Always Consult A Doctor If You Suffer From Chronic Pain
As mentioned above, it is important that you do not substitute your prescribed medicines for time in your massage chair. That said, it is also important that you consult a doctor should you suffer from chronic pain in a specific area of your body.
While a massage chair can relieve stress and stiffness in the muscles it is not the answer to all your physical problems. You should also consult your doctor before using your massage chair if you are pregnant, have cancers or tumors in your body or suffer from circulation problems.
Massage Chair Maintenance And Cleaning Tips
Cleaning a massage chair is quite straightforward. That said, it is important to follow some rules when doing so to avoid damaging the interior mechanics of your machine.
Most massage chairs today come with removable upholstery. This allows you to take the material off the mechanical parts of your massage chair and clean them separately.
By not doing so, you could expose mechanical parts to harsh chemicals which could damage your massage chair.
Cleaning Leather on Massage Chair
Read the manufacturer’s instructions to find out what chemicals and liquids your massage chair upholstery can be exposed to in order to not damage it beyond repair.
Oil Your Chair
While this will depend on the material of your upholstery, oiling your chair could reduce the chances of tears in your material. Regular oiling will keep your chair soft and comfortable as well as prevent cracks from appearing.
Store It Correctly And Use It Regularly
Aside from all the above, you need to make sure you store your chair in a room temperature, dry place where it is not exposed to too much sun and will not get damp. You must also make sure it is kept away from small sticky fingers and liquids.
Lastly, be sure to use your massage chair regularly in order to keep the internal machinery in good working order.
Massage chairs are great products that offer users a huge variety of health benefits. As you can see above, choosing the right one for your needs can be challenging.
You have to consider your height, weight, the features you want, the upholstery you’d like as well as any other additional features you may want.
If you’ve decided that a massage chair is what you need then check out our buying guide where we’ve shared some more information on what to look out for when choosing the right one for your home as well as highlighted some of the best massage chairs on the market this year.