There are six main styles that meet contemporary massaging needs. You will find that major brands of massage chairs accommodate all these styles in their features and functions; albeit with varying specifications.
1. Roller massage
Massage chairs have roller mechanisms that do the work of a therapist's hands. That's why they are often referred to as the massage chair's arms. Depending upon the chair design, roller mechanisms can enable three types of movements:
- Up-and-down (vertical)
- Sideways (horizontal)
Massage rollers can also determine the depth of the massage. The rollers are fitted in the body of the massage chair, from where they project or "come out" in the desired length to massage the person's neck, back, and the lumbar region. Rollers also massage foot and calf muscles. Their movement is guided by a microprocessor fitted in the chair.
There are three types of massage chair rollers -- 2D, 3D, and 4D.
They are a common feature in almost all massage chairs. They move vertically as well as horizontally, but their depth is shallow, hence they cannot offer deep-tissue massage. Typically, 2D rollers offer a "regular" surface massage meant for casual weekend spa or massage parlor visitors. Their shortcoming is that they cannot offer any special or customized massage features.
In addition to the horizontal and vertical movements, these rollers also offer depth, which decides how deep the rollers penetrate into the muscles and tissues. You can control the depth of rollers, and that lets you control the massage intensity.
3D rollers are the current industry standard. With the deep-tissue massage feature, they are found beneficial for many conditions resulting from the contemporary lifestyle:
- Chronic back and low-back pain
- Stiff neck
- Stiff muscles and mobility problems
- Injuries such as sports injury and slipped disk
- Posture-related problems
- Hamstring and calf muscles' stiffness and pain
- Muscle spasms
3D rollers are also effective for orthopedic and nervous system ailments such as:
- Tennis elbow
With such a wide range of benefits and diverse usage, massage chairs with 3D rollers are a must for modern spas and massage parlors.
Caution: you should avoid giving deep-tissue massage with 3D rollers to:
- Those having blood clots or clotting disorder
- Those with cardiac problems taking blood-thinning medicines
- Those having a bleeding disorder
- Those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation
These rollers offer the fourth dimension of massage, and that is speed or rhythm. Just like human hands massage at varying speeds, 4D rollers do it mechanically. For example, while the thumbs of a therapist are massaging in a straight line along your back, they move gently and slowly. But when they open up outwards at the end of the massage stroke, the intensity and speed increase as the therapist applies more pressure to impact the deeper tissues.
The 4D rollers replicate this human action of stroke control. 4D rollers offer enhanced relaxation, custom experiences, and specific restorative purposes such as sports massage.
2. Zero-gravity Massage
This is a massage style based on the zero-gravity position. In this reclining position, the legs are raised high and knees are bent to reach above the heart level. A posture invented by NASA, it is used by astronauts during the arduous launch phase of space-crafts. Since one feels weightless in this position, it lightens the force of body compression on the spine.
Zero-gravity massage chairs offer the following proven benefits:
- Lessens neck and back pain -- The body pressure is more evenly distributed than in a sleeping position, so the neck and back experience lesser pressure.
- Healthier and more efficient heart -- Since the heart alao experiences lesser pressure, it is able to function more efficiently.
- Reduction in inflammation -- In particular, zero-gravity massage chairs are more beneficial to diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and renal disorder-related swelling.
- Better quality of breathing -- The respiratory system including the lungs and air passage also experience reduced pressure, thus easing the breathe-in and breathe-out and offering deeper, calmer breath cycles.
- Improved blood circulation -- A natural outcome of the zero-gravity position.
- Lesser strained spine, joints, and joint muscles -- Again, due to evenly distributed body pressure.
A full-body massage on a zero-gravity massage chair, with rollers activated all over the back and legs, is the ultimate massage experience compounding the calming and relaxing effect of zero-gravity position.
Zero-gravity + Inversion Therapy
Inversion therapy is the latest innovation in zero-gravity massage style. It raises the legs even higher than in zero-gravity position. If you are looking to reduce lower body inflammation, this will be your choice of the massage chair.
3. Calf and Foot Massage
This massage has become as necessary as upper body massage, because feet take equal, if not more stress than the spine, during a working day. Feet reflexology is especially beneficial for people who spend long hours standing at work, and who need to stand up and sit down very frequently. It offers the following benefits:
- Relieves stress and pain of calf muscles
- Provides relief to ankles
- Improves blood circulation
4. Airbag Massage
This is a compression massage technique given by special systems built in the chair. You can massage arms and legs with this technique. For example, for foot airbag massage, you make the person wear a shoe-like air compression unit which goes to work to reduce stiffness and pain, and improve blood circulation.
Heat therapy is often used in combination with the airbag compression technique for enhanced results.
Airbag massage is different from roller massage because it is more or less a static technique. Unlike the kneading, tapping, or rolling motions that the rollers produce, airbags work statically, letting the compression and heat heal the affected parts.
Airbag massage is ideal for treating large body parts; let's say the entire arms of feet. It is also advisable for people who cannot stand the intensity or roller massages.
5. Vibration Massage
Massage chairs with vibration therapy have generously padded attachments that can be fitted to legs, arms, or back and vibrations passed through them. It achieves gentle calming of muscles and nerves and a pleasant sensation.
Vibration massage offers these benefits:
- Reduces joint and back pain
- Improves blood circulation
- Increases muscle mass
- Increases bone density
- Reduces stress and fatigue
- Improves metabolism
Vibration massage chairs are automated and programmed to offer varying vibrational strengths as needed or desired.
6. Body Scan Massage
This is a wonder of new technologies at work in massage chairs. The technique creates high-precision, customized, and personalized massage experiences. Sensors placed inside the massage chair scan the body of an individual to first determine their height, shape, size, and type. Once the body is mapped, the 2D, 3D, or 4D rollers are calibrated according to the body scan to offer bespoke massaging actions. Deep, shallow, high or low pressure, massaging trajectory… the rollers work in tandem with the body dynamics. The result is accurate, result-oriented massages that focus on specific body parts or needs.
Most of the standard massage chairs today offer body scan feature.