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How To Choose A Massage Chair

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Massage chairs have come a long way from the days of the basic high-back Fujiiryoki chair of 1954. Their contemporary versions are so futuristic, they look like they belong to a spacecraft. From high-back to hi-tech, massage chairs have transformed hand-in-hand with massage therapy that today is a key therapeutic bodywork regimen.

The purchase of a massage chair involves capital investment involving an outlay of anywhere between $2,000 and $200,000. If you are thinking of buying a massage chair, we recommend a thorough search and research on the internet, beginning with this article. Here, we have covered the essential information on the subject that will help you choose the best massage chair possible.  

First things first: What are massage chair tracks?

Modern technology enables the backrests of massage chairs to incline as per the spine's natural inclining positions. These are called massage tracks. There are three types:

Straight-track

This is the backrest with a single reclining curvature found in basic massage chairs. It does not offer the advantage of aligning the backrest with the spinal curves around the neck, low back, and torso. Massage offered on these chairs is "flat." It does not penetrate the vital curvature areas, hence, it is superficial. Therapy offered on these chairs is often inadequate and can even be counter-productive because of the lack of alignment between the spine and backrest curvatures.

Avoid purchasing a straight-track massage chair, it is obsolete technology and will limit your massage results to superficial, recreational purposes.

S-track

This track covers the spine in its natural L-shape position as you recline on a massage chair. Hence, the name. It is designed to address the limitations posed by the straight-track massage chairs. The massaging areas cover the full spine -- from neck to tailbone. 

In massage chairs with S-track backrests, the rollers travel up and down the spinal path, covering the curvatures of the neck, mid-spine, and the lumbar curve. They work in this way: Around the neck, they project a bit to penetrate that crevice, retract when on the mid-back plane, and again project to massage the deep lumbar curve.

S-track is the most common track feature in massage chairs today. Its many benefits include:

  • Full-spine massage
  • Effective for stiff neck and low-back pain
  • Relieves posture problems

L-track

This is an extension of the S-track. Its rollers are placed even below the tailbone and cover the entire torso and hamstrings, thus transforming the S shape into an L shape. With this style, the massage chair rollers work on the glutes, piriformis, and the hamstring muscles.

L-track massage chairs have your back, literally. They are good if you want to treat these disorders: 

  • Posture problems
  • Soreness or pain related to long sitting sessions
  • Sciatica
  • Sacroiliac pain (pain of low back, hips, groins, and thighs)
Reclining Heated Full Body L Track Massage Chair with Ottoman
Reclining Adjustable Width Full Body L Track Massage Chair
Reclining Heated L Track Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Reclining Heated L Track Massage Chair
Shiatsu Reclining Full Body L Track Massage Chair

Hybrid S/L-track

This latest innovation combines both the S and L tracks, with leg massage ports as an additional feature. They massage the calf muscles and even ankles. The result is an almost full-body massage.

SL Track Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
SL Track Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
SL Track Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
SL Track Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Premium SL Track Heated Massage Chair
Genuine Leather Reclining Adjustable Width Massage Chair

What Different Massage Styles Do Massage Chairs Come With?

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)
  • Circular

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. 

2D rollers

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.

3D rollers

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:

  • Sciatica
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Fibromyalgia

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

4D rollers

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. 

Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Reclining Massage Chair
SL Track Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Electric Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair

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.

Reclining Heated Zero Gravity Massage Chair with Ottoman
Reclining Heated Zero Gravity Massage Chair
Zero Gravity Reclining Full Body Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Zero Gravity Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Zero Gravity Massage Chair
Electric Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Zero Gravity 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
Mixed Massage Chair With Calf Foot Massage
Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair with Ottoman
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Black Massage Chair
Electric Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair

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.

Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair With Air Compression
Massage Chair With Air Compression Massage
Reclining Massage Chair With Air Compression Massage
Electric Reclining Heated Massage Chair With Air Compression
Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair With Air Compression
Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair With Air Compression

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.

Reclining Full Body Vibration Massage Chair
Reclining Full Body Vibration Massage Chair with Ottoman
Reclining Heated Vibration Massage Chair
Reclining Adjustable Width Heated Full Body Massage Chair
Suede Reclining Chair With Ottoman
Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair

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.

How to Make Sure Your Massage Chair is Safe?

Since massage chairs are high-value purchases directly responsible for the quality of therapeutic results, you need to be mindful about these aspects of the purchase: 

  • Comprehensive warranty: Your massage chair must have a comprehensive warranty covering body material, accessories, components, electronics, and mechanical parts. Most reputed manufacturers offer a comprehensive 1-year warranty. 

  • Registered with the manufacturer: This is important so that the manufacturer can communicate with you directly in case a product recall is needed for any reason.

  • Do not place blankets, pillows, or other combustible material on the massage chair when it is on. It may cause major fires. 

  • Never leave the chair when it is on. 

  • Electrical safety:

    • Use long cords that can directly plug into the socket. Avoid adapters. 

    • Ensure that the socket has a residual current device or RCD installed. This is critical for protection against current surges and other electrical accidents. 

    • Prefer concealed wiring, avoid loose or hanging wiring. 

    • Unplug the cord from the socket after use, don't be satisfied with just switching off the mains supply.

  • Purchase of used or refurbished massage chairs. If you do buy your massage chair from this market:

    • Make sure that the warranty is in force

    • Be sure that the warranty is transferable, in case you want to sell the chair

    • Ensure that the model is not discontinued by the manufacturer

Manufacturing and safety standards:

  • ISO 13485:2003 for the quality management system of the manufacturer
  • TUV certification – one of the most trusted electrical safety standards in the world
  • Product registration with the US Food & Drugs Administration (FDA) as a class 1 medical device

Massage chairs are modern miracles that offer holistic health and wellness benefits. As they say, it's not magic, but it works just like magic. We hope this article helps you discover your kind ofmassage chair magic!