In this post, I am going to walk you through how to buy a massage chair. I will outline things to consider, and walk through the basics of the features available and the mechanism that makes up a massage chair. Massage chairs can give you a quality massage with literally the push of a button.
I am sure you have seen them, or maybe even used one, in an airport, or at your local mall. If you are interested in purchasing your own massage chair, please check out my massage chair buyers guide here.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Click here for details.
There are a lot of massage chairs on the market today
There are a lot of options, with many different price points. You can choose from a wide variety of features, and you may or may not need them all. My goal with this post is to give you some things to think about when you are considering a big purchase like this. Here is a post about the benefits of a massage chair. It is specific to the workplace, but it’s relevant for home use as well.
I know that a lot of us sit at a computer for a good chunk of the day. This can lead to tight muscles in your back, neck, shoulders, even parts of your lower body. There are also a lot of people who work on their feet all day and want nothing more than a quality massage to help relieve their foot pain.
Enter the massage chair
Massage chairs offer a wide variety of massage techniques and come with preset programs that you can select depending on your specific needs. These chairs use a combination of rollers and airbags to provide the massage. Some chairs are meant for mostly back and feet, while others will go the extra mile and get under your seat.
There are some basic parts that most massage chairs will have
Rollers – The rollers are what do a lot of the dirty work and give you the true hands-on massage feel that you would get from a real live person. The rollers move their way around your back, neck, and even underneath you, reaching your butt and hamstrings. The rollers move along a track (I will get into this a little more later). Some rollers are large, providing a more generalized massage, while some are smaller, for more pinpoint massaging. Some machines have four rollers that work on your back, which is the majority of the massage chairs I discuss in my review.
Airbags – Acupressure is when your massage chair has airbags that inflate to apply pressure to certain areas. As I mentioned, some chairs only have rollers that will focus on a particular area. Other areas of your body may be massaged with the airbags. Some allow you to adjust the pressure of the airbag so you can customize the feel. Airbags are very common in the footrest.
Track – The track is what guides the rollers along your back. There are S tracks and L tracks. The S track units are designed with the natural curve of your spine in mind, thus shaped like an S. These typically span from your neck, all the way down your back, to the lower back and stop there. The L track is similar to an S track, with the difference being it is shaped like the letter L and works down underneath your butt and into the hamstrings. So the L track has a longer range and will actually use rollers to massage under your butt and hamstrings. A lot of machines with an S track will use airbags to work under your seat area.
Dimensions – There are different terms for the different movements of the rollers. You will see 2D, 3D and even 4D.
- 2D – the rollers move up, down, left and right on a single plane
- 3D – the rollers again move like the 2D rollers, up, down, left and right, with the added dimension of moving in and out. This allows for a deeper massage than it’s 2D counterpart since the rollers can push deeper into your muscles.
- 4D – some companies are calling this 4D, but from what I can gather, it’s basically the 3D rollers moving at different speeds. I believe this is more of a marketing tool than anything.
Foot massagers – As I mentioned earlier, this is a key part of the decision for a lot of people, when they are considering a massage chair. All foot massagers are not created equal. Some foot massagers are built with airbags that apply pressure the different areas of your feet, calves, and Achilles tendon area. They will apply pressure to different points at different times.
Then there are foot massagers that use this acupressure method and use rollers to really hone in and apply an added dimension to the soles of your feet. Now, this can take some getting used to. Our feet are more sensitive than you might think, and people will complain that foot massagers are too rough.
It’s nice to be able to control the speed and intensity of the foot massage, whether it’s the pressure applied by the airbags or the intensity of the rollers. So this is definitely something to think about when you are choosing a massage chair. How much control you have over the intensity.
The airbag method will sometimes be accompanied by nodes that will put pressure on the bottom of your feet, but these nodes do not roll, they just apply pressure. Anyway, there is a lot to think about with foot massagers alone.
Zero gravity – Zero gravity is an interesting positioning technique. By reclining and raising your feet to the level of your heart, this takes pressure off your vertebrae and helps with your blood circulation. These factors help to put you in a more relaxed state and can benefit your overall massage experience. You can get a more intense massage when you are reclined in the zero gravity position. This is definitely something to consider when you are looking for a massage chair.
Sensors – Massage chairs can scan your body before the massage begins so that it can define the best way to massage you. If you are five feet tall, you will have a different orientation than someone six feet tall. The shoulders of shorter and taller people will be at different heights. The chair will be able to figure this out for you. This is great when multiple people will be using the chair, and it’s easy to use. So, the chair will scan you to figure out your orientation.
When you sit in a chair to begin your massage, it is important to make sure your head is leaning against the chair, so that when the chair scans you, it can determine where your head and shoulders are.
Some chairs will come with a body scan override. With an override, you can make the chair go up higher on the shoulders by telling it to do so. When the chair gets to the point that it thinks your shoulders end, you can make it go higher with the override. This is basically an “up” button on the remote that will allow you to override the standard scan. This is great for taller people who say the chair doesn’t reach as high as they would like.
Massage techniques – Massage chairs will come with settings for different types of massage techniques. So examples are:
- Tapping with Knocking
Different programs will incorporate different techniques. For instance, and this is just an example, a massage chair may have a Recover mode. This may incorporate vibration, rolling, and kneading, depending on how it is set up. So the techniques will be used in the different preset programs.
Some chairs allow you to customize a program, basically build your own. Massage chairs will also have a manual mode that will let you pick whatever you want. If your lower back is especially tight one day, you can concentrate on just that area. So there are a wide array of programs that you can enjoy.
Heat! – Oops, I almost forgot heat therapy. Massage chairs that come with heat therapy will help to warm you up and keep you relaxed. Combining heat and massage make a very relaxing experience. Some of the chairs will have heat in the lower back area. Some chairs will have heat in the low back and footrest. Just another thing to consider
So that is kind of a 30,000-foot look at the components that make up a massage chair. There are other things to consider when looking to purchase a massage chair and I will take a look at that now.
Warranty – A big one in my eyes. You want to have a company that will stand by their product. With all the moving parts on these chairs, you definitely want to make sure the company is going provide a good solid warranty. With all of the motors, rollers, tracks, and electronics, there is definitely room for something to go wrong or wear out. Each manufacturer will be different, so take a look and make sure this sounds good to you.
Size – Not only the size of the unit itself but the size of the room you will keep the massage chair. Some chairs are wall huggers, meaning they can be placed really close to the wall and still recline. These chairs only need a few inches of clearance from the wall, since they will slide more forward than backward to the recline position.
Another thing to consider with the size is will it fit through your doorway. I have read some reviews where people said the chair is bigger than the doorway. People have had to remove the door from the hinges, or get really creative to get the chair in the house.
Delivery – This kind of fits in with size, but it is definitely a good idea to find out if delivery will include setup or not. Sometimes you can pay extra for this, and it might just be worth it. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a really nice massage chair in your garage, or on the sidewalk, because you don’t have anybody to help you get it inside J.
Budget – Once you have a better understanding of what your needs are, come up with a realistic budget. If you have $500 to spend, you may not get everything you want. Just keep that in mind after you have had a chance to do some research on your own.
Try before you buy – If you have a chance to test one out before you buy online, I would definitely say that is a good idea. Next time you are at the mall, sit down in one, and see what features it has that you like, or don’t like. Take some notes and find out what your needs are. You may think you want a feature and when you try it out, maybe you realize you don’t. Or there may be a feature you didn’t think of, and by golly, you can’t live without it.
Anyway, this is my two cents on the purchase of a massage chair. I hope this has been helpful, that’s what I am here for. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to share them with me. I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.