1 Massage Chair, 2 Massage Chair, Red Massage Chair, Blue Massage Chair. How many massage chair types are there?
When you begin to explore the world of therapeutic massage chairs, you will discover there are many different types of chairs, each delivering relaxing and rejuvenating experiences using a unique feature set. Consequently, it is helpful to understand the different functions and how various combinations of components work together to provide effective, lifelike massages.
At Furniture For Life, we’re here to help educate you on all the different types of massage chairs and the benefits of specific massage chair brands and models. For example, there are multiple variations in roller style, roller movement, and how the heat is deployed. Some luxury massage chair models also employ specialized airbags utilizing multiple air cells and unique choreography to apply targeted pressure to specific body areas.
The ways that different functions are integrated and leveraged produce very different massage chairs and experiences.
The Evolution of the Massage Chair
Massage therapy dates back thousands of years. There is evidence to support the idea that ancient cultures believed that higher states of harmony, like those achieved through massage, could keep us safe from real and imagined harm.
Electric massage chairs only began to appear in the 1950s. Early versions were crude and simple. However, the chairs worked well enough, and customers liked them enough, that engineers continued innovating and iterating.
A man named Nobuo Fujimoto designed the original massage chair out of scrap materials in 1954. It had two rollers that would massage the areas on either side of the spine in a vertical motion. By 1975, he had incorporated the ability to turn the chair on with a single switch and added more rollers to the design. The chair also allowed users to switch from kneading to tapping with a single button press.
In 2003, many massage chairs looked like your average recliner but with leg rests that cradled the user’s legs. Some offered vibration therapy that would massage your legs as a simple 2D roller mechanism worked on your back.
Today, we live in a future the industry pioneers could not have imagined, with massage chairs capable of extraordinary techniques. The best massage chair models offer actions comparable to traditional therapeutic massage modalities.
Massage Chairs and Roller Tracks
When we refer to “tracks,” we’re talking about the mechanical pathways rollers follow. When we talk about “rollers,” we mean the physical balls or heads attached to the main back massage mechanism inside the massage chair. Several roller designs and materials exist, some of which are proprietary to a particular brand, and others shared by many brands.
The kind of track in your chair will have a significant effect on the massages it can deliver. For example, one type is called the S-track. If you imagine a side view of a person, the spine has an “S.” An S-track is built to hug this curve and cover the area from your tailbone to your neck.
L-tracks go beyond S-tracks. Their rollers reach lower into the legs. The track goes into the glutes, the piriformis, and the hamstrings. People appreciate the L-track’s ability to provide a more far-reaching massage experience.
2D, 3D, and 4D Mechanisms. What’s in the Best Massage Chairs?
If you are wondering how to choose a massage chair, your assessment must include the massage mechanism. What began as two-dimensional movement in a flat plane was later enhanced to add a third dimension: depth. That advance enabled massage chairs to vary the intensity of a session and provide a more lifelike experience.
In the massage chair industry, the fourth dimension is speed variation. 4D massage chairs allow the speed to change seamlessly throughout the massage, providing a much more realistic session. Advanced 4D massage mechanisms are present in many of the best massage chairs.
And the evolution of massage chairs continues. Don’t be surprised if you hear the terms 5D massage chair and 6D massage chair! While there are not yet standard definitions for these terms in the industry, their increasing use is a sign of ongoing innovation.
While it is hard to top a session with a skilled massage therapist, massage chairs do have some advantages. For example, they can massage multiple parts of your body at the same time which can create a deeper state of full-body relaxation. And, of course, you can enjoy a session in your massage chair 24/7/365!
The most advanced massage chair types have 4D mechanisms and enable you to indicate your problem areas with easy-to-use controls. They may even have functions like full-body scanning that enable them to understand your body size and shape and modify the session accordingly.
Other massage chairs offer inversion therapy. Being inverted gently pulls and elongates your spine, allowing for more space between the vertebrae. This spine-relieving feature also allows nutrients to flow into these areas, creating higher levels of resilience in the body.
Zero Gravity Massage Chairs
Zero gravity chairs (also called anti-gravity or 0-G chairs) are inspired by the zero gravity position identified by NASA, in which your legs are positioned above the level of your heart and your weight is evenly distributed throughout your body. This position is intended to minimize the effects of gravity on your back. It is known to alleviate neck and back pain, and it can be good for digestion. In addition, napping in this position supports optimal blood circulation which may help your body with its natural healing states.
Zero gravity massage chairs allow you to recline as the footrest lifts. You are placed into a completely neutral gravity position, removing the strain from your body as tension is eased out of your muscles with massage or heat. The chair shifts back, and the massage takes place in this reclined position. Blood can flow through your body more efficiently when your heart doesn’t have to combat gravity, and better blood flow helps reduce stress and increase relaxation.
Advanced Massage Chairs: The Features (and the Experience)
Sophisticated massage chairs have many different feature combinations, and these features create the most variation between different models. Learning about the differences is important. However, it is crucial to remember that what you are after is a particular experience, not a certain group of features!
Each massage chair will have a unique combination of features and functions. For example, one massage chair might have a 4D mechanism with zero gravity technology while another has a 3D mechanism and specialized air cells. And that simple example doesn’t factor in characteristics like the type of track and many others.
The upside of all of this variety is that you will, no doubt, be able to find a massage chair that meets your needs and preferences precisely.
If people with different body types will be using your chair, you should consider getting one with built-in body scanning capability. The rollers can sense unique aspects of your body type, and they focus on key pressure points to deliver the most effective massage. Sessions are designed to open up both your blood vessels and your body’s energy pathways. This innovation makes your massage far more personalized, creating effects similar to acupuncture sessions.
Another component many users enjoy is a built-in air ionizer, like that with the OHCO M.8 NEO LE massage chair. The ionizers are located in the headrest and do an excellent job of keeping the air clear and enhancing the beneficial aspects of your time in the massage chair.
Let Us Help You Evaluate the Different Types of Massage Chairs
Finally (and most importantly), visit a Furniture For Life showroom to talk with one of our Comfort Consultants and work with them to “test drive” candidates from our curated collection of The World’s Best Massage Chairs®.
Whichever type of massage chair you choose, you have chosen wisely by purchasing from Furniture For Life. Our after-sales service is unmatched, as is our commitment to helping you enjoy many years of outstanding massages.