There is a perceived correlation between aches and results, and Americans often mistakenly equate physical pain with enhanced fitness. You’ve undoubtedly heard the mantra, “No pain, no gain.” When we feel sore, we believe the amount of discomfort is related to the benefits received. We’ve been trained to believe that more agony yields more reward.
Consequently, if you get a massage from a low-end massage chair and it hurts, you may be inclined to dismiss the pain as “par for the course” and a sign the chair is doing what it should. But that’s simply not true. You can take some actions (see below) to help ensure you have an enjoyable, pain-free session. But generally speaking, the answer to “Can massage chairs hurt your back” is “Only if something’s not right.”
Back Pain From a Massage Chair? That’s a Problem.
“Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore, but the massage shouldn’t ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable,” according to Mayo Clinic, “If a massage chair causes the user to wince or feel discomfort, it is not as refined as it should be.” You should never feel pain from using your massage chair.
Yet, because of our perception of pain equating to improvement, we often think the opposite. We believe that a session in a chair where we are vigorously prodded and pounded delivers the maximum benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth. You should NOT experience significant pain or discomfort during or after a session in a massage chair.
Are Massage Chairs Bad for Your Back?
The answer to this common question is also “No.” Well-designed, luxury massage chairs will provide bodywork and manipulate your muscles in healthy, stress-relieving, circulation-improving, pain-reducing ways.
Even when you use one for a deep tissue massage, you shouldn’t feel what you would consider true pain. A probing massage may—by design—take you to the brink of pain as it works to break up muscle adhesions and aid healing. However, the intense sensations aren’t like the pain you feel when you suffer an injury, for example.
Why Your Back Hurts After a Massage Chair Session
If your back hurts after a massage chair session, any or all of multiple factors may be responsible. They include:
- It was your first massage. If you’ve never had a massage, your first session may create some unfamiliar physical sensations. While some people label those sensations as pain, most agree upon further reflection that that term isn’t accurate. It definitely takes a few massages to get used to how you feel during and after the session. But ultimately, people have only positive things to say about the experience.
- You were dehydrated. A quality massage helps liberate toxins from muscles so the body can excrete them. Water is essential to that process. If you were significantly dehydrated when you got your massage (and your hydration level can be hard to gauge), those toxins may not make it out of your body as quickly or fully as you’d like. The result is soreness that doesn’t occur if you’re fully hydrated before your massage.
- You weren’t warmed up at all. While there’s no requirement that you “prep” in any way before using your massage chair, the session will be most effective if you’ve done even a small amount of stretching beforehand. Getting into a massage chair immediately after having been sedentary for an extended period is like hopping out of bed and immediately starting a 10-mile run. Your muscles are likely to express a bit of displeasure!
- Medication is affecting your pain tolerance. For example, if you take a pain reliever, you may experience little or no discomfort initially from an intense massage, only to feel pain later as the medication wears off.
The first item in the above list takes care of itself. Once you’ve had a massage, you know what to expect in the future. The others are issues you should be aware of when you’re getting ready to use your massage chair.
Tips for Avoiding Back Pain From a Massage Chair
You can reduce the risk of being sore after a massage chair session by taking these actions:
- Talk with your doctor if you have health concerns. While it’s not common, certain types of injuries to your back (or any part of your body) may not be compatible with massage sessions.
- Use a high-quality chair. The adage that “you get what you pay for” is particularly true with massage chairs. This isn’t to say that you must purchase the most expensive chair, but be wary of inexpensive massage chairs that promise the same experience as much more expensive models.
- Start the intensity low and increase it gradually. Your body will have no problem adapting to massages. Still, you should take some time to acclimate if you’re new to them.
- Consider and address the factors listed above. You’ll avoid pain and enjoy your massage if you’re properly hydrated, lightly warmed-up, etc.
- Use your massage chair regularly. Daily massages help keep your muscles loose, blood flowing effectively, and mind and body relaxed.
Don’t Accept Back Pain From a Massage Chair
One other cause of back pain from a massage chair is settling for the first one you try. Our Comfort Consultants at Furniture For Life can guide you through an unhurried assessment of chairs from our selection of The World’s Best Massage Chairs®. At the end of the process, you’ll have identified the chair that feels best to you and most effectively addresses your needs.
Then, the only connection you’ll experience between back pain and your massage chair is how effectively your sessions prevent, reduce, or eliminate it!