Massage chair offerings run the gamut from cheap and cheerful to gloriously designed machines that can make you feel amazing....
Brands and models offer a mix of designs (some good and some bad), technology (some useful and some useless), and programs (some sloppy and some careful and nuanced). The right massage chair is capable of providing a professional therapeutic experience in the comfort of your own home, and without paying a visit to the massage therapist.
While we don’t claim that one of our massage chairs will fully replace an expertly trained and skillful certified massage technician, a premium massage chair offers a pretty darn fantastic massage with advantages in both time and expense by making treatment available 24/7, year-round, without ever leaving your home. Massage chairs also make it possible for people who desire the benefits of massage, but are uncomfortable with strangers touching them, to find the relief they desire in a 100% comfortable, stranger-free setting.
The best massage chairs are attractive, capable, and long-lasting, providing long-term health benefits to the individual user or the whole family. We offer many of these right here on Furniture For Life!
Massage Chair Features
Massage chairs offer a range of functions, and not every one can “do it all.” But as you explore the market, here are the main features you’ll find, in various combinations.
High-end massage chairs present a wide variety of techniques that mimic sensations you would expect to feel from a professional masseuse. These include touch, tapping, rolling, kneading, stretching, reflexology and acupressure, intended to simulate shiatsu, Swedish, deep-tissue, and other massage modalities. Many chairs offer these in automatic, pre-programmed options for these experiences.
Massage chairs today do more than just work on your back. You can find massage chairs that provide leg & foot massage, neck traction, hip and IT band massage, forearm, hand, and even fingertip massage.
These massages are delivered by synchronized motor-driven back massage assemblies, a system of air cells, and actuators responsible for the movements of the backrest and footrest of the massage chair. Recent innovations include additional mechanical massagers that focus on the neck and occiput (back section of the skull), and mechanical roller arrays that target the forearms.
Mechanical rollers can operate at different speeds and different intensities, allowing the user to control and tailor the massage experience. Air cells—inflatable bladders located strategically in different parts of the chair— inflate and deflate, simulating the compressing touch of an expert massage technician. When air cells and rollers are properly programmed to work in tandem, you experience the height of what is possible from a massage chair.
Massage with Heat Therapy:
Most high-quality massage chairs offer the option of heat applied to the low back, and in some cases, the cervical spine or the seat…and even fingers, soles, and calves. The massage chairs we offer generate heat through infrared warming elements installed in chair padding, via the massage rollers, or by both means.
The addition of infrared heat makes your massage significantly more effective by helping your muscles relax. Your body also generates heat as blood moves toward the surface of the skin with a well-choreographed massage session. This is a virtuous circle: infrared heat provided by your massage chairs enhances the effects of the natural heat that you feel on the surface of your skin as the mechanical action of massage stimulates circulation.
Sitting upright during a massage is typical of a chair you might find in a shopping mall. And that no doubt feels good, but studies have shown that a recliner option available in most contemporary massage chairs boosts the health benefits (and your own sense of relaxation) a chair can provide.
High-end massage chairs feature a variety of recline options, including zero-gravity. The concept of zero-gravity derives from NASA Skylab missions, when “neutral posture” of the human body in microgravity— the weightlessness that astronauts feel in space—was the subject of research. A True Zero-Gravity® massage chair places your body in a gravity-neutral position, lowering your heart rate, reducing tension, promoting healthy circulation and lower blood pressure.
The benefits of a reclining position differ for L-Track, S-track, and what the engineers at OHCO have trademarked “MaxTrack” designs. An L-track massage chair achieves zero-gravity with the benefits described above. An S-track massage chair cannot offer zero gravity recline, but it is able to lie flat (or nearly flat) and provide superior stretching for the user. A MaxTrack™ chair can do it all: stretch you, place your body in zero gravity, and lie you down to a nearly flat position..
Okay, so maybe you think “attractive design” and massage chairs are oxymorons, and you wouldn’t be alone. But we challenge you to think again and take a look at the chairs on Furniture For Life. The industry has changed, and OHCO has now brought a chair lineup designed by one of the greatest designers in the world. Times they are a-changin’, and we think you’ll LOVE what you see!
If you are shopping for a massage chair that will double as a lounger in your living room or den, you’re going to want something attractive, not a vintage Buick or Barcalounger with some extra, protruding ugly bits parked in the corner.
Today’s massage chairs are designed by engineers with the eyes of an artist, like Ken Okuyama, the creative genius behind the world’s most iconic automotive styles for Ferrari and Pininfarina. Some chairs are touted as “works of art,” and indeed, they are beautiful. Many feature genuine top-grain leather upholstery, some with real black walnut trim.
The exceptional craftsmanship in premium massage chairs will last a lifetime. And, best of all, you can find something that looks as beautiful as it feels.
Choreography: Seldom Mentioned, Incredibly Important
It takes a long time to design a massage chair. All the internal mechanisms and supporting frameworks are the domain of engineers in Japan and China. Circuit boards have to be designed, and the massage mechanism— the very heart of the chair’s functionality— is a complicated piece of machinery.
The better-run factories are good at hardware design, and they see this as the most significant challenge of bringing a massage chair to market. The GREAT brands know that hardware is only 50% of the challenge of building a massage chair. Where does the other half of the effort go? To planning, programming, and testing how a chair FEELS by finding the very best methods to get the most from the hardware and feature set created by the mechanical engineers.
How much does it matter? If you ask us, it’s as important as any other aspect of a massage chair. We’ll need you to trust us here a little, but know that we make this claim with full confidence. No one else will tell you this, but here’s what we assert:
There are massage chairs that were built before 2010 that are BETTER AT MASSAGE than many of the “high tech” models you find in the market today. Why? Because some older models were more carefully PROGRAMMED, and these program designs more than make up for a feature set that might not look as sexy on a comparison chart.
We operate under the assumption that of all the things a massage chair has going for it, the most important one to YOU is the quality of just one thing: the MASSAGE it can provide. Are we onto something here?
In summary, choreography is THE SECRET SAUCE. The very best brands understand this and invest a significant amount of time, energy, and money in this crucial step of the massage chair development process. Our Comfort Consultants are well-versed in this. All them to guide you in this area that happens to be the LEAST MENTIONED AND MOST IMPORTANT thing you should consider when making the decision to purchase a massage chair.
Benefits of a Massage Chair
Massage chairs are designed to provide a whole-body wellness experience. The best ones strive to mimic the massages offered by certified massage therapists.
Owning the right premium massage chair will make its health benefits available to you 24/7 for years to come. And, if you think carefully about the math of it all, the upfront cost, amortized over years of service, make a massage chair an economical and convenient choice. (This is before you add the gas money to and from a massage clinic and the time you waste sitting in a car getting there. We recommend that you turn that drive time into massage time.)
The primary benefit of a massage chair is that it induces relaxation. Throughout the day and week, with the stress of our daily lives, our bodies accumulate significant tension and soreness. Often, we feel tired and stiff, which can lead to irritability and added stress. A massage chair can provide immediate relief and more subtle, long-lasting health benefits. We’ll also mention that a relaxed body and mind will most likely make a much happier person, and there’s nothing more valuable than being happier. At least, that’s what we think.
A capable, quality massage chair will work muscle tissue and fascia, improving flexibility and mobility when used consistently over time. Reclining functions help improve circulation (both vascular and lymphatic) and lower blood pressure, reduce pressure on the lumbar spine, reduce back pain, and even potentially symptoms of sciatica. Massage chairs have also been proven to help alleviate depression, chronic pain, joint issues, manage type II diabetes symptoms, alleviate headaches and migraines, and more.
As you do your research, think about what you need. You’ll find that heated massage chairs, zero-gravity massage chairs, “full-body” massage chairs, and those that offer intriguing extras such as chromotherapy, air ionization, and blue-tooth music support, may be just what your body has been telling you it needs.
A massage chair is a serious investment in your overall health that can deliver incredible life-enhancing benefits to you and your family.
Where Was it Made?
Let’s break the question down into three more revealing questions that offer more informative answers:
Where was it designed?
Who wrote the programs?
What is the country of origin?
There’s a big gap between chairs that are designed in Chinese factories and those designed in Japan or the USA. Not to knock them, but Chinese engineers and factory operators lack insight into the US market and what our customers demand. As a result, these chairs tend to miss the mark in many ways.
Most companies locate the entire process—design, engineering, and assembly of their chairs —in China. Production costs are lowest there, and their standards have significantly improved over the years, which is why 90% of the industry gets its products fully made in China. As far as basic quality and reliability go, “Made in China” should no longer be seen as a negative. It’s actually more important to understand the brand’s commitment to after-sale service that is most important.
The luxury brands, however, do more of their work (design, engineering and assembly) in Japan or the US, and outsource less critical decisions to Chinese partners. Quality control is essential in the making of a high-end massage chair, and Chinese production can be done well, as long as the manufacturer is committed to quality control of all the mechanical components. There are, however, low-cost (and low QA) factories that ship a lot of product around the world, so buyers need to be careful when making a purchase. If you see a price that’s too good to be true, just know that it probably is.
Japanese made goods have enjoyed a very good reputation for quality, and some brands with the best reputations complete the manufacturing process in Japan. It’s no surprise that made in Japan massage chairs tend to cost more, but this additional initial investment will generally pay off in better quality massage and a longer period of trouble-free service.
If you have other questions about features or benefits of specific massage chairs, contact Furniture For Life. We are here to support you in your research for the best massage chair for you. Our Comfort Consultants are committed to this cause, and they’ll be patient and attentive all the way through your buying journey.