There’s a lot to consider when you’re shopping for a massage chair — What do you want your massage chair to do for you? What’s your budget? Where will it live? A high-quality massage chair is an important investment and one that shouldn’t be made without some important considerations. Here are 12 key things to look for when buying a massage chair.
1. Massage Functions
Low-end massage chairs usually offer little more than simple vibration and rolling massage. On the other hand, high-end massage chairs offer a wide variety of features to help put you at ease. These features often include, but certainly are not limited to:
- All-inclusive menu of pre-programmed functions
- 2D (basic), 3D (adjustable) & 4D (variable) roller intensity
- Heat therapy
- Sound therapy
- Space-saving design
- Zero gravity & inversion therapy
Of course, the number and quality of these functions will affect the cost of the massage chair — but prioritizing your long-term health is worth the investment!
First-time massage chair shoppers might be taken aback when they see the prices of quality massage chairs. It helps to have some context so you don’t abandon the search altogether. A premium massage chair, even with the most standard of functions, can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $12,000, with most models sitting somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000. Lots of factors will determine cost, including number of functions, technology, customizability and upholstery, but a good rule of thumb is to pass by chairs that cost less than $1,000 full-price.
The most important thing to remember regarding cost is that a massage chair is much more economical than regular visits to a masseuse, not to mention it’s more convenient. Regular massage chair use, if enjoyed properly, can also result in long-term health benefits that are tough to put a price tag on.
3. Massage Areas
In addition to offering various massage styles, all luxury massage chairs can target areas besides your back. Many full body massage chairs offer a leg and foot massage function, and some chairs can even target the arms and hands. These targeted massage options are usually delivered by air bags, massage heads or rollers spread throughout the chair. Advanced massage chairs can also feature a thumb-like massage head to mimic the therapeutic benefits of a trip to a masseuse.
4. Massage Rollers & Track
When you decide to take the plunge and buy the massage chair of your dreams, be sure to consider the range of the rollers. This is indicated by the type of track the massage chair comes with.
L-track: A roller track that extends from the neck to the gluteus muscles and conforms to the spine’s natural “S” shape. L-tracks are typically 47”–52” long.
S-track: A roller track that extends from the neck through the lower lumbar region and conforms to the spine’s natural “S” shape. As such, S-tracks are slightly shorter than L-tracks (about 30”–32”), but allow for spinal stretching and twisting flexibility.
J-track: Also called a Flex Track, the J-track combines the range of the L-track with the stretching capabilities of the S-track.
Some massage chairs can be adjusted to accommodate a range of heights, and some feature adjustable roller widths.
5. Massage Airbags
Massage airbags offer powerful relief from tension and stiffness by pumping pressurized air into small pouches located in the back, legs or sides of your massage chair. The airbags, when inflated, compress your muscles, which helps stimulate blood flow and provides soreness relief. This delivers a different sensation and style of massage from the roller system.
If you are wondering whether the airbag function is right for you, look for a massage chair that delivers both airbag and rolling massages simultaneously. Combined, the two can create the most advanced full-body massage available in a chair.
6. Massage Chair Size
Most massage chairs are designed to accommodate heights between 5’–7’ and up to 280 lbs. However, if you’re searching for a massage chair with a specific height or weight capacity, be sure to target your search accordingly. Certain brands make chairs that can comfortably sit larger frames, while others offer chairs that can adjust to shorter heights.
Likewise, be sure you have the physical space to comfortably fit a massage chair. Size specifications are listed by most online massage chair retailers, so come armed with your own space measurements so you can make the most informed choice.
7. Heated Massage
Most advanced massage chairs come with the option of a heated massage seat and/or back. Through applying infrared heat, your massage becomes significantly more effective by relaxing your muscles, improving circulation and releasing toxins. Massage chair users with arthritis, inflammation, joint or muscle stiffness or deep tissue pain find that heat therapy eases pain and discomfort and relaxes their muscles enough so that the rollers can penetrate through tension.
Heat therapy is often concentrated in the seat or lower back, but some massage chairs come with full body heat, starting at the soles of the feet and reaching all the way to the headrest.
8. Recline Function
Most high-end massage chairs feature a variety of recline options, the most popular of which is zero gravity. Zero gravity recline mimics the weightlessness of space as it places your body in a gravity-neutral position, taking pressure off your spine. This can lower your heart rate, reduce tension and improve circulation. Some massage chair reclining options include a single-touch feature, giving you ultimate control with the press of a button. Studies have shown that adding a degree of recline to your massage not only provides a deeper massage experience, but also significantly boosts relaxation.
9. Massage Intensity
The strength of the massage is one of the most important aspects of any massage chair. This strength is dependent on the number of motors within the chair; a higher number of motors indicates a greater degree of power. Over time, your body will become accustomed to your massage chair’s intensity, so the more strength options available to you, the more use you’ll get out of your massage chair in the long run.
You can also choose a massage chair based on the abilities of its roller system:
2D Massage: Found in the earliest (and most basic) massage chairs, 2D technology means that the rollers work on X and Y axes: they can move either up, down, left or right.
3D Massage: A 3D massage allows you to adjust the intensity of the rollers, so that you can get a more personalized massage. These work on X, Y and Z (diagonal) axes.
4D Massage: The comprehensive range of 3D massage technology is enhanced with variable roller intensity, which offers a deeper reach that can be especially beneficial for people with back and shoulder issues.
Many massage chairs come with removable padding, which allows you to further customize the strength of your massage.
10. Massage Programs
Most massage chairs have between three and 30 pre-programmed massage options. These provide a unique, timed massage that targets specific areas of the body, and are excellent at the end of a long day when the last thing you want to do is mess around with buttons. The more advanced massage chairs usually have body scanning technology, which tests the reactions of various areas of your body and customizes a massage accordingly.
The more automatic programs a massage chair has, the less repetitive your massage experience will be, especially if the programs can be combined or customized. A wealth of options ensures no two massages are the same!
11. Massage Chair Upholstery
Genuine leather is traditionally the fabric of choice for massage chair furnishings, but you’ll notice that a lot of high-end and technologically advanced chairs are synthetic. This is because, due to the amount of movement and heat it will generate, your massage chair needs to hold up under daily, long-term use. Synthetic fabrics are usually engineered to withstand heat, wear and tear, extending the life of — and your satisfaction with — your massage chair.
Nothing takes the enjoyment out of a relaxing experience like frustrating or confusing directions. Operating a massage chair isn’t meant to make you more tense! Fortunately, today’s massage chairs come with easy-to-operate, intuitive controls, many of which are operated via touchscreen or one-touch remotes. Some massage chairs even come with voice-activated commands — simply speak your preferences aloud and the chair’s operating system will comply. If simplicity is important to you, be sure to pay attention to the controls when shopping for your massage chair.