How do massage chairs actually work?

Are you among the people suffering from lower back pain?

If yes, then you are not alone. Up to 7 out of 10 individuals in the United States suffer from lower back pain. Today people have a busier schedule than they did decades ago and that has taken a toll on their back. However, a simple massage can help alleviate this pain. Massage chairs have become popular with the changing lifestyle as they offer a cheaper way of getting a massage. Not everybody can afford to visit the massage spa every other week. But do massage chairs work?

How effective are massage chairs?

If you are thinking of buying a massage chair, then you are wondering how effective they are. The massage chairs entered the market in the 1980s claiming that they could replace the services of a professional masseuse. The marketers also argued that these chairs could allow the user to have a massage anytime, cheaply and from the comfort of their homes. Years later, the claim that these massagers could replace the services of the professional massager is up for debate. But do massagers work? Yes, they do, but their effectiveness varies according to individual products.

As a standard, a massage chair has the following.

  • Roller and nodes: These are apparatuses within the massage chair that mimic the hands of a professional massager. The size of these rollers and nodes vary across different massagers. Larger ones give you a general relaxation of your muscles. Smaller rollers and nodes reach more specific positions in your body.
  • Adjustability: Latest models come with an adjustment feature where depending on the pressure exerted, the chair adjusts according to weight, width, and height. It is critical for a massager to have this feature so that the massage apparatuses reach the anatomical areas of the back.

Therefore, assuming that a chair has a perfect set of rollers and nodes and achieves adjustability pretty well, then it can reach a better level of effectiveness. The truth of the matter is that they can never match the services of a professional masseuse.

But without a doubt, massage chairs alleviate muscle pain, provide a general relaxation and enhance blood circulation. Massagers also provide you with the benefit of having a massage in the comfort of your home.

mechanical massage

So, how does it work?

Mechanical massage

The majority of massage chairs you see in the market work through a combination of rollers, gears, motors and vibrating mechanisms. But not so fast! This does not mean that all the chairs use all these mechanisms. It all depends on the price you are willing to pay.

The simplest chairs provide massage through a series of vibrating surfaces. These vibrations come from small devices running on weighted gears and rollers. The role of the motor is to roll the wheel rapidly producing vibrations. Your mobile phone utilizes this same mechanism to vibrate when your friend is calling you. Massage chairs have a series of these small devices to function.

When people are getting a massage, it’s the rollers that are doing the work. The frame of the chair determines the pattern the rollers move in. Some of the products have a limited range of motion. They can only move up and down.

The more complicated model utilizes a mechanical arm that can move in any direction. The chairs come with a microprocessor in which the manufacturer stores pre-programmed movements. In most products, the user has control over the intensity of the massage.

Water massage

The alternative to the purely mechanical massage is the use of water. The hydro-massage design allows the user to experience an exciting and relaxing massage using jets of water without getting wet.

The membrane in contact with your back is waterproof. It has several bars that serve to restrain the membrane. There are valves at the top of the membrane through which the membrane cushion fills with water. Other devices in hydro-massage chairs are nozzles typically connected to an electric pump, heating, as well as, a cooling system. The pump is responsible for re-circulating the water within the chair by pushing it through the nozzles to generate a massage feel.

Some premium hydro-massage chairs have a rotor within the nozzles that makes the water jet rotate. This rotating increases the area of impact in the user. Typically, you can get a tapping sensation similar to a mechanical massager.

Air massage

If the idea of a water massager is impressive, then air massager will blow you, literally. Air massagers are another kind that simulates the gripping and squeezing of a massage therapist to bring relief to your tense muscles.

Air massagers have multiple airbags with the main area of concentration being the arms and legs. The reason for this is because it is easier to isolate the extremities and the likelihood of injury to you as the user is minimal.

The massagers contain a small air compressor that fills the airbags. Some chairs incorporate a switch that makes it possible to inflate one set of airbags and leave others. A multiprocessor tells the device when it’s time to activate the airbags. Premium chairs allow you to control the intensity of the air massager so that you can have it as you prefer.

There are massagers with airbags on the backrest, as well as, on the seat. They create a tapping method by rapidly inflating and deflating the airbags When done at a slower rate, it simulates the kneading and rolling. However, these functions are a reserve of the mechanical part of the massager leaving the airbags to play a supplemental role.

remote control of massage chair

Using a remote control

Most massagers have a remote control through which you select the most appropriate massage. As a standard, most of these remote controls wire directly to the massager. There is usually no need for operating it remotely.

A microprocessor within the chair contains all the pre-programmed information for every pattern of the massage. When you use the remote to select a specific therapy, the microprocessor sends signals to various apparatuses that give you the massage. Even though the patterns are unchangeable, you can vary the intensity as you like it.

How often should you use a massage chair?

If you are experiencing chronic pain, then the first instinct is to stay as long as possible on the massage chair. However, that would be a bad idea. Don’t try it. You accrue the benefits of using a massage chair in small increments.

Spending longer times receiving a deep massage can cause tissue damage and muscle bruising. The recommended time that you should spend on a massage chair in a single session is 15 minutes. No matter the great feeling you are receiving, avoid the temptation of staying longer. Most models have a timer that tells how much time you are remaining.

If suffering from lower back pain, use the chair 3-4 in a week. The same applies for shoulder and neck pain. If using the chair for relaxation or stress relief, then 1-3 times is enough. However, should you feel your stress levels going up, then this should tell you to stop.

However, that does not mean you cannot use the massager as a standard chair. With the device in off mode, you can use the massager to sit and do such activities as reading a book or watching television. These chairs provide a perfect back support for any user.

how often should you use massage chair

Massage chair side effects

  • Soreness: Sourness around the body occurs if you have intensity therapies. You can sometimes choose extreme pressure massage with the objective of alleviating back pain in the shortest time possible. This can cause a feeling of sourness on the body part you received the deep tissue massage. The sourness should not go for more than two or three days. If it does, consult a doctor. Sourness indicates that the flexibility of your muscles has gone down. Avoid any pressure of any kind and reject the temptation to get back on the chair. This can further aggravate the situation, and osteoporosis may develop. You can also sprain or cramp your muscles.
  • Bruising: Bruising is also possible especially for first-time massage chair users. If you set your machine for a deep tissue massage and your body is the type that bruises easily, then you will definitely end up with an injury. If that kind of person, you will need to take blood-thinning medication. Alternatively, if you have an infection, fracture or wound, then avoid massaging the spot as it can get worse. 
  • Fractures: This quite possible if dealing with particular conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer. If living with conditions, your bones are weak and can fracture in the slightest pressure of the massage chair. Before you can start using the massage chair, make sure you consult a physician.
  • Low blood sugar: A massage therapy causes a huge drop in your blood sugar levels. If you are diabetes patient, you will need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels when on the massage chair. Should you notice or feel that something is off, then stop the massage and assess yourself.
  • Circulation issues: If you have an issue related to your circulation, then you will need to consult your physician before you can begin receiving a massage. This particularly so if you have previously had a deep vein thrombosis or a clot. A massage can make it worse. 

Are shiatsu massage chairs good for you?

The term shiatsu refers to a centuries-old Japanese art similar to the Chinese acupuncture in terms of principles. Shiatsu achieves the same effects without the use of needles. A therapist will use different parts of their body to deliver shiatsu. However, this is different with the chairs.

Shiatsu is a common type of massage that users get from massage chairs.  A massage chair offering this therapy utilizes rollers to mimic the hands of a masseuse. These small devices go deep into your muscles relieving you of muscle soreness and tension. This is good for people that exert a significant amount of physical effort throughout the day. If you fit into this category, then you need a shiatsu massage to relax and efficiently tone your muscles. The shiatsu massage will relieve your of all the day’s tiredness so that can sleep refreshed. You will get up the following day feeling energized and ready to face the challenge the day may bring.

Massage chair vs. real massage

There are significant differences between the massage chair and actual massage. Among them include the method of achieving the massage. It is common for the electric chairs to have the following features as standard: location controls to determine the exact place you want to get the massage, heat controls to choose the temperatures and intensity controls.  A masseuse uses various techniques including petrissage similar to kneading, effleurage, tapotement, and friction.

Another difference is the human touch. When the masseuse’s hands touch your body signals relay to the endocrine and nervous systems to produce stress-reducing hormones. No matter how much chair costs, it cannot completely mimic the feel of a human touch.

Getting a massage from a therapist is better as you can talk with them and explain the regions where there is tension, and you fail pain. The possibility of communication makes it easier for the masseuse to customize the therapy according to your needs. Unfortunately, this is not the same as a massage chair.

The only thing that massage chair does perfectly better than a masseuse is vibration. The therapist does not have all the time to dwell on one technique; they use several. In contrast, you can set the chair only to provide you with vibration.


Do massage chairs work?

You can now comfortably answer this question without problem.

And your simple answer should be yes. Despite a few shortcomings here and there, massage chairs work and is a source of a cheap, easily accessible therapy. You can get it right in the privacy and comfort of your home. However, you will have to know how to use the chairs safely as they are not similar to the services of a masseuse.

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One Response

  1. James September 13, 2018

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