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8 Tips On Choosing The Best Massage Chair

8 Tips On Choosing The Best Massage Chair

So you have decided to buy a massage chair. Are you overwhelmed by the array of choices available in front of you? What should you look at first? Is it true that the more expensive a chair is, the better it will be?

There may be a million of questions running through your head but buying a massage chair isn't as daunting as you may think. It is a rather big piece of investment, yes, but if you follow our 10 tips below, you will be able to find the right chair that suits you best.

And no, it doesn't have to be the most expensive chair to be the best massage chair. 


1. Identify Your Needs

There are generally two types of purpose people look for a massage chair - for relaxation, or for pain relief. 

Massage Chair for Relaxation

If you do not have any major issues and are just looking for some form of relaxation and luxury indulgence at the comfort of your own home, you can probably make do with most, if not all types of massage chairs.

massage chair relaxation

This is because most massage chairs offer relaxation to some extent, so you may not need too premium a massage chair to give you that.

Getting a high end massage chair may in this case, be quite the waste because chances are you wouldn't be using most of the features anyway. 

The Real Relax Favor-03 Plus is a good choice to consider if your budget is no more than $1,000. It has all the basics a massage chair should have, even with zero gravity functions that are known to give the ultimate form of relaxation.

Massage Chair for Pain Relief 

massage chair lower back pain

On the other hand, if you suffer from any body pain or aches i.e. the very common back aches, lower back pain, stiff neck and shoulders etc., then you may have to do a bit more homework to track down specific massage chairs that are designed to relieve pain. 

There are chairs that focuses on back issues, then there are those that do a very good job in alleviating neck and shoulder pain. If you have lower back problems, you may want to choose a chair that has an SL track instead of S track

In any case, you should go for roller-based massage chairs instead of vibration chairs because the latter do not do much from a massage therapy perspective. 

A combination of roller and airbag massage will be ideal if you suffer from chronic pain issues but these generally lean towards the pricier side. The Kahuna SM7300 and Medical Breakthrough 6 are two good examples that do an excellent job in pain relief. 

So yes, the first thing you should be doing is ask yourself:

What am I looking for? What are the results or benefits that I am expecting?


2. Features

This, in many ways, echo to the above. Once you have identified your needs - be it you are looking for a quick fix or a long term solution - you can then look for features that target those needs. 

Start from finding out what type is the massage chair. By that we mean whether it is vibration, airbag or roller-based. For the latter, you may want to delve further if it is 2D, 3D or 4D. Whilst kneading, rolling, shiatsu, tapping, swedish are common techniques usually offered, not every massage chair has them all so do go and find out. 

Then consider if you need any of the following 'additional' functions:

Body Scan 

If there will be multiple family members using the chair, it is worthy to go for one that is equipped with what's called a "computerized body scan" feature. 

massage chair body scanning

This is because with one, the chair is able to tailor its massage according to each person's body size so that everyone can enjoy its optimum benefit. 

You see, some may say that a particular chair is excellent because it hits at all the right spots, but a different person may say otherwise (that their neck wasn't touched at all, or the pressure is mild at some parts).

This is because they are of different heights - the former being rightly suited for what the chair is designed for whilst the latter may be too tall (or short) for the chair. 

By scanning an individual's body shape, the chair is able to detect where the key areas of neck and back are so as to be able to massage the right spots.

Zero Gravity

For those that are chronic pain sufferers, we advise going for a zero gravity massage chair. Though costly by comparison, they do an EXCELLENT job in relieving pain and stress (click here to find out more about zero gravity).

zero gravity massage chair

If you can afford it, definitely choose one with zero gravity functions. It will be the best investment you can make for your health and overall wellbeing. 

Recline

Speaking of which, do not naturally assume that all massage chairs reclines - there are plenty that do not offer such option at all especially those from the lower price range.

Also, just because a chair is able to recline does not necessarily make it a zero gravity chair - there is a clear distinction between the two. 

A massage recliner chair is generally more comfortable than one that does not, but do check how far back it can go and do not forget minor details like whether it is automatic mechanism or manual operated.

Memory Settings

Again, if there will be more than one user, it is worthy to get a chair with memory setting. This way, the chair will be able to remember each person's setting and program preference, so you don't need to re-set your massage sequence every time. 

Heat

massage chair heat therapy

Heat is one selling point for many chairs and it is usually offered at the lumbar region but some have it at the back and seat as well. 

We wouldn't say it is a MUST-HAVE feature but it does provide extra comfort and soothe when combined with a massage. 

If you have poor circulation, you may want to consider having it.

Foot Massage

Don't forget to check if the chair offers foot and calf massage. 

Massage in this area is usually done in a compression form so if a chair isn't equipped with airbags, chances are they don't offer massage at the leg region.

extendable footrest gif

They may have rollers located under the feet area though, so look out for that. 

And while you're at it, you may want to consider getting one that has an extendable footrest, so that again, everyone in the family can fit comfortably in it. 

Do not forget to look at the weight and height limit of a chair to see if it suits you.


3. Measure Your Space 

This is something many fail to consider but confirming whether you have the floor space for a massage chair should be amongst your first few priorities. After all, a massage chair is not exactly ... small. 

Especially if you are going for the full body type - these are usually in the traditional design, the bulky ones as many would normally associate with when it comes to home massage chairs.

zero gravity wall gif

Or if you are eyeing at a zero gravity massage chair, the more you should do your measurements first because these chairs will require a certain distance away from the wall for it to be able to recline to its zero gravity position.

The Kahuna 3D Hubot HM-078 is excellent with its space-saving design, or for a cheaper alternative, this one here is also a good choice. 

Thanks to modern technology, there are more and more choices available in the market that are both compact in size and function well.

If you live in an apartment, or you simply do not like to have a big bulky massage chair, options like this and this will be ideal for a home with limited space.

So yes, measure your space first. Especially so if you buy your massage chair online because the return shipping fee is expensive, and usually not included, if you find that your house does not fit.


4. Budget

And then, we move to the issue of budget. Contrary to many's belief, this should not be your first priority because without considering the above, you may be paying for something you don't even need.

dollar gif

Having said that, you should set aside a budget for your massage chair so as not to get carried away.

Contrary to many's belief, a massage chair does not always have to cost an arm or a leg. There are many affordable options around as well and they do not necessary compromise on their functionality or quality.

To help you out, we have put together a list of best massage chairs according to their price points here so that you don't have to do the hard work yourself.

The most expensive massage chair may not be the best massage chair for you; the more features (and advanced) a massage chair has, the more expensive it is, though.


5. Warranties Period

This is something often neglected by many but if we are to let you in on one industry's secret, it is that the warranty duration period is actually very telling of a product's quality.

massage chair warranty

Although not exactly conclusive, the longer a warranty period is offered, the better quality a product is is something you can safely presume. 

Likewise for a massage chair. For a purchase like this that is by no means cheap, you would expect, and want to, for it to last a very long time.

Some of the best massage chairs come with the longest warranties (we're talking at least 5 years here) and this is the type you should be looking for.

The longer a warranty period is offered, the more reliable and durable a massage recliner is because it shows that the manufacturer is confident enough with its product.

So compare different brand warranties, and make sure the one you get has at least a few good years offered.  


6. Customer Service 

Similar to the above, a brand's customer service tells of its product quality. 

You'd want to look for one that is fast and responsive because even though we do not wish it on you, there can be instances where some sort of faults are found with your massage chair. You will want to be able to get help in the fastest way possible, so a good customer service frontline is important. 

customer service

You can check so by contacting a chair's customer service and see how fast they respond to you. While you are at it, do find out what their after sale service is and if they have a service centre at your area.

It would be even better if they offer in-house service because that, will save you so much trouble. 

A brand's customer service quality reflects that of its product. 


7. Do Your Research 

As with anything else, you should always do your research first before pulling the trigger. 

research

Online research will help you find everything you need to know about massage chairs. This includes showcasing how one works and how to put it together. Don't forget to read the reviews - they are often a good source to find useful information.

Ask around friends and family members who have had the experience of buying a massage chair. You never know, they may just be able to give you some valuable insights and brand recommendations. It certainly is a good point to start from in this whole journey. 

Google is your best friend.


8. Try It Personally

Last but not least, if you can, pay a visit to the physical store to personally test out the massage chair you have your eye on. 

Sit in it and see how it feels for you. Is the pressure too much, or it is too mild an intensity? Does it fit your height? 

If in-store testing is not an option, there are actually many online retailers that offer a 30-day trial period nowadays. You can have the massage chair delivered to your home to try out first and if it doesn't suit, you can always return it. 

Make sure it is the model you are keen to purchase if everything goes well, otherwise, shipping one that you have no intention to buy at all will cost you quite a bit, given most retailers do not cover shipping fees (even though full refund of the product will be provided).


Summing Up

modern massage chair

So there you have it - the top 8 most important criteria to look at when purchasing your massage chair. 

By following this guide step by step, you will have so much more clarity in knowing what to find and what to ask and best of all, it is to know that you can still get the best massage chair, one that suits your needs and lifestyle without necessarily having to buy the most expensive massage chair. 

So we wish you all the luck in finding your dream massage chair and if there is anything you are unsure of, do drop us a message and we'll try our best to answer you. 



OTHER MASSAGE CHAIR TIPS & GUIDES


How Massage Chairs Work – A Detailed Guide

How Massage Chairs Work

Have you ever wondered how massage chairs work?

Even if you may not be interested in the mechanics behind it, it is worthy to know the following: Vibration, Airbag and Roller technology.

Why so? This is because they are the three ways a massage chair can give a massage. What you get determines what type (and quality) of massage you will eventually be getting from your massage chair.


Vibration

First and foremost, we have vibration massage therapy. 

Vibration is a shaking motion, therefore vibration massage therapy involves the pressing and releasing of body tissues in an upward and downward / backward and forward movement to help muscles contract and relax.

vibration massage

*white circles indicating where vibration happens

The concept behind vibration in massage chairs is actually pretty straightforward. 

A motor that generates these vibrations is installed and it delivers them to different areas of the body which commonly, is the neck, back and shoulders region.

Such trembling movements cause fine trembling and create a tingling sensation and the continuous movement help relieve tension in the muscles.

Depending on the speed and amount of pressure applied, vibration massage can be effective in soothing or stimulating the body.  

One of the most basic massage technique in use for many years, vibration is usually found in massage chairs with a lower price tag (think office chair massage pad, massage office chair etc.).

Whilst they are designed to relieve muscle soreness and not for serious injuries or intense pain, vibration massage generally does help in:

  • soothing irritated nerves
  • loosening scar tissues
  • stimulating blood circulation
  • stimulating glandular activity
  • relaxing muscles

You may be able to find some vibrating massage chairs to have a few more massage techniques like tapping in the lumbar region (a high tension area) but they may be higher priced.

Still, most are massage chairs under $500, easily making them the most affordable option to many.  


Airbag

If you have been to a massage parlour before, you would have experienced how a massage therapist grips and squeezes your muscles firmly for a few seconds before releasing them.

What this does is that such motions help relieve tension in these tight muscles, prompting them to relax.

On the same note, airbags are incorporated into massage chairs to achieve this same purpose. But first, let’s look at how airbags inside a massage chair look like:

airbags

While the arms, calves and feet are the most common areas for airbags placement, some feature-rich massage chairs have them located throughout the chair to work on various parts of the body as well. This includes:

airbag massage system
  • Head and Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Trapezius
  • Waist
  • Glutes
  • Thighs

Some massage chairs have multiple airbags in one particular area while others may only have one.

This is why you often see questions of number of airbags being asked, or it becoming a selling point of a massage chair. The more airbags a chair has, the better it seems. 

Nevertheless, some massage chairs allow you to individually inflate one set of airbags without affecting the others while other models let you adjust the intensity of the air massage. It all depends on the model you are getting.

how airbags massage chair work

How airbags massage work is that they serve primarily to compress specific parts of the body. 

They squeeze, compress, knead, roll and some even swing.

A small air compressor is connected to the airbags through a series of pipes/tubes and this is what inflates the airbags.

The fuller an airbag is inflated, the firmer and more intense a squeeze it provides.

When compressing, the airbags work in a wave-like motion to loosen up any muscle tension or push the muscles deeper into the rollers for a deep tissue massage.

When they knead, they mimic the motion of human hands with the goal of relieving muscle tension and promoting circulation to enhance the effects of the overall massage.

airbags foot masage

Regardless, you can see why the biggest draw of this feature lies in the foot and calf region because more often than not, this is where most people experience circulation problems.

Just like how compression hosiery/socks work, air massage work similarly to give you the relief after a long day on the feet. 

Likewise, they actively relieve circulation issues on other regions of the body for where they have it.

For the higher end massage chairs, the speed of inflating and deflating can actually simulate different massage techniques – the more rapid they do, the more it resembles the tapping method of massage. On the flip side, inflating the bags at a slower rate simulates rolling or kneading.

Having said that, airbags are still mostly a supplemental massage device – to provide most of these massage techniques/features, massage chairs have to rely on mechanical means and this bring us to our next point.


Roller   

Before anything, here’s how rollers in a massage chair generally look like:

massage chair rollers
roller

All full body massage chairs have a roller system and whilst different chairs have different roller designs, they usually do not vary too far from the above.

Installed behind the chair’s lining, these rollers run along what’s called a “track system” to provide massages to the user.

massage track

Depending on the track design, you can get massages from the head all the way down to the pelvic and glutes section.

At the very least, most rollers should be able to reach your lumbar region.

What rollers do is that they mimic the hands of a massage therapist to work over the muscles in a series of massage techniques.

rollers imitating massage hands

Depending on what your massage chair offers, this can range from swedish, shiatsu, kneading, tapping, kneading and tapping combination and the likes to relieve pain, tension and stress.

Technically, you can expect the more expensive a chair is, the more massage techniques that it is able to provide. 

If we are to delve deeper into the roller category, there is actually a 2D, 3D and 4D distinction. 

2D Massage 

This is actually what most (if not all) massage chairs are until not too long ago, around 2015, when massage chair technology underwent a dramatic overhaul with the introduction of 3D and 4D massage roller mechanisms. 

2d massage rollers

A 2D mechanism, in this case, refers to the two dimensional rolling direction.

As pictured left, the rollers go UP and DOWN, and LEFT to RIGHT along the massage track.

The most basic type of massage, it gives mild to moderate level of relaxation and you can usually customize the speed you want.

Recommended for: people with smaller budgets; people looking for basic massage

ExamplesReal Relax Favor-03 Plus, Kahuna LM6800

3D Massage

In 3D massage chairs, an additional dimension is added whereby besides rolling up and down, left to right, the rollers are able to go IN and OUT.

3d massage chair mechanism

What this means is that the rollers can either protrude to push into a user’s body for a deeper massage, or retract for a less intense sensation for that extra dimension.

This, gives a true Deep Tissue Massage.

Aside from speed, you can also control the depth of the massage by adjusting the range of the rollers which for some, can go as much as 5 inches.

Recommended for: people looking for deep tissue massage;  bigger budgets

Examples: Infinity IT-8500 X3, Medical Breakthrough 6 v4, Luraco i7 Plus iRobotics, Kahuna Hubot HM-078

4D Massage

The latest technology, 4D massage is the addition of yet another dimension to the previous 3D models - time.

No, nothing fancy like time travel or whatnot but instead, you can control the speed AND intensity of the roller DURING the massage strokes. And by that, we don't mean speed control like how you choose between different levels in 2D models. 

Rather, it means that the speed, in that one motion stroke, can be adjusted differently - faster as it moves up the back and then slowing down at the end of the stroke.

4d massage

Picture this: when you go to a massage therapist and there is a painful knot found, s/he will massage it away by going up and down and circling around that knot, alternating between fast and slow motions with their thumbs.

The 4D rollers are able to mimic just that.

By rolling in a circular motion WHILE adjusting the speed of rotation simultaneously around a knot, this is the most human-like massage experience any massage chair can give. 

What you get is deep tissue, reflexology, sports massage effect - the ultimate relaxation and relief with this intuitive stroke control.

Recommended for: people with chronic pain problems; seeking for latest technology

ExamplesOsaki OS-Pro Soho 4DSynca Wellness Kagra


Summing Up

Ultimately, what type of massage chair you eventually go for depends on what your situation and requirements are. 

how massage chair works

If there is no particular issue and you simply want a basic massage chair without spending too much money, then a vibration or airbag only massage chair may suffice. Do note that the former is not quite as effective, though it is the most affordable. 

On the other hand, if there are particular ailments or chronic pain issues that you wish to seek some form of relief off from your massage chair, then going for a roller-based massage chair is the way to go. Of that, you may decide to go with 2D, 3D or even 4D, depending on your budget. 

Most roller-based massage chairs are equipped with airbag system as well so if budget allows, getting a combination of both is usually better. 

There are actually a bunch of other essential elements to look at when choosing a massage chair. Amongst them, some important questions to consider include:

  • Does it have zero gravity?
  • Does it have roller foot massage?
  • Does it come with S or L track?
  • Does it have body scan?

There are more - if you are interested, you may check out our guide here. Also, if you want to save time on your research, this list here may be of immense help to you too. 



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L-Track vs. S-Track – Difference & Comparison

S Track vs L Track

So, you have decided to get a massage chair. For an investment like this, you would want to make a conscious and informed decision. After all, a massage chair is not exactly… cheap.

You start to do your research – you go through websites, read reviews and even visited physical stores to speak to the sales assistant. Amongst the many items that were being mentioned, the one term that often come up (besides the specs of the chair) is the ‘Track System”.

For someone with 0 knowledge about massage chairs, this can get quite confusing. What exactly is this “Track system”? And what is all this S and L thing that keeps being mentioned?

Today, we are going to help clarify all these because they do play an important role in helping you decide which massage chair model you ultimately go for.

This way, you can ensure that the chair you’re getting is the “best massage chair” that suits your needs and requirements without spending on unnecessary items.

Let’s get into it.


What is a "Roller Track System"

You know how when you sit in a massage chair and you feel these rollers knocking and tapping at your back?

Regardless of what type of massage technique your chair offers, the principle is the same as long as they are roller-based massage chairs.

For these rollers to roll accordingly, they need a track to sit upon on. Like this:

massage track

Just like a train needing a railway track, rollers need a track to roll on, too.

The above analogy should help you understand better. Train tracks are there to keep a train in the right direction, likewise in the case of a massage chair. Without a track, how else can a roller stay 'on track' (pun intended)? They will go all over the place, running haywire. 

So yes, the track is actually a mechanism inside a massage chair for where the rollers stand to function. 

It starts from the head and goes all the way down and where it stops, is actually where the distinction between S and L track comes from. 


S Track System

The philosophy behind is actually pretty straightforward - it takes after the name.

The S Track System employs the sinusoidal shape of the human being's spine which yep, coincides with the letter "S" shape. 

s track system

Following the natural spine curvature, you can see from the picture above that the track curves in at the lumbar area and more towards the neck. 

The rollers thus move up and down this track to massage the subject. 

s track rollers

Compared this to straight roller tracks that were once used in old massage chairs, the rollers in this case move forward to work the neck, retract to work the middle back and tailbone area before going back forward to work on the lower back.

Basically, in accordance to the spine's shape. 

Instead of just going up and down a straight track where there will be areas that feel left out or missing and wanting a massage still, the S track will be able to reach each and every part. 

Ranging from 28 to 31 inches long on average, most S Tracks stop right above the lumbar region. 

This is the most common type of track, and one that you can see in almost every roller-based massage chairs nowadays.


L Track System

On the same note, the L Track system takes on the "L" shape. 

One can say that it is a newer form of technology compared to the S track, but in actual fact, it is an evolution from, or an extended version of the S track roller system.

The L track takes on the natural S shape of the human spine but it doesn't stop at the lumbar region. Instead, it elongates further down to reach the seat's surface. Like such:

l track roller

See the horizontal line? That is the extension from the "S" thus forming what's resembling the letter "L". 

A L track is therefore longer than an S track, incidentally, it means that more body parts can be reached to get the same massage sensation.

l track roller

With this extension, rollers are able to get to the lower back, glutes, piriformis and for the even longer tracks, even the hamstrings area can be reached.

This is why an L track massage chair is often deemed the best massage chair for lower back pain - because it is able to massage these areas, as simple as that!

With an L Track system, one can truly achieve a full body massage - from head to buttocks.


SL Track System

Eh, I thought there's just the S and L - where on earth does this SL track comes from?

We swear, we aren't trying to confuse you further.

But indeed, you may also have came across the term SL track a lot in your research. Using the same formula, you are correct to derive that the SL track is a combination of both S and L track systems.

SL track system

But didn't you just mentioned that the L track system is actually an extended version of the S track, which essentially mean that the L track is therefore, the SL track system?

Yes, most of the time. But no, that's not necessary always the case. 

You see, not all L track is built with the curvaceous shape at the top. Some actually take on the L shape literally – that is the old-fashioned straight track without any curvature.

Although it is more of the exception than the rule now, they still do exist. You certainly do not want to be getting those as they do not do much good in the massage therapy perspective. 

This is because as we mentioned earlier, there will be areas that do not get the massage. Just to make contact, you will have to smash your spine back to the chair and we couldn't imagine that being very comfortable.

Of course, most L track systems are essentially the SL track system nowadays  - you can even say that the term "SL" is a gimmick used to pull in the crowd only but it is one way to be 100% sure that the chair you are getting is indeed one that has both the S and L functions. 

After all, a L track massage chair is generally pricier than a S track model - you'd want to make sure you are not paying the price of it for an old straight track system.


So, Which One Is Better?

Perhaps what most people are only interested in is the question of which one, among the two, is better?

This is explored on the basis that the L track is the extension of the S track = SL track system.

S track vs L track comparison

In this regard, we do have a clear winner here –  it is, hands down, the L track system, merely because of its bigger coverage.

l track massage roller

If you suffer from sciatica issues, sore butt muscles or any other conditions affecting the lower parts of your body, the extended part of the L track system will be able to cover these areas and provide them relief.

Of course, at the end of the day, it depends on where you carry most of the tension in your body.

If you are prone to sitting for long periods of time, it makes sense to get the L track rollers because these are the best chair for lower back and hip pain that massage the glutes. 

s track roller

The sales assistant at the store may even tell you not to be bothered by S track frames, but if your only problems lie in the neck and back region, an S –track massage chair may actually suffice in doing the trick.

Generally, a S track massage chair is cheaper but there are actually more and more affordable choices available nowadays for L / SL track massage chairs.

For instance, this Best Massage model cost you less than $500 and it is equipped with a SL track system. If you have a little more to spend, this one here with more sophisticated massage features and a SL track system is also a massage chair under $1,000 only.

So at the end of the day, it is important to first identify where your problematic areas are. Only then will you know what features to look for in a massage chair and in this case, which massage track you should go for.

The S and L track is not the only thing you should be paying attention to, though. Here's a list of all the most important things to take note of when purchasing a massage chair - trust us, it will give you so much perspective and clarity on what makes for the best massage chair for an individual. 



OTHER TIPS & GUIDES


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