Our family have been looking for a massage chair for some time now. My mother not only has cancer of the spine but it has spread to her hip and if that wasn’t enough she has cervical spondilitis in her neck and shoulder too. As a family we thought we would club together and buy her a chair (they are not cheap!), in the hope that it would relieve some of the pain. When we came to look for a suitable one however, we found that there were all sorts of different options available.
A bit of history first. Massage chairs were were first available in the late 1980’s. They were developed to emulate the techniques and motions used by an real masseuse. The objective was to relieve stress and tension and to help improve back pain. The expense of producing the chairs, which had to be passed on to the customer, meant that they were usually beyond the reach of most people. Now, twenty years later and the cost of producing the chairs has gone down and more and more people are benefiting from the effects.
Massage chairs attempt to recreate two types of techniques – Shiatsu and Swedish massage. These two techniques are quite different. Shiatsu tends to use pressing, sweeping, patting and rotating movements. It focuses on releasing tension in specific areas of the body to restore blood circulation, muscle structure and benefit internal organs too. Swedish massage uses long gliding strokes and kneading motions and has the most effect on restoring the circulation and helping to allow muscles to relax too.
You will find a number of options available when purchasing a massage chair. At the luxury end of the market, the chairs have at least 2 rollers each in the back, legs and arms (some have 4). The chairs adjust to the size of the person sitting in the chair and automatically detect acupressure points that will be specifically worked on. These very expensive massage chairs actually memorise the shape of the person sitting in the chair and then develop programs of massage for specific areas of the body. It will memorise these programs so that they can be reproduced whenever that person sits in the chair again. The downside of these very expensive, leather covered chairs, is that they are HUGE and not for the normal sized room.
Other things to look out for –
Some chairs have air bags in the leg area: These are not beneficial unless there are motors to roll and knead the legs. All they do is squeeze the legs, just like when someone has their blood pressure taken.
It might have arm massagers, claws or air cuffs: Not only do these make the chair look bulky, there is no proof that they do anything other than squeeze the forearm!
Be careful because a massage chair isn’t necessarily going to be a benefit to you. Make sure that you read the article Massage Chairs – the Pros and Cons before making any decisions. You will find a link to it at the bottom of this article.
What did we chose in the end? We bought a simple chair that just had wooden arms and could recline electronically. The programmer was easy to read and use. In the upright position it also helped my mother to get out of the chair. That way she can relax completely, feet up, in the chair to maximise the benefits of the massage.