How Do Massage Chairs Work?

by Philip | Last Updated: October 21, 2017 When you buy something using the links on our posts, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

How do massage chairs work? What features should we look for?

If you’re in the market for a really good chair, these are just some of the questions that you may have. Here at Complete Home Spa, we’ve spent a lot of time with different massage chair brands and models so we can answer many of your questions. Let’s get started!

A Short History

Thanks to technology, we have wonderful innovations that make our lives easier. Going from A to B? You don’t need to ride a pony! Just hop in a car. Trying to mix thick batter for a birthday cake? Instead of trying to mix by hand, just use an electric mixer. Is your back aching after a long day at work? That’s right, just invest in a massage chair.

In 1948, Roland A. Labbe filed a patent application for the very first massage chair. Compared to today’s sleek, ergonomic designs, his prototype actually looked kind of intimidating. More like a medieval torture device.

roland labbe massage chair patent

As strange as it may have looked, it was one of the first developments in the history of the esteemed massage chair. Over time, more and more improvements were made, and massage chairs become more comfy and cozy.

How It Works

So, how does a massage chair actually work? Here’s the deal: A device inside the chair mimics the actions of a human masseuse.

These actions differ. Some chairs just vibrate while others have more complex machinery, like rollers. These rollers rotate in place and move up and down, mimicking a masseuse’s thumbs as they soothe your aching muscles. Still other designs use water to massage away tension. Some even use airbags which expand and deflate, squeezing muscles and promoting healthy blood circulation.

massage chairs relaxation

Via ellohdesign

The best massage chairs combine these techniques, and work with a combination of vibrating mechanisms, gears, motors, and rollers to perform all of their functions. Think about how your phone vibrates whenever you receive a notification – that’s like a mini version of what can be found on massage chairs.

Roller tracks

What makes a massage chair feel like a real massage? Usually, it’s the rollers. Different massage chairs have differently-designed rollers that move in a specific pattern. Rollers for the back muscles will usually move up and down, rotating to mimic human hands.

S-Track vs. L-Track - The Massage Chair Dictionary
Some complex chairs can have lots of rollers which move not only vertically, but horizontally as well. And they might even be able to move in circles. The chair “remembers” how to move because the massage patterns are recorded and programmed into a microprocessor, which you can then control with a remote control. With the remote, you’ll be able to increase or decrease intensity, and switch between different massage modes.

Massage Modes

Here are some of the massage modes that are available on a massage chair:

Kneading: rollers move in a circular direction
Rolling: the rollers move up and down the backrest
Tapping: the rollers alternate, pushing in and out to simulate a “karate chop” technique
Gripping: devices “grip” your legs and arms in a squeezing motion
Shiatsu: the rollers press against certain points to relieve tension

Some (awesome) massage chairs have heated rollers, which provide an extra layer of comfort. Heated rollers are especially helpful for people with strenuous jobs who have to stand for long periods of time. Have you ever felt absolutely exhausted after coming home or after a long day of watching the children? Heated rollers are even better at mimicking real masseuses because they feel warm and stimulate your muscles.

They also feel amazing during the cold weather seasons.

massage chairs works

Via healthbestreviews

In the United States, massage chairs are still seen as a luxury item. However, if you regularly get massages, investing in a high-quality massage chair is a great idea. After all, what’s not to love about coming home and resting for half an hour in a comfy massage chair before getting ready for dinner? Instead of spending thousands of dollars per year on massages, purchasing a massage chair would probably be more wallet-friendly in the long run.

Author: Philip Andrew

A writer and teacher who enjoys lazing around and building winter nests out of duvets. “Most are too itchy. You’ve got to be picky.” His goal is to create a complete home spa for 24/7 access to rest and relaxation. Next on the agenda: a barrel sauna for the garden. Connect with Philip on Twitter @completehomespa.