Whether you’re buying a cheap massage chair or investing big money on one, picking out the right model is serious business. Akin to finding a romantic partner, making your choice can spell the difference between utter bliss or extreme disappointment (and money down the drain).
Here are some common sense tips to help you find that perfect mechanical soulmate.
#1: Identify your needs
People usually need a massage chair for two reasons — to relax or to relieve pain.
i. Massage Chair for Relaxation
If you are buying a massage chair for relaxation purposes, you can make do with most, if not all types and models. All massage chairs have settings and massage techniques aimed at relaxing different parts of your body.
For premium chairs, for example, the Inada Sogno Dreamwave and the Osaki OS-3D Cyber Pro both have Relax settings that will relax the socks out of you. The Inada has a light and soft touch that emulates Japanese shiatsu massage while the Osaki gives a firm massage that kneads and works out the kinks from your body.
On the other end of the spectrum is the cheaper but equally effective Human Touch iJoy-2580. This budget chair has only three 15-minute massages but it does a great job of relieving any aches and pains you may have incurred from a hard day at work.
ii. Massage Chair for Pain Management
It’s a different matter if you’re buying a massage chair for pain management. You will have to do your homework and track down specific massage chairs designed to relieve pain. Some models are excellent for alleviating lower back pain while other models are good for your neck and shoulders.
The Infinity IT-8500, for example, is one of my personal favorites. Sufferers of back pain, tendinitis, and neck and shoulder pain attest to how regular use of the IT-8500 alleviated even chronic pain. The Seat Sway feature decompresses the spine and aligns your back. The lumbar heat is also a welcome addition.
#2: Set a budget
Shopping online for a massage chair can lead to endless hours of browsing fun and daydreaming. However, keep your feet on the ground by knowing exactly how much you can spend. This will also help you narrow down your prospects and save time.
To make your search faster, we’ve listed the best massage chairs by price on our roundup of the best massage chairs at various price points.
#3: Allot space in your home
How big can massage chairs go? They can get so big that an assembled chair might not fit in your doorway. They can get so heavy that they can break your back if you attempt to lug one into your house alone, much less up the stairs. They can get so big they could do battle with Godzilla.
If space is tight in your home, especially in the room where you intend to place your massage chair, then size matters. If you have wide and open living spaces, then a massage chair’s size will not be a primary consideration for you.
For the former, the previously mentioned iJoy massage chair is a great choice. Compared to the usual 200+ pound models, the iJoy is a measly 88 pounds and has a compact design.
#4: Google is your friend
While going to retailers and looking over actual models is great, a lot of showrooms lack a variety of brands and models. To be able to search all possible options, it’s wise to make an online search via articles, image search, and YouTube videos.
Online research will help you find everything you need to know about chair massagers from how they work to showing you how to assemble one. If you read articles on the Top 10 Massage Chairs, you’ll ultimately find the best brand and model for you.
#5: Shortlist and do in-depth research
What are the important considerations that you should keep in mind as you do your research? Here are a handful of things that you can’t miss.
i. Company Profile
You can’t go wrong with reputable brands that have been in the market of selling massage chairs in the last 20 years or more. If you’re set on purchasing a specific massage chair already, make sure it comes from a reputable company.
If you’re buying online or visiting a trade show though, beware of no-name brands, especially those selling at unbelievably low prices. If it’s too good to be true, it usually IS too good to be true.
ii. Body Scanning
If you can afford to shop for a chair with body scanning, do your homework. A good massage chair has accurate body scanning that translates well to the best massage experience. Find out how the massage chair scanning on your chair actually works.
iii. Zero Gravity
How can a 200 pound chair have a zero gravity feature? Zero gravity refers to the recline position the chair can assume. When you sit on a zero-gravity massage chair, your feet go up and your weight is distributed all along your body. This position gives you the feeling of being virtually weightless. It also has the added bonus of relieving stress and relieving the spine.
In fact, zero gravity massage chair models, though costly, are an EXCELLENT investment for chronic pain sufferers. If you have the money to spend, invest on a zero gravity model. You’ll thank us, for sure.
iv. Height Range
If you’re on the tall side, around 6 feet and over, you’ll want to be careful when buying a massage chair. Some massage chairs claim to fit up to a certain height but customers often say otherwise. They report that the rollers don’t hit the exact spots they were intended for (like neck and shoulder areas) and are unable to sit comfortably on their chair massagers.
The Full Body Shiatsu Chair Recliner Bed BM EC69 has some issues but one thing that can be said about it is that height adjustment feature. Absent on even more expensive chairs, the BM EC69 lets you adjust shoulder height.
We’re pretty particular in our research on this topic and we try to mention if a chair is suitable for tall people or not in every review.
v. Length of Massage
Did you know that differing body types affect the recommended length of a massage session? Torso length, in particular, is one of the primary variables. Hence, it’s an extra bonus if the massage duration is customizable to your needs. The Authentic Beautyhealth Shiatsu, for example, has an extended massage duration for auto massage programs.
#6: Read the warranty fine-print
The warranty is so important that we’ve given it its own section. Buying a massage chair is no small thing and if it suddenly breaks down and dies, you’ll have a big lump of dead machinery in the middle of your living room.
Make sure that your massage chair comes with a really good warranty. Persevere and read the fine print closely as some policies are deliberately vague and dense to cover the fact that they cover little or nothing at all.
Some companies are better at providing after-sales support than others. Avoid companies with bad reps like the plague.
Ask difficult questions before a sale. How is the warranty supported? If you live very far from the main branch, who will come to you for repairs?
Note: Of all the massage chairs we’ve reviewed so far, the Full Body Shiatsu Chair Recliner Bed BM EC69 has had the worst feedback on warranty fulfillment and after-sales support.
The best brands of massage chairs are said to have THREE layers of warranty support. The first is from the Manufacturer. The second is from the Warranty Plan Administrator, a third party agent whose obligation is to fulfill the warranty requirements. The third is the Insurance Underwriter who will cover the cost of any servicing regardless if the company that you bought your massage chair from is bankrupt or unwilling.
Fly-by-night distributors will not have this type of warranty policies. Caveat emptor.
Note that we usually include links to Amazon – that’s because their customer support is unrivaled and if you buy through them it’s an extra layer of protection for you.
#7: Check out reviews
Reviews are not just written by bloggers who want fame and advertising revenue. A lot, like Amazon verified purchasers, are normal people who simply want to share their buying experience. They know that their experience might be of some use to another reader and so they take several minutes of their time to write online reviews.
When reading online reviews, choose from either reputable sources or people who have really experienced the product first-hand. Some even update their reviews after several years of use of the product and these are the most valuable of all. Be wary of reviews that seem overly effusive. If a product is rated at 4-stars by most customers and there is one incredibly positive review, it might have been paid for by the manufacturer. It’s normally easy to filter out those when you’re aware it sometimes happens.
Also, stay away from reviews on websites that only have glowing things to say of any product. Those websites are only intent on making a sale.
Author: Mary Lou
In the Before Times, Maru spent vacations traveling and making stops at showrooms to test the latest massage chair models. Nowadays, she’s hunkered down in her small sunlit home dotted with her ever-growing collection of fiddle fig trees, indoor plants, and Himalayan salt lamps. Find her at LinkedIn.