Massage Chair Buying Guide

9 min read
Updated: 07.07.2022

If you’re searching the market for a good-quality massage chair, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before making your purchase.

These core topics are;

  • Purchase Reason,
  • Price Range, 
  • Type of Massage Offered, 
  • Technical Features and Functions,
  • Material Quality, 
  • Brand Recognition,
  • Warranty Period and Scope,
  • And User Friendliness.

In this massage chair buying guide, we’ll detail the above vital elements and their sub-sections.

Also, mention the difference between traditional and present massage chairs and some upbeat brands on the market. 

By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to make an educated buying decision for a massage chair.

Everything to Consider When Buying a Massage Chair

Massage chairs are essential products for modern homes. They’re stylish, convenient, and a perfect replacement for a massage therapist.

But giving our bodies to these futuristic devices shouldn’t be superficial. We should know our frame, aware of any health issues and budget constraints. 

Complete Checklist

Let’s dig in!

1. Purchase Reason 

The first thing you need to consider when buying a massage chair is your actual purpose. 

Why you need a massage chair is the question. 

“Are you looking for Durable Medical Equipment, or are you just an Aficionado?” 

So, you may have a medical problem such as persistent back pain or a pinched nerve on your neck.

In these cases, your primary goal is getting a medically effective massage chair. 

The good thing is if your purchase has a medical background, you may claim insurance refunds or partial paybacks

Otherwise, you are a hobbyist user and looking for a basic (less pricey but has fewer features) massage chair, which is also definitely acceptable.

2. Price Range

The massage chair market is big and offers products with a diverse price spectrum.

Like anything else, you’ll get what you pay for regarding quality and features. 

  • Low-end prices come down to $500 (not mentioning second-hand junk),
  • Average prices for decent quality are between $1k and $5k
  • High-end prices are from $5k to $11k,
  • And lastly, some outlier models can go up to $30k (it’s definitely a waste of money).

3. Type of Massage Offered 

So, you are sure of your budget and the primary goal of having a massage chair.

Next, you should look for the different massage techniques and styles that a massage chair can offer. 

Massage Options

These techniques are standard for almost every modern massage chair model, but still, it’s good to know that yours have them as well.

  • Finger Pressure
  • Kneading
  • Tapping
  • Knocking
  • Rolling

Massage Style

Now, you can see plenty of styles out there (actually more than 80), but the most common ones are;

  • Shiatsu
  • Swedish
  • Deep Tissue
  • Sports

Generally speaking, massage styles fall into two main style groups; Soft Tissue and Deep Tissue Massage

You have to understand the difference and choose an appropriate massage chair accordingly.

4. Technical Features and Functions

Electric massage chairs are high-tech devices that offer the end user numerous futuristic features.

Roller Lining

Rollers are small integral parts of the massage chair that imitate the hands of a masseuse.

S, L and Full Body Massage

Designers employ these rollers as small groups (that we call roller array) to give the users a real massage-like experience. 

Of course, everything started with single rollers in one part.

But they have evolved to Quad Rollers (current industry standard) and even Six Roller Groupings (in most advanced chairs). 

Roller Lining on Massage Chairs

The evolution is similar to razor blade technology. It started with single blades, and now we can see 5 or 6 blades razors on the market. 

Roller Tracking

Engineers design rollers by considering our center of gravity and skeletal system.

Therefore, the roller groups follow our spinal cord, hip structure, and legs. 

These following structure is the famous tracking system where you can see the names on every single massage chair. 

Basic models offer S tracking, which only has rollers through your spine (from neck to lower back).

Then L Track (or SL as a fancier name) is the more comprehensive tracking that adds extra rollers to your hips and calf.

And lastly, you can see some other supplementary rollers underneath and on the sides of your feet and lower legs in the most advanced models.

Massage Chair Under Foot Roller

Roller Mobility

Rollers can move up and down, left and right, back and forth, and circular.

More movement dimensions give you a more complete massage experience (of course, with additional cost).

  • 2d rollers can move only up-down and left-right,
  • 3d rollers can go further and give you back-forth and circular actions,
  • and 4d models come with manually operating roller groups. So, you can change the massage options, intensity, and roller movements individually. 

4d tracking is pricey but allows you to get a point or zone massage

These targeted massages can be beneficial if you have a problem or pain in specific areas.

Intensity Options and Adjustments

The intensity of the massage really matters. If you are looking for a relaxing 15 minutes massage, high-intensity forceful vibrations may disturb your peace.

This feature is similar to bicycle speeds.

More levels give more options, but home massage chairs typically offer 5 to 10 intensity grades.

Airbag Compression

Airbags are the secondary massage appliers strategically located on both sides of your neck, wings, lower back, arms, thighs, and calves.

Air Pressure Massage

Again, more airbags give you a complete massage experience. So, it’s better to have airbags covering all the above body parts.

Although not very common, you can also find water pressure massage chairs in the market.

These chairs are both more expensive and less recommended for home use.

Body Scanning – Pain Tracking

Body scanning has become a definitive feature for upgraded massage chair models (prices start from $1,500). 

The logic is simple, if your massage chair is able to scan your body and determine the problematic area, you can get a more targeted massage.

In the end, the pain tracking system allows you to heal these painful and damaged tissues, as well as pinched nerves.

Gravity – Usage or Elimination

Gravity is the necessary force for keeping our bone and muscle density on the limit.

However, the same gravitational force may cause compressing of the spine and chronic pain over time. 

Of course, there are some prerequisites to see the adverse effects of gravity, such as

  • sitting or standing for too long, 
  • being overweight, 
  • having a poor posture, 
  • encountering excessive pressure due to a crash or a fall.

If you have specific issues that Gravity making it worse, a massage chair offering Zero Gravity could be highly beneficial. 

These massage chairs position themselves to eliminate the effect of gravity (Zero-G Position), providing the user with a pressure-free massage.

Pressure Free Sitting Position

On the contrary, some other chairs use this natural pressure to treat the pain by rotating the direction of the gravity effect 180 degrees.

We call it the Inversion Massage.  

Heat Therapy

Heat increases the effectiveness of a massage session. Therefore, quality massage chairs come with the heat therapy feature. 

Heating options can focus on different body parts (again, depending on the model you choose). It can be,

  • Back
  • Calf
  • Lumbar
  • Foot
  • And a combination of the above

So, it is your duty to find the correct heating therapy targets.

Leg and Foot Extension

Regular massage chairs are designed for as we call standard body measures.

The height limit is between 5’0″ to 6’1″. 

If you are taller, you should look for an “Extendable Ottoman” feature, which is basically a leg extension. 

It raises the height limit to 6’5″ (which still could not be enough for you). 

More than that, unfortunately, you have to order a custom design massage chair.

Space Saving

Our homes have limited spaces, and massage chairs have large frames—classic products can save 4″ when folded. 

But models with space-saving technology can save up to 18″ to 24″. 

They also use the Hideaway Ottoman (or Collapsible Ottoman) feature, giving extra folding options for leg and foot extensions.

Chromotherapy

Chromotherapy means color therapy in its simple definition. The spectrum of colors is used for relaxation and mental health.

Some massage chairs offer this function as an extra feature.

It can be a facilitator for extra peace but not a necessity. 

Honestly, we don’t think you need to pay more for chromotherapy.

Air Ionization and Purification

When the air circulation is insufficient, the air quality around us, especially in an interior environment, can be low. 

In those cases, you can use an artificial air ionizer or purifier.

Some massage chairs come with this feature if you don’t want to buy another device just focusing on purification.

Again it can be good to have an air ionizer massage chair but not as vital as the other features.

Body Stretching

Massage chairs can move to stretch the body while massaging. 

Increase the blood circulation and flexibility

  • The airbags behind the upper body and lower legs inflate and deflate,
  • Head and body sections and leg/foot extensions give the body the curving and folding effects by making incline and recline movements,
  • Rollers are compressing the back at the same time.

Stretching promotes blood circulation and helps the body recover more quickly and efficiently.

5. Material Quality

Like every product, the material quality is important for massage chairs. 

  • For the outer cover, you should choose a durable exterior coating, not easily deformed and does not hold sweat and dirt.  
  • Quality genuine leather covers are quite tolerant, which helps to transfer the rollers’ pressure to your body,
  • Although you do not have much chance to choose the interior material (it is a very technical issue for average buyers), you should prefer quality steel and carbon alloys.

6. Brand Recognition

Branding gives you the clue for choosing a good-quality massage chair. The market has numerous brands, predominantly Japanese, Korean, American, and Chinese

The below list shows the most recognizable brands producing high-quality massage chairs.

Bodyfriend – South Korea

Family Inada – Japan

Fujiiryoki – Japan (market leader there) 

H-Solution – South Korea

Human Touch – California, US

Hutech Kai – South Korean

Inada – Japanese

Infinity – New Hampshire, US

Kahuna – Japanese

LG – South Korean

Luraco – Texas, US

Ogawa – Malaysia

Osaki – Texas, US

OSIM – Singapore and China

Panasonic – Japan

7. Warranty Extent

Brands offer warranties for two distinct topics, labor, and part replacements. You can expect

  • around 1 to 3 years of free labor 
  • and 2 to 5 years of free part replacement (typically not including the outer cover).

Beyond these time frames, you can extend your warranty duration by paying extra.

8. User Friendliness

Massage chairs are technological miracles, but the strength of the home tech devices comes from their ease of use. 

The key points and features that you should look for in terms of user-friendliness are;

Smart Control – Ios and Android Apps

Touchpad and Remote Control

Bluetooth and Wireless Compliance

Number of Pre-Set Massages

Saving Capacity for Manual Settings

The Transition from Therapist Massage to Home Massage Chairs

If you’re thinking about switching from traditional massage to a massage chair, you should keep a few things in mind. 

Here are a few tips for transitioning from traditional massage to a massage chair:

Schedule some time to try out different massage chairs

Not all massage chairs are created equal.

You’ll want to find one that fits your body type and provides the level of intensity that you’re looking for. 

Try out a few different options before making a decision.

Start with shorter massage sessions

When you first start using a massage chair, your body may not be ready for a high-intensity massage. 

Start with shorter sessions and work your way up to longer ones if you need.

Be sure to read the instructions. 

Massage chairs can be complicated, so it’s vital to read the instructions carefully before using one. 

Pre-study will help you get the most out of your massage chair and avoid potential injuries.

Listen to your body. 

If you start to feel pain or discomfort at any point during your massage, stop immediately and consult the instruction manual.

Conclusion

Massage chairs are useful electronic devices, bringing the professional massage experience to your home. 

Following the above tips will help you find the perfect massage chair for your needs. 

With some research, you’ll find a chair you love, providing you with years of relaxation and relief.

Now you understand what features you can see when searching massage chairs. Also, know which brands are better than the competitors. 

Before making the purchase decision, 

  • Prioritize the above features (price, purpose, functionality, warranty, brand, material) according to your needs and budget,
  • Check the definitions of the models and create a shortlist,
  • Read our guides to see our best massage chair shortlists,
  • Visualize your dream home design (including a pioneering massage chair),
  • Once you’ve made the shortlist, test the candidates if you have any chance, 
  • Otherwise, take some time to read online reviews of the massage chairs you’re considering,
  • And then, bring the most suitable massage chair and say hello to a pain-free life.

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