- 1 Modern Medical Massage Chairs
- 2 Do Massage Chairs Help Back Pain: The Benefits
- 3 Massage-Enhancing Features for Stress Relief
- 4 Are Massage Chairs Good For Your Back? Final Thoughts
The benefits of massage therapy are well-known and studied, but do those same benefits translate to massage chairs?
If you’re curious about whether massage chairs can help your back, you’re in the right place.
We’ve done the research and now we’re bringing you all the information you need to answer the question… are massage chairs good for your back?
Let’s get started!
Modern Medical Massage Chairs
Massage chairs have come a long way since their introduction in the 1950s. Today, many massage chairs are FDA-approved medical devices and are found in wellness clinics and medical offices across the globe. It’s also common to see massage chairs that are recognized by organizations like the World Federation of Chiropractic and American Chiropractic Association as being credible complements to chiropractic therapy.
But how are massage chairs good for your back? And what specific benefits can you expect?
Let’s take a look…
Do Massage Chairs Help Back Pain: The Benefits
Increases Circulation for Healthy Tissues and Muscle Recovery
Roller + Air Massage
Massage chairs use two main components to treat your body: rollers and airbags.
Rollers are the massage heads that move along the neck and back performing a variety of techniques such as shiatsu or kneading. Airbags, on the other hand, are positioned in areas the rollers can’t reach like the sides of the shoulders and arms; and inflate and deflate to compress the area.
The muscle manipulation by the rollers and airbags increases circulation in the areas treated. As circulation increases, so does the flow of nutrients and oxygen, which are vital to tissue health and repair. At the same time, toxins and stagnant fluids such as lactic acid are removed which speeds up muscle recovery and can boost the immune system.
Another way massage chairs increase circulation is through the use of heat therapy. You’ll often find chairs with heating pads for the shoulders or lower back and some even have heated rollers that warm the entire back such as the Panasonic EP-MA73.
Heat therapy increases circulation by dilating the blood vessels. It also acts as a natural pain reliever by sending signals to the brain to lessen the pain response for the area. Additionally, heat relaxes the muscles which soothes tension and spasms, while also allowing the rollers to penetrate deeper for a more effective massage.
To learn more about a massage chair with heated rollers, check out our full review of the Panasonic EP-MA73.
Releases Endorphins for Natural Pain Relief
Have you ever heard of the term “runner’s high?” This term refers to the heightened state runners experience thanks to their body’s release of endorphins during strenuous activity.
Massage chairs also trigger the release of endorphins. These “feel good” chemicals act as natural pain relievers and produce feelings of relaxation and well-being. And perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects of massage-induced endorphins is that they help to reduce the overall effects of stress and anxiety which are often the underlying cause of muscle tension, misalignment, and other common ailments.
Enhances Mobility and Flexibility for Increased Movement
When there’s pain in the body, the natural response is to avoid activating it and instead compensate by using other muscles. The problem with this is that eventually some muscles will overdevelop, some will weaken, and you’re left with a misalignment which can lead to even more issues down the road.
A massage chair addresses this tendency by loosening up the muscles to allow natural alignment to occur.
But what if you need more help introducing movement to a painful area?
Many massage chairs have advanced air massage techniques that do just that. One chair in particular, the Inada DreamWave, uses patented air technology called DreamWave to mobilize the lower back.
Here’s how it works…
Airbags in the seat inflate to gently lift the body. Then, the seat sways from side to side. This side-to-side motion gently introduces movement to the lower back and lumbar spine to increase flexibility, mobility, and circulation in the area.
To learn more about the Inada DreamWave massage chair, check out our full review.
Another way massage chairs help to increase flexibility is through stretching. Many massage chairs use a combination of air massage and roller massage to perform comprehensive stretches.
Here’s how it works…
Airbags next to the shoulders inflate to pin the upper body against the backrest while airbags in the ottoman inflate to hold the legs in place. Then, the chair reclines and inclines at varying degrees to pull and stretch the muscles. At the same time, the rollers massage the back to further increase the effectiveness of the stretch.
The stretch feature is common and massage chairs in all price ranges offer it.
To learn more about an affordable massage chair with stretching, check out our full review of the Kahuna LM6800 which performs a signature full-body Yoga stretch.
Reduces Pressure on the Spine for Better Alignment
Massage chairs also incorporate special recline technology that offers unique therapeutic benefits — some of which massage therapy alone can’t offer.
If you’ve spent much time researching massage chairs chances are you’ve seen the term Zero Gravity.
So what is it exactly?
Zero Gravity is a reclined chair position that angles the body such that its weight is shifted to and held by the backrest. In the Zero Gravity position, vertical pressure is removed from the spine, allowing the muscles and vertebrae to completely relax. At the same time, the legs are elevated above the heart to increase circulation in the lower extremities.
As the muscles around the spine relax, the vertebrae come into their natural alignment which can remove pressure from compressed nerves.
Some massage chairs incorporate other alignment-enhancing features such as inversion therapy, posture correction, and neck tractioning.
Have you ever seen those inversion tables that people strap into and flip to hang upside down?
The benefit they are trying to achieve is spinal decompression and tractioning, or the elongation of the spine to relieve pinched nerves and restore proper alignment of the vertebrae.
To learn more about inversion therapy, check out our full review on the Infinity IT 9800 massage chair.
This is similar to inversion therapy in that they are both used to align vertebrae. However, neck tractioning focuses specifically on the neck and pulls the head away from the shoulders rather than using gravity to “hang” into alignment.
A massage chair that features this technology is the Inada DreamWave which uses a patented Neck Tractioning Device to perform gentle traction as well as trigger point massage to the trapezius muscle.
For more general alignment issues, many massage chairs offer posture correction that uses a combination of airbags and roller massage to re-position the shoulders and spine into a proper, supported position.
To learn more about posture correction, check out our full review of the Infinity Iyashi massage chair.
Massage-Enhancing Features for Stress Relief
In addition to massage technology, many chairs offer massage-enhancing features. While these features don’t directly contribute to the quality of the massage, they do help create an overall experience.
Let’s take a closer look…
Rocking technology turns a massage chair into a robotic rocking chair. Rocking can be used during a massage program or on its own to help soothe the mind and body.
An example of a massage chair that incorporates this technology is the Inada YuMe.
The YuMe (You and me) is marketed directly toward new and expecting mothers because the rocking technology is a relaxing motion for both mother and baby. Plus, the Inada YuMe incorporates quite a few other pregnancy-aiding features like a special calf massage for swollen legs.
To learn more about a back massage chair while pregnant, check out the Inada YuMe.
Another massage-enhancing feature is a music system. Many of today’s massage chairs feature built-in speakers with MP3 ports or Bluetooth connectivity.
A feature rooted in alternative therapy is chromotherapy lighting. Chromotherapy is a form of color therapy that uses specific hues to stimulate healing in the mind and body. A massage chair with this feature typically has chromotherapy lights located on the sides of the chair that cast colors onto the walls in a dark room.
Negative Ion Generator
Have you ever wondered why you feel so good at the beach or around water? The answer may be negative ions.
Negative ions are molecules and atoms with an additional negative charge. They are created and found in nature, particularly around water — the beach, waterfalls, and after thunderstorms.
It’s believed that negative ions produce feelings of relaxation and well-being and also work as air purifiers pulling allergens and other pollutants from the air. The problem is that most modern environments — cities, offices, etc. — seriously lack negative ions.
Massage chair companies have responded to this problem with the introduction of negative ion generators built directly into their chairs. One such massage chair is the Apex Lotus. On the Apex Lotus, the negative ion generator sits next to the shoulders and blows fresh, clean ionized air toward you during your massage.
To learn about the Apex Lotus massage chair, check out our full review.
Are Massage Chairs Good For Your Back? Final Thoughts
Just as massage therapy can help increase circulation, mobility, and reduce pain, so can massage chairs. To unlock the benefits of a massage chair the key is to find one that’s truly therapeutic and offers a high-quality massage rather than one that’s geared toward the more recreational user.
Look for technologies like 3D massage rollers, full body air massage, techniques like shiatsu and kneading, and a variety of manual mode options that allow you to quickly and easily customize your own massage.
So, going back to the original question… are massage chairs good for your back?
The answer is yes.