Massage chair with blue upholstery

How to Choose a Good Massage Chair Guide 2021

In Massage Chairs by Consumer FilesLeave a CommentLast Updated: July 22nd, 2021

Hunting for an ergonomic recliner can quickly turn into a headache. With all of the technical jargon, loads of features, and high prices, how can you know which chair is best for your needs?

We can help you figure out how to choose a good massage chair by going over the costs and breaking down the core features. Once you set your budget, simply choose the features that best suit your needs. Let’s get started!

Massage Chair Buying Guide

Massage has been around for centuries, with specialized techniques proven to relieve stress, pain, and anxiety. But while going to a chiropractor or licensed masseuse offers the most benefits, it can be time-consuming and expensive.

Massage chairs offer connoisseurs supreme relaxation and therapeutic benefits in the comfort of home.

Black Ootori massage chair

These complex recliners feature incredible innovative technological designs that mimic the feel of human hands using multiple massage techniques from head to toe.

Learning how to choose a good massage chair is where things get tricky, though. These chairs are massive and take up quite a bit of space. Do you have enough room for a 200 pounds chair?

It’s also an expensive investment that you don’t want to take lightly. The massage chair market runs anywhere between $1500 to $12000. There is a chair that costs as much as a used car!

Plus, there are so many different features on the market. It can be confusing trying to understand the purpose of each one and whether it’s ideal for your needs.

Don’t worry; we make it easy for you!

Things to Know Before Buying A Massage Chair

Before jumping off the deep end, you’ll want to ask yourself these two questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want a massage chair for therapeutic benefits or relaxation?

If you’re after a relaxing session after a stressful day at work, and you don’t suffer from chronic back or foot pain, then a low to mid-range recliner might be all you need.

If you suffer from neck, back, leg, or foot pain that has you booking chiropractor appointments every other week, then it might be a worthwhile investment to look at the mid-range to high-range chairs. Though expensive, you’ll make back the money over time by forgoing all those trips to the chiropractor.

If you’re a tall or large body type, always read the specifications carefully. Numerous massage chairs on the market are built for average height or a weight capacity under 260 pounds.

It’s rare to find a brand that caters to the tall/big crowd- although they are out there!

We’ll go over the core features and popular massage programs found in the quintessential massage chair in the next section. You can compare the price ranges and features in the table below to get a better idea.

Massage Chair Price and Feature Comparison Table

Market ComparisonLow Range: Under $1500Mid Range: $1500- $6500High Range: $6500+
Massage TrackFixed frame, S-trackS-track, L-track, S+L hybridS-track, L-track, S+L hybrid
Roller SystemMassage balls, dual rollersQuad rollers, tri rollersQuad rollers, tri-rollers, six roller
Zero Gravity None or 1 position1-3 positions2-3 positions
HeatingNo heat or lumbar, onlyLumbar only, lumbar and footwellsLumbar, Lumbar and footwells, full body
Body ScanNone or ManualManual & 3D scanManual & 3D scan
Body Stretch
Airbag Massage
Foot+Calf
Space Saving
Bluetooth
Chromotherapy

Massage Chair Features Overview

Every massage chair will try to entice you with shiny luxury features, but there are a handful of core features that you need to pay close attention to for the sake of quality and reliability.

We’ll break down each core feature to help you get an idea on how to choose the best massage chair. These features include:

  • Massage Track+Roller System
  • Zero Gravity Seating
  • Heating
  • Massage Programs
  • Space Saving Technology
  • Airbag Massage Technology
  • Foot+Calf Massage Technology
  • Height+Weight Capacity

Massage Track+Roller System

The massage track and roller system is the beating heart of any massage chair. This is the technology that massages the muscles along your spine, administering various techniques at the push of a button.

There are 4 main types of massage tracks:

Brown and white massage chair
  • Fixed Frame: Older technology that has fixated rollers at certain points along a steel track from the neck to the lower back.
  • S-Track: This is industry-standard for most reputable chairs. The track follows the natural curve of the spine from the neck to the lower back, with quad rollers that move along the track.
  • L-Track: This track runs along the spine from the neck to the lower back and extends underneath the seat to cover the glutes and thighs. Quad rollers move along the track.
  • S+L Hybrid: Cutting edge, this track combines the S-track curve with the extended seat of the L-track. Quad rollers move along the track.

Massage Rollers

Roller systems are just as varied and may consist of massage balls, dual rollers, quad rollers, tri rollers, or the state-of-the-art six roller arrangement.

Massage balls and dual rollers are older technology found in low-range chairs. These rollers can be fixed in place along the track or move vertically along the massage track.

Many recliners on the market now have 3D or 4D quad rollers, which move vertically, horizontally, and in/out along the track to simulate the feel of human hands.

Quad rollers offer the most therapeutic benefits because they are capable of administering a deep tissue massage. This is what you’ll find on most mid-range to high-range chairs.

Zero Gravity Seating

Nowadays, it is hard to find a quality massage chair that doesn’t offer this feature. Zero Gravity Seating is popular amongst hobbyists for its health benefits and pain relief.

Zero Gravity Seating is a concept inspired by NASA that induces a feeling of weightlessness. This is achieved by reclining the body, so the legs are elevated above the heart.

All pressure is taken off the spine in this position, improving blood circulation and relieving tension in the muscles. It’s very relaxing and therapeutic, especially since, in this elevated position, your back is pressed firmly against the roller track for a deeper massage.

As mentioned, Zero Gravity Seating isn’t rare. What you want to look for is the number of positions offered. Many chairs ranging from low to high will only offer one position, but it’s best to look for 2-3 positions, so you have more recline options to best address your health needs.

If you suffer from chronic back pain or severe anxiety, this feature can offer effective therapeutic benefits.

Heating

When you combine quad rollers with Zero-G Seating and heat, you get a world-class massage that melts away tension and muscle pain.

Heated massage chair

The heat feels amazing on sore muscles after sports, and luckily many chairs on the market offer it. But once again, you need to look at the specifics, such as:

Where is the heating element located?

  • Lumbar region only
  • Lumbar region + leg wells
  • Upper back + lumbar region
  • Full body heat (rare)

Another factor to take into account is whether you can adjust the temperature. The majority of chairs on the market, including expensive ones, only have one heat setting.

Heat adds great therapeutic value, so prioritize heating if you suffer from back or leg pain. Look for models that let you adjust the temperature to get the full benefits out of this feature.

Body Scan

This nifty feature will initiate a 3D scan of your body as soon as you sit down and select a program. The scan locates your pressure points and adjusts the positions of the rollers to accommodate your body dimensions.

This feature is meant to improve the accuracy of your massage, but honestly, it’s not uncommon for the scan to be off, resulting in some manual tweaking before the massage kicks off. This is a minor issue found across all models, but it shouldn’t impact the quality of the massage.

Accessories

Massage chair brands will try to hypnotize you with a bunch of swanky accessories, but these are minor features that aren’t entirely necessary- they’re more luxurious than anything.

The majority of recliners will feature premium built-in Bluetooth speakers, so you can connect your smartphone and listen to music while you relax.

More high-end chairs get fancy with colorful chromotherapy lights that calm the mind or even essential oil diffusers.

Look carefully at the accessories offered and decide if it’s worth the money, or can you find a more standard chair with a quality massage that costs less?

Massage Programs

Black massage chair

Once again, when considering a massage chair, you’ll want to think about the types of massages you like best and what you aim to get out of your at-home massage experience.

Programs vary greatly across the market, and you can find low-range chairs offering more techniques than a high-end chair and vice versa.

The most basic techniques performed by the rollers typically include kneading, rolling, tapping, Shiatsu, or a combination of two.

You’ll find the following types of programs offered:

Manual Massage Programs

This allows users to build a custom massage by choosing the techniques and duration of each massage. You can also adjust the speed and intensity.

Automatic Programs

Airbags in a massage chair

These are one-touch with a pre-set routine. Auto programs are created with carefully selected techniques that target specific muscles or relaxation. For example, you might find a program to help you cool down after a workout or a program geared towards calming the mind before bedtime.

Advanced Techniques

Mid to high-range chairs and some low-range chairs will offer at least one advanced Shiatsu technique. It’s rare to see other offerings, such as Thai massage or Swedish massage.

Body Stretch

This popular program gently pulls the body, initiating a healthy stretch that loosens tight muscles. It is especially beneficial for those who suffer from lower back pain, as it pulls apart cramped vertebrae for greater pain relief.

Airbag Massage Technology

Another common massage program you’ll find with most low to high-range chairs is the airbag massage. This is a compression massage administered by multiple first-generation or second-generation airbags located throughout the chair.

Second-generation airbags are the industry standard and administer a more precise massage. These are commonly found in mid to high-range chairs.

A compression massage is supposed to feel less intense than a roller massage for a cloud-like experience perfect for relaxation. Some chairs offer a full-body massage, while others will only offer it for the back, neck, arms, or legs.

Foot+Calf Massage Technology

This type of massage offers therapeutic relief for people who experience foot and leg pain from being on their feet for long hours.

Low to mid-range chairs offer some sort of foot massage, whether it’s basic mechanical foot rollers, massage balls, airbags, or a combination.

Mid to high-range chairs will offer a combination of rollers, airbags, and heat. This setup is industry-standard and offers the most therapeutic value.

Space Saving Technology

When you purchase a massage chair, you’re committing to a massive piece of furniture that will take up a ton of space in your home. Make sure you’ve got the room- especially if you live in a small apartment!

Massage brands have targeted this issue by developing Space Saving Technology that lets users fully recline with only a few inches of clearance from the backrest to the wall.

Black massage chair

It’s a clever feature that makes a difference and keeps your chair from bumping into things while you’re reclining, but once again- pay attention to the details. Generally, anything under 5” inches is optimal. You can find mid-range to high-range chairs with that kind of clearance.

Control Panel Technology

To control the massage chair, the most basic technology is a button panel located on the armrest.

Modern chairs will offer the arm panel as well as a traditional handheld remote attached with a cable. This is the most common setup you’ll find on low, mid, and high range chairs.

A few chairs on the market offer Bluetooth connectivity with an app to control the chair from your smartphone.

Some models include a full-sized tablet with a pre-programmed app to control all of the settings.

Height+Weight Capacity

The height and weight capacity of massage chairs can be a dealbreaker for many users. Unfortunately, there aren’t many brands that cater to the taller/larger crowd.

The good news is that this is changing, and you do have a few top-quality brands that have gained a reputation for designing comfortable recliners for larger body types.

Black massage chair

Look for chairs that hold a weight capacity of at least 300 pounds and a height of 6’3”. Some chairs have an adjustable ottoman that will extend to fit your height. You can also find chairs with an adjustable width at the seat or shoulders.

The Best Features For Therapeutic benefits

If you’re investing in an ergonomic recliner because you suffer from chronic pain, then there are certain features to look for that are FDA-approved as medical devices for therapeutic value.

If you have back pain…

  • S-track with quad rollers
  • L-track with quad rollers
  • S+L-track with quad rollers
  • Heat in the lumbar region
  • Heat in the upper back + lumbar region
  • Zero Gravity Seating
  • Airbag Massage
  • Body Stretch

If you have foot/calf pain…

  • Extendable ottoman
  • Heat in the footwells
  • Airbags in the footwells
  • Mechanical rollers underneath the feet and behind the calves
  • Zero Gravity Seating

The Best Features For Relaxation

If you’re strictly a hobbyist who wants to indulge in a relaxing massage at the end of the day, then you can find relief with more standard features and accessories.

  • S-track with quad rollers
  • L-track with quad rollers
  • S+L-track with quad rollers
  • Massage customization options
  • Airbag compression massage
  • Chromotherapy
  • Bluetooth Speakers
  • Multiple automatic massage programs
  • Zero Gravity Seating

How to Choose a Good Massage Chair Conclusion

Sorting through all of the massage tech jargon and features can make it overwhelming to choose a good massage chair. Just remember two things:

  • What’s your budget?
  • Do you want relaxation or therapeutic benefits?

You don’t have to go for the most expensive chair thinking it’s the best quality. The main focus should be on the core features, including the massage track and roller system. Then look for the features that suit your needs.


References & Resources:

How to Choose a Good Massage Chair Guide 2021 was last modified: July 22nd, 2021 by Consumer Files