How Does a Massage Chair Work?

The inner workings of a massage chair involve a certain degree of complexity, but even when you go deep into the mechanics, they are all made of the most basic materials. It just so happens that these basic materials do incredible things, depending on the quality of the chair you purchase. Even if the gap between low and high tier is huge, getting an entry level massage chair has many benefits,  To better understand how the different tiers earn their price tag, here is a rundown of how massage chairs work. Everything is set out in layman’s terms so that even non-technical users can make a good buying decision.

Why Massage Chairs Are Used

Stress, joint pain, chronic pain and relaxation are some of the top reasons people get massage chairs. Anyone who has been treated by a massage therapist can clue you in on how beneficial it is to have their services. Think of massage chairs as the at-home alternative for these services, one that is available at a much lower cost. In some instances massage chairs are included in the category of high tier chairs that are used in entertainment settings such as home theaters, or as attractive pieces of furniture that complete the look of a room.

The Basics

Massage chairs work differently based on their type, and also depending on the area of the body they are intended to massage. To start with, a simple version of a massage chair vibrates. This sensation was a major feature of cheaper massage chair pads, and a minor feature of an entry level massage chair. These vibrating pads focused on the back and lower back to relax the muscles, and in some cases stimulated them effectively enough to get rid of tightness and discomfort. This provided a good 10-15 minute break from pain that was worth the money spent.

An upgraded version of this mechanical option added moving parts that simulated the soothing hand movements of massage therapists, to both massage chair pads and then the chairs themselves.  Lower end models had set patterns that moved around in a circle and pinched the muscles, repeating this in a loop. Higher end models used multiple techniques that could change depending on what was input into the controls by the user. Somewhere between the vibrating and moving piece design, a heating element was added that really benefited the overall design of all products, both low and high end. As the techniques of the simulated hand movements became more complex, the function of massage chairs changed from simply being a means of treating the back to being able to provide a full body massage, all the way from the neck to the toes, with the addition of vibration or heat.

The moving parts had to be engineered in a specific way, so at first not all chairs or chair pads were successful. Because of the amount of pressure that’s needed for an effective massage, it was important for the fabric covering the massage motor to be both soft in texture but firm in terms of support. These factors increase comfort but also ensure good grip when the chair is in operation. As the technology improved, rollers and other additional mechanical components were added to the overall design. Rollers were the most significant advancement, as they can provide different levels of intensity as they go up and down the chair. When all of the components are working properly, it feels like a professional massage therapist is right in the room with you and healing your body. All of the moving parts have to work together to provide the best experience, and the top massage chairs are the ones that allow you set up customizable sessions. This way you can target a problematic area of your body and get a specialized massage rather than using the entire chair. The multitude of choices available in modern versions provide good insight into the transformation that has taken place in the field of massage chairs.

What Are The Biggest Improvements Over The Years?

Vibration started out at one constant speed, and was often used in combination with fabric that wasn’t really comfortable to the touch. The introduction of premium materials like leather to massage chairs was a huge step in the right direction. Improvements in this area also led to specific ‘mesh’ patterns on a chair, and also hybrid leather which worked better with high end models. The materials used to build a massage chair are just as important as the mechanics; this is why these products can now be used in place of regular chairs. Another big improvement was the full body massage chair, a premium item that brought home users an even better experience than going to a massage therapist. The unique control panel allowed for full customization from head to toe, and major comfort features like foot massage.

Smaller things that have helped bring out the full sensation while in a massage chair are the rollers, heated elements, and of course the control panel. Whether it is a small three button controller or a full panel, being able to customize the type of massage you get is important. While not every device can be programmed for specific parts of the body, the ones that can are highly sought after. They provide an experience unlike any other, and at the right price are an irreplaceable product in any home.


Massage chairs aren’t complicated once you know a little about their inner workings and features. The pros for owning one far outweigh the cons, which can be summed up by the great variety of types and prices available. With a better understanding of massage chairs, you can appreciate the advancements in technology that have been made over the past few years.

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