How Does a Massage Chair Work?

There are some complexities that go along with the inner workings of a massage chair. But even when you go deep into the mechanics, they are the most basic of materials. It just so happens that these basic materials do incredible things, and all based off of the quality your purchase them at. Even if the gap between low and high tier is huge, getting an entry level massage chair has its benefits. To better understand how the different tiers earn their price tag, here is a rundown of how massage chairs work. Everything is in layman’s terms so that even non-technical users can understand enough to 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 that has been to a massage therapist can clue you in on how useful it is to have their services. Think of massage chairs as the at home alternative for these services, and at a much lower cost. In other cases they are just lumped in with the high tier chairs that are used in entertainment setups, and used to complete the room. With all of these uses in mind, the mechanics should make more sense to anyone that wants to understand the inner workings of a massage chair.

The Basics

Massage chairs work differently based on the type, and also on the area of the body they are made to massage. To start, a simplistic version of a massage chair vibrates. This sensation is a major feature of cheaper massage chair pads, and a minor feature of an entry level massage chair. It’s important to point out that this is not even relevant with the cheapest pads in today’s industry, but is a great way to understand the basics of massage chair functions. These vibrating pads would focus on the back and lower back to relax the muscles, and in some cases stimulate them enough to get rid of tightness. It was a good 10-15 minute break from pain that was worth the money spent.

An upgraded version of this mechanical option added moving parts to simulate hand movements, with the idea of massage therapists in mind. Taking familiar movements from the top services that consumers ordered when they were stressed, both the pads (and now chairs) added in these moving pieces in their design. Lower end models had set patterns that moved around in a circle and pinched the muscle, repeating this in a loop. Higher end models used multiple techniques that could change depending on what the user inputted in the controls. Somewhere between the vibrating and moving piece design, a heating element was added that really benefited the overall design of all products, both low end and high end. As the techniques of the simulated hand movements became more complex, massage chairs moved their purpose from the back to being able to provide useful full body massages. This includes all the way from the neck to the toes, with the addition of vibration or heat.

The moving parts had to be done in a specific way, so not all chairs or pads were successful at it. Because of the amount of pressure that’s needed to be effective for massaging, massage chairs had to make sure that the fabric on the other end of the massage motor was both soft and firm. This increases comfort but also makes sure that it gets a good grip when in operation. As the technology improved, rollers and other additional mechanics were added to the overall design. The rollers were the most significant advancement, and could provide different levels of intensity as they went up and down the chair. When all of the mechanics are working right, 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 best massage chairs are the one that allows you set up customizable sessions. With it you are able to target a problematic portion of your body and get a massage rather than using the entire chair. The multitude of choices available provide good insight into the transformation of massage chairs.

What Are The Biggest Improvements Over The Years?

Vibrations started out at one constant speed, and were used with fabric that didn’t really make the user comfortable. The introduction of premium materials like leather to massage chairs was a huge step in the right directions. Improvements in this area also led to specific ‘mesh’ patters on a chair, and also hybrid leather which worked better with high end models. The materials of a massage chair is just as important as the mechanics, and is one of the main reasons 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 residential users and 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 only a specific body part, the ones that can are highly sought after. They provide an experience unlike any other, and for the right price are an irreplaceable product in any residential home.


Massage chairs aren’t complicated once you know their inner workings and benefits. The pros list for owning one far outweighs the cons, which can be summed up with type and price. With a better understanding of massage chairs, you can appreciate the advancements the technology has made over the past few years.