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23 Features you might want to look for in a massage chair.

So you think you might be interested in purchasing a massage chair, but you're confused about what to look for in a massage chair. After all, it is a big investment, and you don't want to make the wrong choice. We recommend considering the following factors as you review the chairs available at, the king of massage chair retailers:

  1. Length of massage stroke. The massage stroke is the distance on your back that the massage will massage. The longer the stroke, the more of your back will be massaged. Our favorite chairs have massage strokes of 29 inches or more, which is plenty long for almost everybody. Some chairs have strokes as short as 20 inches, which is fine if you're looking for a lower back massage and not a full treatment. A good stroke length for a massage chair is about 29", and if you are tall look for a 30"-31" stroke length.

  2. Strength of massage. Generally, the stronger massage your chair has, the better, as long as you are able to add padding to soften the contact. Once your body adjusts to a stronger massage, you will enjoy being able to take off the pads and allow the massage to really work deeply.

  3. Number of Massage Rollers. The rollers provide the massage on your back, as they move up and down. Four rollers would be customary for better chairs, although some lower-end chairs offer as few as two. Some chairs offer more than four rollers.

  4. Zero Gravity. Most ergonomically correct inclining position, taking all the burden of gravity off your spine. it cradles you like a baby and leaves you feeling weightless and deeply relaxed.

  5. Timer Settings. Most massage chairs offer a timer and allow massages in various time increments. Since it is probably not wise to be on a massage chair more than 30 minutes, you do not need a timer with increments greater than 30 minutes.

  6. Rolling, Kneading, Tapping. Rolling is the massage chair function in which the rollers roll up and down your back and massage the muscles most likely to need relaxation. Kneading is the function that accomplishes most closely what a massage therapist would do, and that is to knead the muscles much like a baker would knead a loaf of bread. It relaxes the muscles more thoroughly than simple rolling. Tapping also allows for more thorough relaxation. The chair accomplishes this by tapping on different portions of your back with the rollers, the way a massage therapist would. These three functions are generally offered one at a time in a massage chair, but some of the more advanced models will perform two or more of the functions simultaneously. You're in for a treat when you find out how nice these functions feel!

  7. Roller Width Adjustment. Because the rollers deliver the massage to your back, you want to be able to adjust the size of the rollers. Higher-end models provide for three sizes of roller. This allows you to customize the massage to your back size and massage preferences. This is an important factor.

  8. Heat. Delivering heat to your back during a massage can help relax your muscles fully. In the past, heating frequently caused electronic overheating in older chairs, but that problem has been avoided in the newer models, since the heat is usually delivered to the external padding. Don't assume that you need heating to receive the full benefit of the massage chair.

  9. Air Massage in Back. Air bag massage functions by delivering air to small air bags in the back of the chair. The inflated airbags compress the muscles of the back much like a Swedish massage. This type of massage can be very relaxing, and it is offered by many of the newer chairs. You will be especially happy if your chair can deliver the air bag massage at the same time as the mechanical rolling, but simultaneous air bag and mechanical massage is not critical, in our view.

  10. Air Massage in Seat, Just like air bags in the back, air bags in the seat function by compressing the muscles like a Swedish massage. The best and most technologically-advanced chairs are increasingly adding this functionality, but it adds significant expense.

  11. Vibration in Seat and Back. Vibration provides relaxing movement on a shallow scale to the entire body, and it adds great value to a massage chair, since it delivers a different type of massage everywhere. However, it cannot replace the roller functions described above.

  12. Automated Programs. The best chairs offer pre-programmed routines for massage. For example, a chair might deliver kneading, tapping, and rolling for ten minutes and then vibration for five. Following that, you might have leg massage for five minutes. Explore the automated programs and determine what you like best!

  13. Leg and Foot Massage. Leg and foot message can be delivered either by air bag or by rollers. Air bags can be very relaxing and tend to give a fuller massage for all types of legs and feet. However, rollers can provide a stronger massage and do not have the noise of air bag compressors. Overall, we recommend air bags for legs, since the new chairs are very quiet, and since air bags are more effective for different shapes of legs.

  14. Vibration in Footrest. Vibration offers shallow massage and can be very relaxing. However, it really can't deliver the deep massage of mechanical and air bag massage.

  15. Extendable Footrest. If your chair has an extendable footrest, you are really in heaven. With this feature, the footrest can be raised and extended to allow for added comfort and support. It can also be lengthened or shortened to adjust for various leg lengths.

  16. Single-Touch Recline and Return. With a single button, your massage chair can recline all the way back or return to its original position. Some chairs require you to continue pressing on a button until you reach the fully-reclined (or fully-upright) position.

  17. Angle of Recline. This is self-explanatory. Most chairs will recline up to 170 degrees, for a mostly-flat recline. The further you recline, the deeper the massage, since gravity helps the massage function. Our system provides the degree of the recline.

  18. Motors to Recline. With a single motor recline, the chair reclines and the footrest raises at the same time. Having one motor for the back and one motor for the footrest allows a greater range of comfortable positions for your massage. We highly recommend getting a chair with two motors, if you have a footrest.

  19. Removable Arms. If you intend to put your chair into a room with a small door, you may want to consider purchasing a chair with removable arms, since they can be removed to make it easier to move your chair.

  20. Leather. It is best to purchase a chair with high-quality stretchable synthetic leather. This makes the chair more durable and easier to clean.

  21. Dimensions. Our system provides the dimensions for each chair.

  22. Warranty. It is very important to look into the warranty offered by your manufacturer. We post warranty information for each chair on the product page for each chair, and you should carefully review them. Only makers of chairs with excellent warranties should be trusted with such an important purchase.

  23. Removable Back Pads. Adding pads to a massage chair allows you to soften a massage without giving up the option of a very strong massage (by using thinner pads). For chairs with mechanical rollers, this is an important feature.