There’s nothing quite so wonderful as a massage chair. If that sounds like a bold claim, consider this: a massage chair is a device for removing stress, a device you can keep in your living room and even use as a regular piece of furniture when you need to.
If you never have trouble with stress, anxiety, and pain in your shoulders, back, and joints, always get enough sleep, and feel fresh every day, congratulations, you’ve beat the odds in life.
If you’re like the rest of us, a massage chair is likely to represent one of the most important upgrades to your life, comparable to a car or a boat. Most people need a car to get to work, but once they’re at work they accumulate stress, and that often leads to pain and stiffness in the back, the shoulders, and the joints.
For too many people, all of that pain and stiffness and discomfort is simply a part of life, something to deal with and suffer through.
Here’s the thing, though, and this is the question I want to encourage you to ask yourself: what if it doesn’t have to be that way?
Of course, it’s my contention that it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a wonderful world of incredible massage chairs waiting to remove your stress and give you feelings of relaxation and wellbeing instead.
Not everyone’s massage needs are the same, though, and a variety of different massage chairs have been invented with a variety of different features designed to appeal to people’s tastes. Read on, and we’ll see if we can find the best massage chair for you.
Top Massage Chairs Line-up
Osaki OS-Pro Maxim Zero Gravity Massage Chair
There’s a lot to say about the Osaki OS-Pro Maxim Zero Gravity, and a lot of it has to do with airbags. The Osaki Pro Maxim has 22, and they’re built to contour to the body. If you’re looking for something that will really hug your spine, this may be the chair for you.
- Osaki OS-Pro Maxim Massage ChairProduct on sale
Osaki bills the airbag system for this chair as highly efficient, and it’s fair to hand that to them: it uses a mere 22 airbags, but this also reduces the number of working parts needed. They’re also really top-notch airbags, designed to contour themselves to your body.
Another reason to pick the Osaki OS-Pro as your home massage chair is the body scanning technology, a computer-powered sensory apparatus which actually keeps track of where the curves of your body are in order to give you the best massage possible. Now that’s what I call good service!
If you’re particularly keen on making sure you get that nice, consistent massage feeling, the Osaki is definitely for you.
This is also a Zero Gravity chair, meaning the backrest reclines while the ottoman raises up to really maximize stress relief.
Another cool thing about this chair is the heated backrest (okay, a warm thing) and seat vibration. The heat is concentrated in the lumbar area, and the seat has a vibration plate to work on the backs of your thighs. You can use these features together or separately.
In fairness, I should point out that the heating is not all over, which is a feature that some other chairs offer.
This chair also has a dual roller system for your feet, used in combination with airbags, making it perfect for relaxing your feet at the end of the day. One arguable drawback here is that the rollers are not 3D.
One way in which this chair really stands out is the 12 pre-set massage programs. If you want a lot of options pre-programmed into your chair, this is another area in which the Osaki shines.
Let’s summarize the Osaki OS-Pro as follows:
- Combined S&L track systems deliver consistent massage.
- Body scan technology to map key areas for massage.
- Dual foot roller system for a deeper foot massage.
- Efficient, reliable airbag massaging system.
- Heated backrest & seat vibration.
- 12 pre-set massage programs, 5 unique massage styles, and 4 stretching actions.
- Zero Gravity position for maximum relaxation.
- Rollers are not 3D.
- Heating is not all over.
Human Touch WholeBody 7.1
The Human Touch WholeBody 7.1 is a great first chair if you’re looking for a little bit of everything. One of the things I like about it is the way it combines that stylish office recliner look with calf massage and foot massage, but more about that later.
- Human Touch WholeBody 7.1 Massage ChairProduct on sale
Let’s start by talking about the rollers. I don’t know about you, but I want a relaxing massage chair, and that means rollers that don’t pinch and abrade.
This is one of the areas where the Human Touch really delivers, with a new roller technology called Flex Glide. It’s a smooth, relaxing sensation, one I’m confident is the future of massage rollers.
Plus, it’s 3D, and you can adjust the strength of the massage. If you’re like me and you have stress days that range from 1 – Slight Tension to 10 – Stomach Ulcer, I’m confident you’ll appreciate this.
It’s also Zero Gravity, which you have to love if you’re really looking for the very best in relaxing positions.
Another thing to love about this chair is the warm air technology. I’m talking a smooth heat applied along your back and lumber, sinking into all of those stress- and ache-prone areas that seem to collect pain and discomfort.
In the WholeBody 7.1, it’s not the pads that are heated but rather the air. This is something you’ll appreciate more over time, because you’ll have more time with this chair: heating the air instead of the pad is easier on the material over time.
This chair is also really easy to use: simply plop into it and use the BodyMap Pro to tell the chair which areas to target. There are even automatic programs, including Full, Upper, Lower, Sleep, and Relax. I have a tendency to fall asleep in regular chairs, so you might say I’m inclined to appreciate a chair that indulges me.
And then there’s the Figure-8 calf massager. I’m talking paddles, not airbags, and that means more circulation in your calves and feet.
Finally, there’s the stylish element: this is a massage chair that doubles as a stylish office recliner.
- 3D Flex Glide rollers.
- Zero Gravity position for maximum relaxation.
- Patented Warm Air Technology heats the air rather than the pads, promoting the longevity of the chair.
- Automatic recline and raise makes it easy to find the right position for you.
- Retractable ottoman easily transforms into a regular recliner.
- BodyMap Pro makes it easy to target your massage.
- Relatively few automatic programs (5).
Titan Pro-Executive Massage Chair
- Titan Pro Executive Massage ChairProduct on sale
This is a 3D massage chair, so it has that added element of depth we discussed above. That’s good – it’s what you’d expect in a chair at this price point.
Plus, there’s a computerized body scan feature to map your back curvature, not to mention 6 pre-sets and 3 memory settings.
Now to the airbags, of which there are 61, with 8 magnetic nodes and 2 air pumps. It would be fair to call this a high-powered chair.
One of the big things Titan wants you to notice about this chair is the adjustable shoulder massage feature.
They’re proud of this, justifiably so in my opinion: instead of your usual stationary shoulder massagers, the Titan Pro-Executive has massagers you can adjust to your height and build. A chair with a shoulder massage just for you – what’s not to love?
There are also 20” arm massagers, with 4 airbags on each side. They’re designed to surround your forearms, wrists, and hands, with a durable and comfortable inner lining of spandex.
The hip massagers are another thing to like, and one of the more distinct home massage chair features you’re likely to find. They’re designed to inflate and deflate to create a variety of different massage actions, including a twisting action with one side inflated and a nice squeeze with both sides inflated.
This is such a cool feature, and it’s also paired with traditional air bags along the outer waist to compliment the hip massage with a deeper twist.
As far as heat goes, this chair has lower back and calf heat both. Not full-body, to be sure, but still pretty good. The heating pads are warm and soothing at 104 to 122 Fahrenheit.
There’s also a leg and waist stretch feature you’ll appreciate if you, like me, find a lot of your nervous energy goes to your legs. Basically, the airbags in the feet inflate and then retract downwards, creating a pleasant pulling sensation.
Another plus: the foot massagers, which have 3 rows of rollers and independent toe massagers. Have you ever had your toes massaged? There really aren’t that many chairs that offer something like this.
It’s also very nice that the foot massagers have three rows of rollers on the base, compared with the usual 1-2.
There are a lot of things to love about this chair. With that said, I did find a bit light on the pre-sets: 6 is not bad, but not great, either. Similarly, I’d expect more custom profiles.
These are relatively minor complaints, but may be worth considering if you’re adventurous, and/or if you’re buying a chair for a larger family.
- Adjustable shoulder massage
- Lower back heat & calf heat
- Arm massagers
- Hip massagers
- Toe massagers
- Leg & waist stretch
- Computerized body mapping
- 6 pre-sets
- 3 custom profiles
- Relatively light on the pre-sets
- Few custom profiles
Osaki Pro Maestro – Zero Gravity Massage 4D Massage Chair
The Osaki Pro Maestro – Zero Gravity Massage 4D Massage Chair is a top-quality home massage chair from Osaki.
- Osaki OS-4D Pro Maestro Massage ChairProduct on sale
This chair is 4D, and that’s one very important feature I’m confident you’re going to love. It also has that L-track system, and it’s overall a more powerful and complex massage.
With 8 automatic massage programs, I’m confident this chair has a massage program you’ll love. Swing or Stretch, Scraping or Relax, this chair has you covered. It also has Shiatsu, a Lady massage optimized for women and a Gentleman massage optimized for men, and a Demo mode that showcases all the rest.
Another feature I like about this chair is the ability to choose between manual modes – kneading, tapping, shiatsu, and rolling. You also have the option to pinpoint where you want the massage, or you can simply direct the chair to massage your shoulders, or your arms, lower back, or calves.
Osaki really emphasizes the way this chair helps improve circulation, and this is a feature I’m particularly grateful for. If you’re like me and you have a problem with painful tension in your legs, you’ll love the way the Pro Maestro’s airbags compression-massage the shoulders, the arms, waist, pelvis, calf, and feet areas.
Another plus is the reflexology rollers beneath the feet, which spin as they travel along the sides and middle of your feet. Also, the air massagers in the upper section of the leg rest rotate in circular fashion, which provides a somewhat similar feeling to the calf massage. This is really, really nice.
This is of course a Zero Gravity chair. As a rule, I don’t see much point in massage chairs that don’t have this feature: it’s so wonderful and does so much to enhance the feeling of relaxation.
I like to listen to music while I relax in a massage chair, so I was thrilled to learn that the Osaki Pro Maestro has not only Bluetooth but also an Amphitheater sound system that reduces the surrounding noise.
- 4D Combined S & L-track massage
- 8 levels of 4D adjustment
- 5 strength adjustments
- 5 intensity adjustments
- 5-speed adjustments
- Advanced back heating system
- Zero Gravity position
- Bluetooth and Amphitheater sound system
- Quite expensive
Human Touch Volito Massage Chair
The Human Touch Volito Zero Gravity Massage Chair is an economy chair – still relaxing and with high-quality features, albeit with fewer of them and generally fewer options than the higher-end chairs from Human Touch.
- Human Touch ZeroG Volito Massage ChairProduct on sale
With this in mind, this chair does have the zero gravity recline ability. For my money, this is one of the most essential features for a chair to have, because it’s so relaxing.
There’s also the option to convert the ottoman to a foot and calf massager. I really like this feature of Human Touch chairs, and it’s great that this chair has it.
Additionally, the ottoman is a hideaway, meaning it effectively becomes part of the chair if you want to use the chair as a regular recliner some of the time.
There are two different motors, so you can independently adjust the ottoman and the backrest.
Another feature you’re likely to enjoy is the neck pillow. This is pretty ergonomic and does indeed do a good job of cradling one’s head and neck.
There are 3 massage programs on this chair: full back, shoulder, and lower back.
And that’s about it. This chair is one of the more basic models, so it doesn’t have the long list of options you’ll see with so many of Human Touch’s other great chairs.
If you’re looking to get into massage chairs and you want to set a lower budget, this chair is definitely a good place to start. Of course, if you’re a discerning connoisseur and you’re less concerned about the price tag, Human Touch has many other models which have more features and options.
- Zero Gravity recline
- Ottoman converts to foot and calf massager
- Chair converts to regular recliner with ease
- 3 massage programs
- Lacks body scan technology
- Very limited features and options
- Does not have sophisticated massage technology
- No heating
Human Touch Novo XT2 Massage Chair
The Human Touch Novo XT2 Massage Chair is a high-performance massage chair, designed for athletes and professionals. With a sleek, high-performance look, the Novo XT2 looks like it belongs in a race car, or possibly a space pod.
- Human Touch Novo XT2 Massage ChairProduct on sale
Let’s start with the first feature that really showcases how high-performance this chair is: the unibody L track, which covers up to 60% more of your back than a conventional massage chair will.
What this means is that instead of the really high-performance massage action being focused on your shoulders and part of your back, it covers your shoulders and your back all the way down to your thighs.
This chair is 3D, of course – we’d expect that of any chair at this level. What makes it stand out here is that it has 5 different intensity settings, so you have a lot of choice regarding how much pressure you want in your massage.
The Novo XT2 is zero gravity, which is to be expected, but the really impressive thing is that it only needs 5” of wall clearance to go from the upright to the reclined position. This is a space pod chair if ever there was one!
Human Touch also touts the merits of the reflexology foot rollers, designed for therapeutic relief. These are admittedly pretty impressive. I’ve found them to be the kind of foot rollers that are so effective they ease tension you didn’t know you had.
This chair also has lumbar heating, which is very pleasant and very relaxing.
Now, on to the thing that I find most impressive about this chair: the automatic programs, all 34 of them. To my mind, this is the most important thing this chair has going for it.
There are plenty of other chairs, including other Human Touch chairs, that are engineered to a high standard and are very relaxing, but this chair has 34 different automatic programs. If you need a great variety of massage programs and demand only the highest quality experience, this chair may well be the chair for you.
On top of that, the Novo XT2 also has bend and stretch functionality, meaning more relief for your legs and your spine and more blood flow to the vertebrae. This is admittedly another very compelling point in favor of this chair.
The foot and calf massage are also adjustable to your height, which I enjoy because it makes the chair so much more customizable and personal.
The XT2 is a very impressive chair, and comes highly recommended overall. There are a couple of critical drawbacks, the first being the lack of arm massagers. I’d think a chair as nice as this one ought to have an option for the arms.
The second is that the heating elements are confined to the lumbar region – granted, this is the area I prefer the most, and the lack of heating elsewhere isn’t a big deal. All the same, a chair as nice as this one almost feels like it should have more heated surface area.
- Unibody L track
- 3D massage technology
- 5 intensity settings
- Zero gravity
- Compact design
- High-quality foot rollers
- Enjoyable lumbar heating
- 34 different automatic programs
- Bend and stretch functionality
- Adjustable foot and calf massage
- No arm massagers
- Heat is confined to the lumbar region
Osaki OS-1000 Deluxe Massage Chair
The Osaki OS-1000 Deluxe Massage Chair is a great, solid choice for a home massage chair, with a number of great features. This chair really showcases a lot of what I like about Osaki in terms of features and the quality of the overall experience.
The quad roller system is designed to mimic the human hands and increase your sense of relaxation. In my experience, it does this very well: the rollers capture what I like most about a massage at the hands of a professional specialist, and they’re consistent.
The OS-1000 Deluxe has a 29” S-track, which is great for reaching higher and getting your neck while also doing some good work down into the tailbone. This is a pretty worthwhile feature, and I think if you try it, you’ll really love it.
The chair uses a system of 20 airbags to massage the legs, thighs, and feet – not nearly as many airbags as some systems, but used in a very satisfactory manner.
The thing I have to give this chair credit for is the 6 different levels of intensity. That’s a very respectable amount of options in a chair at this price point, and it’s very much to Osaki’s credit.
There are also 5 automated programs: Healthcare, Therapy, Full Body Relax, Neck/Shoulder, and Back/Lumber. These are all very well done and very worthwhile.
On top of that, there are 4 different massage techniques: Kneading, Tapping, Dual, and Rolling.
I appreciate a chair that has so many options. There are days when I find myself wanting a nice light chair massage, and other days when the stress has knotted my shoulders and back to the point that only a very intense massage will do the trick.
And really on that same note, another feature I’m confident you’ll really like is vibration, located on the seat and calf parts of the chair. This can be turned on or off at anytime during a program, an extra touch I think is very, very nice. As with intensity and style, vibration is one of those things that I don’t always want, but when I want it, I really want it.
So, how does this chair stack up? The OS-1000 Deluxe is a great chair at this price point. It has a very respectable collection of features and offers high-quality experiences with a variety of options.
Some features this chair lacks include heating, 3D, and some of the more advanced features – it does not have a stretch program or deep tissue massage.
If you’re looking to graduate from economy chairs or you simply want a higher-end beginner option, this is an excellent chair to start with. If you need a lot of features, you might want to consider a higher-end option from Osaki.
- Quad rollers provide a relaxing experience
- Long S-track
- Thorough leg and calf massage
- 6 levels of intensity
- 5 automated programs
- 4 massage techniques
- Not 3D
- Lacks heating
- No stretch program
- No deep tissue massage
Human Touch Bali
The Human Touch Bali is another excellent, high-end chair from Human Touch. It has a great deal going for it, and if you’re after a very high-performance chair this is probably the one for you.
- Human Touch Bali Massage ChairProduct on sale
This is a 3D massage chair, and they’ve really gone to great lengths to make the massage experience feel like real human hands. Other chairs try this, but few can really reach what Human Touch has accomplished with this chair.
Human Touch describes the massage experience of this chair as cloud touch, and you have to hand it to them, that’s exactly what they’ve delivered.
The really neat thing is the strategically-placed active contours, which are located at the shoulders, hips, seat and arms: the chair uses these in the massage experience to convey a feeling of being lifted up, almost as if one were floating. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what you’ll feel if you really let this chair do its work for a while.
And with AccuPoint detection, the chair knows where you are. It can target your shoulders, your back, etc.
So, what else is great about this chair? Well, it has 9 different vertical heights, so it’s quite customizable. The arm massage wells are nice: I like having somewhere relaxing to put my arms while I’m floating in a massage dreamworld.
Not only can this highly-customizable chair give you a feeling of weightlessness, it can also give you a full-body stretch. If you’ve never experienced one of these, it’s the chair massage technique you simply have to have.
The basic idea is that the chair stretches out your spine to get the blood flowing into the vertebrae and discs. Now, I’m a huge fan of this: between my workout routine and the fact that I spend far too much time in the office the rest of the day, I tend to develop a lot of discomfort and pain in my lower back, and that’s exactly what the full-body stretch is designed to deal with.
What else? Well, I’ve saved one of the biggest things for near the end here.
See, when it comes to customization, the thing I’m usually most interested in is targeted massage techniques. This chair has 21 of those. I’d say that I love this feature, but with so many settings it can almost feel like a few different chairs, each one wonderful in its own way.
Adding to that feeling – the sense that this chair is so customizable and so versatile it’s almost three chairs in one – is the auto-immersion experience of the 8 different programs. This is such a cool feature, and the amount of options here is very, very good.
Like many of the chairs we’ve reviewed here, the Human Touch Bali has a retractable foot-and-calf massager which can rotate into an ottoman. Speaking of, the foot-and-calf massage is adjustable in intensity, which means it can accommodate whatever stress level you may be feeling in your feet and legs after a long, hard day.
With so much going for this chair, is there anything critical to say about it? I’d have to say that the only thing that really stands out is the lack of a heating option. That’s really it: this is such a “princely” chair, for lack of a better word, that I can’t really fault it for anything else.
- 3D massage
- Cloud Touch experience
- Strategic active contours
- AccuPoint detection
- 9 different vertical heights
- Full-body stretch
- 21 targeted massage techniques
- 8 massage programs
- Retractable foot-and-calf massager/ottoman
- Lack of heating
- No reflexology dual foot rollers
- Not Zero Gravity
Apex AP-Pro Ultra Massage Chair
The Apex AP-Pro Ultra Massage Chair is a solid L-track option: a chair that has a lot of the great features you’d look for in this price range and can deliver some wonderful massage experiences. It’s not 3D, but you should give it a try anyway.
- Apex AP-Pro Ultra Massage ChairProduct on sale
The first thing to note about the Apex AP-Pro is that it is an L-track chair with a quad style massage roller. The focus here is all on giving your back the best experience possible, and in my opinion, they do a pretty good job of this.
Now, I’ll grant you it’s not 3D, and for some people this may be a deal-breaker. However, I think it’s actually pretty reasonable: the whole idea with this chair, the intention behind how they designed it, was to focus on a great L-track experience that would cover your back down to your thighs. I’m a big 3D massage fan myself, but I can’t really fault Apex here: this is a great L-track experience.
The foot massager uses dual foot rollers, reflexology massagers. I love this feature, and I think if you spend a lot of time on your feet you will too.
Another thing that makes this chair relaxing: it is a Zero Gravity chair. Very wonderful, highly recommend if you want the very best in relaxing massage experiences.
Apex also touts the benefits of their “next generation” airbag technology. Basically, instead of using a higher number of airbags—this chair has 30—they have higher-volume airbags, making for a more streamlined chair with fewer working parts that still delivers a top-of-the-line massage.
This high-end airbag feature is definitely worth thinking about in terms of choosing a chair that’s more likely to last. Fewer working parts means less stress on the chair, believe it or not, so you’re likely to find this chair will hold up well.
Of the 30 total airbags in this chair, 8 of them are devoted to the arm areas – 4 per side. I really appreciate a chair that doesn’t neglect the arms and hands. Well done, Apex!
This chair also has airbags located on either side of the shoulders, something I appreciate because I do a lot of workouts that involve the shoulders – kettlebell swings, rowing machine – and then I’m stuck working behind a desk all day.
What the Apex AP-Pro does so well here is shoulder airbags that hold one in place during the massage. This is something you have to experience to see how wonderful it is. I usually find it takes a while for my shoulders to really relax and let go of the tension, but it doesn’t take as long with chairs like this one that really get the shoulder massage component right.
The lumbar and waist areas, too, are really well done. There’s also an advanced twist function which creates a swaying motion through the pelvis and hips, which promotes flexibility—something I’m coming to treasure more as I get older.
Now, what about adjustments? This chair has 5 levels of pressure adjustment for the airbags, and then 3 different levels for the back-massage rollers and 3 different levels for the quad head massage rollers.
There are also a total of 6 different massage techniques: kneading, tapping, shiatsu, rolling, combination, and punching. For a chair at this price point, that’s pretty reasonable.
This chair also has lumbar heating, with 2 heating elements. This is very nice and takes the relaxation to that next level.
So, how does the Apex stack up? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
- Excellent L-track experience
- Dual foot rollers
- Zero Gravity
- Next-generation airbag technology
- Advanced twist function
- Pressure adjustment options
- 6 different massage techniques
- Lumbar heating
- Not 3D
- No inversion therapy
- No memory settings
Massage Chair Rollers: What You Should Know
All massage chairs have roller tracks, and as the name suggests, they’re a bit like trains: the “rollers” are the wheeled mechanical widgets that do the bulk of the work of actually giving you the massage, and they move in the track.
Rollers may be L-track or S-track, and you will also encounter references to 2D, 3D, and 4D. Let’s break down these aspects of massage chairs one at a time.
L Track Vs S Track
What you’ll notice if you spend much time looking at massage chairs is that they are variously advertised as S-track or L-track. So, what is the difference between the S-track and the L-track?
First, the S-track is so named because it is shaped with a slight curve, a bit like an S, to mimic the shape of the human spine. This is a better design for a massage track than a straight line would be, precisely because it can follow the shape of the human spine.
S-tracks start at the back of your head, run down your neck and past your shoulders, all the way down to the tailbone or coccyx. This means S-track chairs cover the entire length of your spine, and they can provide a perfectly wonderful massage experience.
The L-track is like the S-track in that it starts at the back of the head and follows the curvature of the spine, but it doesn’t stop at the tailbone: instead, it keeps going, providing a massage experience all the way down to the glutes.
Both types of tracks can provide an amazing massage experience, but which one is best?
The answer to this question will depend on what your needs are. You may find the S-track provides plenty of coverage, and you may not need the extra coverage provided by the L-track.
On the other hand, some people enjoy the extra coverage for the glutes. Depending on what you do, you may find yourself accumulating stress in this area. Some people have tightness, or sciatica adjacent to the pelvis, and the L-track can be especially helpful for dealing with these symptoms.
2D, 3D, and 4D
Roller systems can also be categorized into three levels of complexity. Let’s go over each of these three levels and highlight the most important differences
Originally, all massage chairs had rollers that could travel both up/down and left/right, creating powerful rolling and kneading massage motions. The effect of this was to create movements along a 2-dimensional plane, thus the name.
There’s nothing wrong with 2D chairs: they are fully capable of providing powerful, effective massages. However, some people appreciate a little more complexity, and that’s where 3D chairs come in.
In addition to movement up/down and left/right, 3D chairs are capable of movement in/out, or deeper/softer—that is to say the rollers can drive themselves deeper into your back, applying more pressure (in), and also retract (out) when you want something a little softer.
These movements expand the original 2-dimensional plane to a 3-dimensional shape in which roller movement is possible. The addition of depth provides more control and more options for your massage.
What comes after 3D? How about massage chairs in which each head can change speed individually? That’s what you get with 4D: a chair that can give a massage in three dimensions, but there are even more options for customization of individual roller speeds.
Levels of Intensity
Another customizable setting on many massage chairs is levels of intensity. This means you aren’t stuck with experiencing any given type of massage (about which more below) at a given level of intensity: if you decide you want a Swedish massage, for example, you can choose from a certain number of settings regarding how intense you want that massage to be.
Not every chair will have adjustable different levels of intensity, but many of the best ones do. On chairs that have them, it’s common to find 3 to 6 different levels of intensity.
Types of Massage
Another thing you’ll notice with massage chairs is that they advertise different types of massage. In particular, you’re likely to see Swedish, Shiatsu, Kneading, Tapping, and others. Let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with these massage techniques now.
Think of Swedish massage as the “default setting” for massage, the type of massage most people have in mind when they hear the word “massage”. A Swedish massage includes kneading, long strokes, and friction applied to different muscles and to joints. The massage chair version is designed to expertly mimic the experience of receiving a Swedish massage from an actual human therapist.
Shiatsu massage combines rolling, tapping, and kneading techniques. The sensations of shiatsu are a little different from Swedish massage: many people find this style particularly good as a tension tamer, and it can ease migraines and, for women, even help to relieve menstrual cramps.
Tapping is a specific technique which may occur in different massage styles. A massage chair produces the tapping sensation through fast, pulsating strokes—very literally tapping your muscles. This technique can improve blood flow and circulation, as well as relieve tension and strengthen and tone muscles.
The kneading technique in a massage chair is produced by circular motions of the rollers, which massage toward and then away from your spine. Doing this has the effect of applying pressure to tissues not only near the skin, but also deeper.
If you’re having trouble with tight muscles, lack of flexibility, and pain, kneading techniques may be just the thing for you.
Where To Buy A Massage Chair
Where should you buy a massage chair? There are a few different options, but most of them boil down to 1) professional massage chair retailers online, and 2) big-box retailers.
It might be tempting to buy from a big-box retailer—after all, it’s a better deal, right? Wrong. Professional online retailers are happy to match big box retailers on price, will deliver to your door, and know their products better and can provide better customer service than the big box stores.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy In Store
Buying in store may seem intuitive, but think about it: these stores sell thousands and thousands of different products. Massage chairs are a sideline to them, not even one of the more important things that they sell.
And then there’s the question of customer service. You may not think you’ll need it, but the fact of the matter is that massage chairs are complex pieces of machinery. Sometimes they need servicing. Professional retailers are far more competent and dedicated to making sure you’re taken care of and get the help you need.
Massage Chair Costco
Costco may have good prices, but online retailers will match Costco and offer better service to boot.
Yes, Costco is great for many things, but a massage chair is an investment in your wellbeing, one which will hopefully serve you very well for years. Online retailers will have more knowledge and better support for the same prices.
Massage Chair Walmart
What applies to Costco applies, if anything, all the more to Walmart. Walmart is the ultimate big box retailer, and as such massage chairs cannot be a high priority for them, not the way they are for dedicated online massage chair retailers.
Try an online retailer, and you’re likely to find they offer a better selection and better support and customer service at the same great prices.
Massage Chair Brookstone
Brookstone offers a wide selection of products, including massage chairs. Compare their selection to that of an online retailer, and tell me the dedicated retailer doesn’t have far and away a better selection and the same great deals.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy from eBay or Amazon
Buying a massage chair from eBay or Amazon may seem tempting. Don’t do this: it is probably even worse of an option than buying from a big box retailer.
Amazon retails practically everything. Massage chairs cannot be a terribly high priority for them.
Besides, have you ever had to contact Amazon’s customer service? The people they have there do not inspire confidence.
eBay, similarly, cannot offer knowledgeable customer service. They are not in the business of retailing massage chairs, they are in the business of being a third party facilitating the buying and selling of goods between other people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we’ve had the chance to see some of the best chairs the market has to offer, let’s try to take stock of how they stack up. Which features are the most important? Can we pick one of these chairs as the best home massage chair?
Along the way, let’s also try to answer some of the questions you’re most likely to have.
Is A Massage Chair Right For Me?
I almost didn’t include this question, thinking that anyone who’s read this far is probably interested in buying a massage chair. But then I realized that I’ve spent so much time around and in massage chairs that it’s easy for me to take it for granted – it’s easy for me to say Of course you should buy a massage chair.
On reflection, I realized it wouldn’t be reasonable or even fair to the reader for me to not take the chance to explain why I believe a massage chair is a very good investment.
The very best thing I like about having access to a massage chair, both at the office and at home, is that I can get a massage whenever I need one. Let me repeat that: I can get a massage whenever I need one.
Have you ever taken stock of how much of your time and energy gets eaten up by stress? Meetings, deadlines, projects, life obligations… all of the pressures of work and home life build up, and in my experience, they build up in the form of stress, which accumulates in my shoulders, my back, my calves, my feet, etc. until I massage it all away.
Stress may accumulate in the body, but it also has a noticeable effect on the mind. When I’m stressed I usually feel tired, and no matter how much caffeine I have and how much I try to “soldier on through it”, I find I’m fairly sub-optimal until I’ve had a massage and a chance to reset and relax.
I think back to my younger years, near the beginning of my career, and I remember how much stress I used to carry around. It was normal for me to be stressed about bills, rent, my boss, my latest or my forthcoming performance review, who I was dating, and all the rest. I was certainly productive, but I paid a steep price: I was tired and worn down a lot.
Nowadays I still have plenty of stress, but I refuse to tolerate nearly as much of it. I have arranged my schedule so that I can have a good massage every evening, and many times during the day I will make time for a twenty- or thirty-minute massage.
What I’ve noticed about myself since I began using massage chairs to, in effect, remove my stress and its effects from my body is that I have far more energy and get far more done, all while feeling better throughout the day.
One of the wonderful little secrets about massage chairs is the way all that relaxation helps you sleep.
Gone are the days when I soldiered through a 10-hour workday on 4 hours of sleep and a great deal of caffeine, forcing myself to do my job through a bleary-eyed haze of fatigue. I get more sleep now, and a big part of the reason why is massage chairs.
With that said, some people think that they can come down from stress if they do manage to get a good night’s sleep. That may be true for some people, but my experience suggests that sleep alone is not enough to work out knots in my muscles and really get the stress out of my tissues.
What I’ve discovered is that regular use of massage chairs has the effect of “resetting” my body and my mind, over and above what I can accomplish if all I’m doing is getting enough sleep, exercising, and watching what I eat etc.
That’s my case for why you should get a massage chair: it will give you the beautiful gift of regular massages, meaning hours upon hours of blissful relaxation leading to sounder, better sleep, more energy, and a better quality of life.
If that’s not enough to convince you, try a massage chair in a parlor or at a store and experience it for yourself.
How Much Should I Spend?
We’ve talked about a variety of chairs at a number of different price points. So, which is the “correct” price point? Should you stay away from the pricey chairs and go economy – or should you spend as much as you possibly can and stay away from those no-frills chairs?
I believe the very best answer I can give you here is that you should figure out which features you consider essential for your massage chair, and then you should find the chair that gives you the best value for the amount of money you are good with spending.
All of the chairs we’ve talked about here are worthy investments. Yes, some of them are more high-end than others: they have more features, more options, and offer more experiences, and generally cost more as a result.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a high-end chair with all the features, an “economy” chair that still offers some excellent massage experiences, or something more in-between.
Which Features Are Most Important?
Now that we’ve established that there aren’t really any wrong answers here, only a question of trade-offs, let’s try to take stock of some of those trade-offs.
2D, 3D, or 4D?
Let me state my position up front: I’m a 3D kind of person (4D, as we’ve seen, is high-end 3D). Given the choice, I’d prefer my chair to be 3D: I like the feeling of the rollers going back and forth as well as side to side, without paying as much for a 4D.
Otherwise, and in my opinion, 3D chairs are the way to go whenever you’re comparing two chairs in the same general price range.
How About Heating?
Another key feature is heating. Chairs that don’t have this feature will tend to be that much cheaper, and with good reason: heating can add to the quality of a massage.
What I’ve found is that when I get stressed, my muscles knot up and don’t like to let go. Like I’ve mentioned, I have some pretty stressful days in the office, and when my stress levels hit 10 – Stomach Ulcer, I really want the maximum in relaxation.
Sure, you don’t necessarily need your chair to have heating, and on many days I find myself not needing this feature – particularly when the weather is warm. Still, there are plenty of days where I find myself really needing to turn on the heat.
The advantage of having heat as an option in your massage chair is that it will help your muscles to relax. Think of it as one more thing that will help you to loosen up: even the most tense and stressed muscles can’t resist the combination of pressure and heat.
You’ve probably noticed that the chairs with the least amount of heating generally have the heating elements for the lower back. That’s because this is easily the most essential area to heat during a massage.
Have you ever stopped to think about how much stress we accumulate in our lower backs? An ordinary human spine has a kind of S-curve shape, with the lower spine obviously curving inward to facilitate balance.
One effect of this aspect of our anatomy, though, is that we end up putting a lot of strain on this part of our spine. It’s basically the workhorse for the rest of the spine, and that’s why, in my opinion, it’s so important to have at least lower back heating in your massage – it really helps to get all that stress out.
As far as I’m concerned, this feature is an essential, and I would strongly advise you to get a chair that has heating.
How Many Massage Techniques?
How many massage techniques should a chair have? How important is this feature?
Most of the chairs we’ve talked about have massage techniques, or “automatic massage programs”, which offer certain styles of massage. The key exception is the Human Touch Volito Zero, which is by far the best example of a no-frills “economy” chair.
If you’re absolutely looking to economize, a chair like the Human Touch Volito Zero is a good bet. Personally, I like having a few different techniques to play around with – I enjoy kneading, tapping, and shiatsu, among others.
I’d definitely advise trying out a few different chairs in order to see what you really like. This is one of the more subjective aspects of massage, in my own experience.
As to the number of techniques, in general, if your chair has 5 or 6 techniques, that’s pretty reasonable and likely to be good value.
What About Speeds and Intensity Levels?
Another interesting way in which we’ve compared chairs is in terms of the number of speeds and intensity levels that they have to offer. As with massage techniques, not every chair has speed and intensity adjustment, but I would strongly advise getting a chair that offers both of these adjustments.
The more time you spend in massage chairs, the more you’ll appreciate that your massage needs are not going to be constant day after day. On some days, you’ll need a very intense massage. On other days, a low-intensity massage will likely suffice.
I should add that sometimes slow and intense is a good, if counter-intuitive, combination. That’s not every day, to be sure, but it is some days.
My experience suggests that while this option is important, you don’t need more than about 3 intensity levels, and perhaps the same for speed. That’s plenty in a high-quality chair that has 5 or 6 different massage technique options.
Vibration Or Not?
Should you get a chair that has vibration? On the one hand, vibration can really add to the intensity of a massage: I’ve had some days where I really needed something very intense, and only vibration could really fit the bill.
On the other hand, vibration may not be for everyone. Some people simply aren’t crazy about it, and if you find yourself in that camp, it may not make sense to get a chair that has it as an option.
My advice is to try different massage techniques, ideally at least 5, with and without vibration. If you find it does nothing for you, consider it a completely neutral option when you’re shopping – in effect, ignore whether or not it’s a feature of the chairs you’re looking at.
The one thing I’ll advise you against doing is ‘penalizing’ a chair that offers vibration as an option, even if you don’t enjoy it. After all, it’s not as if you have to ever use that feature, and you may miss out on an amazing chair if you decide that option is a deal-breaker.
What About Memory Settings?
How important are memory settings? Should you prioritize this feature? In my experience, it’s less important than you might think, but I wouldn’t discount it entirely.
Here’s the thing: if you’re serious about massage chairs, you’ll likely learn what you do and do not want very quickly, and massage programs and a few speed and intensity adjustments make it extremely easy to get a great massage going and customize a bit as needed.
In my experience, it really isn’t necessary to have memory settings – but it can still be very nice, particularly if you share a chair with other people in your home. If you and your significant other will both be using the chair and you know you have very different tastes, having two different memorized custom settings can certainly be convenient.
Personally, I wouldn’t put this feature in the top 5 make-or-break for any chair, but it is nice to have.
Body scan technology is another one of those things that not every chair has, but which in my opinion, every chair should. If you absolutely must economize, body scan technology isn’t strictly speaking essential.
However, in my opinion, body scan technology is nice to have. If I’m going to spend thousands of dollars on a massage chair, I want it to be able to scan my body and deliver a good, sound massage shaped to the contours of my body.
All right, now that we’ve looked at the chairs and seen some of the features that are more or less important, it’s time to take stock. I’m going to offer my recommendations, based on the reviews in section 2 and the criteria I’ve discussed in section 3.
I’ve decided to break this into two categories, Best Chair for the Price Level and Best Chair Overall.
Let’s start with Best Chair for the Price Level. If you’re looking for a chair that will offer the best possible value without being too pricey, this is the chair for you.
Best Chair for the Price Level
Out of all the chairs we’ve discussed, I have to recommend the Osaki OS-Pro Maxim as the Best Chair for the Price Level. At $3,299.99, this is a mid-range-priced chair, not a super-economy chair, but it has a lot of the features I’ve argued we should prize in a massage chair.
The first thing, of course, is that this chair has an L-track massage roller system. The second thing is that it’s 3D. There are other chairs at this price point that are also 3D, but I really like the way the Osaki OS-Pro Maxim goes from the neck down through the glutes to the hamstrings – impressive, if you ask me.
Another thing I like about this chair is the efficient airbag system. That’s not even a Top 5 point, but it is a great bonus. I like the confidence and peace of mind knowing that the chair is likely to last longer.
Heating is another thing the Osaki OS-Pro Maxim does well. Again, we want a chair that has heating, and this chair delivers with 2 heating pads in the lumbar area.
True, the heating is confined to the lower back area, but that’s pretty typical for massage chairs in general, and you’re unlikely to find a chair at anything like this price level that offers more than lower back heating.
This chair also has vibration. Another plus: this is one feature I don’t always need, but when I want it, I really want it.
What about pre-sets? This chair has 12 pre-set massage programs, including Deep Tissue (a huge plus in my book), Recovery, Wake Up, Sleeping, and more.
How about massage styles? Try Swedish, Tapping, Shiatsu, Clapping, and Rolling. Also, the Tapping and Rolling styles have 5 different speed adjustments and 3 different widths.
This chair also has body scan technology. You’re likely to find most chairs at this price level do; personally, I would not have picked this chair if it did not have this feature. It does, and in my experience, it’s effective at body scanning as well.
Now, it is true that this chair does not have memory settings. Personally, I find myself not particularly caring: there are so many things this chair does so well that the lack of memory settings isn’t something I’m inclined to hold against it.
Overall, then, the Osaki OS-Pro Maxim is my recommendation for the best chair if you’re looking for something mid-range: a well-engineered, well-designed chair with a lot of very wonderful options at a great price.
If you aren’t looking to spend top dollar but still want an excellent first chair, you’d be hard-pressed to do better.
Best Chair Overall
Now, as much as I love the Osaki OS-Pro Maxim, my other recommendation is the Osaki Maestro.
Why? The short answer is that this chair has an incredible range of features. If you’re a seasoned massage chair enthusiast, the Osaki Maestro is top notch, a truly top of the line chair.
Let’s take stock of the Osaki Maestro’s features and see why I rate it so highly.
First, of course, this is a 4D chair. And what a 4D chair it is: one of the things I’ve always appreciated about Osaki, especially their higher-end chairs, is the way they really work to recreate the feel of a human massage therapist.
Plus, there are 5 intensity settings. Now that’s pretty high-end.
This chair also has lumbar heating. Granted, some chairs in this price range have heating over a wider area, but lumbar heating is all you’re likely to really need, and this chair is of such fine quality and craftsmanship you’re not likely to care.
Vibration is another feature this chair has, and another reason I’ve rated it highly. Again, very good.
I also really like the full body stretch functionality. This is going above and beyond, in my view: a chair that can do that will provide your spine and your legs with more relief, and if you’re looking for the very best massage chair experience, this is the way to go.
Now, we’ve talked about automatic programs, and in my review I mentioned that this chair has 34. That’s far more than you’re likely to need, but the real value lies in the ability to explore: you’ll be able to figure out what you like, and this chair will offer a much more customized, “high resolution” way in which to figure that out.
This chair also has deep tissue massage. That’s a big point in its favor, in my book.
Another feature I consider important is of course body scan technology, which this chair also has. I’d expect this at this price point, so it’s good to have it.
One other bonus: this is a space-saving chair. It requires only 5 inches of wall clearance to go from upright to reclined position.
If there’s one thing I have to criticize this chair about, it’s the lack of memory settings, which I would expect in a chair at this price point. However, like I mentioned before, this feature is less important in my experience and my opinion, and it doesn’t really detract from the experience of the Novo XT2.
So, there you have it, my two recommendations. In general, if you’re a beginner I’d recommend the Osaki OS-Pro, and if you’re a seasoned customer I’d recommend the OS-Maestro.
Ultimately, though, only you will be able to ascertain which chair is best for you. Any of the chairs we’ve discussed here, and numerous others we have not, could fit the bill.
The very best way to find out is to go out and try a chair. It could change your life.
- Top Massage Chairs Line-up
- Osaki OS-Pro Maxim Zero Gravity Massage Chair
- Human Touch WholeBody 7.1
- Titan Pro-Executive Massage Chair
- Osaki Pro Maestro – Zero Gravity Massage 4D Massage Chair
- Human Touch Volito Massage Chair
- Human Touch Novo XT2 Massage Chair
- Osaki OS-1000 Deluxe Massage Chair
- Human Touch Bali
- Apex AP-Pro Ultra Massage Chair
- Massage Chair Rollers: What You Should Know
- Types of Massage
- Where To Buy A Massage Chair
- Frequently Asked Questions