Because the roller tracks deliver the actual massage, these terms are highly significant for understanding important functional differences between chairs.
In other words, when we talk about 2D, 3D, and 4D chairs, we’re describing three important functional categories of massage chair. These categories matter because they describe the kinds of massage you can expect from a 2D, 3D, or 4D chair.
Today we’ll talk about those terms, define them, and explain why they matter.
What’s the Difference Between 2D, 3D, and 4D?
Before we can really talk about 2D, 3D, and 4D massage chairs, we need to make sure we understand the basics of how a massage chair works.
When you sit down in a home massage chair and turn it on for a massage, the rollers of the massage chair are what you feel. These rollers travel up and down your spine in an S-shaped or sinusoidal curve.
When the roller tracks stop at about your tailbone (coccyx), the chair is called an S-track chair.
When the roller tracks are longer, extending down to your glutes, piriformis, and hamstrings, the chair is called an L-track chair.
Now, in addition to going up and down your back, the rollers can also go side-to-side, meaning they can move in two dimensions (up/down and side to side). This is true of all of the chairs we’ll be talking about today, and it’s important because it allows massage chairs to do things like massage across your shoulders, lower back, and other areas that accumulate stress.
When the rollers in your chair can move up and down and side to side, without any other movements, the chair is a 2D chair. This is because the rollers can move, as we have seen, in two dimensions: up and down your spine, possibly as far as your legs, and side to side.
A 2D chair can provide a wonderful massage experience, one which will leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed, and energized. The side-to-side motions, combined with the up and down motions, create wonderful, memorable massage experiences.
2D Massage Chairs
As wonderful as 2D chairs can be, there is something more. While 2D chairs go up/down and side to side, 3D chairs add to this an in-out motion, creating a truly three-dimensional space of movement.
How big a deal is this? Well, the advantage of having in-out motion in your massage is that you can adjust for depth… and that means it’s much more like the kind of massage you’d receive from a human massage therapist.
Depending on the model of chair, the depth may range from 2.2 inches on the shallow end to 4.7 inches. These chairs also have better, more accurate body scanning technology.
I used 2D systems for a number of years, and then I had my first experience with a 3D massage chair. I think the main thing running through my head in that moment, as I played around with the settings for depth, was Wow.
One of the best things about 3D systems, in my experience, is the way they allow you to adjust to your preferred level of depth and intensity. Whether you like a light massage, a deep tissue massage, or something in between, a 3D chair will have you covered.
3D Massage Chairs
Quick, what’s beyond 3D? If you’ve heard references to a 4th dimension before, you’ve probably heard it described as time.
While we’ve yet to see a time-traveling massage chair, a 4D massage chair is a 3D massage chair with rollers that have adjustable speeds that can be controlled independently of each other, producing fast and slow motions in different rollers at different times.
Now, why is this significant? For one thing, it means more customization, another way in which to fine-tune your massage experience.
I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the roller speeds in 4D chairs. There’s something very gratifying about having so much control over your massage.
For another thing, it actually mimics some of the hand motions of a human massage therapist, specifically the way a therapist can alternate between fast and slow motions to help work tension knots out of your back.
4D Massage Chairs
How Do I Choose?
How should you choose between a 2D, 3D, and 4D massage chair? Is there an easy way, or a set of guidelines to follow?
The long and the short of it comes down to this fact: people have different needs and tastes where massage is concerned. This means there is no one right or wrong answer.
To a certain extent, we all like what we like, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
With that said, there are some things to keep in mind, and they pertain to the tradeoffs between the different types of massage chairs.
After all, that’s what the choice between 2D, 3D, and 4D comes down to: a choice between tradeoffs.
With this in mind, let’s look at those choices and the tradeoffs they come with.
Is a 2D Massage Chair Enough?
For some people, a 2D massage is sufficient, and of course they’re the most affordable option. A 2D chair offers a perfectly wonderful massage experience, and I used them for a number of years before I ever sat down in my first 3D chair.
They’re also, of course, more affordable. If you’re on a budget, a 2D chair is your best bet: perfectly great massage for a significantly lower price than 3D chairs.
If you’re a beginner and you know you’re looking for something more affordable, there’s nothing wrong with a 2D chair.
The key question, though, is whether the 2D massage experience is enough. To evaluate that question, let’s take a look at the 3D chair.
- Wonderful massage experience
- Plenty of up/down and side-to-side coverage
- More affordable than other options
- Lacks the in/out feature of 3D
- Less customizability
- Cannot address all the same needs 3D chairs can
What About Going 3D?
As we’ve seen, the difference between the 2D home massage chair and its 3D counterpart is that the latter has rollers that move in and out, meaning that you can go for a shallow or a deep massage.
In my experience, the ability to experience massages of differing levels of depth is very wonderful, and very worthwhile.
Here’s something very important to keep in mind: your tastes may change from day to day.
On some days, you may want a relatively shallow, light massage. In my experience, there are some days when all I want is a little light “touch-up”, just a little session where I relax and loosen up.
On other days, I want something closer to the midpoint, or maybe a little beyond: a massage experience that includes shallower and deeper strokes, leaving me feeling very relaxed and refreshed.
On some really tough days, only a deep tissue massage will do. Those are the days when I need my massage to be very deep.
So, if you’re looking for a wider range of massage experiences, a good 3D chair will probably be worth your while and the additional price.
- Wonderful massage experience, even more so than 2D
- In/out dimension to roller movement, in addition to up/down and side to side coverage
- More customizable
- Better body scan technology
- More expensive than 2D
Should You Go 4D?
Given how complex 3D chairs are, what does 4D add, and is it worth the extra investment?
It’s fairly easy to characterize the difference between 2D and 3D chairs and speak to the criteria for choosing between them, but it’s a bit different comparing 3D and 4D chairs.
Beyond question, 4D chairs offer some truly wonderful massage experiences, and the extra ability to control the speed of the rollers independently is wonderful.
Here’s the thing: the added features of a 4D chair are, in the grand scheme of things, relatively minor improvements over and above a good 3D massage chair.
If all you’re looking for is a good, complex range of massage experiences at a great value, a 3D chair will cover the vast majority of what a 4D chair can do, and at a significantly lower price.
With that said, if you have a very specific problem you’re hoping to address, a 4D chair may well be your very best bet.
The practical reality is that for some people, the added functionality will be very significant; for many others, it will be less so.
- Offers the same wonderful massage experience as a 3D chair
- Added benefit of being able to change roller speed
- Able to mimic massage therapist hand motions
- Maximum customizability
- More costly than 3D chairs
- Benefits of additional functionality likely to be slight for most users
Conclusion: It’s Your Call
So, what should you choose, a 2D, 3D, or 4D chair?
As we’ve seen, there are good arguments for and against each category.
If you’re content with a wonderful massage that doesn’t have a lot of options for customization, and you want to save money, a 2D chair is probably going to be a good fit.
If you want more customizability and you like being able to adjust the depth of your massage, a 3D chair is an excellent option.
A 3D chair is likely to fulfill your needs, but if you have a special condition that you want to work on and you need very precise therapy, a 4D chair may be worth the additional investment.
What you choose will depend on what your budget is, and what your needs and priorities are. It’s also a good idea to try out a few chairs and then decide.
Hopefully, the information provided here will help you figure out the best option for you.