If you’re shopping for massage chairs, you may hear references to S-Track, and L-track when you hear about massage techniques. Today we’ll talk about these two types of tracks, the differences between them, and how to approach choosing between them.
As we’ll see, both types provide the same great massage chair experience for your spine. The key difference is whether they also provide that experience for your legs.
The decision between an S-track massage chair and an L-track massage chair is an important one. It ranks right up there with deciding between a 3D or 4D massage chair.
We'll also go over why L track is typically better for lower back pain as well as issues with the hips.
Let’s take a look at both systems, and see which one might be right for you.
Before we start talking about tracks in massage chairs, we need to make sure we know what a “track” is.
In order to give a massage, a massage chair uses rollers, and these rollers move up and down the chair to provide you with the relaxing experience of a massage.
How far up and down those rollers move is what we’re concerned with here. If they start at the back of your head and work their way down your spine to your tailbone (coccyx), the chair is an S-track chair.
If they keep going down to your glutes, the chair is an L-track chair.
Either way, the “track” refers to the roller track, which is what the rollers move in on their way up and down.
S IS FOR SPINE
Back in the day, the first massage chairs had straight tracks, meaning the rollers went up and down in an entirely straight line.
This had some very notable disadvantages: the human spine is curved, after all, not straight, and that meant the mid back got a fierce massage while the neck and the lower back were left out in the cold.
Finally, S-track roller technology was invented, and chairs were released with rollers that curved in a wave-like or sinusoidal fashion, thus the name S-track.
As the name suggests, the S-track curves to accommodate the curvature of your spine. This means it arcs downward to accommodate the outward curve of the mid back, and then curves upward to accommodate the inward curve of the lower back, thus taking care of the shortcomings of the older straight track systems.
What I like about this system is that it really does provide a complete massage experience. You can sit down in a good S-track chair and have a perfectly amazing massage, and leave feeling entirely satisfied.
L IS LONGER
The S-track makes for a perfectly wonderful massage. Still, there is an option that will provide you with even more massage.
As we’ve seen, the L-track is longer (this makes it easy to remember), going down to your glutes. The L-track is shaped like a letter L, going down the glutes to your hamstrings.
Because an L-track chair covers the exact same parts of your body that the S-track covers as well as some additional coverage, it is by definition also an S-track—it is simply a category of S-track chair that also covers the backs of your legs.
This is important to note, because as S-track chairs, L-track chairs still provide the same wonderful coverage for your back.
The only difference in terms of your experience, then, is that an L-track will also apply massage to the backs of your legs.
As much as I love the S-track, I have to admit that especially with as much running as I do, the L-track is rather pleasant for the glutes and hamstrings.
Most Higher End Massage Chair Designs are Now S-L Track
Certain features like zero gravity recline, space saving technology, and auto programs get popular and they become standard. The same is true for SL track chairs for higher end chairs.
The SL track became a game changer and now most 4D Massage chairs. What is SL track?
It's really a fancy name for the L track technology. You will see most massage chairs labeled as SL track rather than simply L track. It's the same massaging technique with extending beyond the spine.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO CHOOSE?
How should you choose between the S-track and the L-track?
The most obvious answer is that you’ll probably want to try a couple of chairs of each type first.
That way, you’ll have a sense for how wonderful the S-track coverage is, as well as the difference that the extra coverage provided by the L-track makes.
If you’re on a budget or you simply don’t want to spend any extra money, it’s unquestionably cheaper to go with the S-track: shorter track and shorter coverage means this option is more affordable.
However, if you’re looking for a good experience for your glutes, you’ll probably want to spring for the L-track.
Let’s take a look at each of these systems in turn.
WHY NOT THE S-TRACK?
Beyond any doubt, many people find the S-track systems to be perfectly wonderful in every way.
All massage chairs are going to hit most parts of your body that are most likely to accumulate stress: the back of your head and neck, your mid-back and shoulders, and your lower back and even your tailbone.
For most people, this is where stress weighs the heaviest. If you’re like most people, this is probably where you will have the most stress.
So, point 1 in favor of S-track systems: they get the job done and leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed, and wonderful.
Additionally, point 2 in favor is that they’re more affordable. They deliver a great experience, and are easier on your wallet than the alternative.
SHOULD I BOTHER WITH THE L-TRACK?
With the L-track, we have the same great coverage as other S-track systems—remember, L-track systems are a type of S-track!—but with the addition of extra coverage for the glutes and the back of your legs.
Is this tradeoff worth it—more money for more coverage?
For some people, the answer is yes: they really want their glutes, piriformis and hamstrings to experience the relaxation of a massage.
While your own experiences may vary, these people are more likely to be spending a lot of time on their feet. Alternatively, they may simply find their back legs need massage too.
After all, stress can build up in many different parts of the body. Maybe you need the extra coverage provided by the L-track.
So, if you’re looking for a relaxing experience for your legs and you don’t mind the extra expense, the L-track is the right choice.
All massage chairs are going to have S tracks which will do the core of massage and do well with back and shoulder issues. Massage chairs with the extended roller track are great for treating lower back and sciatica issues. All the best massage chairs will have SL track.
The good news for consumers is the cost of what used to be considered luxurious items is quickly coming down. We are seeing great 4D SL track massage chairs for around $4,000, which was unheard of just 3 years ago.
It's a great time where innovation has driven the cost of ownership down, so it's easy to make a great choice.