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If you’re shopping for massage chairs, you may hear references to S-Track, and L-track. 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 is an important one, and it’s a good idea to consider the tradeoff before you commit. 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 midback 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 midback, 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.
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.
A good S-track chair will provide you with massage for the 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 way to go.
CONCLUSION: HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO SPEND FOR VALUE?
As we’ve learned today, both the S-track and the L-track provide wonderful massage coverage for your spine. Indeed, the L-track is simply a longer version of the S-track.
Either one will give you an amazing massage experience for your spine. The only question is whether you also want a massage experience for your legs.
For some people, the S-track is the better trade-off: cheaper, and they don’t particularly want the extra coverage for their legs anyway. This may be you, especially if you experience stress primarily in your head, neck, shoulders, and lower back.
For other people, the L-track is the better trade-off: more coverage, worth the extra price to get a great massage experience for their legs. This may also be you, especially if you find a lot of stress in your legs is the norm.
The best way to decide is probably to try a few different chairs, experience the S-track and the L-track, and then decide for yourself.
If the S-track satisfies you and you want to save the money, go with the S-track.
If the S-track doesn’t satisfy you and you need coverage for your glutes, go with the L-track.
Whatever you choose, you’re bound to have many wonderful massage experiences.