The history of massage therapy dates all the way back to 2700 BC. In fact, one of the earliest medical texts that references massage techniques– called The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine– is still widely read today. According to The National Geographic, most Chinese hospitals have a ward that’s dedicated to ancient disease cures. Many of these cures involve various massage techniques, some of which are inspired by advice from the ancient tome.
Interest in massage therapy is not limited to eastern cultures. Scientists from the National Institute of Health agree that massage therapy has many practical uses. It’s particularly good for relieving headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee arthritis and lower back pain. However, there’s a catch: massage therapy expensive. Most masseuses charge $60 per hour in the United States.
Massage chairs provide a cost effective way to enjoy all the benefits of massage therapy in the comfort of your own home. There are many types of massage chairs to choose from and many of them are surprisingly affordable. The cost varies depending on the features you want. A typical basic massage chair with fixed massage nodes only costs a few hundred dollars more than a regular recliner. If you’re willing to spend more, you can get advanced massage modes and improved comfort features. Most massage chair manufacturers will even install your chair in the room of your choice for an additional fee.
Here are the best massage chairs you can buy:
- The Real Relax Massage Chair is inexpensive basic massage recliner that comes with a three-year warranty.
- If you prefer intense, high pressure massages, the Zero Gravity Kahuna LM6800 could be your best option.
- BestMassage’s Full Body Electric Shiatsu Massage Chair is equipped with an S-type massage track the follows the curvature of your spine.
- The SL-type massage track in OOTORI’s SL-Track Zero Gravity Massage Chair is curved like an S-track but extends below the seat like an L-track.
- Kahuna’s Superior Massage Chair accommodates people that are as tall as 6’5 and as heavy as 320 pounds.
The best value massage chair for the money
Real Relax Massage Chair
The Real Relax Massage Chair doesn’t cost much more than an ordinary recliner, yet it’s fully equipped with all the typical features you’d find in basic massage chair. There are 50 airbag-style massagers positioned throughout the chair, which are designed to gently squeeze the tension out of your muscles. Eight stationary back rollers add additional massage capability.
- Full body massages. The 50 airbags and 8 back rollers massage your entire body.
- Built-in heater. The heat feature is designed to help with relaxation and it provides additional coziness during winter months.
- Tilts back all the way. In the zero gravity position, you can recline in the human body’s most natural posture.
- Supports up to 400 pounds. The maximum recommended height limit is 6’1.
- Three available styles. Available styles include black, brown/khaki and blue/khaki.
- Optional assembly service. You can order the assembly service if you don’t want to put it together on your own.
- Three-year warranty. After the three-year warranty ends, you can purchase the extended warranty if you want additional coverage.
- Takes up a lot of space. Since this massage chair doesn’t have a space saver feature, you’ll need to allow for at least 9.4 inches of space behind the chair if you intend to use it in zero gravity mode
- The massage nodes are stationary. The back massage nodes remain in the same position during your massage.
In a nutshell
Even without a massage track feature, this massage chair is an excellent deal. It’s inexpensive compared to other similar products, but the fact that Real Relax offers warranty coverage for up to six years provides evidence that it’s not cheaply made.
The most powerful massage chair for deep tissue massages
Zero Gravity Kahuna LM6800
The Zero Gravity Kahuna LM6800 is a powerhouse massage chair that is capable of providing intense pressure. Of course, if you prefer less pressure, you can dial down the intensity using the included remote control. The built-in massage track follows an L pattern, which means that it carries the mobile massage nodes past the base of your spine. Various massage modes– including Shiatsu mode and Yoga stretching mode– add variety.
- Delivers intense massages. This massage chair is more powerful than most.
- Convenient space-saving feature. It slides forward when you tilt it back, so you can position it as close as 3 inches from any wall.
- Tilts all the way back. You can relax at a natural 120 degree angle when fully reclined.
- Built-in Shiatsu massage nodes. In Shiatsu mode, the massagers emulate the effect of knuckles and fingers as they knead your muscles in the traditional Japanese way.
- L-type massage track. L-type massage tracks offer more complete body coverage compared to S-style massage tracks.
- Optional professional assembly service. If you don’t want to put the chair together yourself, you can hire Zero Gravity’s installation service to do it for you.
- You can’t save your favorite massage settings to memory. Since there’s no way to save your settings, you’ll have to program the chair every time you use it if you don’t like the default settings.
- Not for people who are less than five feet tall. People who are shorter than five feet tall or heavier than 240 pounds may have trouble using this massage chair.
In a nutshell
If you’re the type of person that enjoys extra strong massages, this massage chair from Kahuna might be your best bet. However, this advantage might also be a downside. If you prefer light pressure, the lowest settings might still be too strong for you.
The most affordable massage chair with moving massage rollers
BestMassage Full Body Electric Shiatsu Massage Chair
The most notable thing about BestMassage’s Full Body Electric Shiatsu Massage Chair is that it’s equipped with mobile massage nodes. Many massage chairs at this price range have fixed massage nodes that remain in place throughout the massage. The wooden armrests are interesting as well, because you can open them up when you want to massage your arms or opt to leave them closed instead.
- Affordable price. It’s rare to find a massage chair that’s equipped with mobile massage rollers at this price range.
- S-type massage roller track. S-type massage tracks offer a more precise massage experience compared to L-type massage tracks because they follow the curvature of the spine.
- Massages your whole body. Inflatable massage cells provide head-to-toe massage coverage.
- Measures your body to deliver custom massages. You can let the chair scan your body so that it can adapt to your height and shoulder width.
- Maximum angle is 170 degrees. Many massage chairs max out at around 140 degrees.
- Adjustable armrests. You can either rest your arms on top of the wooden surface or open the armrests up and slide your arms inside the opening for an arm massage.
- Optional white glove assembly service. You can hire BestMassage’s professional installation team to put this chair together if you don’t want to do it yourself.
- Vague assembly instructions. The assembly instructions aren’t very clear.
- No space saving feature. This chair takes up 76 inches of horizontal space when it’s in the zero gravity position.
In a nutshell
This is one of the best and most inexpensive massage chairs that’s equipped with mobile massage nodes. However, before you purchase it, you may want to check to make sure that you have enough room for it in your house.
The best massage chair with SL-type massage rollers
OOTORI SL-Track Zero Gravity Massage Chair
As its name implies, the OOTORI SL-Track Zero Gravity Massage Chair combines the best of what S-type and L-type massage tracks bring to the table. The track not only follows the shape of your spine, but also extends below your spine and massages you from below. The sliding mechanism in the base conserves space when you tilt the chair back into the zero gravity position.
- SL-type massage track. SL massage tracks combine the precision of S tracks with the extended coverage that L tracks offer.
- Delivers bespoke massages. The body scan feature allows the chair adjust to your body height and width.
- Built-in Bluetooth speakers. You can use your phone to play relaxing music through the speakers during your massage session.
- Futuristic design. The glowing illuminated stripes add style and interest.
- Space saving feature. All you need is two inches of space to recline all the way back.
- Lower back heater. The heater is designed to loosen your lower back muscles so that they can be massaged more effectively.
- No assembly required. This chair is assembled at the factory and comes in a large box. Curbside delivery is free, but there’s an optional room-of-choice delivery service that you can purchase through OOTORI’s website.
- Too small to accommodate tall people. If you’re taller than six feet, you may have trouble using this massage chair.
In a nutshell
This massage chair from OOTORI can do it all. It has a heat feature, an SL massage track, a sliding base for conserving space and built-in Bluetooth speakers. However, there’s a catch: if you’re more than six feet tall, it won’t fit you.
The best massage chair for tall people
Kahuna Superior Massage Chair
If you’re taller than 6’2 or heavier than 300 pounds, you may have trouble finding a massage chair that fits your body. If you pick a massage chair that isn’t long or wide enough, you may experience discomfort in some massage modes. That’s where Kahuna’s Superior Massage Chair comes in. It’s a premium, extra large size massage chair that can accommodate people that are as tall as 6’5 and as heavy as 320 pounds.
- Long and sturdy enough for tall people. The height and weight limits are 6’5 and 320 pounds, respectively.
- SL-type massage roller track. The track is curvy like a standard S-style massage track, yet it extends underneath your seat like an L-type.
- LED light strips on the sides. The illuminated LED strips on the sides will likely make the chair a conversation starter when you have guests over.
- Space saving feature. As long as you position this chair at least four inches away from the wall, you’ll have enough room to recline it back all the way.
- Expanded list of pre-programmed massages. Most Kahuna massage chairs have five massage modes, but this one has nine.
- White-glove assembly service. You can hire Kahuna’s delivery service to install this chair in whatever room you choose.
- Built-in heater. The internal heater warms up your lower back while the mobile nodes massage it.
- There’s no way to save your massage preferences to memory. You can customize all the pre-programmed massage modes, but there’s no way to save those changes.
- Expensive compared to other massage chairs. Other massage chairs with similar features cost less.
In a nutshell
The Kahuna Superior Massage Chair is the best massage chair option for tall people. Very few other massage chairs can accommodate individuals that are taller than 6’2 or heavier than 300 pounds. Its SL massage track is another standout feature.
Buying guide for massage chairs
Massage track type
There are three different massage track types to consider: S, L and SL. S-type massage tracks follow the curvature of the spine, but they stop at the base of the spine. L-type massage tracks carry their mobile massage nodes past the spine to the underside of the seat, but they aren’t as precise because they aren’t curved. Massage chairs that are equipped with SL tracks combine the benefits of S and L track types, but they tend to be expensive. Fixed massage nodes remain in place, but massage chairs that have these tend to be the cheapest.
Heating is useful for muscle relaxation, which can enhance the quality of a massage session. Almost all massage chairs that have a heating feature only heat the base of the back. However, some massage chairs can heat the extremities as well.
Many pricier massage chairs are equipped with built-in speakers. These usually support Bluetooth, so you can connect them to your phone with ease. Of course, the quality of the speaker system varies depending on the manufacturer. Be sure to check the speaker’s specifications before you commit.
Ease of assembly
Most massage chairs come in two pre-assembled pieces, and some can even be assembled without the aid of tools. However, some massage chair manufacturers put the whole chair at the factory and hire delivery men to bring the fully assembled chairs to their customers.
Massage chairs that are equipped with a body scanning feature can adapt to your height and shoulder width. If your massage chair lacks this feature, you may still be able to make some manual adjustments.
The majority of massage chairs are zero gravity capable. In other words, you can lean them back all the way so that your chair guides you into the same posture your body would assume if you were to relax in a zero gravity environment. All zero gravity chairs can tilt all the way back, but different models have different angle limitations. Some massage chairs max out at 120 degrees, but others can flatten out to 140 degrees and beyond.
The amount of space that you’ll need to put behind your massage chair will depend on if it has a space saving feature. Massage chairs that have this slide forward when you tilt them back so that you need less space. Typically all you need is two to four inches. If your massage chair doesn’t have a space saving feature, you may need as much as nine inches of separation from the nearest wall to tilt it all the way back.
Free curbside delivery seems to be an industry standard. Many massage chair manufacturers offer a white-glove delivery option that includes assembly service.
Height and weight limits
If your massage chair is not long enough for your body, you won’t feel very comfortable when you use it– and if you’re too heavy for it, you’ll run the risk of injuring yourself each time sit down in it. Always check your prospective massage chair’s height and weight limits before you commit.
Basic massage chairs cost around $850. Most massage chairs at this price range have fixed massage nodes that remain in place when they’re on. The upholstery is typically a polyester blend, bonded leather or imitation leather.
Massage chairs at the $1500 price range typically come with mobile massage nodes that travel up and down your spine. Also, some slide forward when you tilt them back. This space-saving feature reduces the amount of room you need behind the chair.
Premium massage chairs that cost $2000 or more come with special features that mid-range massage chairs lack, like Bluetooth-compatible speakers, additional massage modes and other extras.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can pregnant women safely use massage chairs?
A: According to the American Pregnancy Association, therapeutic massages can help pregnant women in many ways. Massage therapy aids in hormone regulation, reduces swelling, decreases nerve pain and improves circulation. However, the organization also recommends that pregnant women consult a doctor before they start their massage sessions. Some massage facilities turn away pregnant women who are in their first trimester to help guard against the risk of causing a miscarriage.
Q: Do massage chairs use a lot of electricity?
A: No. Most massage chairs use between 150 to 300 watts of electricity. To put that number in perspective: a dryer uses between 1800 and 5000 watts, while a desktop computer uses about 400 watts. If you used a 300 watt massage chair for four hours a day every single day, you’d only have to pay about $53 a year to power it.
Q: Some massage chairs have a yoga stretch mode. How does that work?
A: While in yoga stretch mode, a massage chair will typically first shift into the zero gravity position. Once completely reclined, the airbags around the footrest will engage. Then, the footrest will retract. This retraction provides a gentle stretch as the rollers travel up and down the spine.
- Don’t let relaxation time become an excuse to slide into poor posture habits. Sit up straight and place your head against the headrest and make sure that your back is firmly pressed against the surface of the chair before you start your massage program.
- Try to avoid eating or talking during your massage. The more you focus on relaxing your mind and your muscles, the more health benefits you’ll be able to receive.
- One of the best times to use your massage chair is after a workout. Massage is proven to aid in post-exercise recovery. Taking a shower before your post-exercise massage session is a good way to shift gears and get ready to relax.