Many times over the years, I have had visitors to my showroom trying out every chair we have in on display. It is not uncommon at all for a customer to comment, after having tried out many chairs, that they wished they could have such-and-such a feature from this chair, such-and-such a feature from that chair, and so on. If chair building was like an ala carte meal, that would please a lot of folks.
So, I’ve been wondering lately…what would be the ultimate massage chair? If I could have all the features I like in one chair, how cool would that be? Here is what I want to do with this blog post…I want to list my top 17 features I love about massage chairs and what I would like to see in the ultimate massage chair. Then I want YOU to add your features of choice. Maybe together we could come up with the epitome of massage chairs. I have chosen my features from among all the chairs we carry.
As you read this article I want you to add comments telling us all what you would like to see in this massage chair of all massage chairs. So, here I go with my list (with little explanations as to why I want each feature):
1. Mechanical Foot Rollers – This has become a very popular feature amongst massage chair shoppers. I personally LOVE the idea. If you like your feet worked on, there is nothing like mechanical foot rollers working simultaneously with foot airbags or paddles. BUT…not too strong. It can get overdone if the rollers are too intense. Infinity, Osaki, and Omega all have models with foot rollers and I think we are going to see much more of this feature.
2. Roller Track Down Into the Buttock and Thighs – Of course I am getting this idea from the new Infinity Iyashi. I love this idea a lot. I’ve never felt that lower part of my body worked so thoroughly and therapeutically. Great feature!
3. Sophisticated Body Scan – When people sit on the Inada Sogno, they often will say that “this chair speaks to me.” I think that feeling comes from a very accurate and sophisticated body scan technology. It really does cater to the body of the user and I’m not sure how sophisticated other systems are in other chairs.
4. Foot and Calf Paddles – Pretty much every chair model, other than Human Touch, uses airbags in the foot and calf massage wells. Human Touch uses a patented rubber paddle technology which makes the foot and calf massage feel amazing. There is nothing comparable like it. Combine that with mechanical foot rollers and you will be in foot and calf heaven.
5. Trapezia Shoulder Massage – When I first saw this feature on the Inada Sogno, I fell in love! As a chiropractor who treated many, many tight necks and shoulders, this feature is a blessing for anyone who sits at a computer desk all day long. You will absolutely love this feature, as do I. Every other chair has rollers that work between the shoulder blades, but nothing that really goes up and over the top of the shoulders. Inada innovated by putting airbags at the bottom of their head piece and these airbags inflate down onto the traps. Awesome massage! Gotta have it!
6. Vigorous Neck AND Low Back Massage – Most chairs do very well on the mid back, mostly because the curve of the mid back curves back towards the rollers. So, it is typically easier for rollers to work that area, particularly between the shoulder blades, quite well. But, to get the same “vigorousness” in the neck and low back is sometimes challenging. I love a chair that has rollers that move forward substantially to get at the parts of the spine that curve forward, away from the rollers, like the low back and neck. I find that most chairs don’t have rollers that reach far enough forward to hit those areas well. Some may have good neck massage, but lack in the low back region, or vice versa.
7. Sequential Arm, Wrist, and Hand Airbag Massage – Most chairs have arm airbags nowadays, but the majority of those same chairs just have a one bladder compression on the whole arm simultaneously. Once in a while you get a chair, like the Infinity Iyashi or Osaki OS-7200H, where the airbags are segmented and are programmed to inflate in a sequential manner…wavelike in motion to enhance the circulation of the upper extremity (blood and lymph). I feel that this feature is more effective than a straight compression of the entire arm with one large air bladder.
I might add that I sure love a chair that includes some form of upper arm massage. The only chairs I can think of that have it are the Inada Sogno and the Luraco iRobotics 6 (both use airbags in the bicep area).
8. IlioTibial Band Massage – Inada pioneered the use of lateral thigh airbags as therapeutic tools to massage the Iliotibial Band (ITB) on the outside of each thigh. The ITB is a muscle that is not looked after a lot, since it is rather hard to stretch, and is always affected with tightness and/or spasm and trigger points if you have back, hip, or knee problems. A lot of massage chairs have airbags located at the sides of the seat, like the Inada Sogno and now the Panasonic MA70, but those airbags are only used to hold the hips in place so that when the rollers hit the low back the lower body doesn’t slide forward on the seat. But, they are not designed to actually massage the ITBs. The Sogno and the MA70 actually give those tender and much maligned muscles some massage lovin’.
9. 3D Roller Intensity Adjustment – This is one of the greatest pet peeves I have about massage chairs. You cannot adjust the intensity of the roller massage. If a person finds the back massage too intense, the only option is to put a pillow, pad, or folded towel/blanket over the rollers so that it is not so intense on the spinal muscles. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to adjust the intensity of those rollers so that one person who loves more intense can find a suitable setting, while the other person who is more sensitive can get a lesser intensity.
Inada, the ultimate massage chair innovator, again pioneered the 3D technology to change roller intensity by allowing the roller mechanism to move forward and back. Now, we are beginning to see more and more chairs that are employing the 3D massage.
10. Zero Gravity Option – I have written many articles already that discusses the advantages and disadvantages of zero gravity. But, it is a nice feature to have, particularly for low back pain sufferers as it distributes the weight of the body in such a way that the low back doesn’t have bear the majority of the weight. Not a game breaking feature IMHO, but an option I sure wouldn’t mind having.
11. Fit 4’10” up to 6’7″ – Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a chair that accommodates both tall and short people? I mean really tall and really short? Well, it’s tough. It would be great to have a chair that did so.
12. Awesome Customer Service – Oh man! This is a big one to me. If a company offers and FOLLOWS THROUGH with good customer service, any massage chair just seems better because of it. I have had some pretty cool chairs in my store, but the customer service has been a little shoddy. That puts a lousy flavor in my mouth almost immediately and I truly hesitate to recommend that chair or company to my customers because I have no idea if my customer is going to be taken good care of by that company. So, although good customer service may not be a direct feature of a massage chair, in my mind it is certainly a PRIMARY feature of the massage chair ownership experience.
13. Anterior Shoulder Airbags – I have loved t his feature ever since Inada innovated it in the Doctor’s Choice 3A model. It pins your shoulders back to accentuate a proper posture. If you have never sat on massage chair before, you will find that when you stand up after your first session, you will feel like you are standing straighter. I think you will feel that on any massage chair. Now, add airbags to pin your shoulders back while the rollers go up and down your spine and you’ve got an amazing postural correction therapy. The chiropractor in me just loves it.
14. Passive Motion in the Seat – Another great innovation from Inada (man, it seems like they have come up with a lot of cool things for massage chairs!) is what they coin “Dreamwave technology”, which is basically passive side-to-side and up-and-down motion of the seat. Great for soothing the low back muscles, particularly if you are in acute pain. As a chiropractor, I think this feature is the bomb. Infinity has mimicked it in their IT-8200 and IT-8500 models and I think it is a very, very good therapeutic tool.
15. Space Saver – The ZeroG 4.0 and the Infinity Iyashi have come up with different, clever ways to allow you to put your massage chair right up against the wall. Most chairs require 12-18″ of space from the top of the chair back to the wall. That is a lot of wasted space, especially if you are short on space to begin with. You only need 4-5″ to position the ZeroG 4.0, and 0.5″ for the Iyahsi. I think this is crucial, again for rooms with limited space.
16. Easy To Get Started – If you receive a massage chair without an owner’s manual, I think the remote control should be intuitive enough that a beginner could look at the remote and get a pretty good handle on the chair right away. In fact, I like a chair that only requires the push of one or two buttons to get you in a pre-set position and auto program. I like to push the one button and an auto program button that automatically sets a reclined position in the chair as well as starts the body scan and massage program. If I have to press a bunch of buttons to just get started, I lose interest pretty fast. I hope that make sense.
17. Low Failure Rate – Every chair model has a failure rate of some sort, whether it’s an amazing 1% or a dismal 20% failure rate. Some chairs have too high of a failure rate. Of course, it’s great to have good customer support who will always fix your chair should something go wrong with it, but what good is that if the chair is always breaking down. You will lose your patience with a chair awfully quick if it has a high failure rate, even if the customer support is stellar. I just want a chair that works all the time…not down all the time.
Heat, vibration, and music are nice features to have but not terribly important in my mind. Your back is going to get warmed up pretty good by virtue of the rollers moving up and down your back; vibration is a nice feature to have but it annoys the heck out of some customers; and as far as music goes, I can plug in my cell phone headphones and be as happy as a lark in my massage chair.
So, there are my main features. What do you think of those? NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!! What would you like to see in the perfect massage chair? Go ahead and leave your comments and feature list below in the comments section of this blog post. It will be great to see what is important to you in the perfect massage chair.
Dr. Alan Weidner