Massage Chair Shoulder Airbags
Shoulder massage in a massage chair means different things to different people. The same kind of confusion occurs when someone says “hip” massage. It could mean the thighs, the low back, the pelvis, the buttocks, etc.
With shoulder massage, to some people it could mean the shoulder blades, the trapezius muscles, the upper back, the outside of the shoulders, etc. So, you see it can be very confusing.
For the sake of this article, I will break down each definition of shoulder and then discuss which massage chairs can cater to what a “shoulder” is according to those definitions.
1. Trapezius muscles (the “traps”)
These muscles are located at the top of your shoulders and constitute those muscles that get really tight when you are working at a desk, particularly at a computer. They are the muscles you grab when your “shoulders” feel sore and tight. When you look at the muscle-man they are the muscles that can get so big that they make the man look like he has no neck. They are the muscles that go from the base of the neck to your shoulder joint.
There are really one two massage chairs that can come close to addressing this area. First of all is the Inada Sogno Dreamwave massage chair. It has a head piece that Inada calls the Cervical Traction Device. At the bottom of this head piece, there are two massage airbags, one on either side of the user’s neck, that will inflate and direct pressure downward onto those trap muscles. It is a very intense airbag massage and feels delightful. This is the only massage chair that has this direct airbag compression feature on the traps. The intensity of the airbag compression can be adjusted, but it truly feels like the elbows of a trained massage therapist digging down into those “shoulder” muscles.
The Panasonic 30007 massage chair does not have airbag compression onto those muscles, but it has a roller system that tries to hit that spot. Like all massage chairs, the 30007 has rollers that go up and down your spine. Unlike other massage chairs, when the rollers hit the shoulder area (the trap area), the track of those rollers allows the rollers to roll for forward over top of the trap muscles. It is not a significant roll forward but enough to make it feel like the user is getting the trap muscles addressed to some degree.
The Inada Sogno is definitely better than the 30007 in terms of hitting that area of the shoulder, but both chairs make the effort.
2. Shoulder blades/Mid Back
Of course, these are located in the back and are very common areas of soreness. Virtually every manufacturer addresses this area with their own proprietary roller system in their massage chairs.
No massage chair actually massages the whole shoulder blade, but they all hit the edges of the shoulder blades that are closest to the spine. The principle muscles at that area are called rhomboids and they tend to get sore with lots of sitting and a slumping posture. Most folks don’t even realize that they have a problem there until they sit in a massage chair and the rollers hit that spot.
Massage chairs are great at massaging this area. This area between the shoulder blades is a common point of soreness for many people with poor posture. Not only will the rollers of the massage chair work over the muscles in that area and give the user some relief, they will also push the spine forward and give the user the feeling that they are standing taller and straighter after a session.
So, if you have a slumping posture, prepare to feel taller and straighter after a session on virtually any massage chair with a roller
Inada has a massage chair called the Doctor’s Choice massage chair, which has a neat posture correction feature. It actually has airbags that compress the front of either shoulder while the rollers go up and down the mid/upper back and shoulder blade areas. It pins the shoulders back while the rollers are hitting this area, thus accentuating the proper posture position and working that area even more intensely than any other massage chair model.
3. Outside part of the shoulders
This area is where the deltoid muscles are located. The recent onslaught of Inada Sogno look-a-likes out of China have an airbag that
inflates and pushes on the outside of the shouder where the deltoid muscle is, but their effectiveness are limited. A good sample of a chair with this feature would be the Osaki 6000 massage chair or the Omega Montage Pro massage chair. The Inada Sogno has a full arm massage feature which is very unique. The airbags that the Sogno employs get close to those muscles and do somewhat compress them, but it is not a full on deltoid massage.
This review of shoulder massage should assist in identifying what is meant by “shoulder” pain and what massage chair will cater to that issue.
Dr. Alan Weidner
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