If you've done any amount of massage chair shopping, you totally understand the meaning of the title of this article. But, even with an idea of what they mean, most folks who call me about chairs with these features don't fully understand the difference. The purpose of this article is to discuss what each one means and what the benefits of each roller track are.
What is a roller track?
A massage chair has a long roller track that extends from the head down to the low back and, in some models, the buttocks and hamstrings. The track can be likened unto a train track that guides the rollers up and down the back. It is the rollers that do the bulk of the massage in a chair, particularly to the spinal areas. The rollers traveling along the track move laterally and vertically to provide massage modalities like kneading and tapping. Some roller tracks allow for forward and backward movement of the rollers, which is known as 3D roller massage. This article will zero in on the shape of the track itself.
Pretty much every massage chair nowadays has an S-Track roller system. The S-Track is named after the sinusoidal shape of the human spine. In other words, the S-Track allows the rollers to move up and down the back of the user, following the curvature of the spine.
It moves more forward for the neck (cervical) and low back (lumbar) regions of the spine, and retracts a bit in the mid back (thoracic) and tailbone (sacral) areas of the spine. This makes for a more comfortable massage for the user.
If the roller track was just a straight line, I can tell you that the neck and low back would be left wanting, and the mid back would get beat up pretty good. I know this because a chair I used to carry in the "old days" had a straight roller track and, even though it still provided a massage, it was very uncomfortable.
L-Track chairs have been around for a couple of years. The first I became aware of it was a few years ago at the Las Vegas Furniture market. Inada had a prototype on display there and it had rollers that went all the way down the back and under the seat. It was not called L-Track back then, but the technology was in place (I think another retailer actually coined the phrase "L-Track" and it has stuck. However, it has led to a little confusion. I'll get into that later in this article.).
Interestingly enough, Inada did not import that model to the USA. Just about 2 years ago, Infinite Therapeutics introduced it's Iyashi model, which was the first commercially available brand-name chair with an L-Track. It immediately garnered great interest from the buying public. A few more models have come out since then, notably the Titan Alpine, the Apex Ultra, and the Ogawa Active. I personally think that this feature is the greatest advancement in massage chair technology in 10 years or more. Even moreso than the 3D rollers and the mechanical foot rollers. It's that impressive!
So...what is L-Track?
The L-Track, also known as an extended roller track, is nothing more than an extension of the S-Track beyond the low back to the seat and top of the hamstrings. It is one continuous roller track from the head to the hamstrings. In previous models, the seat was only massaged by airbags. Now, you can have rollers work the gluts, piriformis, and hamstring muscles just as vigorously as the neck, mid back, and lower back has been getting massaged by the more traditional S-Track chairs.
If you suffer from tight or sore butt muscles or if you have piriformis syndrome, or sciatica secondary to the pelvic musculature, you just might find the L-Track to be an amazing addition to your treatment protocols. I have low back pain and Sacro-Iliac pain from time to time and this L-Track business is as revelation to me.
Here is the thing...most folks think they have to get either the S-Track or L-Track when buying their massage chair. What people don't realize is that every chair has the S-Track...even the L-Track chairs. The L-Track is just an extension of the S-Track beyond the low back and down into the buttocks region. Does that make sense? So, it's not either/or when deciding on a massage chair. You will get the S-Track rollers whether you get a chair with the L-Track or not.
Here is a video I created on our YouTube channel that visually discusses the L-Track vs. S-Track features:
Dr. Alan Weidner
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