There’s nothing more relaxing than sinking into a massaging recliner, whether that’s while getting your nails done, in an airport lounge — or even at home. But if you choose the right chair, you can also enjoy some of the physical benefits of massage. According to occupational therapist Farrah Fryar, a good massage chair can stimulate circulation, help reduce chronic stress, and in some cases, provide relief from pain and tension.
But picking out a chair that will stand the test of time — not to mention one you’ll actually want to use on a daily basis — can feel overwhelming. Any decent chair should be relatively customizable and fit your body properly. According to Caitlin Eichorn, massage therapist and founder of inclusive massage clinic A Room of Our Own Massage, you should look out for the following: “Wide, comfortable arms that are at a natural height for you (or can be adjusted); a reclining function allowing you to extend your back and raise your legs; and a flexible enough neck and lumbar support so that you aren’t actually overextending these areas further.” You should also look for adjustable intensity, a range of basic massage techniques, and the ability to target specific areas of the back, neck, and shoulders.
Finally, along with checking the warranty and aftercare from the brand and retailer, it’s worth making sure the recliner or chair will actually suit your home. “You’ll want to ensure that the chair is not only well-made, built to last, but also fits in with your space well aesthetically,” shares Massage Magazine’s Hannah Young. We spoke with five experts from the field of bodywork and massage to find out what, exactly, to look out for. Read on to find out the best heated massage chairs, the best for deep-tissue massage, and the best stylish options, too.
Best overall massage chair
Osaki was recommended by Fryar and also by chiropractor and sports rehab specialist Dr. Jimmy Sayegh. The brand offers chairs at a broad range of prices with even the less expensive models offering “a good experience in relieving stress and reducing pain,” according to Fryar. “They’re all just so good,” she adds.
Fryar’s favorite model for a nonmedical massage is the OS-4D Pro Ekon Plus. Its features include zero gravity recline, 12 massage programmes, and an “SL track” (meaning it massages right down to the glutes, rather than stopping at the base of the back). To Fryar, the lifetime of a chair’s motor is also an important consideration. “Ultimately, if the chair isn’t powered properly, nothing else will matter,” she explains, noting that Osaki’s chair motors are especially good. Sayegh also likes Osaki chairs due to their range of targeted massage techniques (like shiatsu, tapping, and kneading), along with calf and foot massage.
Best less-expensive massage chair
This is far from a traditional massage chair, but it’s the massager that chiropractor David Perna of Back and Body Medical once recommended to us for dads with chronic back pain — and it’s just $200 on Amazon, making it a not-too-expensive entry option. Not only does it provide heat and massage to knead out any kinks, but it is also an inversion table, which Perna says is particularly helpful for relieving pain. “Inversion tables tip back and hang you upside down,” he told us. “When hanging your body weight will gently stretch in a lengthening direction. This will take pressure off the joints of the low back and discs.”
Best (more expensive) massage chair
For those who want full control of their massage, rather than relying on programmes, this Luraco model might be a better option. It has a wide range of features, but Sayegh recommends it specifically for its scanning function and ability to properly position the body based on individual body contours. Another feature of note is its adjustable, sliding armrests, which should be helpful for those with more limited mobility.
Dr. Alan Weidner, founder of retailer Massage Chair Relief, and former chiropractor, praises its arm-roller technology in particular, “which is fairly new.” It also features a patented “split L-track,” meaning it offers the benefits of a glutes-massaging L-track, but with the stretch benefits of an S track. Sayegh also praised the model’s “durable construction and quality craftsmanship.”
Best stylish massage chair
As a massage clinic founder and therapist, Eichorn is keen to make the most of her downtime. She opted for a recliner after deciding her couch wasn’t offering enough support after long days on her feet. “When I’m on the couch, I’m generally leaning to one side and am fairly scrunched up,” she explains. “Although it feels comfortable, it does no favors for my back, especially after work. I want something that will allow my spine to decompress, my pecs to open, and my legs to extend.”
Eichorn chose Svago Newton’s recliner. “It’s attractive enough that it realistically replaces a piece of living room furniture, but it has enough features for me to use as a standard recliner (good for my back on its own) or as a heated, massaging zero-gravity chair, which is even better for it.” She says she even feels comfortable watching TV, reading, and working from her laptop in the chair. “It prevents me from crunching forward and sticking my face into the screen like I do on the couch or even at a desk.”
Best heated massage chair
Our experts were divided when it came to the importance of heat. This feature is mostly only present in higher-end models, but Fryar and Eichorn both think it’s worth the investment. Eichorn explains that “heat does wonders for relaxing muscles, treating aches and pains, and preventing injury.” And Fryar tells us that 20 years of client feedback has included reports of “improvements in pain reduction, lowered stress, and improved mood” with stretching and heating features.
Sayegh doesn’t consider heat therapy to be essential but recommends the feature if your budget can stretch to it and if it suits your specific needs. He explains that chairs that deploy heat while they knead can improve circulation and aid in muscle relaxation, so heating features might be important to you if soothing muscles is your priority. If that sounds like you, he advises looking out for models that “incorporate heat therapy through heated pads or built-in heating elements” and recommends Panasonic MAJ7 Real Pro Ultra. This model uses infrared heat rollers rather than heated pads for more targeted muscular relief.
Best massage chair for deep-tissue massage
If you’re keen to target certain parts of your body with mechanical massage, Weidner advises checking if the roller mechanism is adequate for your height. “If I am six-foot-three-inches tall, will the rollers go all the way up to the base of my skull to give me a neck massage?” he suggests. “Will the footrest extend out far enough to make my legs feel comfortable while I am using the chair?”
Weidner experiences tension and discomfort in his neck, shoulders, and lower back. He found that Daiwa’s Supreme Hybrid hits the spot, due to a long split L track that can reach 60 inches of the body (one of the farthest-reaching chairs on this list, along with the Luraco model, above). The track is split across two upper body rollers and four lower body rollers, offering targeted massage from the neck down to the soles of the feet.
The chair also strives to give a ‘yogic’ experience to its users with the ability to stretch the whole body, along with delivering compression massage in the arms, shoulders, waist, legs, and feet through 70 built-in airbags. And with a heated leg rest, it can even give you a heated knee massage, if that’s your thing.
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