Massage Chair Common Terms

Familiarize Yourself with the Terminology.  The language of Massage Chair!


To ensure and facilitate your understanding of the industry-specific massage chair terminology you may encounter during your research, Massage Chairs Gives Back has compiled a list of the most commonly encountered terms both definitions and descriptions.  The list has been broken down into subsets as follows:  Techniques,


2D, 3D, 4D Technology:  3D and 4D "Depth" technology allows for the massaging rollers to protrude forward as the they glide up and down the massage track. With this fantastic new advancement, the user can control the actual depth or pressure of the massage.  The term "2D", refers to all other chairs with the standard stationary massage mechanism.     


Roller Track: The roller track is the track on which the massaging rollers are mounted.  The roller track length can vary in length and may also be refered to as S-Track (neck to tailbone) or L-Track (neck to hamstrings).  If you see a standard S-track with a 28" track, this means that the massage from your neck to your tailbone, is 28" long.  If you have a particularly long torso, or are a taller individual, you might want to confirm the track length before making your purchase.


Rolling Stroke: You could actually add two inherent terms to this one – “Actual” Rolling stroke and “Published” Rolling stroke. Either way rolling stroke is the measurement in inches from the top of the rollers at the highest pint of the massage to the bottom of the rollers from the lowest point of massage. It’s worth asking if the Rolling Stroke for each massage chair has been actually measured and verified, or the number is what the factory specifies in the manual.


Auto Programs: These are automatic programs built in to the massage chair right out of the box. Auto Programs allow you to press a single button that sends the massage chair into a pre-programmed routine. These routines typically provide for a particular massage type, for example relaxation, recovery, or stretching.


Body Scanning: Body scanning is an advanced feature that allows the massage chair to “scan” or take measurements of the users back to customize the massage roller movements for various body sizes. The most important scan input is the location of the shoulders – and your massage chair should ideally allow you to override the scan results with a slight manual adjustment if you don’t feel the massage hands (or rollers) are hitting your shoulders right where it feels best.


Combination Massage: You might see these as various massage techniques bundled together, such as “Kneading, Tapping, & Rolling” or “Kneading & Tapping”. These are simply automated programs that deliver these massage techniques simultaneously versus just one or two at a time.


Heat or Integrated Heat: Higher end massage chairs often add heating elements to the back rests of their chairs to add to the comfort of the massage chair as well as to help loosen the back muscles. Some models also incorporate heating elements into the lower legs. The most advanced heating elements are those using infrared heating, which is an optimal method of heat delivery for muscle loosening purposes.


Intensity Settings: This indicates that the intensity of the massage motion can be manually or quickly adjusted with a click of a button. Lower end chairs typically incorporate 2-3 intensity levels, and higher end chairs 3-5.


Manual Courses: Manual courses allow you to incrementally control the movements of the massage rollers to customize the massage to your needs; for example to focus on a specific area of the body with a specific massage movement, and particular width or speed. The higher end the massage chair, the more granular (or full-featured) the manual courses.


Manual Rated Time: This is the maximum time that the massage chair manufacturer recommends that you use the chair for a session. The massage chair will automatically turn of at the end of the manual rated time. The maximum recommended time (or manual rated time) is typically shorter for lower end chairs, and longer for high end massage chairs that are capable of deeper massage motions.


Multi-Directional Kneading: Advanced massage chairs offer multi-directional kneading so that the user can change the circular direction of the massage. Changing the kneading direction allows you to receive either an upward or downward stroking massage that changes the effects of the massage on your muscles.


Quiet Rating: Rated 1-10, this rating is the chairs operating noise level based on a subjective 1-10 scale. Rolling, Kneading, Tapping, Shiatsu: Rolling, kneading and tapping and Shiatsu are the different massage movements that chairs perform. Each massage chair will perform these movements with various degrees of efficiency, and either one movement at a time, or in the case of advanced chairs two or three motions at a time


Seat Massage: Seat massages are offered in certain models. The massage can be administered either by air bags or mechanical vibration to work your buttocks, glutes or hamstrings.


Shoulder And Neck Massage: All massage chairs deliver different shoulder and neck massages. Chairs with stroke lengths under 25 inches typically will not reach high enough to deliver a comprehensive neck massage. Also look for chairs that offer neck cut-outs which allow the chair to better focus on your neck and shoulder regions.


Strength of Massage: Typically rated on a 1-10 scale. This measures the strength of the massage rollers, or how deeply they can penetrate muscle fiber during massage motions.  Stronger massage chairs more closely resemble the work of massage therapists. The strength can be softened through intensity adjustments and added back pads.>


Two Directional Kneading: A different term used for Multi-Directional Kneading. Advanced massage chairs offer multi-directional kneading so that the user can change the circular direction of the massage. Changing the kneading direction allows you to receive and upward or downward stroking massage that changes the effects of the massage on your muscles.


Vibration: Vibrating motors add vibration to massage chairs for improved massage and better relaxation. Vibration can also assist in some cases in enhanced blood flow to the treated area. This function should not be confused with tapping. Width Adjustment: The width the massage rollers can be adjusted by the user to change the feel of the massage and to provide a customizable fit.


Leg and Foot Massage Features Extendable Footrest: This allows the leg massage to rise for added comfort and leg support. Foot Massage: Foot massages can be delivered either by inflatable air bags or from kneading mechanical rollers and paddles. Chairs that use mechanical massage are more effective and offer more therapeutic benefits than chairs that use air bags, to provide for reflexology. Reflexology: Another term for foot massage; reflexology is the more traditional term in massage therapy and Asian countries.


Leg Massage: Leg massages can be delivered either by inflatable air bags or from kneading mechanical rollers and paddles. Chairs that use mechanical massage are more effective and offer more therapeutic benefits than chairs that use air bags.


Other Footrest Features: OK we admit this one is a bucket for various elements of foot massage units incorporated into today’s massage chairs that allow the user to make slight adjustments to the action of the massage rollers and airbags. They include Width adjustments, length adjustments, intensity adjustments, speed adjustments, padding adjustments. Adjustments allow the user to customize the fit and massage to the individual user.


Massage Chair Construction 2 Motor Recline: This allows the leg and back rest of the chair to recline independently of each other.


Arm Material: Just depends on the make and model, but arms on a massage chair can be covered in leatherette, leather, fabric or plastic. Plus some chairs have airbags and channels for the arms and hands, and other don’t (however it’s become almost a standard feature these days, and we figure why forgo this feature if you’re buying a massage chair!)


Dimensions W x D x H: Width x Depth x Height in inches (that is, if your massage chair manual is printed in the USA – if in Europe expect metric inputs).


Power Rating: The amount of power a massage chair uses or draws to power itself. Frame Type: Different frames offer different levels of stability. Steel square frames are the best followed by standard square frames and then pedestal designs. Weaker frames can cause the chair to shake and squeak during massage.


Manual Recline: This means that the chair does not recline automatically and reclines with using manual levers. Matching Chair Back Cover: Matching back covers offer a more traditional appearance to the chair and indicate a more refined design.


Material or Upholstery: High end massage recliners are covered in high quality stretchable synthetic leather. This allows the chair to maintain its new appearance much longer despite stress from the massage rollers, heating elements and daily wear and tear. Other materials such as leather and cloth are also used but tend to stretch over time and show wear sooner.


Number of Massage Rollers: This is the number of rollers that massage your back. Massage chairs typically use a four roller system although other models use two. Be wary of chairs that offer more than four rollers as this means the rollers are most likely fixed in position and cannot travel up and down your spine.


Number of Motors: The quantity of motors effects the strength and durability of a massage chair. As a rule of thumb, the more motors the better. One Touch Recline: One touch recline allows the chair to move to its fully reclined position automatically with a click of a button.


One-Touch Return: One touch return allows the chair to move to its full upright position automatically with a touch of a button.


Reclining Angle: Reclining angle measures the fully reclined position of the massage chair (180 degrees is flat) Removable Arms: Removable arms make the chair easier to transport around the house through narrow doorways and around tight corners. In some larger chairs you won’t be able to move it inside without taking off the arms.


Removable Back Pad: Removable back pads offer the user a choice regarding the amount of padding that rests between the massage rollers and the user. More padding softens the massage and less padding strengthens the massage. Some pads are simply pieces of fabric or foam that come with the chair. Higher end chairs typically incorporate removal back pads via a zipper or velcro.


Reduction Pad: A different term sometimes applied to Removable Back Pad. Single Motor Recline: Single motor recline means that the leg rest and back rest automatically recline together versus independently.


Chair Weight: Weight of massage chair measured in pounds. Typically this number will be an indication of the massage chair’s weight outside the box and not including packing materials.


Weight Rating: The maximum weight of the user for which the massage chair was designed. A higher weight rating typically indicates a more robust frame and components design, to tolerate larger-framed users.


Return Policy: Each massage chair brand and retailer has a different return policy, and often times this varies widely. Always consult your retailer on specific models of interest.


Warranty: Warranties are offered through the chair manufacturers. Typically warranties will include internal or mechanical components, and not cover external components such as the remote control (if it is dropped and cracked, vs. malfunctions) or upholstery. Additional warranties that extend the duration of coverage can often be purchased at extra costs. Warranties vary in their coverage over parts, labor, shipping and time – so it’s worth comparing them side-by-side if you are trying to narrow your purchase from among a few different models.