When you get home from work, your back hurts from sitting on a chair all day. Back pain –specifically, lower back pain and neck pain – are the most common effects of office work. According to the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, 10% of the world’s population suffers from lower back pain, which sometime leads to disabilities.
One of the most efficient remedies for back pain is a good massage. This is why more than 20% of Japanese households have a massage chair. Throughout the rest of the world, the idea of owning a massage chair is not very popular, despite the huge benefits a massage chair offers.
How does a massage chair work?
There are multiple types of mechanisms, from simple vibrating systems to water massage and airbags, all designed to de-tense the muscles and relieve back pain. Before you invest in a massage chair, you should know how they work, so here is a complete guide to the mechanisms behind massage chairs.
Type No.1: Mechanical massage chair
Video Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70fTFzkB6vk
The mechanical massage chair is the oldest type of massage chair. It uses vibrations to create the massage effect. The mechanism which creates the vibrations is a bigger version of the one mobile phones use to vibrate. Inside the massage chair are multiple vibrating mechanisms which use a mix of rollers, gears and motors. The vibrating mechanism can be slightly different from chair to chair depending on the manufacturer, but the basic principle is the same.
Depending on the chair’s frame, the rollers, which are the part of the mechanism that actually creates the massage effect, can move in specific ways. Some move only up and down while others have a complex pathway.
Those that travel in multiple directions are placed on a mechanical arm which is able to move both up and down and sideways.
The entire movement is supported by electric motors. A microprocessor stores the predesigned movement patterns set by the manufacturer.
The intensity of the massage can be adjusted in two ways, depending on the system used by the manufacturer. One way is to adjust the closeness of the rollers to the frame. The other is to adjust the closeness of the entire frame to the user's back.
Because most massage chairs are also recliners, the roller system is manufactured to work in multiple positions without unbalancing the chair.
Type No.2: Water-based massage chair
Another popular system used by massage chairs is the water system. In its back, the chair has an embedded water system which uses water jets to create the effect of a massage. The back of the chair is made from a waterproof material secured in place with bars. Without the bars, the material would bulge from the water. The only part of the chair with no bars is the neck and head area, where the bulging effect created by the water provides a nice cushion for the user. This material has a series of valves at the top, which allow it to fill with water.
The water travels to this material, often referred to as the membrane, from a system of nozzles, tubes and a pump. The water is pumped into the membrane and re-circulated so that it creates the massage sensation. The system also has a heating device, which enables the user to adjust the temperature of the water during the massage.
The water can also be pulsed so that it mimics a hand massage, similar to the one you get from a mechanical massage chair.
Type No.3: Airbag massage chair
Airbag massage chairs were inspired by practitioners who squeeze large muscles for a couple of seconds, then release them. This method is used to de-tense the muscles. Chair massage manufacturers have used airbags to create this effect. A chair can contain multiple airbags, which may or may not be connected to each other.
The areas targeted by airbags are the arms and legs, which can be squeezed without damaging the tissues.
One or multiple airbags are used to squeeze the arm/leg. They are filled with air by a system of pipes linked to a compressor. Depending on the chair, the airbags might be connected to one compressor or use multiple compressors so they inflate independently.
The more inflated the bag, the more compression is applied. Thus, the user can adjust the intensity of the massage by adjusting the level of inflation.
Some massage chairs mimic the tapping technique of hand massage by inflating and deflating the airbags at a high speed. When the airbags are inflated and deflated at a low speed, they mimic the kneading massage technique.
Many airbag massage chairs use a mix of mechanical and airbags systems to provide the best massage for the user.
Type No.4: A complete gadget
A massage chair is more than just a recliner with massage abilities; it's a full-option gadget. The chair comes from the manufacturer with predefined massage programs, which the user can then adjust. The user can change the intensity of the massage in all chairs. More sophisticated chairs can be adjusted so that the massage is programmed to the person using the chair at the moment. This can come in handy, as one user might be 1.8m tall, while another might be 1.6m tall. The difference in height will make the user perceive the massage differently.
There are also massage chairs that use galvanic sensors to measure the effect of the massage and adjust it on the go, depending on the body's response.
Depending on the user's needs, one can find massage chairs that use a vocal command system.
As recent studies show that a massage is able to release the physical tension in one's body, owning a massage chair is highly convenient, especially if you already suffer from back pain. There are multiple types of chairs on the market, so you can choose the one which best fits your needs and financial situation.