You must have seen reviews, blog posts, and social media updates popping up a lot lately about Shiatsu massage chairs and their benefits.
You’ve probably already seen shiatsu chairs or their similar variations in malls and bars, and always wondered what it feels like to be “massaged by a chair.”
Can Shiatsu chair massage (or any automatic chair massage for that matter) beat the good old fashioned kneading, palpating, stretching and pulling characterized by a massage from an actual human?
Well, that depends on who you ask –the traditional masseuse or massage chair dealer? But since I am neither, I will stick to the neutral subject at hand –what is a shiatsu massage chair, and what makes it different?
What is a Shiatsu massage chair?
To better answer this question, we need to take a short step back and understand what a shiatsu massage really is. And if you missed our What is Shiatsu Massage, and why do you need it? here is a quick summary;
What is Shiatsu massage?
Shiatsu is one of the many different types of massage therapies, but it has a unique twist to it. It has its roots in Japan, and it is based on traditional Chinese medicine with a few elements of western massage therapy practices. The idea behind the therapy is to magnify the body’s ability to heal itself –so it’s more than just a ‘feel-good’ and relaxation practice.
Shiatsu massage relies on using the fingers, palms, and thumbs to apply pressure to various parts of the body surface. It’s known to help heal common body conditions and ailments, and correct body imbalances. The pressure that is systematically applied to the target points of the body corrects disharmonies and promotes energy flow throughout the body.
Other than being deeply relaxing, this type of massage helps to treat pain and illness, relieves stress, and contributes to your overall wellbeing. When done correctly, it can also stimulate the circulatory and hormonal systems, as well as regulating the autonomic nervous system.
Practitioners have used shiatsu massage to treat conditions such as joint problems, poor posture, arthritis, sprains, sciatica, neck and back pain, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Shiatsu massage actually resembles many other traditional physical therapies –it utilizes similar treatment methods such as lymphatic drainage, physiotherapy, and osteopathy.
However, shiatsu operates on the principle that diseases and physical health conditions are brought about as a result of imbalances and blockages in the energy flow throughout the body. This is what sets it aside. Are you still wondering how this type of massage therapy brings about all these benefits?
Well, according to the Shiatsu Society, shiatsu works by improving the overall health through its effect on our internal energy systems (‘Chi’). A typical shiatsu massage therapy improves coordination and increases the range of motion.
When combined with other techniques such as acupressure and assisted-stretching, it can help restore bone and muscle structure. Over the years, this massage has been combined with many different techniques to create synergies that improve its effectiveness.
One such advancement is the development of the shiatsu massage chair –which brings us to our primary topic of the day.
So, what Is A Shiatsu Massage Chair?
Shiatsu massage chair is an automatic electric massage chair that incorporates a number of features to offer a more to less similar experience to what you can get from a professional shiatsu massage practitioner. It tends to be more convenient and cheaper in the long run compared to paying for a professional massage for regular visits.
The chair allows you to choose the exact type of shiatsu massage that you want and the areas you would like to focus on. You could choose to focus on your lower back, upper back, shoulders, thighs, etc.
While many massage chairs have different massage program and styles, not all of them offer shiatsu massage. The shiatsu chair basically allows you to enjoy shiatsu massage any time from the comfort of your home. Using the shiatsu massage chair is generally very easy.
Setting the chair up can take as little as one minute, and you don’t need any extra accessories or tools. Most massage chairs will use power rollers to apply pressure and relax your muscles, and your body and mind become rejuvenated.
Rolling, compressions, and percussions are all used to improve mobility, flexibility, and posture. Massage heads and airbags are designed to target stress points all the way from your sole to your neck muscles.
You can choose from multiple levels of intensity –strong to weak, with automatic reclining and raising of the backrest and the leg/foot ottoman. The rolling and kneading movement is also designed to mimic actual human massage.
Considerations When Buying a Shiatsu Massage Chair
1. Your needs
Massage chairs that offer shiatsu massage are also available in different styles and configurations. Understanding your massage needs will help you focus on the most important features that you need.
Not all massage chairs offer shiatsu massage as one of the basic features. A majority of them will also provide rolling massage –which tends to be less intense compared to shiatsu.If you’re looking for vibration massage to increase relaxation and mobility and reduce pain, then make sure the shiatsu chair you choose has this function.
Similarly, not all shiatsu massage chairs will offer heat therapy –so if you would like to get heat therapy along with the massage therapy, find out if this feature is included before you buy.
You also want to find out the areas of the body that the chair targets. Do you want a back massage only or would like to target other areas such as buttocks, neck, and thighs? If you so please, there is an option for full body massage too. Here is a quick look at the main massage functions you might need to choose from;
- Shiatsu: This is a deep tissue massage function where powerful rollers work on your muscles as well as around the underlying tissues for deeper relaxation.
- Flapping: this is deep tissue massage too that helps reduce muscle pains and stiffness, improves blood circulation, enhances tissue strength, stimulates your nerves, and detoxifies your body.
- Kneading: This is an intense massage function, suitable for releasing knots around your neck and shoulders, and stress around your spine and back area.
- Rolling: most seats will have rollers placed at the back of your chair where they roll up and down, targeting pressure points around your back and neck area.
- Compression: this massage function targets your lower extremities to improve blood floor and body posture, and enhance flexibility.
- Tapping: this function mimics the rapid movement of hands and tapping action that targets the upper and lowers back to reduce stiffness and pain in the muscles.
- Vibration: as earlier mentioned above, look for the vibration massage if your focus is to improve blood and lymph fluid flow, and detoxifying your body.
Percussion: this massage function uses scanning technology to map out your body and apply the therapy on all your tensed muscles and tissues.
Shiatsu massage chairs are available for users of all sizes, and most of them can also be adjusted to accommodate you comfortably. So if you have broad shoulders or a particularly tall physique, for instance, go for a chair whose fit can be adjusted. Usually, you can adjust the position of the massage nodes (up if you’re tall or down if you’re short) using a remote control.
If you have a broader back, you can also increase the width between the nodes. You will find the up/down adjustment to be enough –but check to see what works for you.
3. Your health status
If you’re in a generally healthy physical condition, you should be able to use the shiatsu massage chair. However, you will find most chairs with warnings against use by pregnant women. People who use medications that reduce pain sensation or reaction times are also advised not to use the shiatsu massage chair.
Experts and manufacturers advise patients suffering from conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and thrombus should get permission and advice from the doctor before using this chair. It’s therefore essential to consider your health before using shiatsu –even if your condition is not indicated on the label.
4. Your budget
A shiatsu massage chair can cost anywhere from $200 to $2000, depending on the features and functions included. Simple massage chairs with only shiatsu and one more function included can cost much less.
However, if it’s a stand-alone set that includes rolling, vibration, kneading, percussion, tapping, and flapping functions along with the regular shiatsu massage therapy, it can cost as much as $1999. So consider your needs and go for the functions that are most important to you and any other person who will be using it.
5. Extra features
Need more features? Other than the above main functions, you might want to look for things like an adjustable headrest, multiple massage intensity levels, removable and washable back cover and easy to wipe seat cover.
If you can get models that have fancy leather-like seat covers, that would be ideal. The more features it will have, the more buttons and control options the control panel will have, and that is great for handling –but this might come at an extra cost.
Benefits of a Massage Chair after a Workout
The soreness in your muscles and joints after a workout can really cause you to lose training morale. Whether you’re a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or somewhere in-between, you understand the importance of keeping your body healthy and fit at all times.
You probably know that athletes require fuel like minerals, vitamins, and nutrients, but your body also needs manipulation after a workout. And this is why you really need a massage chair. If you ever had a post-workout massage, you probably don’t need much convincing to appreciate its benefits. The discomfort you feel after a workout can slow things down a lot.
The pains and aches can last anywhere from 48 hours to weeks, and may even hinder some of your daily activities. And this is exactly what massage chairs are designed to address. Here are some of the benefits of post-workout massage;
An intense workout can cause soreness, pains, and inflammation in the muscles. We’ve all experienced this at some point –especially if you just got introduced to exercising or if you haven’t worked out in a while. Microscopic tears to your muscles cause the pains and soreness when working out.
A session or two in a full-body shiatsu massage chair doesn’t only make you feel good but also relaxes your muscles. A study published by Charles Bankhead et al reveals that a post-workout massage can alleviate inflammation, just like the over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
Reduced Muscle Tension
During and after each workout, your muscles are sent into overdrive where they become tight and strained. These symptoms can continue long after you’re out of the gym and on other activities –that right, there is muscle tension.
If not address, muscle tension can sometimes go on for days, and even lead to lifetime injuries. Getting a deep tissue massage from a massage chair will reduce muscle tension by decreasing pressure on the joints and the likelihood of spasms.
Increased Muscular Strength
There are many reasons people stop exercising, but fatigue is probably the biggest reason. If you really want to achieve your workout goals, you need to stick to your workout program –and that needs all the strength you can get. Receiving a massage after a workout increases your strength and energy that you need to get going.
Improved circulation is one of the most significant benefits of post-workout massage. A majority of the post-workout ailments are actually caused by poor circulation. Under intense workout, your body needs all the nutrients and oxygen it can get to avoid tears and strains, and minimize the accumulation of lactic acid.
Shiatsu massage improves blood, and lymph fluid circulation, and releases pressure. This makes sure that blood packed with nutrients and oxygen is taken where it’s most needed.
Protects against Injury
After a workout, your muscle and joints become stiff and tense. If you’re a competitive athlete, you might find this to be quite an inconvenience when preparing for your next event. Stiff joints and muscles, especially after using poor form, can lead to inflexibility, which is one of the leading causes of injuries.
A deep tissue massage after every workout session can increase flexibility, reduce tension on prone areas like the hips and hamstrings, and increase your range of motion.
The bottom line
As you can see, Shiatsu massage is a unique type of massage that promotes deep relaxation and amplifies the body’s own healing ability. It primarily aims at correcting body disharmonies and imbalances and improving energy flow.
Paying a professional massage practitioner regularly to perform shiatsu massage can be quite costly in the long run. Probably the best, cheapest, but equally effective option would be to buy a shiatsu massage chair and have a massage at any time in the comfort of your home.
Five excellent Shiatsu massage chairs available at Amazon.
- 3D Kahuna Exquisite Rhythmic Massage Chair Hubot HM-078
- Relaxonchair Zero Gravity Shiatsu
- Shiatsu Recliner
- OOTORI, Zero Gravity Massage Chair
- Kahuna SM-7300