Old vs. New Massage Chairs: Features and Tech Capabilities
Health and Wellness

Old vs. New Massage Chairs: Features and Tech Capabilities

Nov 23, 2021

The luxury massage chairs of today are undeniably leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors. From one of the first massage chair patents filed in 1948 to the models of today, massage chairs have undergone a series of transformations and advancements that leave even models of just a decade or two ago obsolete.

How do they compare, you wonder? Let’s take a look at old vs. new massage chairs and see how the advancements in features and tech capabilities have led us to the best massage chairs.

The Origin of Massage Chairs

Before we hop into a comparison of old vs. new massage chairs, let’s examine their origins. The practice of massage has been around for thousands of years, but one of the first patents for massage chairs was filed in 1948 by a man named Roland A. Labbe.

This initial massage chair model was extremely primitive by today’s standards, essentially consisting of a stool mounted on a pedestal with sliding arms that would extend to stretch the user. The chair would vibrate as a way to provide massage for anxiety and stress relief (as well muscle tension), but it falls impossibly short of the benefits of massage therapy at home that are available today.

The Evolution of Massage Chairs

From the first commercial models in the 1950s through the rise in popularity for home use in the 1980s and 90s and on to today, the evolution of massage chairs has been incredible. To help us get a better understanding of old vs. new massage chairs, let’s compare different areas of interest such as:

  • Comfort levels
  • Massage chair rollers
  • Massage chair tracks and frames
  • Different types of massage programs
  • Available massage chair features and technology

Increased Comfort of Today’s Massage Chairs

There’s no doubt that the initial stool version of the massage chair can’t compare to today’s models, but their comfort level has increased dramatically even in recent decades. In today’s luxury massage chair models, you may find removable head pillows and back pads. Additionally, massage chairs with zero gravity reclining capabilities help alleviate pressure on the lower back while you experience your massage session.

While today’s massage chairs offer a myriad of reasons to want to stay in them, it’s important to note that it’s only recommended you use it for short periods of time. Yes, full body massages reduce stress, help you relax more deeply, and may improve sleep quality, but we recommend against sleeping in your massage chair for longer than a short nap. At most, you might doze off slightly for 20 minutes during a massage program, but any longer could be counterproductive to your massage chair’s effectiveness.

Better Massage Chair Rollers

One very clear way you can see how new massage chairs have evolved to leave old models in the dust is with better massage chair rollers. Since their inception, massage chair rollers have been used to apply pressure along the back and give the user the massage experience. Older models, however, had massage chair rollers that were far more limited than today.

New massage chairs may offer 2D, 3D, or 4D massage rollers. The more advanced the rollers, the more control the user has over their massage chair experience. For example, 3D massage chairs have rollers that extend from the track. The up/down, side to side, and inward/outward movements let the massage chair operate in all three dimensions. Three-dimensional massage rollers are able to provide a larger variety of massage techniques over the massage chairs of decades past. These 3D massage chairs may also offer custom programming, giving users the options of a light touch experience and deep tissue massage benefits.

Taking the evolution of old massage chairs into today’s models a step further is the 4D massage chair. A luxury massage chair with 4D rollers allows the user the ability to adjust speed and depth in a single stroke. This advancement in today’s luxury massage chairs is what has effectively eliminated the difference between using a massage chair vs. human massage.

Evolution of the Massage Chair Track

In addition to the advancements in massage chair rollers from older versions to the models of today, the massage chair track has undergone major changes, as well. Old massage chairs had a major downfall: they didn’t always maintain contact with the user! The simple designs of decades past had rollers moving along a straight track inside the back of the chair. The natural S-shaped curvature of the spine, however, didn’t mesh with this design and therefore massage experiences were more likely to be inconsistent.

New luxury massage chairs offer two primary options: S-track and L-track (sometimes referred to as SL-track). The difference between S-track vs L-track massage chairs is simply how far they extend along the user’s body. In an S-track massage chair, the roller track starts at the top of the neck in a forward position until it reaches the middle of the back area where it retracts some. Continuing down the user’s back, it begins to move forward again slightly to keep in contact until the rollers reach the base of the track itself.

L-track massage chairs (sometimes labeled SL-track massage chairs) are the newest track options on the market. Found in top-of-the-line luxury massage chairs, an L-track massage chair has a longer roller track that continues below the lower back to the glutes and top of the hamstrings. The continuous nature of the L-track massage chair gives users a full body massage experience.

While great for everyone, L-track options provide some of the best massage chairs benefits for athletes. They are also ideal for those looking to treat sciatica symptoms at home.

Available Types of Massage Programs

We can’t compare old vs. new massage chairs without discussing the different types of massage programs they offer. Older massage chair models were only able to offer more basic massage techniques due to the limited nature of the roller technology.

When looking at a massage chair today, however, you may find a full array of massage techniques available including Thai massage, Swedish massage, deep tissue, kneading, clapping, and more! A luxury massage chair in today’s market may also allow for custom programming the user can adjust to meet their exact needs.

Massage Chair Features and Technology

In addition to the larger variety of available techniques offered by today’s massage chair models, you’ll also see how far the technology has come since their inception. Similar to all electronic devices, older massage chairs were limited by available technology at the time. As the years have passed, massage chair technology has evolved to include incredible new offerings.

For example, massage chairs with body scanning technology ensure the massage begins at the right starting point each time, depending on the height of the user. This maximizes the effectiveness of massage as the rollers adjust to meet the user’s requirements.

Taking body scanning technology a step further is AI massage chair technology! The very best luxury massage chairs on the market may offer AI-backed massage experiences. When you’re using an AI massage chair, two different types of body scanning technology go to work to deliver the exact massage experience you need: PPG and GSR.

PPG technology in AI massage is meant to check your heart rate to help analyze your current stress levels while GSR scans read changes in sweat gland activity that is then analyzed to determine the intensity of our emotional state. With an AI luxury massage chair, you can experience a truly unique massage each time you use it.

Other massage chair features that could positively affect your mental and physical well-being include chromotherapy, zero gravity reclining capabilities, air compression massage (sometimes called air cell massage), and the benefits of heat therapy. Today’s luxury massage chairs offer a truly incredible experience. One of the biggest benefits of owning a massage chair? You can experience all of this any time you’d like!

As you’ve now learned, massage chair features and technology have greatly evolved over the years. From humble beginnings as effectively being a vibrating stool to the high-tech massage chairs of today, the difference is staggering. Is a massage chair worth buying? Absolutely. Choosing a massage chair that meets your needs could greatly enhance both your mental and physical health. You’ll notice the difference and be glad you made the right choice.

Want to learn more about massage chairs and how they can enhance your lifestyle? Check out these additional resources:

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