Massage Chairs A-Z: Terms You Need to Know Before You Buy

When you’re shopping for massage chairs online or in a store, you might encounter some confusing vocabulary. To help you make the right decision, here’s what those terms mean and why they matter.

  • 2D Massage Roller – A 2D massage roller travels in only two axes: up and down the back and in and out.
  • 3D Massage Roller – A 3D roller adds another dimension to your massage: up and down, in and out, and side to side. The third axis gives the roller more flexibility to adapt to different body types. 3D massage rollers are the most common massage head rollers on the market.
  • 4D Massage Roller – 4D massage rollers are the same as 3D rollers except they can also change speed, making the massage feel more natural.
  • Air Bags – No, this isn’t the same as the airbags in your car. Air bags in massage chairs inflate and deflate to create compression. This increases circulation, allowing toxins to be removed from your muscles at a greater rate, thereby decreasing recovery times.
  • Arm Massage – Why let your back get all the fun? Some chairs have built-in arm massagers that use air bags to decrease fatigue and improve blood circulation.
  • Auto Leg Extension – Some massage chairs come with a computerized feature that automatically adjusts the chair based on who is sitting in it. This is perfect if multiple people plan on using your chair.
  • Back Massage – Back massage is the core function of any massage chair. Back massagers can use mechanical rollers, airbags, or both, and the rollers can come in 2D, 3D, or 4D functionality. The more capabilities your chair’s back massager has, the more dynamic and natural your massage will feel.
  • Bodyscan Technology – Bodyscan technology is a marvel of science. Not only does it detect the position of your body, but the shape of your spine and areas of tension, as well. It will even zero in on your acupressure points. A massage chair with bodyscan technology will automatically adjust the position of its rollers and customize your massage based on the information it has gathered.
  • Chromotherapy Lights – Some research has shown that certain wavelengths of light are more relaxing than others. If you plan on buying a chair with chromotherapy lights, make sure the room you intend to put it in can get dark enough for you to take advantage of this feature.
  • Foot and Calf Massage – Daily life can take its toll on your feet as well as your back. Chairs with foot and calf massage use airbags to take care of this often-sore area of your body.
  • Head Air Massage – This is a relatively new feature in massage chairs. It uses compressed air to relieve tension and headaches.
  • Heat Therapy – Heat can magnify the therapeutic effects of a massage, especially for those with chronic back pain. Heat can loosen your muscles and leave you feeling more relaxed. It will also increase your circulation, helping your body remove toxins more quickly and relieving pain and soreness.
  • Intensity – Intensity is a measurement of the strength of a massage. It can vary from hard to light. Most massage chairs will provide a range of intensity settings. The more motors a chair contains, the greater intensity it will be able to attain.
  • MP3 Player – You can’t relax without your tunes. Many modern chairs include speakers systems that can connect to your MP3 player or smartphone. More advanced chairs include Bluetooth technology for a wireless connection.
  • Neck Air Massage – If you carry a lot of pain and tension in your neck or upper shoulders, make sure to look for a massage chair with airbags that can massage the area around your neck.
  • Programs – A massage chair’s programming is how it knows what to do and when to start and stop. Most chairs come with multiple programs of varying length, focus, and intensity. Some chairs will allow you to customize and save your favorite programs. Some higher-end chairs even include body mapping, which will automatically locate your areas of tension and customize a program to zero in on those areas.
  • Quad Roller – This is the most common type of massage chair roller. It uses four points of contact to replicate the feel of the human hand. Some older models still use dual rollers, but this technology seems to be on its way out.
  • Space Saver Technology – If you plan on reclining your massage chair, make sure you have enough room to do so. If you have a smaller room or apartment to work with, look for a chair that uses space saver technology.
  • Zero Gravity – Zero gravity is a concept developed by NASA but now available to you for achieving maximum relaxation in your massage chair. The problem was that NASA’s astronauts were complaining of fatigue following launches due to the extreme compression the acceleration forces were putting on their spines. After extensive research, NASA came up with a perfect “neutral body posture” that distributes pressure throughout the human body, rather than only the spine. Zero gravity massage chairs use this posture to your advantage. When a massage chair puts you in the zero gravity position, it reduces your muscle tension, decreases the pressure on your heart, increases your lung capacity, and increases your circulation and blood oxygen levels. Not bad for a chair.

These terms are just a start when it comes to learning all about massage chairs, but this will get you moving in the right direction.