Massage Chair Therapy: Ultimate Guide 

Shiatsu Massage Chair therapy

As massage chairs are becoming more and more advanced, users are requesting deeper, more defined massages in the pursuit of being able to practice massage therapy. 

Massage therapy comes in many forms, with the two most famous and most commonly used being Shiatsu and Swedish massage. But, what are Shiatsu and Swedish massage, what makes them so different from a massage chair, and can you have massage chair therapy? 

Shiatsu and Swedish massages 

While Shiatsu and Swedish massage are often put in the same box, the two are actually very different. Both can have incredible health benefits and are indeed forms of massage therapy; however, they are quite different beyond that. Let’s take a closer look at both Shiatsu and Swedish massage to better understand their benefits and differences. 

First, let’s start with the Swedish massage. In short, this massage involves slow movements and gentle stroking of particular parts of the body. It can also involve tapping and kneading in certain circumstances.

Swedish massages are often recognized by the therapist’s use of massage oils to help with the friction and the length of the massage, which can last over thirty minutes. Of course, massage oils and lengthy sessions can also be attributed to other forms of massage.

However, the Swedish massage is the only one that uses what are called ‘the five techniques’:

  • Effleurage can be described as being the slow, long stroking movement that is used to address a person’s veins and arteries. It is commonly the first technique used during a Swedish massage. The movement is used at first to help the massage therapist discern the tensions in the muscles and the sensitivity of the client’s body and is then used, in a slightly more pressurized way, to extend, stimulate, and relax the muscles.

  • Petrissage, also called kneading, helps blood circulation, reduce tension in the muscles, and increase flexibility. Although the term ‘kneading’ may sound painful, as we can picture a baker kneading bread, it is never used to cause harm and should only be intense enough to have the necessary effect.

  • Friction actually only takes a few moments to complete and requires small circular motions and slight pressure. This is usually done before the massage oils have been applied or on the drier parts of the body. It helps to stimulate the tissue and increases relaxation.

  • Tapotement: As was previously mentioned, Swedish massages use tapping, also known as tapotement. This is the motion in which the massage therapist gently taps the client’s skin in order to reduce tension, awaken the nervous system, and help blood circulation.

  • Vibration: Finally, the massage therapist uses a machine to create vibrations on the client’s body in the same way that a massage chair would. This helps to relax the muscles, help blood circulation, and even healing.

Since its discovery, Swedish massages have been used to relieve pain, lower blood pressure, promote better sleep, etc. 

What about Shiatsu therapy?

Now, let’s take a closer look at what a Shiatsu is. Shiatsu works on the basis that everyone has an energy known as QI. This energy makes its way through our bodies via what are known as the twelve primary meridians.

The meridians can be found via their distinct organ areas, which are the liver, the spleen, the kidney, the gallbladder, the stomach, the bladder, the lung, the large intestine, the small intestine, the heart, the triple burner, and the pericardium.

The primary meridians are what the massage therapist manipulates in order to promote good health, healing, flexibility, energy, lower blood pressure, and to relieve pain. However, unlike Swedish massages, Shiatsu are known for being quite intense and can even sometimes feel painful if the client is feeling sore or stiff. 

Moreover, that is not the only difference between Shiatsu and Swedish massage. Whereas Swedish massage can easily put the client to sleep thanks to its tenderness and relaxing qualities, Shiatsu are commonly used to increase the client’s energy, waking them up, and is even used in some places as a pre-workout regimen or as a great way to start the day. 

Either way, both massage techniques have their lists of qualities, and each serves distinct and beneficial purposes. Both can help to lower blood pressure, promote healing, relax the muscles, and help with your overall health.

Moreover, both can take quite a while to complete and should always be performed by trained professional massage therapists. 

However, when it comes to deciding upon which is the best one for you, that depends on your current health state, desires, and preferred form of relaxation. Whereas some people appreciate the intense pressure of Shiatsu and are, by the end of the session, empowered and ready to take on the day, others prefer to feel a deep sense of relaxation and would rather experience a softer approach. Whatever your preference, both massage therapy techniques have proven to be very beneficial when performed correctly. 

Are massage chairs therapeutic? 

Since Shiatsu and Swedish massage are known for being among the most therapeutic forms of massage, it is only natural to wonder whether you could get that kind of treatment from your own massage chair. 

Whether massage chairs are therapeutic or not is a bit of a difficult question to answer. First, it is essential to understand that massage chairs can in no way replace the human touch given through Shiatsu and Swedish massage. During both of those massages, the body is manipulated and stroked in ways that a chair simply cannot replicate. However, that is not to say that massage chairs cannot have similar benefits to Shiatsu and Swedish massage. 

Massage chairs use massage balls (also known as rollers) to simulate the human touch. They run in certain patterns and can be similar to Shiatsu and Swedish massage, stimulate the muscles, relax the nerves, reduce inflammation, etc. They, of course, also promote relaxation and lower blood pressure. Moreover, very much like Shiatsu, massage chairs use vibrations that can help blood circulation and relax the user.

Furthermore, some massage chairs also use heating systems to help relax the muscles and the nerves even further and to comfort the user, even more, putting them in an even more relaxed state. 

Advanced massage chairs can massage most areas of the body, including the neck, arms and legs, as well as the back. They also come with multiple settings and pressures to better replicate the user’s preferred kind of massage. 

Massage chairs have proven to have multiple health benefits, including relaxation, helping to heal, good blood circulation, lower blood pressure, reducing inflammation, etc. Many patients are often advised to use massage chairs as they can provide the multiple benefits without even having to leave one’s home. 

That being said, even the most advanced massage chair still cannot replace a professional massage therapist. The added human element allows the massage therapist to discern where the client needs the most help, for how long, at what pressure, etc. On the other hand, someone using a massage chair has to simply rely on their own knowledge and guesses, which does not always lead to good results. 

However, why not take a look at our further guides to massage chairs and see for yourself – you could find a therapeutic chair that makes all the difference!



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