Making the Most of Your Chair Massage
Updated: Oct 2
On any given day, after my clients have all gone, I've cleaned the office, and I have time to get some muscle work for myself, you'll find me lounging in one of our Zero Gravity Massage Chairs. These chairs are amazing. I feel completely worked over and relaxed at the end of a session. That said, it has its pros and cons. Today as I relaxed in the chair, I realized there are several adjustments that can be made to create an even better chair massage experience.
Be Open Minded First things first: release any expectations you may have about what kind of massage experience you will receive on our Zero Gravity Massage Chairs. They are unlike most electronic massage chairs in the design and the way the track moves up and down the body. Therefore, it won't feel like the vending massage chairs in the mall or like the chairs you're in when receiving a pedicure. Once the chair starts its tapping motion along your back, it may surprise you. And for some, that is not a good feeling. But clear your mind, let your body relax into the chair, and let it do its magic.
Move Your Hair The first complaint we hear about the chair is "it doesn't work my neck and shoulders like you do!" If you have long hair, or hair that is short but hangs lower than the base of your skull, put your hair up with a ponytail holder, hair pin, etc. This will allow the rollers on the chair to make direct contact with your neck instead of your hair. Even the smallest amount of hair (like those little fly-aways that don't quite fit in your ponytail) can take some of the focus off the neck and place it on the hair. Seems very minor, but trust me...once I put my long locs in a very high ponytail so my head would be completely flat against the chair, it made a huge difference in the way the rollers fit into the base of my skull and curve of my neck.
Put Your Arms Up A few of my clients have stated that the rollers don't quite touch the top of the shoulders and get in there the way I do when I'm working on them. An electronic massage chair won't be able to grab hold of each little delicate part of your neck and shoulders like human fingers can. However, I have found that lifting my arms and resting them on my head (Image 1)
allows the rollers to make better contact and get deeper into my neck, shoulders, and back. I normally instruct clients to place their arms in the air compressors that apply gentle pressure to the arms and hands while in the chair. When your arms are in those compressors, your scapulae are down and your trapezius is in a fixed position--often sitting up higher than it should if you have a head-forward posture.
Take a look at Image 2. Notice how moving the arms out and raising them over the head brings the scapula into upward rotation. This moves the trapezius (red muscle) down a bit, and stretches the rhomboid (green muscle) out laterally to widen the area between the spine and shoulder blade.
Settling into the chair with my arms in this position keeps my hair up and my head in a more comfortable position as the rollers do their work. This is also why I hang each arm off the table while working the upper and mid back during your massage.
If you have been in the chair, you know that as the roller moves up the thoracic spine (mid back) into the cervical spine (neck), the back curves with the rollers and the neck follows. This often makes your head fall back and compresses the neck, forcing you to reposition your head while the rollers make their way to the neck. Keeping your arms up and relaxed on your head allows the rollers to perfectly maneuver through the curvature of the cervical spine and work the muscles of the neck, eliminating the need to reposition your head when the rollers move upward.
You can also cross both arms over your chest (Wakanda Forever)! This won't hold your hair and head up, but it will allow the trapezius and rhomboid muscles to stretch laterally, making more room for the movement of the rollers.
Of course, you have the option of keeping your arms in the compressors as well. If you do any activity that works the forearms and hands, causing them to be sore and tense, the arm compressors will feel great to you.
Sensitive Calves The second complaint we hear about the chair is the amount of pressure the air bags place on the calves. The calf and foot mechanisms were created to simulate reflexology techniques by activating certain pressure points. So for some, just like reflexology administered by a practitioner, the calf massagers on the chair can be a bit strong.
The air bags squeeze the gastrocs (calves) to offer compression for better circulation, while static pressure is applied to points in the gastrocs that are known to trigger plantar fasciitis pain (Image 3). This action is similar to the techniques therapists use during your massage when applying static pressure with a thumb to find trigger points in your calves (Image 4).
The rollers on the foot pads provide pressure on designated parts of the feet to simulate foot reflexology (Image 5).
The rollers feel great for most, In fact, we hear more positive comments about the foot massagers than any other part. For others, the foot massage can be a bit intense. Always wear socks to your appointment and make sure your feet are planted directly onto the pad (do not move them off the pad). If you find that the calf and foot massagers are still too strong for you, you may place your legs on top of the leg compartments and relax them there.
Adjust Your Body While you're getting a hands-on massage, does the therapist remind you periodically to relax? Does he/she say that you're holding a lot of tension? Not allowing your body to relax so it can really receive the massage can cause pain. Being too tense is counterproductive to what the therapist is trying to achieve.
The most important thing to remember while in the Zero Gravity Massage Chair is to relax. Sink into the chair. Everybody is different. Although the technology of the chair allows the machine to calculate the width of the shoulders and the length of the spine, if you remain tense instead of allowing your body to sink into the chair, or you didn't stretch out so an accurate measurement of your body could be taken, you will not get the best experience.
In other words, if you are 5'9", but sit in the chair with hunched shoulders, knees raised, clenched fists, head forward, etc, the chair can not "feel" your TRUE body. It will perhaps give you a massage for a person who stands at 5'4" instead.
So lay back, sink into the chair, stretch your legs, position your arms in a way that is best for you, plant your legs in the air bags and feet onto the rollers. Once the rollers have moved up and down your body a couple of times, you will understand what the chair is doing so you can maneuver your body accordingly. And remember, if the chair is still too intense after making all of these adjustments, you may also schedule a massage using our hand-held shiatsu massagers!
Refresh. Recharge. Relax!
Rest in Peace, Mr. Chadwick Boseman