Best Massage Chair of 2018 & Buying Guide

Massage chairs might be viewed as a novelty to some: fun to try out in tech and home stores, but not something they’d ever think of buying (those steep price tags don’t help).  For others, though, a massage chair can be a medical necessity to provide much-needed pain relief and relaxation.

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll look at what makes massage chairs worth the investment, and which models consumers should consider.

Product Name

Ranking

Our Rating

Price

Shiatsu Chair with Zero Gravity Recline

Top Best

Real Relax Massage Chair Recliner

The 2nd

Merax PU Heated Recliner Ergonomic Lounge

The 3rd

Massage Curved Long Rail Shiatsu Massage Chair

The 4th

Panasonic Luxury Full Body Massage Chair

The 5th

Buyer’s Guide:

Are massage chairs a newer invention?

Yes and no.  Like most products, the advanced models we know and use today are newer, and always improving as technology improves—but the earliest robotic massage chair definitely has some years under its belt!  

The first was introduced in 1954 by the Family Fukiiryoki Company, and consisted of a wooden chair and cushion, with two wheels on parallel tracks to roll up and down the back via manual power.  By 1965, a more stylish—but essentially identical—design was released, followed by more prototypes as the years went on.

Ideal Massage Full Featured Shiatsu Chair with Zero Gravity Recline

Ideal Massage Full Featured Shiatsu Chair with Zero Gravity Recline

These featured massage tools outside a chair’s upholstery, and required the user to sit forward a bit, rather than leaning their full weight against the chair.  By 1979, the first model that most closely resembles what we know today was introduced—but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the idea began to gain serious traction.

Why should I consider investing in a massage chair?

Real Relax Massage Chair Recliner

Real Relax Massage Chair Recliner

Massage chairs are effective health and wellness tools, and one that requires you to do very little—except relax!  With the simple pressing of a few buttons, you can improve your circulation and stimulate blood flow throughout your entire body, decrease stress and anxiety, and relieve pain all over.

Those with chronic back or muscle pain, sprains, or frequent spasms might find simple, drug-free relief with massage chairs, and athletes can achieve faster post-workout recovery just by sitting in their chair a few minutes each day.

Many argue that you can’t get the benefits of an in-person, professional massage with a chair—and we’ll be honest, they’re right!  Masseuses provide a truly customized, total-body program with an intuitiveness and skill no amount of technology can match—though they do come close.  

If you find true massages help you, there’s no reason to stop receiving them; a massage chair can simply be an add-on therapy between your sessions, if you’d prefer, or prove valuable during busy weeks when you don’t have time to hit the spa.

Merax PU Heated Recliner Ergonomic Lounge, Black

Merax PU Heated Recliner Ergonomic Lounge, Black

Why might someone not want to purchase a massage chair?

As we’ve already mentioned, massage chairs don’t come cheap.  Some of the least expensive options still take a pretty decent chunk of money—and most people don’t want to skimp on this kind of purchase, anyway, lest they miss out on important features they might need.  This is one product where you truly do get what you pay for, in many respects.

Massage chairs can be rather bulky, as well, with the smallest models usually taking up the same amount of floor space as a standard recliner.  For homes short on space, there might be no place to put it—or, at least, no extra room to recline it properly.  

Design-wise, many of them are pretty hideous, although more and more manufacturers are producing sleeker, more contemporary looks to better match existing décor styles.Remember that massage chairs aren’t just furniture; they’re electronics, and require a certain level of maintenance to keep them in optimal condition.  

In a way, you have to care for both components, so it’s almost twice the work.  If you purchase a leather massage recliner, for example, not only do you have to monitor the motors and parts within, but care for the leather exterior, as well.

Panasonic EP-MA10KU Luxury Full Body Massage Chair

Panasonic EP-MA10KU Luxury Full Body Massage Chair

If you have low blood pressure, bruise easily, have blood clotting issues, use a pacemaker, are overweight or underweight, or are pregnant, consult your doctor before purchasing or using a massage chair.  These conditions can be worsened or complicated by the electrical fields and/or movement, and can sometimes cause far more trouble than relief.

Top 5 Best Massage Chair Reviews 

1. Ideal Massage Full Featured Shiatsu Chair with Zero Gravity Recline Review

For a chair that can do it all—without putting a serious dent in your wallet—buyers would do well to check out this option from Ideal Massage.  

With four massage functions including vibration and Shiatsu, integrated (but optional) heat therapy, and an easy-access control panel, it has all the makings of any great massage chair…but also boasts zero gravity reclining, so users can get the benefits of this specialized angle that removes the stress of gravity from their spine and muscles.

Pros

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    Zero gravity reclining feature for better circulation, less spinal compression, and optimal pain relief; can increase the benefits of massage, as well.
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    Computer body scan helps ensure massage rollers, kneaders, and air cells are properly positioned and pressurized to your frame size.
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    Muted massage function; motor is quieter than other models.
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    Choose from four preprogramed options: Shiatsu, vibrating, spinal rolling, or kneading. Customize time to between 5 and 30 minutes, as desired. Manual mode also included.
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    Optional heat therapy for better pain relief and more relaxing massage.
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    3 recline options including one-touch zero gravity function.
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    Available in dark brown, black, or beige.
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    Affordable for a massage chair.

Cons

  • Like most massage chairs, this option weighs a great deal (200 lbs.) and requires even more floor space than standard massage chairs to use zero gravity function.

Zero gravity massage chairs are incredibly popular, due to their numerous health benefits—the massage, heat, and zero gravity options all build upon each other to deliver impressive pain and stress relief.  To find a chair with all three, most buyers would pay upwards of $3,000, while the Ideal Massage Zero Gravity chair comes in at less than half that.  While it does take up a large amount of space (especially in the zero gravity position), the same can be said of most massage- and zero-gravity-only chairs, as well.

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2. Merax PU Heated Recliner Ergonomic Lounge Review

For those on the thinnest of budgets, this heat-therapy massage recliner from Merax can’t be beaten.  It’s affordable for even a standard (i.e., non-massaging) recliner, and doesn’t take up quite as much space as regular massage options.

And good news for those concerned with aesthetics: this sleek, faux-leather option doesn’t look like a massage chair, either.

Pros

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    8-point massage that targets upper back and shoulders/neck area, lower back/lumbar region, thighs, and feet.
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    Heat therapy can be used alone or combined with massage programs for improved circulation and better tension relief.
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    Design fits with most decor; does not look like most massage chairs, and doesn’t take up as much space.
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    Side pocket for remote or magazine/newspaper storage.
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    Filled with polyurethane foam for better pressure relief.
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    Steel-enforced backrest.
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    Available in black or grey.

Cons

  • Does not extend to tailbone or gluteus muscles.

The two biggest drawbacks of the Merax PU Heated Massage Recliner are the fact it’s not made with real leather, and that its massage function can’t reach the entirety of the back and buttocks, spots where some people carry serious tension—but for the low price tag attached, we’d be pretty skeptical if it did include those things.  We recommend this model to anyone in need of basic massage and heat therapy, but advise those with chronic or deep-tissue pain to look elsewhere.

3. Real Relax Massage Chair Recliner Review

If the zero gravity feature of the Ideal Massage option appeals to you, but the price is just out of reach, this model from Real Relax might be a great alternative.  It also features a one-touch zero gravity recline, as well as 4 preprogrammed massage options.  

The footrest includes the standard air cells for calf massage, but uses rollers on the balls of your feat instead for a more effective result.

Pros

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    Multi-positional recliner with zero gravity function.
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    High-definition screen control.
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    Includes heated system.
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    8-point massage to target every area with specialized motions and pressure.
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    4 preset programs.
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    Can also massage arms.
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    Footrest uses rollers instead of air cells on bottoms of feet.
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    Includes 3-year limited warranty.
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    Also available in brown.

Cons

  • Bulkier than other models, though weight is the same (200 lbs).

More affordable for some, the Real Relax chair also delivers a better foot massage, and can even target sore and achy arms—a factor all too many models overlook.  Best of all, you can use any of its functions (zero gravity, heat therapy, and each massage zone) independently of one another, for a customized massage whenever you please.  And when you feel refreshed and ready to relax, it’s an ultra-comfortable recliner all on its own.

4. Panasonic EP-MA10KU Luxury Full Body Massage Chair Review

Panasonic is a popular brand in home products across the board, and their massage chairs are no exception—although, as expected, they don’t exactly come cheap.  The EP-MA10KU is one of their more affordable options, but it does sacrifice some features (heat therapy, for example) to make it happen.  

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That said, buyers can still expect a full massage with customizable features, and a well-crafted chair to stand the test of time.

Pros

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    Easy-access control panel; no fumbling with remotes.
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    Automatic height adjustment and body sensors to tailor the chair and massage to your frame size.
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    4 preset options including Swedish, deep tissue, lower back, and upper back massages.
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    5 manual options: Shiatsu, kneading, roll, and tapping.
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    Combines rollers and kneaders with air cells for multi-point massage.
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    Lighter than other models; 144 lbs.
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    Base features rear wheels to move chair more easily.

Cons

  • More expensive than other models.
  • Does not feature rollers for feet, or heat therapy. No arm massage.

Overall, we’d recommend this and any other Panasonic chair to those who’d prefer the security of a big brand name behind their purchase.  While this model does have some features worth a second glance—wheels and automatic height adjustment—it doesn’t seem to have anything that certain less expensive options don’t have, as well.  The real question comes down to durability and quality of construction, which, we will admit, is one of Panasonic’s greatest strengths.

5. BestMassage Curved Long Rail Shiatsu Massage Chair with Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Review

You’ll know with one glance whether or not this massage chair from Best Massage will work for you: its curved, low-to-the-ground design is similar to gaming chairs, and thus won’t suit everyone.  

It still offers an impressive massage function, but only in the back and shoulders.  Built-in wireless speakers deliver surround sound, perfect for movie nights.

Pros

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    Unique, curved design takes up less space than other chairs and provides a modern aesthetic to suit many décor styles.
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    Shiatsu massage feature in back and shoulder areas.
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    Integrated Bluetooth speaker for listening to music, watching movies, or playing video games; surround sound in headrest.
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    Convenient phone storage pocket.
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    Built-in control panel.
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    Lightweight compared to other chairs; about 55 lbs.
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    Affordable.

Cons

  • Low to the ground; not ideal for those with difficulty getting in and out of seats.
  • Does not offer a full-body massage or heat therapy.
  • No recline function.

We recommend this quirky yet sleek chair to those who don’t need a massage chair, per se, but would still love to have one.  We could see it being very popular in rec rooms and home theaters, or for regular use by gamers.  Admittedly, it looks pretty cool—but if you need serious relief and/or a massage that extends beyond the back area, this isn’t the chair for you.

To Conclude:

Massage chairs can provide effective relief right in the comfort of your own home, without the hassle of scheduling a spa appointment: when you feel achy or stressed, simply sit down, select your program, and let the chair do the work.

Of course, most aren’t cheap, so buyers should research models carefully before selecting one to ensure it can reach every muscle they need it to, and that it has any features they’d like to integrate into their wellness routines, such as heat therapy to mimic hot stone massage, or zero gravity reclining to, quite literally, take a load off.