How Do Massage Chairs Work?

A massage chair is an innovative device that can be used in the comfort of your own home, or at the office during breaks to help relieve stress and tension in the body. There are many benefits to using a massage chair, like reducing stress and increasing mood.

Each massage chair model uses different mechanical techniques to achieve a truly unique massage experience. Nevertheless, they all share basic components that generally work in the same way. So how do massage chairs work? And what are the components in them?

How Do Massage Chairs Work?

Massage chairs work in the same way a massage therapist would work. They use motors, rollers, and vibrations to stimulate the pressure points in your body. They range from basic chairs to high-end ones that incorporate AI technology that adjusts itself to suit each user’s body.

Most of the massaging work is done by the massaging arms. These are usually two to four rubber balls found at the ends of the arms, they trace the line of the spine from the neck down. They move in sequences, with varying speeds and force, and in different planes and widths.

What Are the Components of Massage Chairs?

To be able to simulate a human-like, full-body massage, massage chairs use a system of motors, rollers, gears, levers, and advanced electronics. The quality of your massage chair largely depends on the level of sophistication of these core components.


The main function of a motor is to generate torque as a power source for the machine. It converts electrical energy into a mechanical one.

The basic massage chair models rely on motors that produce steady vibrations, these motors are strapped to weighted wheels creating an unbalanced center of gravity. Therefore, when the wheel spins, it wobbles, creating a vibration.


The motherboard (or Microproccesor) is the brain of a massage chair. Its function is to coordinate the operations of the chair. It controls everything from the power supply to simple commands. The user can transmit these commands using a controller (it can be fixed or remote) to the motherboard.

The quality of the massage programs is not only dependent on good materials and external functions, but it also depends on the sophistication of the motherboard.

An advanced motherboard will make the massage feel more human. Some powerful ones can make predictive automatic decisions that are specific to the user’s body by analyzing their temperature, pressure points, height and weight.


Most modern massage chairs use rollers to attempt to mimic human hands. These tennis ball size wheels are placed on a track in the back of the chair (Some models also place rollers in the leg area to target the calves and thighs).

These modern robotic massage chairs are fitted with rollers that move in all directions in and around the user’s entire back area from the neck to the glutes. Some chairs also have rollers that move in and out, which vary the intensity and depth of the pressure.


Since modern massage chairs were originally modelled after recliners, most of them allow you to recline the chair freely within 180 degrees with a simple touch. Some go a step further and allow you to go beyond that.

Massage chairs are designed to operate in various positions, from upright to reclined past 180 degrees. The motorized recliner system enables a zero gravity function, which takes the pressure off your spine and aids in muscle relaxation.


Massage chairs have been fitted to contain up to a hundred inflatable airbags, they are usually placed along the arm and leg rests. These airbags inflate and deflate during a massage session, applying pressure on the large muscle groups that rest on that area.

These airbags are attached to a compressor via a network of hoses, they are very programmable, and can be set to inflate and deflate at varying speeds and tempos.

Heating system

Some modern massage chairs come with a heat therapy feature. These heating elements usually target the lower back area, with some chairs heating other areas such as the upper back, arms and legs.

The most common source of heating is electric pads, as they cover large areas of the body. The only downside is their relatively low level of penetration. A more luxurious (and expensive) replacement is infrared technology. It can target a specific area of the body with effective light rays.


Some massage chairs use pressurized water to perform multiple massage techniques, ranging from tapping and rolling to compression. Unfortunately, these hydromassage chairs can be very expensive, and their repairs can be costly as they must be addressed by the manufacturer or a highly specialized technician.

What’s Different Between 2D, 3D, And 4D Massage Chairs?

The difference between 2D, 3D, and 4D massage chairs is in the freedom of movement of the rollers. As 2D chairs move in two directions: up and down your spine. 3D chairs move in all three dimensions, as they even push in and out into your back. 4D chairs do what 3D chairs do with the added benefit of the adjustability of speeds and pressures.

Why Do Massage Chairs Squeeze?

Massage chairs squeeze parts of your body using airbags to improve your blood circulation and your lymphatic system. These airbags target the shoulders, neck, arms, and legs (some models target more areas of the body).

The squeezing mechanisms in the massage chair are typically related to the many airbags spread out on the chair. But they also have other functions like kneading, compressing, and rolling. Feeling parts of your body squeezed is normal and it will help with your health.

Do Massage Chairs Break Often?

Since massage chairs are some very complicated machines, with many moving parts and intricate electronics, the question of something going wrong is a question of when rather than if. However, newer models are usually less likely to break often. With that being said, proper maintenance and understanding of how it works go a long way toward extending the lifetime of your massage chair.


Massage chairs are getting better in quality and feature year after year, the newer models have so many features that go towards helping you relax and recover from a long day. With every added feature comes a new way of aiding the body and making the experience smoother, and more convenient. The downside of that is the striking increase in prices and the maintenance issues that will come with it.

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