Getting a massage chair is an exciting proposition. If you've really committed yourself to the idea, you may be tempted to jump at the first product you find that looks even remotely close to what you want. Instant gratification is one of the benefits of being a consumer in the modern world, after all! Before you begin shopping for a massage chair, though, it's really best if you take a few minutes to ask yourself just a few questions and consider your answers very carefully as you browse. Taking some time to think through the process and sticking to your guns about getting what you want will ensure that you stay satisfied with your purchase long after you've bought the massage chair.
First things first: Who is going to use the massage chair? If you're buying for yourself, you probably have a pretty good idea of what you want the chair to do. But if this is going to be a gift for a friend or family member, they may have considerations you haven't thought about. For instance, some massage chairs aren't conducive to providing comfortable and effective treatment for people who are shorter or smaller-framed. If you're shopping for a chair as a gift, try to obtain the recipient's measurements (height, width, and seat depth) before you buy. Provide these measurements to the salesperson with whom you consult; they should be able to tell you whether or not the chair is appropriate for a person with those specific dimensions. Mobility can also be an issue, especially for older users of massage chairs. Zero gravity massage chairs are available for such users, and allow them to easily reposition themselves using a handheld remote control. People with chronic joint pain or musculoskeletal disorders may also require a zero gravity massage chair in order to maintain comfortable positioning that does agitate their condition while using the chair.
Next, consider where you intend to use the chair. The most obvious consideration that falls under this heading is space. Any chair, especially one with a recline function, takes up a given amount of room. Take careful measurements of the space where the chair will be placed before buying to make sure it's a good fit. This is especially important for people who live in smaller-sized homes - a particularly large massage chair could very well crowd them out of their living area! Another issue is relative temperature. Some massage chair experts recommend against upholstering a massage chair in leather because the massage units generate relatively high amounts of heat and friction during use, and leather can retain this heat and cause the motors to malfunction from running too hot. Alternatively, if you plan to put the chair in a common area where pets or children regularly visit or dwell, you might want to find a massage chair that is upholstered in a fabric that is easy to clean and resistant to stains and soiling.
It's also a good idea to take stock of the problems you're experiencing and the symptoms for which you're seeking relief to make sure that the chair you get will actually address those issues. One really basic property to consider is intensity - that is to say, the amount of pressure that the massage rollers exert on your muscles during use. If you're the type of person who goes to a masseuse and needs a deep tissue massage for satisfaction, you will want a high intensity chair. Conversely, if you prefer Swedish massage and find that a masseuse with a heavy touch leaves you hurting, go for a low intensity model instead. The only problem with this is that there's no way to really tell how intense a massage you'll get from a given chair without trying it out firsthand, which may not always be an option. In that case, be sure to check the return policy before buying. Other massage chair shoppers will have other needs - if you have severe muscle tension, you may want a chair with a heat unit to work out added stress. Or, if you experience a lot of lower body tension, you may specifically want a chair equipped with air bag massage for your calves and feet. Make sure the chair you purchase has what will make you (or the intended user) satisfied.
Additionally, you'll want to consider just how big (or small) of a budget you have for a massage chair. We talk elsewhere on our website about the dangers of underspending on a massage chair, and that can't be overemphasized - if you spend too little, chances are you'll end up being disappointed (although even our economy models are pretty comfortable, in our opinion!) Massage chairs at the lowest end of the pricing curve (the bargain-bin $500 models sold by many big box retailers) often use cheap parts that break easily and are difficult to replace or service. However, that's not to say that you need a top-of-the-line $6000 massage chair to be satisfied. Once you've narrowed down the features that are important to you, find the chairs that have all those features (or, at least, most of them) and fit into the price range you've decided on - then go to some showrooms and try them out. Check out customer satisfaction responses and surveys that are posted with online retailers to see what previous purchasers have said about those models. A little bit of time will save you a lot of disappointment, and may also keep you from spending too much money on a pricey massage chair when a less expensive model would have done just as well for your needs.
Finally, before you hand over the credit card, find out what sort of warranty coverage (if any) is included with the massage chair. Is the warranty comprehensive, or is it pro-rated? Does it cover replacement part costs and service technician fees for any necessary repairs? Is the massage chair's warranty measured in months, or in years? If you aren't satisfied with the terms of the warranty, is there another chair model that would still need your needs and have superior warranty coverage terms?
Ultimately, the best advice we can give to you when shopping for a massage chair is to treat it like buying a car: identify what you want and how much you're willing to spend, and do the research. Get multiple opinions from different retailers to make sure their claims match up. Talk to other massage chair owners, either in person or online, and get feedback from them on the models they own. Check outlets like Consumer Reports and see how a given product is rated. The more prepared you are before you buy, the more satisfied you will ultimately be with your purchase.