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It’s a question we get quite frequently here at the Chair Institute because let’s face it, even an “entry level” or budget-priced massage chair is going to set you back somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars or more.
It’s not like heading down to the local Wal-Mart and plonking down a ten-dollar bill to grab a folding chair to toss on the front porch. Even the most basic, stripped down models represent a significant investment, so the question, “is a massage chair worth it?” is, we think, an entirely fair one.
The short answer is, “it depends,” but that’s not very satisfying, so we’ll go into more detail just below, outlining what kinds of things it depends on. To accomplish that goal, we’ll approach that question using a simple pro and con methodology and see where your particular situation fits along the spectrum. Let’s get to it!
Is a Massage Chair Worth It - Arguments Against
Let’s start with the negatives, and here, the biggest issue is the upfront cost.
These chairs can range from around a thousand dollars to as high as $12,000 or more. Particularly at the high end, this starts to get prohibitively expensive unless you’ve just got piles of money lying around.
You can buy a great used car for that kind of money! So, if you’re looking for a massage chair priced at the mid-range (around $5k or so) and up, you’re talking about a significant one-time investment sitting in your living room.
Here’s the thing though...
How many people do you know who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of a Bowflex in-home weight machine, a Stairmaster, a deluxe rowing machine, stationary bike, or any number of home fitness equipment, only to have it collect dust in the basement, where it sits, largely unused for years at a time?
You may have made a few purchases like that yourself. If so, you should know that this is just like that, but on steroids, because it’s a lot more expensive.
To get any benefit out of a chair like this, you’ve got to use it. The more expensive it is, the more often and regularly you have to use it to make it pay for itself. If you’re not sure you will, then no, it’s not worth the money to conduct a real-world experiment on yourself and your bank account.
But, consider this...
A good rule of thumb here is to consider the price of a typical chiropractic visit. This varies from one part of the country to the next, but we’ll use an average of about sixty bucks a visit. So start by dividing the price of the chair by sixty. If you’re looking at a $6000 chair, then it’s going to “pay for itself” at 100 chiropractic visits.
The next question is, how often do you go to the chiropractor? If you’re going once a week, that’s 52 visits a year, so in less than 2 years, your chair will have paid for itself.
If you only go once a month, your payback time is going to be considerably longer, which makes it much harder to justify the upfront expense.
Diagnosis / Treatment
The second thing to talk about here is the diagnosis you have or treatment you need.
Massage chairs are (depending on their specific features) excellent at helping people with chronic back, and leg pain feel better.
While some models are capable of giving a respectable neck and shoulder massage, you’re never going to get a massage chair that can give you a neck adjustment the way a chiropractor can, so depending on where you hurt, massage chairs may not be very good at addressing your problem, or making you feel better.
In that case, there’s little to be gained by spending the money.
Human vs Machine
Then there’s the human vs. machine difference.
No matter how good a chair-based massage feels, nothing can replace human hands and experience.
A talented massage therapist can zero in on problem areas and solve them much more quickly and effectively than even the most expensive massage chairs, which, at the end of the day, simply follow their programming.
Are Massage Chairs Worth It - Arguments in Favor
Most people don’t go to the chiropractor more than once a week, so we can use the same math here that we used above, but the math doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?
What happens if you slip in the shower at nine o’clock on a Tuesday evening, wind up hurting your back and need some immediate relief? You’re not going to find it in the ER, and you’re not going to just be able to walk it off, but if you own a massage chair, you can just sit down and order up a cure, anytime you need it.
What happens if you’ve been on vacation, drove all night to get home, and pull into your driveway at two in the morning with your back feeling as though you’ve been beaten by a colossal man wielding a lead pipe?
Again, good luck finding a chiropractor who will open up the office and attend to your needs then and there. What we’re talking about here is, in essence, the issue of convenience.
There are no forms to sign. No appointments to make. No time wasted sitting in the waiting room, and more importantly, no need to go anywhere.`
You can enjoy a soothing, therapeutic massage from the comfort of home, on your schedule, any time you want to, and there’s value in that. It may be hard to put a dollar value to it, but it’s hard to deny its value.
Unique & Advanced Massage Features
Convenience aside, there are some things that a massage chair can do that a personal massage therapist can’t, or can’t easily replicate.
Heat therapy. Multiple simultaneous massage techniques. Music and chromotherapy combined with your massage. All of these things are standard fare for a variety of massage chairs, and what those devices lack in human skill, they make up for in other ways.
The quad rollers used by today’s massage chairs closely mimic the feel of human hands, and millions of research dollars have been poured into creating human-like massages.
Granted, they’re not perfect, but in many cases, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference, and because of that, they wind up providing most of the same benefits you would get by making use of a personal masseuse.
Bang for the Buck
Again, a large component of the arguments for massage chairs comes down to how often you typically go to the chiropractor, and where you hurt.
Chronic back and leg pain are the most common kinds of chiropractic injuries, and if you suffer from either, and go to the chiropractor at least once a week, you’ll find the payback time to be within an acceptable range, especially when you factor in the convenience.
Also, don’t forget that other members of your household can use the chair too! That’s important because if you’ve got two members of your family making regular visits to your local chiropractor, then the payback time is dramatically shortened.
So, Are Massage Chairs Worth the Money?
This, of course, brings us back to the central question: Are massage chairs worth it?
We certainly think so, but your answer will depend heavily on how much emphasis you place on the convenience factors and how often you make use of human alternatives.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them in the comment section below. We will read and respond to them.