If you’re interested in buying a massage chair but can’t bring yourself to spend that kind of money, you may have begun searching for lower-priced alternatives, such as a massage cushion or a massage gun. That, however, inevitably leads to the question which serves as the title for this piece: Massage Gun vs Massage Chair; which one is better?
At first glance, it may seem like a lopsided contest, but, as you’ll see, there’s more to the comparison than first meets the eye. And in this article, we’ll explore the comparison thoroughly. If that sounds good to you, grab a cup of coffee, settle into your favorite easy chair, and let’s take a closer look!
Massage Gun vs Massage Chair — Self Service vs. Full Service
The best way to describe one of the key differences between the two technologies is that a massage chair is like a full-service gas station. You pull up, honk your horn (or, in the case of your massage chair, push a button on the remote), and the attendant takes care of everything for you.
Massage guns are like a self-service gas station pump. You drive up, get out of the car, and do it yourself.
In terms of convenience, then, the massage chair wins, hands-down.
Massage Chair vs. Massage Gun — Portability
On the other hand, massage chairs are big, hulking pieces of furniture. You can’t take them with you. If you travel a lot and you want something you can take on the road with you, the massage gun is obviously the way to go.
The author himself owns an off-brand massage gun, by the way. Made by Xllent (see pictures), I keep it in the office with me, so I can work the kinks out of my neck while I’m writing. It’s not an especially advanced or feature-rich model, but I absolutely swear by it. It comes with six different massage heads and each offers slightly different massage experiences.
This brings us to our next point of comparison, which is…
Comparing a massage chair vs massage gun on the basis of the quality of the massage you get is no contest.
The massage chair gives the better massage, without question.
Even better, most massage chairs offer a variety of massage techniques, with the bulk of them offering at least one advanced technique—usually Shiatsu.
The little massage gun can’t compete with that. They offer a simple vibration style massage, modified slightly by your choice of massage head attachment.
Swapping out one massage head for another doesn’t change the fact that what you’re getting from your massage gun is a simple vibration-style massage.
Make no mistake, if your muscles are screaming, using a massage gun will feel good, and it will definitely help work the knots out of your muscles. So it will get the job done, but in terms of quality, it’s not even in the same zip code as what you’ll get from a massage chair.
That makes sense when you think about it. You’re paying a premium for the convenience of full-service and a variety of techniques.
Speed and Intensity Settings
This very much depends on the specific massage chair you’re looking at and the specific massage gun you’re comparing it against, but generally speaking, this winds up being a tie.
As I mentioned earlier, the little massage gun I got isn’t terribly advanced, but it comes with three different speed settings, and more expensive models come with 3-5 intensity settings as well.
This compares favorably with and, in fact, is virtually identical to the speed and intensity settings you usually find available on massage chairs. While a massage gun may not have anything to offer in terms of techniques, it can certainly keep pace in terms of speed and intensity settings.
Again, in the massage gun vs massage chair side-by-side comparison, the massage chair wins handily.
Even many entry-level chairs tend to offer an impressive array of extras and finishing touches, like USB charging ports and Bluetooth speakers, which allow you to keep your phone charged and listen to your favorite music while enjoying a massage.
While massage guns aren’t excessively loud, most of them are louder than a massage chair, and you’ll be too busy guiding the gun, in any case, to focus on music, your favorite podcasts, or anything else. Even if you do try to listen to something, the massage gun doesn’t boast built-in speakers or a handy USB port, so it’s just less convenient on that front.
Most massage guns don’t offer anything in the way of extras at all, though you will find a few models (mostly at the upper end of the price spectrum) that offer heat, which is amazing.
Even so, on the extras front, we have to give the nod to the massage chair.
Here’s where the massage gun truly shines in comparison to a massage chair.
You can get a decent, basic massage gun—like the one I’ve got—for almost nothing. Depending on your budget, it could take months and perhaps even more than a year to save up for an entry-level massage chair.
If money’s tight and you’re looking for something that can give you a bit of relief right now, the massage gun makes a lot of sense, and even modestly priced ones bring a ton of value to the table.
Massage Gun vs Massage Chair Conclusion
So, where does that leave us?
Honestly, it depends on how you measure “best”, which is a subjective term.
If the best option for you is the one you can take on the road, then the massage gun is the best.
If the best option for you is the one that gives you the best overall massage without you having to do anything, then the massage chair is the best option by a wide margin.
If you’re looking for a variety of techniques, the massage chair has you covered. On the other hand, if money is tight and you’re looking for something that can give your sore muscles some badly needed relief, then it’s hard to top the value proposition that the massage gun brings to the table.
Ultimately, we feel it’s an unfair question, though, because it’s not an either/or proposition, or at least, it doesn’t have to be.
As inexpensive as most massage guns are, you can have the best of both worlds. Buy a massage chair for use when you’re at home, and keep a massage gun in your suitcase or in your home office (like I do!), so you can grab it and work the kinks out of your shoulders, neck, or legs while you’re working.
That gives you the best of both worlds, which makes it awfully hard to argue against.
If you can’t, or don’t want to get both, then we’ll recommend the massage chair over a massage gun for people who can afford it and who place more value on convenience and overall massage quality.
We’ll recommend a massage gun as a viable alternative for people who are on a tight budget or who travel a lot and can’t take their massage chair with them in any event, if they got one. Anyone who places a premium on portability will be well-served by investing in a massage gun.
The real question is, what features do you value more?
References & Resources:
- Are Massage Guns Worth the Hype – And the Big Bucks?, The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Should You Reach for a Handheld Massage Gun?, Cleveland Clinic.
- What Is Percussion Therapy? Here’s the Deep (Tissue) Dive, Greatist.