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The first mechanical massage chair was invented by Nobuo Fujimoto from Osaka, Japan, in 1954. He had been selling brushes in public baths when he had the idea to create something that can help people relax in the bathhouses.

He made early models out of spare parts like bicycle chains, car handles, and baseballs. It took him several versions before he came up with his ideal design. Eventually, he founded Fujiiryoki, the first company that mass-produced massage chairs.

Evolution of Massage

Massage therapy had various styles throughout the years, from acupressure to reflexology, which aimed to stimulate certain parts of the hands or feet to produce a corresponding effect on the organs and systems of the body.

One of the oldest types of massages, shiatsu, aims to bring balance to the body energy using the fingertips or palms. It uses pressure to fix the natural energy flow that allows the body to heal on its own. From these types of massage therapy, knowledge travelled across the world.

Once the information was spread, innovations on how a person received a massage began to take place, including the development of equipment like massage chairs.

Popularization of the Massage Chair

David Palmer, a school director at the Amma Institute in San Francisco, began creating experiments with seated massages in the early 1980s.It was a re-invention of the ancient shiatsu that aims to have clients get a massage while seated – without oils and fully clothed.

The chair features a kneeler, a cradle for the face, and a seat. It’s also portable so it can be transported to clients, so they can get a seated massage.

He popularized the concept of massage chairs, and as a massage therapist he began to educate the public about the benefits of massage.

Latest Massage Chair Innovations

From a wheel crank system that controls the massage rollers to robotic systems with pre-programmed massage styles, massage chairs have evolved and embraced the latest technology to continuously provide quality massages.

Here are some modern innovations for the massage chair:

L-Track technology

One of the latest innovations is the L-Track technology. The L-Track or extended roller track is a continuous roller from the head to the hamstrings. In older models, the seat was massaged by airbags. The L-Track allows 3D and 4D rollers to work the hamstring muscles, piriformis and glutes vigorously. It’s particularly beneficial if the person suffers from piriformis syndrome or has sore butt muscles.

3D massage system

The 3D massage system is found in most of the massage chairs released today. It penetrates the muscles and works deep into the back and shoulders. The rollers can protrude from the track and reach places that are usually neglected, like the shoulders and upper neck area.

The rollers can also move in and out, up and down, and left and right. It imitates the action of the human hands and the intensity of the massage is also adjustable.

4D massage system

4D rollers feature good precision and penetration, and provide a deep tissue massage. They can turn and reach different places that other rollers can’t. The rollers can also slow down or speed up automatically to work on tense muscles.

Its goal is to replicate the massage quality that a professional therapist can provide. It provides a customisable massage as the user can control the depth, strength and delivery depending on the specific needs.

Zero gravity technology

Zero gravity massage chairs originated in South Korea and Japan. They are designed using the latest robotics technology and NASA research to give a full body massage with no human interaction.

It helps distribute the person’s weight throughout the chair, so there will be less pressure on specific body parts such as the neck and spine. It makes the person feel weightless and also promotes spinal decompression. Since the feet are elevated, there is also improved circulation.

Its full body air compression gives relief to thighs, hips, arms, and calves, while the L-track rollers remove tension from the back, neck and glutes. It also features optional heating pads for a relaxing heat to the calves and lower back.

Inversion massage technology

Inversion massage chairs recline back to about 180 degrees. It came from the theory that if the body’s gravity is shifted, the pressure on the spine is relieved. Using the upper body and head as weights will help stretch the neck and spine.

It reverses the normal gravitational forces on the body that helps in spinal correction. It gently decompresses the spine to help relieve back pain. This function gives similar benefits during a massage done by a professional massage therapist.

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