Is a Massage Chair Good for the Elderly and other FAQs

If you are advanced in age or are taking care of a senior, you will know, how the elderly like a good massage. In fact, anyone will appreciate a massage after a long day. But going to a spa regularly is not possible for most of us. In such a situation, especially, if you have a few hundred dollars to spare, you may consider investing in a massage chair or a Shiatsu massage chair pad.

But before you go ahead and buy one, have you stopped to consider, is a massage chair good for the elderly? We will explore this and other frequently asked questions about massage chairs in this article.

Is a massage chair good for the elderly?

A zero gravity massage chair on Amazon

A zero gravity massage chair on Amazon

ir?t=helpw01 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B009R5WDO0We thought the best way to get an answer to this question is to ask a doctor. So we asked Dr Mariusz Fajfer, DC of Neurochangers, Durham. This is what he had to say about massage chairs for the elderly.

A massage chair can definitely be beneficial and make you feel better. But I would not consider it mandatory. Massage chairs can be good for general aches and pain or just for some relaxation at the end of the day.

Like mentioned, the price of a massage chair can be a significant factor with some of them having a multitude of features. However, even with a wide range of options and features saving that money and using it towards seeing a therapist, such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist, could be a better option.

One benefit of seeing a therapist is you can have them work on specific areas that maybe the massage chair couldn’t help. You also have the knowledge of the therapist to help you decide what type of treatment is better for you. Moreover, you have the possibility of being sent home with a home exercise program that is tailored specifically to you that can also help with any aches and pain you may have.

Another benefit of working with a therapist is you have access to the wealth of knowledge they possess to help you answer any questions you may have. That being said, a massage chair can complement a treatment from a therapist depending on the condition.

It is also important to note that before buying a massage chair I would consult with your family physician first. Some individuals with blood disorders such as clotting should not use massage chairs. Others that should also proceed with caution are people with heart conditions, low blood pressure, or even epilepsy.

– Dr. Mariusz Fajfer, DC

To summarize, massage chairs are good for the elderly as far as relaxation is concerned. But if you are looking for specific treatment for pains or aches, it is best to consult a doctor or a therapist. Massage chairs though can act as a good complement to a therapist’s treatment.

How much do massage chairs cost?

The cost of a massage chair can range from anywhere between $100 up to as much as $10,000 or more depending on the complexity, type, or size of the chair. Though, most good massage chairs are in the $500-$2,000 range. The relatively high cost of massage chairs definitely makes you ask yourself if they are really worth the price.

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The best way to answer that question is to weigh the cost versus the benefits you would get from it. It is worth that price to you to feel better, reduce pain, or experience the other many benefits a massage chair can give? To get the most benefit out of purchasing a massage chair for your home, you should plan to use it at least once or twice a month, if not more to get the full value for your investment.

Massage therapy may also be considered when purchasing a massage chair as similar benefits can be obtained. The cost of massage therapy is approximately $75 to $100 per hour. When you add up the total cost of multiple massage sessions with a massage therapist it may come out to be more expensive for you in the end. However, sometimes massage therapy can be covered by medical insurance, whereas massage chairs are not.

Another thing to take into consideration is that if you do purchase a massage chair, you can use it whenever you want, as often as you want, and for as long as you would like, all in the comfort of your own home. This may be preferred for older adults over making an appointment with a massage therapist and going to their office every session as elderly people may have a harder time driving or taking public transport.

Overall, you would have to weigh your personal needs and the health benefits that come with owning a massage chair. However, if you look past the big initial cost and plan to use it often, it will be a good investment in the end.

What features to consider when buying a massage chair?

Purchasing a massage chair may seem overwhelming when you see how many options you have available to you. There are many different sizes, pressures, heating options, and even zero-gravity options. Here are some things you may want to take into consideration to make your choice easier.

A Massage Chair for Home Use

Most standard massage chairs will use three basic settings, heating, vibrations, and massage rollers. A massage chair with a heated setting will help to relax the muscles through the use of heating pads or infrared rollers. Although this is not necessary, some people may like the feel of the heated settings as well.

When looking at vibrations and massage rollers, you will want to consider how much pressure you would prefer. For older adults and seniors, a high-pressure massage chair may be too harsh. However many massage chairs have adjustable intensity settings as well.

Not all massage chairs will use rollers as their main method of massage as the lower-end ones may only use vibrations. If you feel vibration massage would be sufficient for you, it may be worth saving yourself some money and purchasing a less costly chair.

If you are looking on the more expensive side, some chairs use air compression massage where the pressure is achieved by airbags and can be used on any part of the body.

The size of the chair must also be considered as the bigger the chair, the more costly it will be. Some massage chairs only have motors around the back and neck, while larger ones may have the ability for hip, arm, leg, head, or even foot massages.

Full body massage chairs may improve circulation and feel overall more relaxing then smaller chairs. If you are only looking for a localized massage, like for the lower back, a small chair may be all you need. But if you have space in your home and financial ability to purchase a chair with more massage motors that may be preferred as well.

Additional features that may be included and will affect the cost are acupressure points, reclining ability, and stretch features.

Some chairs will apply pressure to specific acupressure points to the body which can have many different benefits depending on the point.

Many chairs have a reclining ability and some even will have a zero-gravity setting. With simple reclining your body weight will not be fully supported by the chair whereas with a zero-gravity chair it will be. It may even feel like you are floating. However, a zero-gravity chair will be more costly.

Muscle or spinal stretch features may also be an option, with spinal stretch being more costly. Simple muscle stretch can help improve overall flexibility while the spinal stretch is a great feature to have for anyone suffering from back or spinal pain.

With all the different possibilities, you have to pick the chair that you feel will benefit you the most and you are the most comfortable with.

How do massage chairs work?

Massage chairs work by relieving muscle tension and relaxing the joints. This can lead to many overall benefits for the body. They do this by using several mechanical motors in specific placements to apply different pressures, heat, or vibrations to the body.  Pressure applied by massage chairs may include roller pressures in a right to left, up or down, or circular pattern. Kneading, tapping, gripping, and pressure point massage (a.k.a. shiatsu) are also used.

A Shiatsu Massage Chair on Amazon

A Shiatsu Massage Chair on Amazon

ir?t=helpw01 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B08CSMR6RP The type of massage used will depend on the type of massage chair you have, as they are available in many different shapes, sizes, and styles. The specific placement of the motors requires you to be positioned properly in the chair to provide the most benefit and reduce any risk of harm. Correct positioning in massage chairs will again depend on the type of massage chair you own, so be sure to refer to the instruction manual provided with your massage chair.

Massage chairs can be especially beneficial for older adults because as you age, individuals tend to be less mobile, possibly due to pain or other reasons. Massaging can help the muscles to keep up movement and therefore improve or help maintain muscle flexibility. With better muscle flexibility, the risk of muscle-related injury caused by falls is also greatly decreased.

How to use a massage chair and how often?

When using a massage chair, it is important to know how to properly work it to get the most benefit as well as preventing injury. Every massage chair is different so the individual using it should learn how to use the remote or controls specific to the type of chair owned. This information should be found in the instruction booklet included with your massage chair.

Massage chairs can be used for as little or as long as you would like, although it has been found for the elderly, ten to twenty minutes, two to four times is most beneficial. Mixed settings are also preferable over repeating the same massage program. This can include kneading, rolling, tapping, vibrations, or any other combination of settings.

Light pressure from these movements is best for the elderly as their weaker muscles can be more easily damaged. Two to four times per week is more beneficial than everyday use for seniors so that muscles and joints are not overworked, which can cause injury. Please do consult with a doctor or therapist before starting to use a massage chair.

What are the health benefits of massage chairs?

There are many health benefits of regularly using a massage chair. They include better sleep, improved blood circulation, a stronger immune system, improved flexibility, and pain relief, among others.

These benefits can apply to users of any age, including elderly persons.

  • Better sleep; massaging can help correct disturbed sleep patterns or insomnia. It promotes relaxation and stimulates the release of certain neurotransmitters – like melatonin and serotonin – to aid sleep.
  • Improved circulation; a person’s blood circulation may worsen as they age. Regular massaging will improve the blood flow to the essential part of the body, as well as the extremities.
  • Stronger immune system; massaging helps to release toxins from the body. It, therefore, supports immune function. Individuals with autoimmune disorders may also see improvement by using massage.
  • Improved flexibility; tension is released from the muscles which can relieve pain and stiffness. The movements from the massage chair can promote overall flexibility.
  • Stimulates the nervous system; by stimulating the nervous system, hormones, endorphins, and neurotransmitters are released to improve overall function which can lead to further physical and emotional benefits.
  • Mental health benefits; the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters, induced by regular massages has been seen to relieve depression, improve memory, and improve abnormal symptoms in dementia patients like anxiety or violent behaviors.
  • Pain Relief; may help to relieve pain in arthritis and fibromyalgia patients.
  • Weight gain improvement; can help individuals maintain a healthy weight through the correction of chemical imbalances within the body.

It does not take much time to see these benefits as well. Improvement of mental and cognitive functions has been seen in as little as twenty minutes after the first use of a massage chair.

What is the effect of massage chairs on your posture?

The use of massage chairs has been seen to help correct poor posture as well1.

Poor posture can result from static muscle activity, poor workstation design, neck flexion, unnatural static postures, or compressive or shearing forces to the spine for an extended period of time. When sitting or standing in these distorted positions for too much time, the body accepts them as normal and causes an imbalanced posture. This imbalanced posture can lead to neck and lower back pain.

However, this pain can be relieved by correcting your posture. Relief in muscle tension from massage chair use can help to relax the posterior muscles and give them temporary relief.

To correct posture in the long term, individuals must use massage chairs regularly to help the short, tense, and contracted muscles causing the poor posture to become relaxed and lengthened over time. Stretching combined with massage chair use will yield the most benefit.

By relaxing and lengthening these muscles, it allows for proper alignment of the muscles and joints vertically and horizontally. With proper alignment, the right and left ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles must all be at the same height. On each side, these points must be vertically aligned as well.

Can massage chairs be harmful in some cases?

On certain occasions, the use of massage chairs can possibly do more harm than good. If you are worried if using a massage chair can be harmful, shorter, and gentler cycles should be used. The user should be aware of where the controls are, and how to properly use them should they need to stop in a hurry. Simple vibrations and light pressures are also safer than roller movements as some may the roller movements to be harsher. In all cases, please speak to a doctor or a therapist before using a massage chair.

Hypertension or heart disease patients should be cautious before using a massage chair. Patients with high blood pressure should also take care as they may unknowingly have blood clots than can be dislodged by massage and then can flow to dangerous areas, like the heart or brain.

Individuals with cancer should also be extra cautious as chemotherapy or radiation treatments can weaken the bones and cause them to be damaged with too much pressure. Osteoporosis patients should also take care as their bones are weaker and more brittle.

Additionally, avoid using a massage chair on any areas of broken skin like burns or scrapes.

The most important point is to know the signs of discomfort when using a massage chair and know to stop if discomfort occurs.

Conclusion

Massage chairs can be a good investment for the elderly. They can help keep your body relaxed and flexible. Please do thorough research and consult your doctor before buying a massage chair. And once you do, get to know the machine well so that you can get the most out of it.

We hope that you found our article on massage chairs for the elderly useful. If you are looking for comfort devices for the elderly, you would like to read our articles on lift chair recliners and posture correctors for seniors.

If you are a caregiver, you will know how a lightweight transport wheelchair can make your life easy. Also, if you are taking care of elderly parents and feeling tired doing so, you should read our article on how to make your parents more independent so that you can spend more time with them instead of running chores for them.

References

  1. Buck, F. A., Kuruganti, U., Albert, W. J., Babineau, M., Orser, S., & Currie-Jackson, N. (2007). Muscular and postural demands of using a massage chair and massage table. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics30(5), 357-364.
  2. Jeon, C. H., Chung, N. S., Lee, H. D., & Won, S. H. (2019). Case report: electrical automated massage chair use can induce osteoporotic vertebral compression fracture. Osteoporosis International30(7), 1533-1536.
  3. Lim, J. H., Kim, H., Jeon, C., & Cho, S. (2018). The effects on mental fatigue and the cognitive function of mechanical massage and binaural beats (brain massage) provided by massage chairs. Complementary therapies in clinical practice32, 32-38.
  4. Šiško, P. K., Videmšek, M., & Karpljuk, D. (2011). The effect of a corporate chair massage program on musculoskeletal discomfort and joint range of motion in office workers. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine17(7), 617-622.
  5. Stephens, R. (2006). Therapeutic chair massage. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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Jillian Crosmas is a 3rd year B Sc student at the University of Ottawa majoring in biochemistry with a focus on microbiology and immunology. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry as well. She is on track to graduate with honors. As a post-graduate she wants to continue her studies in emergency medicine or genetic research.

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