Massage offers scientifically proven relief from stress and chronic pain. Used worldwide as an adjunct treatment for a wide range of health-related needs, millions of Americans receive massages, but so many more could benefit if only it were more accessible. The good news is, for clients who want a massage but can’t get away from home or work for the full table version, massage therapists are taking chair massage on the road, and it’s been a tremendous success.
What is Chair Massage Therapy?
Chair massage is similar to table massage in most ways, except that instead of laying on a table, clients kneel in a specialized chair equipped with a pad and face cradle to support their head and chest. Most chairs come with extendable armrests for enhanced upper bodywork, and they’re fully adjustable for height and comfort.
The origins of chair massage aren’t exactly straightforward, as many techniques and equipment designs were arguably early versions of the practice. However, it was most notably and definitively established in 1968 by David Palmer. The goal of using a chair during massage was to increase the client’s relaxation and allow them to remain somewhat upright and aligned in the seated position. This method also allowed for a more of a public atmosphere during the massage itself. Privacy is required in other forms of massage because items of clothing are typically removed to create accessibility to certain areas of the body. Since chair massage deals primarily with the upper extremities and limbs of the body the client’s clothes always stay on.
How is a Chair Massage Performed?
A professional chair massage is performed with the same care and precautions as the full table version. Massage therapists ask clients about their goals and physical limitations. After a brief discussion, they’re seated face-forward in the chair, and adjustments are made for comfort.
Massaging generally begins with the large muscle groups in the upper back and radiates toward the lower back, shoulders, neck and arms. Because large muscle groups support the smaller muscles that are often the sites of pain, it’s an ideal technique. Massage therapists may recommend different types of massages based on a client’s physical responses, and what they believe would feel best.
While full-body table massages last from 30 minutes to an hour or more, most upper body chair massages require only 10–20 minutes, duration may vary based on need. When the massage is complete, the equipment is sanitized and prepared for the next client.
Where are Chair Massages Performed?
Chair massages can be performed anywhere the equipment fits including:
- Shopping malls
- Conference centers
- Day spas
- Hair salons
- Private homes
- Health clubs
Benefits of Chair Massage
Adverse physical effects such as muscle tension, tissue binding, and muscular knotting can lead to headaches and joint discomfort. The damage, if left untreated, can cause long term effects. Prioritizing comfort and general health are a vital part of maintaining a high quality of life.
The chair massages is limited to the upper body, however the benefits are similar to full-body table versions and include stress reduction, enhanced circulation, increases physical flexibility, a more vibrant immune system, pain relief, deeper sleep, improved athletic performance, a brighter mood, and better chronic disease management.
Benefit #1: Stress Reduction
Research consistently shows that massages relieve stress. Just a single session has been shown to reduce high levels of fight-or-flight hormones while releasing the natural endorphins that improve mood and promote feelings of calm. Periodic massage sessions can help reduce stress on a continued basis. Many offices offer chair massage for this very reason.
Benefit #2: Enhanced Circulation
Massage stimulates the flow of both blood and lymphatic fluid. Massage improves vascular function almost as well as exercise. Because blood carries oxygen and vital nutrients, circulation nourishes the entire body, including the brain. Science shows a direct correlation between circulation and cognition. Early analyses suggest massage could help stave off some forms of cognitive decline. With the increase in the Baby Boomer population chair massage can help older clients reduce cognitive decline.
Benefit #3: Increases Physical Flexibility
The looser muscles and joints are, the easier it will be for someone to move them. Unbinding muscles and tissues through chair massage can help increase range of motion and freedom of movement. The tighter muscles are, the harder they will be to move and articulate.
Benefit #4: A More Vibrant Immune System
Massage improves immune function by boosting the production of the white blood cells responsible for fighting off infection. Although there are no large studies to suggest massage can affect cancer, these “natural killer cells” play a role in immune function and could help immunocompromised patients stay healthier.
Benefit #5: Pain Relief
More doctors are prescribing massage to help manage both chronic and acute pain. It can ease the daily discomfort caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, and it’s also been shown to reduce pain from musculoskeletal injuries from tennis elbow to sprains.
Massage has shown to decrease the symptom severity of conditions such as knee tendinitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In many cases, the effects are as successful as other interventions, including anti-inflammatory medications and surgery. Because it’s low-risk and non-invasive, it also eliminates the worry of complications. Many patients who’ve tried massages for pain relief say they’re mostly effective, and most plan to continue.
Benefit #6: Deeper Sleep
Massages can relieve a broad range of conditions associated with poor sleep, such as anxiety, depression, pregnancy and chronic pain. When scheduled before bedtime, they can induce relaxation, but even day sessions help by improving circulation and increasing levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.
Benefit #7: Improved Athletic Performance
In addition to helping athletes recover faster from injury, massage also appears to improve strength in muscles damaged by overuse and reduces the incidence of chronic muscle spasm.
Regular athletes benefit from massage after injuries to speed recovery, while performance athletes use it to gain a competitive edge. While not everyone is training for the Olympics, it could be an easy way for a weekend tennis player to strengthen a weak forehand.
Benefit #8: A Brighter Mood
Massage has a direct impact on the brain chemicals that regulate mood by lowering stress hormones, like cortisol, while boosting feel-good neurotransmitters including, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. The result is a feeling of well-being and sharper mental focus.
Benefit #9: Better Chronic Disease Management
Massage has far-reaching effects shown to benefit those with chronic disease. As a complementary therapy, it can mitigate the symptoms of conditions from diabetes to hypertension. While not a substitute for medication, a single massage can lower blood pressure readings for up to 72 hours.
Offering Chair Massages Versus Table Massages
Massage therapists looking to start or expand their practice should look no further than chair massages. Why? Chair massage requires less space, the equipment is portable, business costs are lower, and revenue possibilities are numerous.
They Requires Less Space
Massage chairs require about 30-percent less space than standard tables, and because massages are done with clients fully clothed, they eliminate the need for privacy and spaces in which to dress and undress. Further, chair massage can happen while someone is sitting in an office chair or at a casino poker table.
Business Costs are Lower
Having a permanent office can help a massage therapist build a more extensive practice, but it also means paying rent and associated costs such as insurance and advertising, something new graduates may struggle to afford.
Most clients receiving table massages also expect a restful, aesthetically pleasant environment and costly spa-like amenities that make it tough for first-time massage therapists to get a start while competing with established businesses.
Many new massage therapists will work at a spa or resort, leaving the cost of the equipment to the business they work for, allowing them to get experience before going off on their own to work with clients directly.
Revenue Possibilities are Numerous
A massage therapist’s income depends on the number of clients they serve, and there’s no better way to maximize potential than by offering chair massage. And because it doesn’t take as much time out of a busy day, clients are more likely to take the time to have chair massages, turning occasional clients into regulars and ensuring a consistent revenue stream. Unlike table massages that need to be scheduled days or weeks in advance, chair massages can be given virtually on demand.
Since 10- to 20-minute massages cost less than hour-long sessions, the service is financially fiscal. Massage therapists are less likely to lose business when there’s a downturn in the economy.
Stress is an epidemic, and massage is among the best ways to limit its effects. Once available only through luxury spas, chair massages are bringing this critical therapy to the masses. It’s a boon for 21st century health and an excellent way for massage therapists to do business.
Want to Learn More?
Did this information about the benefits of chair massage interest you? If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 5 months with full time enrollment*. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.
*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.