Will massage chairs help with back and neck pain?

Chronic back and neck pain can be exhausting to its sufferers. Many people have tried several methods of relief. From expensive, time-consuming massage therapy sessions to highly addictive pain medications, there seems to be a lack of long-term relief choices that will either not break the bank or require several visits per week for many months.  Physical therapy and chiropractic visits do help many people, but what if those same people offered a massage at the end of the visit? 

back and neck pain massage chairs

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2019, 20.4% of adults had chronic pain, and 7.4% of adults had chronic pain that frequently limited life or work activities (referred to as high impact chronic pain). They continue to suggest that chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain both increased with age and were highest among adults aged sixty-five and over. The CDC broke it down further to show results that demonstrated that non-Hispanic white adults (23.6%) were more likely to have chronic pain compared with non-Hispanic black (19.3%), Hispanic (13.0%), and non-Hispanic Asian (6.8%) adults.  The percentages also showed that adults with chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain increased as the place of residence became more rural.  

The CDC stresses that chronic pain and chronic pain that frequently limits life or work activities are among the most common reasons adults seek medical care and are associated with decreased quality of life, opioid dependence, and poor mental health.  Statistics showed in 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses.  The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a severe national crisis that affects public health as well as the social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including healthcare costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.  Drugabuse.gov suggests that roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, between 8 and 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder, an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin and about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

It has been shown that massage therapy increases endorphin levels – possibly the most beneficial aspect of massage. Endorphins are the ‘feel good’ chemicals that run through the body, increasing their levels, inducing positive results. Among other benefits, increasing endorphin levels has been correlated with quicker recovery, reduced pain, and reduced anxiety.  

A good massage chair should be designed to provide some measure of pain relief and relaxation without the need for person-to-person interaction. Some people would agree that opting to go with a massage chair as a potential means to ease their chronic pain allows the user to get a massage in the privacy of their home and on their time, their schedule.  

Many massage chairs have the ability to stretch and knead the problem areas where muscles are too tight and relaxing them will help calm down the skeletal structure.  It is warned, though, that excessive use of massage chairs leads to muscle damage, inflammation, and bruised tissues, in addition to causing harm to the internal massage chair motor.  

It is worthy to note and be aware of the following list of contraindications for massage therapy:

  • Infectious skin disease
  • A rash
  • An unhealed wound
  • Immediately after surgery
  • A tendency to form blood clots or if using blood thinners
  • Circulatory ailments such as phlebitis or varicose veins
  • Inflamed or infected injuries
  • Areas of bleeding or heavy tissue damage
  • At the sites of recent fractures, sprains, or bruises
  • Immediately after chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Osteoporosis (use caution)

Experts suggest patients consider certain factors before investing in a massage. Looking at what features are offered, such as what type of massages it performs (Shiatsu, Swedish, etc.), is essential.  Large rollers and nodes give the feeling of the long, deep strokes standard in Swedish-style massage.  Those with smaller rollers and nodes that are more point-specific, emulating pressure point, deep tissue, simulate a Shiatsu massage.

The cost, of course, is quite important also. It can range from few hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars depending on factors including, but not limited to, its features, appearance, the manufacturing company, and the type and quality of materials used in the chair.  

What location works best for your personal or business needs is logistically a concern as many of the chairs are quite large and cumbersome to move.  

Lastly, durability and ease of care should be considered, as well as what type of warranty and customer care the company offers.

Some additional benefits of going with the holistic approach of massage, studies show massage can also be helpful for:

  • Anxiety, Stress, and Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Joint pain

Popularized in the 1980s when it had been introduced to the general market, the massage chairs of today use robotic technology in their internal structure, which simulates the techniques of a masseuse. Robotic massage chairs provide several features such as heating and zero gravity techniques, controlled by a remote as well as various chair rollers that range in depths of penetration and ability to rotate. These features allow users to target specific areas of tension and discomfort while still allowing them to control the pressure and styles used to suit their requirements.   

Another feature is body scan technology, which locates pressure points and the top of the shoulders to ensure that the rollers are massaging the correct areas. It also allows the massage to be personalized according to the curvature of the spine and the shape of the body. If chronic pain affects the legs and feet, chairs are equipped to massage the calves and feet using both rollers and airbag compression. Air compression is a standard feature in nearly every massage chair that attends to the entire body.  

Of course, prior to starting any new form of treatment, it is imperative to talk to a doctor. If there is chronic pain, numbness, or tingling, always consult a physician. A doctor can determine the cause of pain and prescribe the right treatment therapies.