Chair Massage vs. Table Massage: Which Is Better?
When hoping to receive the best possible massage therapy, you may begin to question the difference between chair massage and table massage. Both are perfectly standard, useful types of massage, but one may be better suited to your needs than the other.
Chair massage involves a specially-designed chair. It can be performed with the help of a massage therapist or via electronic vibrations and internal mechanisms. Table massage almost always involves a massage therapist. Neither is truly better than the other, though they both have distinct pros and cons.
Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two types of massage therapy to better understand which one might be better than the other.
In terms of standard massage therapy practices, chair massage refers to a particular type of massage involving a specially-designed massage chair that allows the client to sit in a face-forward position with their arms and legs supported into a slightly elevated or angled posture.
Chair massage typically focuses on the spine, shoulders, and back areas. They are often performed on fully-clothed clients. In general, chair massages tend to be favored by corporate entities due to their quick application and immediate effects. However, they are appropriate for nearly any group. Still, most massage chairs are built to accommodate adult bodies.
Several benefits are associated with chair massage. Many of them are the standard benefits often associated with massage therapy, such as increased circulation. However, chair massage is slightly different from the typical idea of massage, which usually includes a long padded table, essential oils, and a client in a towel or robe.
Consequently, it’s crucial to analyze the benefits of chair massage before attempting to compare it to table massage. Let’s take a closer look.
Benefits of Chair Massage
Individuals who receive a chair massage can expect to spend about 15 to 20 minutes in the massage chair. Naturally, longer and shorter sessions are available. But the standard amount of time spent in a session tends to be less than 30 minutes.
Some people may even enjoy positive effects from simply sitting in a massage chair for 20-minute periods. Some massage chairs are automated, meaning they use internal mechanisms to help produce pain-relieving vibrations. Others are tools used by massage therapists.
Still, no matter which type of massage chair or chair massage you choose to try, there’s a chance you may experience a wide range of positive benefits and effects. These include:
- Lowered stress levels
- Moderate pain relief
- Improved circulation
- Better sleep
- Healthier immune system
Understanding how chair massage can produce these powerful effects begins with taking a closer look at each claimed benefit. Analyzing how things work on the cellular level may help you come to terms with the larger, more overreaching benefits of chair massage.
Let’s start with chair massage’s potential to lower stress levels. After all, this benefit is one of the primary reasons that employers utilize chair massage within their offices and workplaces.
Lowered Stress Levels
One of the most notable effects of chair massage is a reduction in stress levels. With roughly 80% of Americans experiencing a frequent or consistent amount of stress, it’s never been more important to manage and lower stress levels. Taking charge of your stress may even help you avoid life-threatening diseases and illnesses later in life.
When you experience stress, your body reacts in a very particular way. This response is often called the fight-or-flight response. During this state, your blood is flooded with hormones and chemicals, including adrenaline. This causes your heart to pound harder and faster. You may also experience a jolt in cortisol.
Cortisol is a naturally-occurring substance that does have some benefits, but it can become detrimental when it’s released in large quantities over a long time. Individuals in stressful work or home situations are more likely to suffer from the associated effects of prolonged stress (and cortisol overproduction), including:
- Heart disease
- Memory problems
- Chronic depression
Massage helps the body relax, which thereby helps the mind relax and find peace. In this state, an individual is free of stressors and worries. Lower stress levels are great for the body and equally helpful for the mind. As such, those looking to naturally lower cortisol levels often turn to massage, including chair massage.
In addition, chair massage is also used to help clients find relief from chronic pain, especially pain resulting from inflammation. This has everything to do with massage’s ability to stimulate both the circulatory and lymphatic systems while also encouraging muscle relaxation.
Moderate Pain Relief
Massage therapy may also help reduce chronic pain, especially around the joints. Chair massage, in particular, could be an excellent option for those who find themselves working from behind a desk during the majority of their waking hours.
Being able to rest your body against a stable, padded surface while a trained professional gives your tense shoulders and neck a massage is a treat for most, but it doesn’t have to be. Each chair massage session costs somewhere between $60 – $125 per hour, and benefits can last up to three months.
This is excellent news for anyone hoping to avoid the negative effects of long-term over-the-counter pain reliever usage. Some of these effects include kidney and liver damage, blindness, nausea, and internal bleeding, especially along the digestive tract. Massage therapy doesn’t pose any of these risks.
If you were to define one primary effect of massage therapy, regardless of the therapy type, it might be improved circulation. Massage naturally improves circulation throughout the body, which is an immensely positive and beneficial effect.
After all, your circulatory system is one of the most vital networks in your body. Without a constant flow of fresh, oxygenated blood, our organs and muscle tissue would begin to die and rot. We’d fall prone to infections, viruses, and bacteria.
That’s why taking excellent care of your heart, and the circulatory system is vital to living a long, healthy life. When you exercise daily, avoid alcohol and tobacco, drink plenty of water, get quality rest, and eat a nutritious diet, you’re doing quite a lot to keep your heart in great shape.
Still, massage can add a little boost of circulation to promote faster healing, reduced tissue inflammation, and a happier disposition. This increase in blood flow may even help you achieve better, more restful sleep each night.
Massage can imbue people with a sudden, yet long-lasting burst of energy. This boost, in turn, ensures that the person enjoys a higher-quality, more restful night of slumber. Though this may seem counterintuitive, it makes better sense if you think about your energy level as a coin bank.
Getting plenty of rest, eating healthy foods, and keeping stress levels low are all ways of adding energy coins to your internal bank. When you awake and begin going about your daily activities, that bank slowly empties.
Many people often try to replenish their energy levels by drinking coffee or energy drinks, but these items only offer temporary boosts and may even worsen tiredness over time. Massage therapy, however, helps increase circulation and could awaken muscles, nerve endings, and various bodily tissues.
This results in a near-immediate sense of alertness and focus. When timed during the middle of your day, this natural increase in energy can ensure that your ‘energy bank’ is fully depleted when it’s time to go to bed. You may even be able to say goodbye to your mid-afternoon cup of coffee!
This increase in energy is a byproduct of increased circulation, as is a healthier immune system. That’s right; chair massage may help you enjoy a stronger, fitter immune response that reduces your sick days and helps to keep you feeling fine.
Healthier Immune System
When circulation improves, so does your immune response. That’s because our blood vessels and arteries are the main passageways whereby lymphocytes and white blood cells travel to damaged tissue or invading pathogens.
When the circulatory system is damaged or weak, it may take an excessive amount of time for healing antibodies to reach trouble areas, allowing bacteria or viruses more time to spread and infect vulnerable cells and tissue. By keeping your circulatory system in excellent condition, you can give your immune system a headstart in protecting your body from disease.
Massage can help blood vessels dilate, facilitating improved blood flow. While table massage may be more appropriate for full-body circulation therapies, a chair massage can increase circulation in the neck, shoulders, back, and head.
Because the spine is the major highway of the nervous system, relieving muscle tension and encouraging improved circulation in this region can be wonderfully effective in relieving nerve-related pain and discomfort while increasing overall immune health.
Still, there are a handful of potential drawbacks to chair massage. Staying aware of these disadvantages is crucial to choosing the right type of massage for your needs.
Potential Drawbacks of Chair Massage
While chair massage doesn’t have a wide variety of potential drawbacks, there are a couple of influential factors that prospective clients may want to consider before committing to this type of therapy. Primarily, chair massage may not be appropriate for those looking for an intense, deep, full-body massage.
However, sitting in a massage-friendly massage chair may not prove comfortable for some individuals, especially those with spine or knee injuries. Additionally, electric massage chairs may prove uncomfortable for some users. These drawbacks can be summed up as:
- Limited access
- Mechanized discomfort
Let’s examine these potential disadvantages in greater detail. That way, you’ll be able to make an educated and informed decision concerning the best type of massage therapy for your needs and preferences.
Chair massage is fantastically convenient. However, it’s also not as comprehensive as table massages. That’s because chair massages are performed on fully-clothed, seated individuals.
During a table massage, a massage therapist is able to effectively administer therapy to all parts of the body, resulting in full-body benefits and effects. Those who engage in chair massage are limited to spine or back-focused therapy that may not effectively address the legs, arms, or hips.
As such, those looking for the deepest massage therapy may not always feel completely satisfied with chair massage options. Alternatively, individuals hoping to receive quick care without having to shed an ounce of clothing may prefer this type of therapy.
Though this may seem like a strange potential drawback, it is worth mentioning. After all, using a massage chair ensures that gravity is pulling on the spine and shoulders. Even though a person’s body is supported by the various arms and legs of a massage chair, traditional options still allow for gravity to pull downward on the spine.
For those with serious lower back or hip injuries, this position can be uncomfortable and potentially exacerbate the condition. Individuals with intense chronic pain in these areas may prefer a table massage, especially when you consider the lessened amount of pressure a supine position can provide.
If you’re thinking about using an electric massage chair, you may benefit from choosing a ‘zero-gravity’ model that reduces drag on the spine, knees, and hips. Of course, there are also a few notable complications involved with using and owning one of these hi-tech massage therapy chairs.
Mechanized, electric massage chairs aren’t for everyone. Individuals who are petite, tall, or large may struggle to use a standard massage chair, as these devices are designed to fit the most average body types.
However, there are a handful of massage chairs that cater to special body types, so it may be worthwhile to investigate your options before throwing in the towel on chair massage. But be warned, while you may find the ideal mechanized option for you and your body type, you’ll likely need to spend at least several hundred dollars to bring one home for personal use.
Unless you’re confident about your preferred massage chair, and it’s within your budget, it may be more affordable to simply attend weekly or monthly table massage sessions. This is especially true for those seeking a deep, full-body massage that just isn’t possible with chair options.
Now that we’ve explored chair massage and it’s potential benefits and disadvantages, it’s time to turn our gaze to table massage. This is the type of massage therapy that most people imagine when they think about receiving a professional massage. Table massage can also be quite varied.
Some types of table massage therapies work better on exposed skin, requiring clients to remove their pants, shirt and/or shoes to receive care. Some people may not feel comfortable with this type of massage, while others may revel in the deep level of care afforded by such skin-on-skin therapy.
While chair massage routines are often limited to the spine and back area, table massages can tackle most any part of the superficial body. Some of the most popular types of table massage include:
- Swedish massage. This is one of the most commonly used types of massage. It’s a combination of five massage techniques. Most therapists recommend Swedish massage for a whole-body circulation boost. It may also help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage utilizes many of the same movements of Swedish massage, but it uniquely employs them at a deeper level. It’s best for athletes with sore muscles and may be too intense for individuals seeking a relaxing, soothing massage.
- Shiatsu massage. Shiatsu massage hails from Japan. It relies on an Eastern belief in pressure points around the body, very much like acupuncture. Shiatsu massage involves the manipulation of these various pressure points in an attempt to bring balance to the body by facilitating movement of Qi, the energy flow throughout the body.
- Lymphatic massage. With this type of massage, a massage therapist attempts to direct lymphatic fluid away from inflamed or infected areas. The idea behind this type of therapy is that it may be possible to physically manipulate the lymphatic system into disposing of infected tissue more quickly, allowing for faster recovery time.
- Hot stone massage. You may or may not experience a human-touch-based massage when enjoying a hot stone massage. The primary focus of this therapy is the use of heated stones that are often placed along the spinal column to help relax muscles and bring fresh blood to sore areas along the back.
There’s far more variation available with a table massage, and clients are often afforded the opportunity to fully customize their massage experience, choosing exactly the type of massage they’d like to receive and delineating the areas they’d like treated.
As such, table massage options can be prudently beneficial, especially for those with a wide variety of conditions, aches, and pains. Full-body options are the most common choice for those who opt for table massages, particularly for the depth of treatment and comprehensive scope of effects.
Benefits of Table Massage
One of the most significant benefits of table massage is the opportunity to lie down and allow your body to relax and rest. Chair massage does provide some support, but massage tables tend to gently cradle and uplift the body in a way that simply cannot be achieved while sitting.
Some of the most common benefits associated with table massage include:
- Fewer headaches
- Reduced joint pain
- Increased flexibility
- Reduced anxiety
Naturally, it’s crucial to explore these potential advantages before attempting to compare table massage with chair massage. Otherwise, you may not be working with all of the facts.
Still, it’s essential to note that both types of massage offer useful benefits. This includes, but is not limited to, headache relief.
There are quite a few potential causes behind headaches. However, high blood pressure may be involved. One of the amazing aspects of table massage is its ability to relax the body, first physically, then on a mental and emotional level. This reduction in stress naturally helps the body’s blood pressure to lower.
When blood pressure begins to normalize, the risk of experiencing a painful headache may decrease. Table massage can also help reduce tissue inflammation, potentially relieving pained nerves in the neck and back that may be contributing to headaches and migraines. In addition, the muscles that attach to the base of the head will often be addressed, helping to provide relief from tension headaches.
Reduced Joint Pain
Inflamed joints can be a real pain, especially when they don’t seem to relax. Joints can become swollen and stay that way, causing chronic pain and discomfort when moving. This problem is one of the hallmarks of arthritis, a condition that affects about 1 in 3 Americans.
Unfortunately, treating arthritis is not nearly as straightforward as preventing it. Our bones don’t often produce friction when we move, thanks to cartilage and joint fluid. But as we age, these protective elements may begin to wane and eventually disappear altogether.
When this happens, the bones that make up our joints begin to rub against one another. The nerve endings contained within these balls and sockets can become pinched, inflamed, and generally agitated. Soothing achy, stiff joints is crucial to enjoying a pain-free life once more.
Massage may help reduce joint inflammation, thus helping to reduce chronic joint pain. It does this by increasing localized circulation near affected joints, helping the surrounding tissue to relax and become less swollen. This reduction in pressure may help the nerves send fewer pain signals to the brain.
Additionally, less swelling and inflammation can lead to a healthier, more active life. Over the long run, this can lead to greater flexibility.
Increased flexibility requires patience and persistence. It isn’t something that happens overnight. However, as the body becomes more accustomed to frequent stretches and external stimulations, tendons may become more limber and muscle tissue more oxygenated.
This is partially due to the massage’s ability to increase circulation. However, the secondary effects associated with improved circulation also play a huge role in improving flexibility. A healthy heart is bound to pump more oxygen-rich blood around the body, resulting in more energy and fewer anxious thoughts.
Just as with chair massage, table massage may positively affect your mood. Individuals suffering from chronic depression or anxiety may find that adding table massage to their exercise and diet routine helps them achieve peace of mind more effectively.
Of course, the effects of table massage are most noticeable when such therapies are paired with smart lifestyle habits and decisions. Massage alone may not be enough to help you experience healthy weight loss, improved sleep quality, or fewer headaches. However, it will be a tremendous addition to any healthy lifestyle.
There are also a couple of potential drawbacks to table massage, just as with chair massage. Fortunately, these disadvantages are relatively few.
Potential Drawbacks of Table Massage
Just as chair massage poses a few potential drawbacks, table massage may not be right for everyone. It’s vital to recognize these safety risks before committing to a therapy or a service.
Doing so is not only a great way to reduce the chance of personal injury, but it can also help you stay comfortable and relaxed when receiving massage therapy. As such, you may want to avoid table massage if you have:
- Open wounds
- Skeletal fractures
Both of these conditions can make table massage more dangerous than it is beneficial, resulting in a poor experience. To keep yourself safe and healthy, you may want to put-off any upcoming massage therapy sessions if you have open wounds or skeletal fractures – to name just a few of the short-list of contraindications for table massage.
You should not receive a table massage if you currently have any open wounds, including recent surgery injuries that may still be in the process of healing. Open sores or wounds can create an unhygienic environment for massage therapists and their clients.
More importantly, it’s vital to keep unsterilized hands away from open wounds until they have fully and properly healed. Otherwise, you may be opening your body up to infection, which isn’t bound to benefit you.
If you’re currently suffering from a broken bone or skeletal fracture, you may want to wait to enjoy a table massage. Depending on the exact nature of your fracture and preferred massage type, treatment may be too intense or painful while your bones are healing.
Always consult with your doctor before seeking additional treatments and therapies, especially after a serious injury such as a broken bone.
Which Is Better?
The benefits of chair massage are strikingly similar to the benefits of table massage. That’s because the primary difference between these two types of massage therapy is body positioning.
Chair massage utilizes a series of seated positions, and it’s often done with fully-clothed clients. Table massage, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive whole-body experience and might be a more intimate experience that involves partial disrobing or loose clothing.
Still, each type of massage can be customized to meet the needs and preferences of each client, which makes comparing them a nearly impossible task. Neither is truly better than the other, though chair massage may be better-suited to those who are short on time and uncomfortable with a full body massage option.
Chair massage and table massage are similar forms of massage therapy. However, they do differ in at least one major way: one requires prolonged sitting while the other allows participants to lie down for the duration of the massage. Individuals with a significant spine, shoulder, or knee injury may not want a chair massage.
However, table massage may incorporate partial disrobing and require a longer amount of time per session. Those who prefer a quick session and zero clothing changes may prefer a chair massage. Additionally, chair massage may be more appropriate for workplace settings and situations.
Table massage can offer a deeper, more effective full-body massage experience. Individuals hoping to experience the most intense and comprehensive benefits of massage therapy may be better off starting with this.
Neither form of therapy is technically better or worse than the other. The better option simply depends on your personal needs and preferences.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS
Compliment Your Body, LLC
1441 Broadway #6087
New York, NY. 10018
Compliment Your Body has been providing corporate chair massage and in-home massage therapy to New York City and the surrounding boroughs since 2004. We are local to New York City and pride ourselves on our team of local therapists. All of our therapists are hand-picked and thoroughly vetted. We don’t hire over the phone, we meet our team on the field.
Compliment Your Body believes that care is a circle. We care for our team, our team cares for the participants, and we all care for the community!
For every single in-home or chair massage, Compliment donates three meals to a New Yorker in need through our relationship with Food Bank For New York City.
Commitment – Compassion – Connection – Charity
Experience the CYBNYC difference.
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