One of the best things about getting a pedicure — besides someone pampering your calloused feet, of course — is sitting in the salon's massage chair for 30 minutes. Sipping tea (or wine!) and having your legs exfoliated with a salt scrub is definitely a highlight of the service, but having your back and shoulders kneaded by the mechanisms in the chair might be the real VIP, to the point you may have even entertained the idea of investing in a massage chair for your home.
Perhaps there is no better time than now to treat yourself to an at-home massage chair since it can benefit your health. Work-from-home lifestyles are causing people to sit for longer periods of time (no more water cooler chats or walking to a conference room since life is more virtual), and slump more — especially if you don't have an ergonomic home office setup. With social distancing mandates still in effect, some people have decided to forgo massage appointments — even if they suffer from sore muscles, tension, or pain.
ICYDK, your new quarantine habits could lead to discomfort, particularly in the upper body. "The biggest culprits behind neck, shoulder and back pain are poor posture, an underperforming core, and a sedentary lifestyle," says Gbolahan Okubadejo, M.D., FAAOS, a New York- and New Jersey-based spinal and orthopedic surgeon. On top of that, back injuries and even inflammatory disorders, such as polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), can also cause issues like muscle pain and stiffness. If the pain you're experiencing is chronic or impacting your daily life, be sure to consult your doctor, advises Dr. Okubadejo. (Related: The Most Common Causes of Back Pain — Plus, How to Ease Your Aches ASAP)
If you are dealing with just run-of-the-mill back and shoulder pain, though, massages can certainly help release tightness and help muscle tissue relax. "When muscles contract, they can affect the nerves around them, so by releasing some of that tension, you are reducing the compression of nerves in the neck, shoulder, or back, or any part of the body that is being massaged," explains Dr. Okubadejo. (Psst, here's how to give yourself a massage at home.)
Massages also stimulate the muscle to increase blood flow. "Whenever we get a massage, a person or instrument stimulates the muscles and fascia by increasing the pressure applied and stretching the muscles as they are manipulated," says Rahul Shah, M.D., a New Jersey-based orthopedic spine and neck surgeon. "This serves to reorient the function of the muscle as well, increasing the blood flow to the areas manipulated." Massages also can reduce stress, both mentally and physically, and help with sleep since carrying around tension can be tiresome and disruptive, adds Dr. Okubadejo.
This is where massage chairs can come into play. "From a massage chair, we can hope to replicate the pressure and stretching that is applied with a traditional massage to be able to reach similar improvements in our muscle health and harmonious function," notes Dr. Okubadejo. To get the most bang for your buck, choose a massage chair with varying speeds and techniques, and consider an option that provides heat or cold functions, since both can be helpful in reducing pain and inflammation.
And while massage chairs are more limited in their movement in comparison to a masseuse, having one conveniently in your home means there's no need for an appointment. They might not be cheap, but it's a misconception that the best massage chair options cost hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. Consult the guide below for the eight best massage chairs to relieve neck, shoulder, and back pain at home. (Related: The 9 Best Heating Pads for Every Body Part, According to Customer Reviews)
BestOffice Massage Desk Chair
Perfect for anyone working from home, this 2-in-1 option functions as a massager and ergonomic desk chair. Constructed to support the entire body with padding at the head, back, and arms, you can use a remote control to activate vibrations that provide relief for your lower back area, easing tension that stems from sitting in front of a screen for hours on end. Reviewers note that the massage pressure is on the lighter side, so it won't distract you from your work. This swivel chair is made of natural-looking leather to give an upscale look, and installation is easy and takes less than 20 minutes, with all the tools and parts included.
One reviewer wrote: "Love this chair! It's kind of big but it's super comfortable and makes sitting at the computer 9+ hours a day so much easier. I normally have really bad back pain, especially sitting and working all day, this has definitely helped."
BestMassage Recliner Chair
Take a seat, lean back, and put your feet up in this chair, with its dual-function foot extension and reclining back. It boasts eight functions and three levels of intensity that will help alleviate pain and discomfort and have you feeling relaxed in seconds. The fabric is waterproof, and reviewers attest that it's easy to clean, and setting it up is a breeze. Plus, the sleek, sophisticated appearance of this chair will blend right in amongst your other living room furniture. (Related: The Best Personal Back Massagers to Relieve Tension and Sore Muscles)
"Ordered two of these chairs," reported a shopper. "Assembled so fast! Both chairs out of the box and assembled, ready to relax in under 5 minutes, no joke. The back part of the chair clicks into the bottom section, connect the remote and power cable, screw on the feet and that's it! The remote has eight different vibration settings, a 15- and 30-minute timer. Although there are only 2 massage points, it feels great to me where they are positioned for your back. Excellent value!"
Giantex Recliner Chair
A stylish linen chair can be an excellent place for you to sit and have your morning coffee or relax after a long day. Wide armrests, a curved backrest, and extending footrest offer support for your entire body. The chair has eight massage modes, three intensities, and two vibrating nodes located at the lower back. Set your massage at 15- or 30-minute intervals using the corded remote control, and queue up Netflix or pop out the footrest for a mid-day nap. (Related: The Most Common Causes of Back Pain — Plus, How to Ease Your Aches ASAP)
"Comfortable, easy to assemble and massage function works well," shared a customer. "It is not as large or sturdy as we had anticipated, but it still serves its purpose well. Massage function works great and has multiple settings."
Best Choice Products Faux Leather Electric Massage Recliner Chair
Create an at-home, stress-free zone with this less-intrusive massage chair style. It features a double-padded backrest, a plush seat, armrests, ottoman, and a durable frame. On top of the sleek design, the wireless controller allows you to switch between a heat function, five pre-programmed massages, and nine intensity levels to knead your upper and lower back, lumbar, thighs, and calves. Also nice: It has a built-in storage side pouch to stash your book or tablet and can be easily assembled in just three steps. (Related: This Heated Back Massager Is the Best Thing I've Ever Bought On Amazon)
One fan wrote: "I took it out the box and put it together in under 30 minutes. Instructions are easy to read and although my box came in half-opened, everything was packaged great inside the box. It vibrates on the feet area and chair and also heats."
Esright Massage Recliner Chair
If your lower back is an issue, this massage chair could be just the cure. Heat sensation at the lumbar area, five modes, and two intensity levels give you some sweet relief right in the comfort of your home. Extra thick padding on the back, seat, and arms offers additional support and rest. An elastic side pocket can hold a book or remote control, and two cupholders allow you to enjoy your morning coffee or evening glass of wine while reading or binging your favorite TV show.
One reviewer, who is a new mother, especially enjoyed this during feedings for their baby, saying "This is a great chair for the price and offers so many great bonus features. The heat and massage is wonderful for middle-of-the-night feedings with my infant. It's slim and fits well in my space. The cup holders are so convenient. This is a great chair for our nursery!"
Real Relax 2020 Massage Chair
Think this looks like something you'd find in a spaceship? You aren't too far off. A cool feature you can find in some massage chairs is zero gravity, which actually mimics the position astronauts are in pre-blast off. Such a deep recline takes stress off your back and elevates feet over your heart. The ergonomic design has eight massage points from the neck to the lower back, a foot massage system, and it provides heat at the waist. High-quality leather covers this chair, and now the updated version features Bluetooth audio play, a LED light for nighttime use, and six automated massage programs. (Related: The Best Massage Gun for Post-Workout Recovery, According to Trainers, Athletes, and Medical Professionals)
"What I like most about this chair is all the different ways that you can program it," said a shopper. "It comes with several preset messages, but you can also create many different combinations of body parts, durations, intensities, positions, and optional heated massages from your neck to your feet. The zero gravity position is my favorite. I enjoy using it at the end of each day to relax and unwind. I also like that it has speakers, which are of decent quality, that connect to my phone through Bluetooth, so I can listen to my favorite tunes, as I let the chair do its work."
CirC Premium Massage Chair
If your idea of a massage chair contains the adjectives massive, dark, and ugly, this beige beauty is here to prove you wrong. The chair's design of the 106-degree angle between the seat and backrest creates a comfortable posture, and the massage path pays special attention to the pelvic region, an important area on the body that can be linked to lower back and hip pain. A heat function helps to further relieve pain and inflammation, while an ambient side light makes this easy to use before bed or while winding down after a long day.
"You cannot find a massage chair for this price anywhere that is this kind of quality," raved a customer. "Everyone compliments on the sleek and sharp design, and how nice it looks in the living room. This chair fits everyone too! My favorite part of the chair is how nice the massage is when the heat is on. It is perfect for reading, working on the laptop, watching TV, or simply relaxing. It's also very simple to use which is nice. Best chair for the money!"
Snailax Full Back Massager
Here is an excellent solution if you are not ready to commit — or don't have space — for another piece of furniture. This seat pad can go over your existing chair or couch to massage sore muscles. With heat modes and eight rotating nodes, it focuses on three zones: upper, middle, and lower back. The seat cushion also vibrates, getting the blood circulating in your rear — great for anyone who sits all day in front of a screen. (Related: The Best Foot Massagers, According to Customer Reviews)
One reviewer wrote: "Unbelievable! I've been through so many massage devices on the market. But, this one took the cake. I suffer from neck and full back pain because of tense muscles and soooo many hard knots. So most on the market don't address my solid knots at one time like this one. I can even slide it up, down, to the left or right to really target a spot!"