Massage cushion purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • The most important facts in brief
  • Massage seats help relieve chronic pain, ease tension and relieve stress in everyday life.
  • They are less expensive than spa treatments and do not require an appointment outside the home to receive a massage.
  • Massage seats are effective if they fit the body size and the shape of the chair.
  • Thanks to automatic programmes, many supports massage for exactly the right length and intensity, usually between 15 and 30 minutes, which makes them uncomplicated to use.

For that spa feeling in between

A massage can relieve sore muscles, ease tension and contribute to relaxation and general well-being. But not everyone has the time or money for regular physiotherapy, massage appointments or spa visits to do their body some good. In addition, some people are not entirely comfortable with massages by strangers. Massage seats are a popular alternative. The padded, electrically operated seats for the office chair, sofa, armchair or even the car seat are an inexpensive and private way to relax regularly and without complications.

Among other things, the overlays help to relieve stress by stimulating the muscles and blood circulation. They can even relieve chronic pain or contribute to effective sports training because their use prevents the development of muscle soreness. This makes them suitable for many different applications and people of all ages. Especially in households with several people, it is worth investing in such a pad.

Can massage seat cushions help with health complaints?

Back pain in particular often eases if you regularly let a pad massage you. Through selective massages, the devices help to relieve pain in certain regions, such as the neck, lower back or thighs. In addition, there is the psychological effect: if the body feels better, this is usually also good for the head. Some models have sauna-like heat functions that relax the back by applying heat.

The prerequisite for the greatest possible success is the correct and conscious use of the massage pad. First of all, it is important to know the difference between a massage mat and a massage seat pad: While you lie on the former, the latter massages while you are sitting. Seating supports achieve significantly more intensive massage strengths than mats on which users lie down.

Advantages of massage seat covers

Chair or armchair pads with electric massage function bring a number of advantages:

  • Convenient way to receive a massage
  • Uncomplicated application of many types of massage
  • Promotes blood circulation and combats tension
  • Cheaper than spa stays and professional massages
  • No appointment out of the house necessary
  • Massaging all areas of the body from neck to thighs
  • Sometimes warming the body during application

While buying a massage seat cover does not directly guarantee relief from all bodily aches and pains. But if you want to purchase a device as an additional aid to treatment by doctors and physiotherapists, there are hardly any counter-arguments. So if you are interested, be sure to bring up the subject during your next visit to the practice.

The different types of massage

If a massage seat cover could be a suitable addition to your everyday life, the question arises as to which type of massage best suits your situation. There are seven types: shiatsu, tapping massage, air pressure massage, deep massage, spot massage, rolling massage and vibration massage.

Shiatsu: The classic

This type of massage originated in Japan. Massage balls in the pad perform rotating pressure movements during application, for which several puncturing circling fingers are normally responsible in the massage parlour. In this way, shiatsu massage pads relieve many tensions over the entire back. Models that mechanically simulate this technique are the most popular.

Tapping massage: suddenly less tension

As the name suggests, tapping massages relieve tension through repetitive tapping movements. The usually two to four massage heads of the seat cushions repeatedly poke certain areas of the back, gradually loosening their muscles. A great advantage of the tapping massage is that it can be of varying intensity – provided that the support allows such settings.

Air pressure massage: optimal body adaptation

Massage seats with air pressure function have smaller and larger air cushions through which air flows at rhythmic intervals. The resulting inflated areas of the backrest gently massage the back and adapt particularly well to its shape – a type of massage to relax body and mind.

Massage seat covers offer a respite from everyday life.
Massage seat covers offer a respite from everyday life.

Deep massage: technique against muscle blockages

Deep massages usually use powerful shock waves that can loosen hard areas of the back after just a few rounds of massage. This is why many use this type of massage to combat heel spurs or muscle blockages. Another advantage is that one application usually does not take much time.

Spot massage: Short and crisp

This type of massage is more often part of deep massages, but sometimes it is also useful as a single massage. The pads massage specific trigger points on the body in short intervals, for example to relieve remaining tension after sports training or a session with a chiropractor. Overlays with spot massage function are therefore ideal as an additional tool for a healthier lifestyle.

Rolling massage: universal muscle relaxation

Once again, the name says it all: similar to the use of fascia rolls, pressure elements roll up and down the back, thigh and, in some cases, the calves. In this way, the entire body benefits from the massage. The massage pads usually exert much more pressure than, for example, air pressure massages.

Vibration massage: gentle wellness effect

Like the rolling massage, the vibration massage is a holistic type of massage. As all elements of the massage pad vibrate, tensions all over the body can be loosened. The feeling during application can best be compared to that of a whirlpool. It is often part of multi-part massage programmes, which then also include shiatsu or rolling massages.

Wellness is in the details – the most important buying criteria

In addition to the types of massage supported, there are also differences in the size, shape and operating mode of massage seats.

Size of device depends on body size

Most modern massage seat covers provide some, if not all, of the massage types mentioned above. However, in order for these to actually have the desired effect, the device must be the right size and shape. Otherwise, it may do more harm than good.

If a massage seat pad is too small or too large in comparison to the body size, it no longer massages exactly the parts of the body for which its different elements are intended. For example, a support that is too small for the upper body will not massage the neck properly because it is too low. For orientation purposes, manufacturers usually indicate the body sizes for which the respective model fits. Most devices are suitable for heights between 1.60 and 1.90 metres.

Body shape is decisive

In addition to body size, the body shape also determines the right massage techniques and areas of application, just as it does for professional massages in a salon or with a physiotherapist. In this respect, there is less choice with massage seat cushions. They are mostly uniformly built. Only a few models are specifically designed for wider or particularly slender bodies.

Incidentally, higher-quality models with several types of massage on offer also help the problem of the uniform design somewhat by having their application area and the neck area adjustable. Alternatively, for overlays without such functions, it can help to sit on a cushion to position the body a little higher.

Weight and mobility

Massage seat cushions with many options and adjustable elements can be significantly heavier than devices that have only one size and type of massage. This is often negligible when used at home, but becomes a decisive factor if it is also to be used in the office or in the car. In any case, when buying, remember that even the most flexible massage pad will not be on the chair or armchair all the time, and with a weight of up to eight kilograms, it can be difficult to store it quickly when needed.

Power supply and control

If you want to enjoy massages not only at home but also on the road, you can invest in a device with a 12-volt connection for the car. Such pads can then be taken to the office or on holiday, for example. In the meantime, some companies are even developing smartphone apps for massage seat supports to flexibly design applications – this has been the exception so far, but is likely to become an increasingly common part of the offer in the future.

Tips for optimal use of the massage seat

As with health-promoting diets or sports, the best effect with massages also comes from regular and, above all, conscious use. Too intensive and long use at a stretch can quickly have a damaging effect. For this reason, most massage seats offer time-limited programmes with a length of 15 to 30 minutes that are to be used regularly. The manufacturers give specific recommendations for this – but it may be a few times a week or month in any case.

Do not torture yourself!

Always let yourself be massaged in a way that suits you personally. Intense pressure does not necessarily mean an effective massage. If even the weakest programme is too much for the muscles, there is nothing to be said against thicker clothing to reduce the effect. If pain still occurs, you should stop the massage and repeat it at a later time.

Where do I place the massage pad?

Always make sure to choose a suitable chair or other suitable seating. High armchairs or office chairs with sufficiently large seats are usually particularly suitable for massage pads because they can hardly slip or deform on them. Of course, a pleasant setting in the home environment is also important: it should be in a quiet place where you can easily relax and close enough to a power outlet for the power supply of the electrically operated overlay.

How do I set up a massage seat cover?

After connecting the support to the power outlet – the cable must not be too taut – many models have a locking screw that locks the massage heads in place and protects them during transport or storage. The manufacturers usually supply an Allen key for this purpose.

As soon as the screw is removed and the support is fixed to the chair with Velcro fasteners, if necessary, it is important to find the right height settings for the respective type of massage. The back of the chair must be as straight as possible so that the support can massage the entire body. This is especially important for neck massages, but it also helps to provide back massages of specific painful areas. The massage heads are often height and width adjustable for this purpose. You can also use seat cushions for an optimal position. This slightly raises the body position.

To avoid overstraining both the body and the massage, most massage seat covers have an automatic switch-off function. It usually kicks in after 15 to 30 minutes. After that, most models need some time to cool down – just like the body.

What do I do after use?

After use, you should clean the cushion. This usually requires no more than a slightly damp cloth or a hoover. Special models with many functions sometimes have special cleaning instructions in the manual. If you can remove and wash the cover of the cushion, this should also be done at regular intervals.

What are the advantages of more expensive massage seat covers?

Apart from the usually wider range of massage types, the advantages of more expensive massage seat covers are often very specific. For example, some manufacturers advertise more massage heads for a more versatile application, while others offer the option of reversing the massage direction. In addition to an automatic switch-off, suppliers of more valuable products include overheating protection and a heat function so that the body is comfortably warm but the components of the overlay always remain cool enough.