The Leg Problem in Chair Massage

Steve Knobles called today from North Seattle Community Acupuncture clinic. He recently started seating patients in a massage chair because it allowed easy access to their necks, backs and arms for needling and was often more comfortable than lying on a table. However, some of the patients complained of tired shins after sitting in a massage chair for longer than 30 minutes and he wanted to know if there was any way to extend their comfort time.

This is a phenomenon noted soon after the first massage chair came on the market in 1986. While spreading the weight among the seat, leg rest, chest pad and face cradle is great for support, it is not great for fidgeting. And, despite what your 3rd grade teacher may have told you, humans are made to fidget and be in motion, not to “sit still.” Movement creates circulation and, as we all know, circulation is not optional, even when we are asleep. Just check out the nearest napping infant.

Thus, we have always recommended a maximum 30-minute length for a chair massage. Unlike a massage table where people can fidget to their hearts content, in a massage chair using the lower legs as a support prevents movement and having the knees bent can reduce circulation and create discomfort. While it is true that some people can tolerate longer periods in that position, since a significant percentage cannot, the 30-minute rule is the safest compromise.

However, there are a couple of ways to compensate if, for whatever reason, you want to do a longer massage. My suggestion to Steve was simple. Since he was using a Stronglite Ergo Pro massage chair, I told him to remove the leg rests and flatten the seat so that it was parallel to the floor. Voila! No leg rests, no problem. Customers can now squirm to their hearts content.

Removable leg rests are so essential on a massage chair that I am surprised all manufacturers don’t include them. Even if you are only doing short massages, you need them. I would guess that 5% of chair massage customers have knee or leg issues that make leg rests uncomfortable. While putting your legs straddling or in front of the knee rests is the solution used on other chairs, it is less than optimal or professional. [Full disclosure: I helped co-designed the Stronglite chair, of course…]

Another way we got around the 30-minute limit was developed in the TouchPro retail chair massage studio business model. There we offered up to 30-minutes of upper body massage and 10- or 20-minutes of lower leg/foot massage meaning people could receive up to 50-minutes of massage in a chair. However, the catch was that, before the foot massage, the customer had to get up and reverse themselves in the chair, which was adjusted for the massage.

If you want to see how it all works in action, click here to view a video demonstration.

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2 Responses to The Leg Problem in Chair Massage

  1. Mary Cheers says:

    This is GREAT resource for anyone who needs a reminder about how to remove/reattach the knee pads and adjust the seat.
    Any chance you could post a video for opening and closing the chair? I don’t believe Stronglite includes a video anymore, so I think this could be very helpful.

    • David says:

      Good reminder, Mary. Gone are the days when manufacturers included a video with each chair they sold. But the days of YouTube have arrived and you can find the Stronglite video at Many of the other manufacturers also have videos on YouTube and other services.

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