The massage chair is a technology we can all enjoy today. But have you ever wondered how massage began?

Ancient references to massage cn be found in countries such as Greece, India, China, and Rome.

The practice dates way back to very early times of our existence, and is depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient Japanese block prints.

In the past it was believed that massage brings a person’s body to a state of relaxation, harmony, and calm, and this keeps demons and infections at bay

This belief meant massage became a cure for almost all ailments. Massage was performed using herbs and oils massaged onto the skin, while seated. Massage became more industrialized when employers realized that it cost them more dealing with a sick worker. For them, it made more sense to provide preventative measures than to deal with ailments later

How It All Began

For a massage session in the past, people would sit on any available structure. The previously mentioned Japanese block prints depict people next to their baths, seated on low stools waiting for a massage. Art from China in the 18th century shows a barber-cum-masseur working on a client’s back while the client sat on a box. This type of massage is still found in Chinese cities and villages.

Th first mechanical massage chair was produced in the 1950s. Over the years, they have developed into the sophisticated devices they are now. From a crank wheel system that moved massage rollers, to robotic massage systems with preprogrammed styles, the massage chair has come a long way.

In 1954, a man called Nobuo Fujimoto created the first massage chair in Osaka, Japan. Nobuo worked in a public baths, and he wanted to devise a way to relax his clients. His initial design was made from waste he collected, such as baseballs, bicycle chains, and pieces of wood. Slowly the chair became used in holiday resorts and public baths, but at that time not in private homes.

How David Palmer Popularized The Massage Chair

In the early 1980s, Takashi Nakamura, a Japanese masseur, worked at the Amma Institute in San Fransisco in the US teaching traditional Japanese massage. One of his pupils was David Palmer who took over as the school’s director when Takashi returned to Japan. 

Palmer began doing experiments with seated massages, as opposed to lying down, which was more or less a re-invention of the ancient Shiatsu, which began in the 1900s. The concept was to have a client get a massage while seated, fully clothed and with no use of oil. He invented the first massage chair for Living Earth Crafts.

The first massage chairs had components essentially similar to modern ones – a seat, a cradle for the face and a kneeler. The first model was modest and made from plywood, and the padding made from readily available materials. These chairs were portable and could be taken apart and fit into a box. In comparison to today, the chairs were heavy and unstable.

At first called an “on-site massage”, the chairs were transported to the client. Today, chair massage therapy can be found in salons or malls, where the client turns up for an appointment. The idea caught on, and 30 years later, the metamorphosis is fantastic.

Modern Massage Chairs vs. Older Chairs

The massage chair has evolved a lot from the first chair ever built, from the materials used to the functions it can perform, and added features such as covers and wheels. The most significant change was the transition from wood to high tech plastics and metals.

The modern massage chair combines several massage techniques and, at the touch of a button, you can change the speed and intensity of the massage. A massage chair today incorporates features such as kneading, air massage, rolling massage, tapping, etc.

Depending on the price of the massage chair, you can get features previously unheard of in the past – 2D. Chairs now come in 2D, 3D, and 4D, all providing a different massage intensity.​

The chairs are easily portable in comparison to the old and cumbersome chairs and are much more comfortable.

Conclusion from the Wellness Council

Massage chairs keep evolving as technology advances. It might never take the place of age-old massage techniques, but its popularity will not diminish. The massage chair’s benefits and convenience greatly outweigh the traditional massage.

If you do decide to invest in a massage chair, you can have a massage any time any place, rather than have to turn up to where the chair is.

Resources and Further Reading