One of the most common injuries or physical discomforts is back pain. It’s a problem unique to humans due to the evolution of the spine. Humans evolved backbones millions of years ago. This “new” bone gave us the strength to walk upright and lift heavy objects, but it was built more for strength than flexibility. The lack of flexibility limits us to this day as activities call for twisting, bending, pulling, pushing, and many other actions that test the stability of the spine.
According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, 16 million adults “experience persistent or chronic back pain.” It’s the sixth most costly condition in the United States. Finding the right solution for back pain can be difficult as the spine is nuanced and treatments vary. One solution that works in the short and long term is a back massage chair. Before we take a look at our favorite massage chairs, let’s dive a little further into the causes of back pain and how massage chairs are addressing this major health issue.
Causes of Back Pain
- Strain: When a muscle or tendon is stretched too far. Caused by heavy lifting, lifting without proper form, or abrupt movement.
- Structural Issues: When the natural structure and shape of the spine is disrupted by strain or medical issues. Examples include ruptured disks, bulging disks, arthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.
- Posture: The position in which you hold your body when standing, sitting, or lying down. Poor posture distributes your weight unevenly and weakens tissue, which when overloaded causes pain and discomfort.
- Medical issues: When the normal functioning of the body is disrupted. These issues can indirectly cause back pain due to their negative effects or treatments. Examples include cancer, kidney or bladder infections, kidney stones, cauda equina syndrome, and spinal infections, among others.
Acute vs. Chronic Back Pain
Acute Back Pain: Acute back pain is sudden and lasts 3-6 weeks.
Chronic Back Pain: Chronic back pain develops and intensifies over time, lasting more than 3 months and contributes to lower quality of life
Negative Effects of Back Pain
The negative effects of back pain extend beyond immediate discomfort. Back pain has considerable negative effects on the physical, emotional, and social health of those affected.
Discomfort: The first indicator of a back pain issue is the immediate sensation that accompanies strain or underlying medical issues.
Loss of activity: Back pain can be debilitating, keeping people of all ages and especially older adults from staying active. Not being able to participate in activities that you enjoy can be a long-term detriment to your physical and emotional health.
Unable to work: Many people derive purpose and satisfaction from their work. That’s not to mention the financial impact of not being able to work. Losing work or taking days off of work due to back pain is an unfortunate reality for millions of Americans.
Lower earnings: With less work comes lower earnings and less financial stability. The financial effects of chronic back pain can affect quality of life for entire families.
Health care costs: Treating back pain is a long-term process that requires doctor’s visits, specialists, and specialized equipment. These costs can quickly add up.
Depression and anxiety: Pain is capable of creating a dangerous cycle of discomfort, which causes anxiety, which leads to pain. These cyclical effects are also true of depression and other mental health issues associated with chronic back pain.
How to Prevent or Manage Back Pain
Exercise: Staying active is one of the best strategies for preventing and managing back pain. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your back and lowers the chances of excess strain or injury. Exercise is also essential for managing back pain. In fact, more than a day or two of rest is not recommended for acute or chronic back pain.
Practice Good Posture: Good posture usually starts with awareness. When you sit down or stand up, be conscious of your posture and correct it if it’s not maintained. Movement helps reset posture and stretch and strengthen your muscles. Avoid crossing your legs if possible.
Avoid Heavy Lifting: Whether you are weight training or moving equipment, you should avoid lifting any heavy items if you are experiencing back pain. Lifting heavy objects increases the chances of strain and further injury. Heavy lifting can turn a minor, short-term annoyance into a long-term condition.
Healthy Diet: A healthy diet that includes anti-inflammatory food and drink like tuna, salmon, carrots, nuts, tea, and red wine helps manage back pain. A well-rounded diet also keeps the pounds off, taking stress off of your back every day.
Improved Sleep: Quality sleep is one of the best indicators of good health, and that includes preventing or managing back pain. Find a mattress that’s most comfortable to you. You might need to try out a few to find the right firmness. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, and try putting a pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side. This helps keep your spine aligned and reduce stress.
Physical Therapy: For serious cases of chronic back pain, you might require physical therapy. Specialists can help you reduce or eliminate pain with a variety of exercises, stretches, and practical advice.
Thermotherapy: Otherwise known as heat therapy, thermotherapy involves applying heat to the problem area — in this case, your back. This is done through a hot cloth, heating pad, wrap or bath. Muscle strain creates tension in your back, leading to discomfort and limiting the body’s ability to heal itself. When heat is applied to the muscle and soft tissue, it loosens the area, allowing blood to flow more freely to the affected area.
Massage Therapy: Massage therapy was once not an accepted medical remedy for back pain. That has drastically changed in the last 20 years as the benefits of massage become more widespread and obvious. Massage has the potential to not only prevent and manage back pain, but also lower stress, anxiety, and increase mood-boosting endorphins.
Massage chairs also were at one time questioned by the medical community. But as technology has improved and health care costs have skyrocketed, many people are turning to massage chairs as a way to manage their back pain from the comfort of their home. And doctors agree — massage chairs are more than just luxury items — they’re tools for improving your overall health.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 back pain relief massage chairs on the market. Here’s how each of the ten can help you manage and eliminate short- and long-term back pain.
The M.8 model from OHCO is one of the premier massage chairs in the industry. Its list of features is long, and its benefits just as extensive. For those suffering from acute or chronic back pain, the M.8 offers relief in a handful of technical elements that separate OHCO chairs from most every brand in the world.
The highly technical Shiatsu massage delivered by the M.8 is powered by its Sens8 technology, a 4D engine that uses advanced algorithms to simulate the natural movements of a human massage therapist.
Other back-pleasing features include heated mechanical rollers, Total Body Heat that loosens muscles and relaxes the user, and zero-gravity position, which takes pressure off of your spine and maximizes the therapeutic effects of the Shiatsu massage.
The M.DX model is another refined and powerful massage chair from OHCO. The M.DX shares several of the high-powered features of the other M-Series chairs, including full-body air massage, Sens8 4D engine, and zero-gravity position. All of these features work together to relax the user and apply a customized massage experience that can relieve pain in your upper and lower back.
One of the most important M.DX features for addressing acute or chronic back pain is its proprietary MaxTrack, which allows the heated rollers and other massage features to track the natural curve of your spine. And with automatic reclining settings for zero-gravity and lay-flat recline, the M.DX hits all of the right spots.
The Panasonic MAJ7 is a wonderful melding of modern technology and ancient Shiatsu massage techniques. The experience starts with a body scan, creating a virtual map that guides the infrared heating rollers across each vertebrae. As heat and pressure are applied, the muscles and soft tissue in your upper and lower back relax and loosen, increasing blood flow and enabling recovery and repair.
Other features that can help alleviate back pain include a preset program specifically designed for the lower back and a high-powered processor that varies the style, movements, and intensity of your massage.
Positive Posture’s Brio Sport is specifically engineered for recovery from high-intensity weight and cardio training. That focus makes it a great option for those looking for a chair that can manage all kinds of back pain. The 4D Intelligent Massage Mechanism mobilizes your spine and prepares it for deep tissue programs that improve circulation and promote lymphatic flow.
The L-Track Design of the Brio Sport allows for nearly four feet of back coverage, ensuring that your lower, middle, and upper back all receive the attention they require. Other back-focused features include True Zero Gravity, heated rollers, and full-body air massage that also relieve stress
The OHCO R.6’s stunning aesthetics are only overshadowed by the chair’s high-performance Shiatsu massage experience. It starts with the R.6’s Sens8 4D massage mechanism and its Back Autoscan feature. This body scanning technology assesses your body structure and adjusts the massage style and techniques to align with your most important pressure points. The result is a customized experience that starts at your neck and moves down your lumbar spine, increasing blood flow and flexibility in your upper, middle, and lower back.
The R.6 is a premium back massage chair that offers real long-term benefits to your physical and mental health.
The D.Core Cirrus is an impressive feat in full-body massage therapy with a full-body air massage and an L-Track that enables an authentic deep tissue Shiatsu experience from your neck to your back and down to your hamstrings.
Thermotherapy is an ancient and reliable remedy for upper and lower back pain. The Cirrus’ heated back massage function loosens the muscles and soft tissue in your back, increasing blood flow and maximizing the natural healing powers of the human body. When combined with zero-gravity position capabilities and the patented 3D+ True Shiatsu Action Mechanism, the Cirrus’ features are well-equipped to help you prevent and manage your back pain.
D.Core makes our list again with the Stratus, a versatile massage chair that employs several full-body features, including a full-body air massage and an L-Track that addresses all of your potential problem areas.
It’s all powered by D.Core’s Deep Core intelligent operating system that creates one of the most realistic massage experiences on the market. Take on acute or chronic back pain with an authentic Shiatsu massage inspired by the experience and wisdom or Japanese massage therapist Takehiro Izawa. Other features that will help you prevent or manage back pain include a heated back massage program and automatic reclining to true gravity position.
Panasonic delivers again with the MA73, a luxury massage chair that takes seriously its promises of an all-encompassing experience. Like its sister chair, the MAJ7, the MA73 uses body scan technology to accurately guide the floating massage rollers over each individual vertebrae.
The MA73 also uses heat therapy in its heated massage rollers to address acute or chronic back pain. And with arm kneading and ceramic foot heaters, you receive a true full-body massage that renews body and mind.
The Brio+ model from Positive Posture is a high-quality massage chair with a comprehensive list of features that treat back pain and beyond. From its infrared heat and heated rollers to the L-Track Design and True Zero Gravity, the Brio+ offers a variety of features and massage programs to end the frustrating cycle of discomfort, stress, and pain.
The Brio+ offers a balanced massage experience that uses refined choreography to prepare the body for repair and execute high-performance massage techniques. The result is lower stress, less pain, and a clear mind.
The D.Core Cloud is another elite option for relieving back pain with its L-Track feature and zero-gravity position capabilities. The L-Track follows the natural curve of your spine, allowing the 3D massage mechanism to apply a deep tissue massage that aims for lasting therapeutic effects. While the Cloud doesn’t carry all of the firepower of the other D.Core models, it’s a luxury massage chair at a lower cost than most of the chairs on this list.
If you are experiencing back pain, it’s important that you take it seriously. Failure to address back pain can cause long-term opens in a new windowmedical issues that threaten your physical and mental health. Massage chairs are one strategy for treating back pain, and any of these ten chairs will not only help you manage back pain but also save money on health care costs. That said, we encourage you to see a doctor if your back pain is consistent or intense.