Seated Massage or Chair Massage is Convenient and Effective

Chair Massage – also known as Seated Massage or On-site Massage Therapy, is a massage type that involves the use of a specially designed massage chair in which the client sits comfortably.
Seated massage has evolved and it now includes massage techniques from Shiatsu and Swedish massage, but it can also include pressopuncture or Deep Tissue techniques as required by your customer. It can be provided on-site at a variety of venues including businesses, social events, health fairs, conferences, etc.

What Is Chair Massage and Seated Massage?

Chair Massage – also known as Seated Massage or On-site Massage Therapy, is a massage type that involves the use of a specially designed massage chair in which the client sits comfortably. The creator and promoter of the seated massage in the United States is David Palmer. He developed a special chair for seated massage and developed a marketing strategy to make chair massage attractive to potential clients and to make it feasible for mobile and non-traditional settings.

It is a relaxing, yet energizing experience; it is a convenient and cost effective way to get relaxed and have your muscles untied.

A chair massage is performed in a short session without using oils or lotion, and the recipient remains fully dressed. Seated massage has to provide a unique experience in a compressed time period, therefore its objective needs to be very well structured, whether this objective is pure relaxation, or a back ache.

Chair Massage Benefits

Chair massage can provide your clients with relief for both physical and mental strain.
Scientific research refers to massage as an efficient stress-management remedy. It reduces anxiety and slows the production of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol, while increasing the production of neurotransmitters, notably serotonin and dopamine; these combined effects have as result a dramatic decrease of stress. A lot of people consider massage muscular system treatment and nothing more. Massage therapy is much more than that; it is a fantastic way to reduce the unnatural long stress periods associated with the modern life. Many of the modern’s era ailments are related to prolonged exposure to stress. Chair massage is a very efficient and convenient way to fight stress and provide relaxation, although therapeutic massage techniques can also be provided if the client needs it. But this will only work with regular clients, such as corporate massage clients, and will not be possible with seated massage clients in an airport.
See this research article for more information:

We mentioned the effects on the muscular system, massage is a great tool to alleviate conditions associated with the modern work settings, all day in front of the computer in a chair. The massage chair is ergonomic and created to allow the massage therapist a full access to the affected zones of such modern work settings. You can easily work on back, neck, shoulders, head and arms and hands to alleviate the aches.

The objective of a perfect chair massage is to leave your client feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and free of aches and pains.

Seated Massage Setting and Clients

One of the most common settings of a seated massage is the patient’s workplace. Many companies will pay chair massage session for their employees, or support a portion of the fee from 50% to 75%. At the beginning, corporate massage was just a company perk to please their employees. But this view changed soon, as managers observed an increase in production from employees that were getting massage. Rapidly, massage was acknowledged as a great tool for any company and corporate massage became more and more popular.

Another common place and time for chair massage is during the training or sports competition. Because is very convenient and it take literally almost no space, being easy to setup in seconds, it can be of great help for athletes, helping the recovery time after effort and improving their performance.

As a general rule seated massage is offered in places with high stress intellectual or physical, or where people are exposed for long times to unnatural positions. Such places can be airports, gyms, a busy office, a call center  expositions, trade fares, etc…

Massage Chairs

Seated massage is using a comfortable, ergonomically designed massage chair that supports the client’s head chest and arms.

The first chair for seated massage was designed in 1986 by David Palmer and Serge Bouyssou, it was very heavy and it was missing the complex setup and adjustment options that we see now in all portable massage chairs.

The client is usually seating upright on a special massage chair, leaning forward, giving the therapist the opportunity to work on the back and the whole upper body. The client is fully relaxed while sitting on the chair and will remain fully dressed during the whole massage session. No oils are used, sometimes lotion can be used in regions where there is no clothing, like hands, or neck, but is usually avoided. A seated massage session can last between 10 to 30 minutes,

Massage chairs are designed with a few objectives in mind: to offer maximum support and comfort for the subject, to provide simple and easy adjustments for different clients, to be easy to clean, and to be lightweight for maximum mobility and portability, to facilitate the fast set up in virtually any office room.

The portability of a folding massage chair makes seated massage available to any location. The practitioner can fold the chair up, put it in its special case, load it in the car, and drive anywhere. 

A Typical Chair Massage Session

In a typical seated massage, especially in a public setting, the client assessment, or a treatment plan are difficult, especially with irregular – one time – clients. The intent for this type of sessions is rather a short term relief and comfort. For someone who traveled 12 hours in an airplane there is nothing more enjoyable than a short massage to relax them. For an office employee, a 20 minutes massage session on their shoulders and on head pressopuncture points is golden.

When you start with seated massage you have to consider the following:

  • You have to book more clients to cover for your needed hours. This is somehow balanced by the fact that is easier to get a seated massage client, because is cheaper and the clients don’t need to undress.
  • You’re working a few “cold” bodies per hour. Rather than massaging someone who gradually gets more relaxed, you’re relaxing 3-4 people in the same time frame.
  • Emotionally and psychologically, you’re creating a connection with 3-4 people more per hour, this can become tiring for someone who isn’t prepared.
  • The bodywork through clothing is very demanding physically.  

How to Approach a Client?

Because the time is limited your assessment will be limited as well. You have to assess your client as fast as possible and apply a plan for an immediate relief rather than use techniques that will have effect in time. In fact, this is usually what a chair massage client is looking for.

Ask your customer a few questions as a minimum assessment: “Is there anything you want me to be aware of?” or “How can I help you today?” Their answers will help you focus on the patient’s needs and prioritize their time.

What Techniques Are Appropriate for a Seated Massage?

Seated Massage Techniques Video

In theory, any massage technique is appropriate for chair massage, but you will find that some massage techniques are more difficult to perform in this type of massage. For instance the effleurage is difficult to perform on clothes and without oil. You can limit the effleurage to very light effleurage on the neck and head. Friction is also limited because of the clothing and it will turn into compressions instead or adapt to the use through clothes.

Petrissage, on the other hand is a great massage method in seated massage, and it will have a great effect on your client’s the neck and shoulders.

Range of motion and stretching, will offer an effective method to tackle the whole upper body.

Percussions will be very appreciated for their relaxing/stimulating effects, many therapists avoid, but it is not only very spectacular looking, but very effective.

Compressions are probably the most used technique during a seated massage, and they can take different forms from palm compressions to acupressure type of compressions like in Amma massage. Compression with the heel of the hand or fists, sustained pressure or acupressure applied with the thumb, knuckles, fingers, or elbow are great examples of compression techniques used in a chair massage.

Trigger points are also targeted during a seated massage, because is a very effective way to appease a muscle ache in a short period of time. Although, I am not a supporter of trigger point therapy, I believe that is a great procedure for a seated massage session.
Your technique as a chair massage therapist will have to adapt for the heavy use of squeezing, the use of forearms and elbows, and knuckles. Your leaning will have to adapt for a chair, which is different from using leaning for the table massage techniques.

The chair massage techniques need practice, and they are more strenuous than massage table techniques. But once they are mastered, it becomes easier and your clients will be impressed.

Time Management

Do not rush up during your seated massage session, thinking you need to cover as much of the body as possible. Remember, this is not a table massage, and most of the times, your client doesn’t come to address a musculoskeletal problem, they come to relax. The therapeutic intent must shift from muscular to psychological. Relaxation and wellness is your main intent, unless your customer has a specific need, or is a regular client with an ongoing treatment.

Timing is an important aspect in a seated massage, as well as the rhythm of the techniques applied. Sometimes, by slowing down, your work is more effective. This is not good for the client as they perceive this as being rushed, and it is very intensive for you the therapist. Be relaxed, and use precise techniques, you can even create various treatment scenarios for different client types, to have all clear in your mind.

Longer massages can be given with a chair massage, if your client needs it. Half an hour for a seated massage is very common, but a session can last up to 1½ hours.