The Case for Massage Chairs

Recently, my wife and I were introduced to a massage superstore in northern Jersey, HiTRONS in Ridgefield. (Image: HiTRONS)

The stresses of modern life often create aches and pains for the body. As an office worker who hunches over a keyboard for hours on end, I feel the strains in my neck and shoulder at the end of each day. My wife, on the other hand, who works as a nurse at an outpatient clinic, spends her day on her feet, exerting significant amounts of physical effort treating patients. At the end of her work day, she often feels exhausted, with a sore back.

A good massage can relieve much of those aches and pains, but at $100 or more a pop, it is a luxury we treat ourselves to only occasionally.

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I’ve seen mall stores that carry massage gadgets. But due to space constraints, these stores seldom display more than one or two massage chairs for you to try, and the units on display are what they want to push, not necessarily what suits your needs.

Recently, my wife and I were introduced to a massage superstore in northern Jersey, HiTRONS in Ridgefield, where they display close to 40 models on their showroom floor.

HiTRONS in Ridgefield displays close to 40 models of massage chairs on their showroom floor.
HiTRONS in Ridgefield displays close to 40 models on their showroom floor. (Image: HiTRONS )

With so many choices, where do I start? Do I go with the most expensive and presumably best model first, or start cheap and hope the less expensive units will meet my needs without making too big of a dent in my pocket?

Fortunately, Ms. Serom Park, the store’s general manager, was on hand to provide guidance. She happily answered my question: “How do you select a massage chair?”

“The first thing in choosing a massage chair is the brand,” Serom opened. “It needs to be a reputable brand in the massage chair industry. Because this is an investment, and there needs to be a warranty behind it. So you want to choose a brand that can stand behind their product with a warranty.”

For instance, she pointed out that Inada has been in the massage chair industry for 60 years and Panasonic massage chairs have been around for 70 years. In addition to offering good quality products, they back them up with warranties. These companies have dedicated years of research into the human body, so their chairs can accurately detect the shiatsu points of the human body.

Having been in the business for 15 years, Serom added, HiTRONS is proud to recommend every brand that they carry.

Massage chairs offer many functions

Secondly, Serom points to functions and programs that a chair offers: “The best chair is the one that fits you.” She often inquires of a potential buyer whether they have any health conditions, whether they have certain parts of the body they want the massage to focus on, and their experience with massage: How frequently do they get a massage, do they prefer hard or soft massages, etc. Based on their responses, Serom can direct them to the chairs that are most likely to meet their needs.

‘The best chair is the one that fits you.’ (Image: HiTRONS)

In our case, where both my wife and I enjoy deep tissue massages on the back, shoulder, and neck, Serom suggested we try Nest by Inada, and the Real Pro EP-MAJ7 by Panasonic.

Inada Nest

Inada is perhaps the most well-known massage chair brand in the U.S., and the Nest is their newest model. According to Inada’s description, it offers the firmest massage in its product line-up. No wonder Serom suggested that we try it.

In addition to its satisfyingly firm massage, the Nest also has the following innovations:

Roller technology

The Nest utilizes 3D LR quad roller technology, which means the two rollers on the left and the two on the right work independently of one another. During the massage, the two sides can be activated individually; you can also adjust the intensity on each side. In addition, the Nest employs nubby, corrugated roller balls that allow them to gain more traction and dig deeper into the muscles along your spine and around your shoulders.

Shin massage

The Nest uses air bags to wrap around your lower legs, so you get coverage in the shins and calves to get a great compression massage. There’s a slot in the shin area into which you can slide a flat piece equipped with little nubs that dig into your shin (anterior tibialis) muscles. This is a great benefit if you have tight calves. Runners who are prone to plantar fasciitis or just have tight shins and Achilles will love this.

Adjustable headrest

The position of the headrest on most massage chairs stays fixed. On the Nest, as it reclines you for a full-body stretch or brings you upright for a massage, the headrest automatically adjusts to follow the movement of your head. This means you don’t need to wriggle around as the chair transitions your posture.

Panasonic Real Pro EP-MAJ7

Launched in late 2017, the MAJ7 represents the state-of-the-art in massage chair design. The result of Panasonic “zengineering,” the MAJ7 replicates the experience of being massaged by a master therapist.

The MAJ7 has so many features, I won’t even attempt to do them justice in the space we have. So I will only highlight some of the features that we noticed during our trial.

3D massage

The MAJ7’s rollers can move along three axes. This means they can actually reach out and massage the top of your shoulders. It constantly scans over 1000 points on the body to adjust the strength and location of the massage. As she tested the MAJ7 after the Nest, my wife commented to me that the MAJ7 gave a detailed, precise, stronger massage.

Infrared heated rollers

The ceramic rollers on the MAJ7 heat up to make you feel as if you’re being touched by the thumbs and palms of a massage therapist’s hands.

Intensity sensing and adjustment with Force Micro Processor

You can program the intensity of the roller, air cell, and foot massage independently, and store the preference for up to three users. In addition, the MAJ7 will automatically reduce the intensity if it senses you pulling away from a certain spot, or increase the intensity if it senses you pushing deeper into the chair to get a stronger massage.

The MAJ7 has a lot of other features, such as professional stretching techniques, full-body air massage, advanced lower core massage, and professional sole massage to go with a ton of massage actions. You just have to try it out for yourself. Fortunately, HiTRONS has seven locations in the Northeastern U.S. that you can visit!

Do the math

Getting a massage at a spa is indeed an enjoyable luxury, however, each visit can set you back close to $100. Being the cheapskate that I am, I have to carefully (and wistfully) examine my budget after each spa visit so I can plan my next visit to get my fix.

HiTRONS’ massage chairs aren’t cheap. Their new chairs range from $3,500 to $9,900. So how can I justify spending multiple thousands of dollars on a massage chair? I learned that HiTRONS offers payment plan options that stretch from 12 to 60 months. For certain products, they offer interest-free financing for up to 36 months.

For instance, you can get the Nest on a 24-month installment plan for $250 plus tax per month. That’s roughly equivalent to the price of two massages per month. But for that price, you can get a massage as often as you like, and anytime you want!

On top of that, HiTRONS offers a free 5-year warranty on certain products. That is two years longer than the standard 3-year warranty on many products. This unique offering by HiTRONS allows you to rest assured that you can enjoy your purchase carefree for years to come.

In fact, Serom told me these products are very sturdy, and HiTRONS has their own professional technicians — certified by reputable brands, such as Inada, Panasonic, and Fujiryoki — who can directly service them should the need arise. That’s why they have the confidence to offer an industry-leading 5-year warranty.

Customers are so happy with HiTRONS, Serom told me, that they see customers come back 8 to 10 years after the first purchase to trade in their old chairs for a new one. Not because the old chair didn’t work anymore, but because the technology has advanced so much that they want a new one.

Japan has the largest market for massage chairs, which is why many of the best brands are made in Japan. After my visit to HiTRONS, I now understand why over 20 percent of Japanese households own a massage chair.

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