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Massage therapy is a branch of alternate medicine aimed at providing relief to mankind without the use of medications. This form of treatment is effective in extending a number of therapeutic benefits. This is why the treatment modality is being adopted readily nowadays. Amidst all these technological advancements, we are seeing increasing numbers of massage chairs built to replace a masseuse. But are these massage chairs better than massage therapists?


In today’s article, we shall shed some light on the contest “massage therapist vs massage chair” and explain the pros and cons of both. But first, let us get clear of what we are talking about.

Massage Therapist Vs Massage Chair 

A massage therapist is a professional who is trained to perform certain movements (by his hand) on your body to enhance well-being. Therapists know of different types of massages and their efficacy for specific conditions.

On the other hand, a massage chair is a robotic device that you can keep in your home to get a relaxing massage. There are diverse forms of massagers in the chair including water or airbags.


The Differences: Massage Therapist Vs Massage Chair

The purpose of both the procedures is the same, however, there are evident differences between the way they achieve it.


1. Healing Touch

The biggest difference between a massage therapist and a massage chair is “healing touch”. It is at this point that massage therapists take a solid lead from the massage chair. 

massage therapist

It is believed that vital energy flows through the human bodies and an imbalance of this energy can lead to the development of various maladies. The gentle touch from a practitioner that imparts relief and well-being is known as the healing touch.


Though it isn’t necessary that a masseuse gives a healing touch, however, there is a good chance. Studies have shown that therapeutic massage combined with healing touch provides a superior result in reducing pain, nausea, anxiety, and fatigue in cancer patients.


With healing touch, subtle improvements in the immune system were also noted by the therapists.


This complementary therapy requires human-to-human contact, therefore, can not be provided by a robotic chair. According to a randomized controlled trial, the healing touch from a professional in a hospital environment leads to a great reduction in stress and a shorter outpatient stay for post-CABG patients.


A massage therapist is capable of achieving something that a massage chair can hardly achieve i.e. reduce agitation. As per a pilot study, healing touch showed promising results in alleviating agitation in patients suffering from dementia. 


Research indicates that human touch from a therapist is linked to multiple positivity in your body such as improved alertness, reduces pain and stress, revamped immune and endocrine system, etc. 


With healing touch, Massage therapists take the lead in the competition “massage therapists vs massage chair”. In this case “old is gold”.


2. Personalized Treatment Vs Privacy 

Many people consider massage therapy as a breach of their privacy and are reluctant to get one. This tinge of introverts is justified as a manual massage is based on close physical contact between the masseuse and you. 

A massage chair solves this problem quite easily. Getting a massage on a massage chair is as easy as it gets.


Massage Chair maintains Privacy 

You don’t have to expose yourself to another person. Neither you are contacted physically by the therapist. This is a more convenient way of getting a massage. The vibrating elements inside the chair replace the hands of the therapist. 


The modern massage chair boasts advanced roller technology that is effective in reducing pain and stress of the muscles.


Massage Therapist 

It is true that your privacy is breached when opting for a massage therapy session by a professional but the fact is that the outcomes are superior to a robotic chair. You trade your privacy for a personalized massage tailored according to your needs. 


A chair massage comes with a specific combination of movements of the vibrating elements irrespective of your specific needs. A professional massage therapist, on the other hand, makes a complete analysis of your condition and applies hand pressure that is ideal for you. 

massage chair

Therefore, we recommend the chair massage for those who are shy to face another person while those who need to get their issues resolved must go for a massage therapy session.


3. Massage Coverage Area

Another major difference between both genres of massage therapy is massage coverage. Here again, we see massage therapists having an upper hand. This is because the hands of a massage therapist can cover almost all of your body parts while the massage chair is limited to ergonomically designed specific points. 


Though massage chairs are ideally designed to provide massage at the most common trigger points still this isn’t equivalent to the hands and technique of a professional therapist. For example, deep tissue massage is a special type of massage that can only be performed by a masseuse. According to studies, deep tissue massage effectively reduces systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial pressure.


According to a study, that acupoint and meridian muscle massage by a massage chair is effective in reducing back pain. However, the wider massage coverage by massage therapy is extremely potent in treating chronic nonspecific low back pain, a study suggests.


4. Variety Of Massages 

When submitting yourself to the hands of a masseuse, you get plenty of benefits. One of these benefits is the variety of massages you can get. A professional massage therapist will offer specialized massage for various issues. Unfortunately, this facility isn’t available with a chair massage.


The most famous manual massage types include:


Hot Stone 

Research suggests that hot stone massage provides significant relief and also helps heal damaged organs.



Foot reflexology is very commonly practiced as it is quick to remove pain, fatigue, and stress from the body. Numerous studies praise the efficacy of this type of massage.  


A study promotes the anti-fatigue properties of reflexology massage given by a massage therapist while another study boasts of superior pain-killing effect achieved in women undergoing labor. 


Reflexology massage can even reduce the intensity of a certain type of headache, a study suggests. The impact of foot reflexology by a therapist can go beyond the usual pain-killing and stress-relieving response. According to a 2018 randomized controlled trial, foot reflexology can increase the breast milk volume in feeding mothers.



Aromatherapy uses different essential oils to enhance well-being. The oils do their job by getting absorbed from the skin or inhaled via the nose. It provides exceptional stress-relieving and pain-killing effects on the body. In the contest of massage therapist vs massage chair, aromatherapy gives a lead to the former.

massage therapist

As per a randomized controlled trial, aromatherapy is quick to remove anxiety and improve sleep in post-surgery patients. People who have received aromatherapy from a professional massage therapist have reported evident reductions in neuropathic pain and improvement in quality of life.


A similar pain-killing effect is observed in primary dysmenorrhea patients, meta-analysis suggests.



A randomized controlled trial found shiatsu massage therapy to be efficacious in the quick management and care of lower back pain. 


Swedish massage and shiatsu massage are potent in increasing the range of motion of the muscles while alleviating pain.


Other famous types of massage include:

  • Thai massage 
  • Deep Tissue massage 
  • Prenatal massage


A massage chair offers the following type of massages:

  • Upper body massage 
  • Lower body massage
  • Full body massage 
  • Heated massage 


Though effective they can’t beat the typical manual massage in terms of variety.


5. Time And Cost 

Chair massage is the better option when it comes to feasibility and time management. In order to get relaxation from the hands of a professional massage therapist, you have to get through the hectic ordeal of booking an appointment, followed by driving in the traffic and then waiting for your turn. 


On the other hand, if you have a massage chair in your home, all you have to do is hop on to the chair and set the controls of the robot. No hassle of commuting, no honking of the cars, just instant relief and serenity. 


Nowadays we  are  seeing a rapid increase in massage therapists adjusting to the demands of the clients. The sharp professionals now provide massage to you at the comfort of your home. So, massage therapists are now bridging the gap between manual massage and chair massage. 


Looking at the cost aspect there are mixed views. A massage chair effectively saves you some bucks that were meant to go into the pocket of the masseuse but that is a shady truth. This is because to avoid a massage therapist you need to have a massage chair in the vicinity for which you have to pay a handsome amount. Most modern massage chairs come with a big price tag that can cover a lot of your trips to the masseuse. Though the fuel cost saved at each visit must be duly appreciated. 


According to a study, a home massage chair system is a cost-effective method in reducing disability and pain associated with chronic low back pain.


6. Therapeutic Benefits Of Massage

Both types of massages are excellent ways of enhancing your body’s performance and well-being. The health benefits imparted by a massage therapist and a chair massage are the same, however, you might see disparities in the intensity of the effects. 


The most evident health advantages of a manual massage and a chair massage include:


Blood Flow Improvement 

It is a widely known fact that massage therapy improves the blood circulation of the massaged area. It was found in a study that light massage effectively improves blood circulation in patients suffering from tuberculosis.


The improvements in blood circulation are more pronounced with manual massage as compared to a massage chair. According to a study, increased blood flow in the upper limb was seen with manual massage.


Stress Reduction 

Massage chair and manual massage therapy can efficiently reduce stress and anxiety. As per a study, massage chair sessions for 6 months can significantly reduce blood pressure (systolic, diastolic) along with reductions in perceived stress.


There are limited studies available to support the stress-reducing effect of massage chairs. 


According to a review, a massage therapist can reduce stress by aromatherapy massage. A pilot study claims that hand massage can lead to significant improvements in mood in dementia patients. A reduction in stress and agitation was also noted.


Pain Reduction 

Healing touch and oncology massage can provide pain relief in patients suffering from refractory cancer pain, a study suggests. Expecting mothers can also take the benefit of a massage therapist to achieve labor pain relief. Massage therapy is best for these types of pain:

  • Chronic low back pain
  • Sciatica 
  • Cancer pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Labor pain 
  • Chronic auto-immune disorder pain (Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic lupus erythematosus)


7. Learning And Interaction 

A massage therapist has the added advantage of educating you. After getting a massage you can learn about how to correct your posture and live a healthy active life. After the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many masseuses now offer services at your doorstep.


You may be able to appreciate positive changes in your room settings after a massage therapist’s visit. This adds another point to a massage therapist in the contest of massage therapist vs massage chair.


Pros And Cons: Massage Therapist Vs Massage Chair


Massage Therapist 

Massage Chair 

  • Healing touch 
  • A personalized message can be tailored according to the needs
  • Wide variety of massages 
  • More body area can be covered 
  • More potent stress and pain relief
  • No privacy breach 
  • Time-saving 
  • Cost-efficient 
  • Consistent massage movements every time
  • Need to get an appointment 
  • Hassle of traveling
  • Privacy breach 
  • Lacks healing touch 
  • An only set pattern of vibratory movements
  • Limited body coverage

The Best Option: Massage Therapist

Massage therapy is an effective, non-pharmacological treatment modality to manage chronic pain, stress, and spinal misalignment. Manual massage from a massage therapist used to be the most prevalent type but in modern times we have seen a myriad of electronic massagers.


Massage chairs are now becoming part of household furniture. These robotic devices are good at providing mental relaxation and pain relief but it is incomparable to the hands of a professional. With a wide variety of massages especially tailored to your needs, we feel manual massage by a massage therapist is superior to a massage chair. Studies also support this notion.