Can a Massage Chair Hurt Your Back?

Can a Massage Chair Hurt Your Back?

Does your back still hurt even after getting a massage from a massage chair? The reason for this might be the massage chair itself. Read on to learn how and why a massage chair can hurt your back. 

A massage manipulates your body’s soft tissues. In doing so, it eases muscle tension and improves blood flow. Improved circulation increases nutrient and oxygen delivery to tissues. Massage relieves pain by loosening knots and releasing endorphins which block pain receptors in the brain. These are the mechanisms behind a home massage chair.

Read more: Best massage chair under $10000

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If you want to get rid of persistent back pain, getting a massage chair is a great idea. You can enjoy a massage at any time without having to go to a massage spa. What an ideal solution! 

Try it! Check out our red massage chair.

However, some people complain that their backs hurt from using a massage chair. Yes, it’s true. A massage chair can hurt you if not used properly. This article will discuss the reasons behind massage chair injury and tips to avoid back pain caused by a massage chair.

Read More: Are Massage Chairs Worth It?

Can a Massage Chair Hurt Your Back?

Why does a massage chair hurt your back?

Ideally, massage chairs are designed to support your back and relieve pain. Many studies suggest its effectiveness in relieving chronic back pain. However, many users, especially beginners, experience back pain resulting from improper use of a massage chair. Post-massage chair pain can be due to the following reasons:

Your body is not used to massage

Have you ever felt soreness after trying a new exercise? In the same way, pain and tiredness after the first massage therapy session are normal. Massage chairs use many tools like rollers to manipulate and kneed your body tissues. They can tear your connective tissues and muscles in a similar way exercise does, causing inflammation and muscle soreness. This is more common in chronically inactive muscles. The phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness. Pain and soreness can also occur due to the accumulation of lactic acid in muscles. The soreness in a particular area after the massage may also be an indication that you carry tension in that area.

After two to three sessions, your body should start getting used to massage. You'll no longer feel that same pain and sore muscles. In fact, sitting in a massage chair should feel relaxing and healing.

Massage may aggravate your herniated disk

Some soreness after the first few massages is normal. If your pain is persistent, you should take it seriously. A massage chair can cause pain if you have an injured spine and slipped disc. In fact, it can also aggravate existing herniated disc pain. It’s essential to consult your physician if you feel persistent pain and soreness each time you use a massage chair.

Excessive use of a massage chair may cause back pain

If you bought a new massage chair, you should know it’s not a toy to play with. A massage chair is meant for healing and relaxation. Many people damage their muscles through the excessive use of a massage chair. Excessive use of a massage chair may lead to bruises, muscle damage, pain, and inflammation.

Operating a massage chair on improper settings

A massage chair offers varying pressures and intensities. You can adjust settings to achieve your desired experience. This is a great feature, but an inexperienced or uninformed person can choose the wrong settings for their body.

High pressure and intensity are likely to cause damage to your muscles and skin. It's important to ease into more intense settings. Those who have weak muscles and soft skin are most sensitive to improper settings.


Massage flushes out toxins and metabolic waste, such as lactic acid, from the body. There are many scientific studies out there that suggest massage improves blood flow. Improved blood flow helps remove toxins from tissues and muscles.

Toxins are supposed to leave your body through urination. If your body is dehydrated, your kidneys will try to preserve water by not releasing urine. This leads to more build-up of toxins in your body, which can cause soreness and pain all over the body. Make sure to drink water before and after a massage.  

Stiff and cold muscles

Without warming up muscles, exercise can result in pain. Warming up results in increased blood flow and flexibility. It makes the collagen fibers more elastic, prepares your muscles to stretch, and reduces the risk of injury. Similarly, a warmup is essential before a massage.

Warming up muscles soothes and loosens tense muscles, increasing their flexibility. Warm up muscles before a massage by starting on gentle massage settings and gradually increasing intensity, using a massage chair with heating, or going on a short walk. 

Certain medications may play a role in back pain

The primary purpose of a massage is to heal the body. Most people don’t rely only on massage. They take medicines as well. These medications can lead to complications and false feedback. For example, if you are taking a pain killer, it will alter your perception of pain. You may think that you can go for deeper pressure because it seems comfortable. In actuality, you're subjecting yourself to injury and bruises.

Read more about How I use HSA/FSA.

Tips to avoid back pain caused by a massage chair

A massage chair can be heaven or hell, depending on how you use it. Follow these tips to get the best results and avoid back pain:

  • Familiarize yourself with settings when you get a massage chair. Identify which pressures and speeds suit your needs.
  • Start slow and short. Increase your massage chair use with time as your body gets used to it.
  • Stay hydrated before and after a massage.
  • Don’t use a massage chair if your back pain results from injury or herniated disk.
  • Use a massage chair for 15 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. Don’t overuse it.
  • Sit still and rest your back against the chair. This way, a massage chair can accurately sense your acupoints.
  • Consult your doctor before using a massage chair if you have existing conditions or concerns. 

How does a massage chair help back pain?

Yes, massage chairs were indeed meant for relieving back pain. Their incorrect use can reverse this function. However, if used correctly, it can do wonders for back pain. A massage chair helps back pain in the following ways:

  1. Improves blood flow:

    Massage kneads targeted parts of the body. It enhances blood flow, which results in increased oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissues with low oxygen concentration. The effect is especially beneficial in treating muscle spasms and recovering sore muscles.

  2. Release endorphins:

    Massage promotes the release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine from the autonomic central nervous system. Endorphins are known as happy hormones. They act on opiate receptors in the brain and block the sensation of pain. This is one of the many ways massage relieves back pain and leaves you feeling relaxed.

  3. Reduces inflammation and soreness:

    Scientific evidence supports that massage may reduce pain in the same way NSAIDs do. They decrease the activity of inflammatory cytokines, which are associated with inflammation and pain. Moreover, massage may also increase the number of mitochondria in cells, which provide energy and help muscles recover.

  4. Reduces stress-associated back pain:

    When we are stressed, our muscles are more likely to be tense, particularly in areas of the neck, shoulder, and back. In short, stress is a common reason for back pain. Massage relieves stress by promoting the release of positive hormones. It also relieves tension in muscles when they are stretched. These are some of the ways a massage chair can decrease back pain associated with stress.

Read more: What is Percussive Therapy and How does it Help Your Muscles?

The bottom line

A massage chair provides relaxation and pain relief. It can also be a reason for back pain if not used appropriately. We recommend consulting your physician or physiotherapist to determine if a massage chair suits your body's needs. If you are on medication, be cautious to avoid any injury. Do your research before using a massage chair and use it correctly. If you do these things, you'll be on your way to healing and relaxation. 

All Zarifa USA products are HSA and FSA-eligible. This means you can contribute your health savings funds towards the purchase of any of our products!

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