Massage chairs used to look like, well, massage chairs, with massive pieces of equipment that resembled a dentist chair. Nowadays you can hardly tell a massage chair from an armchair or a sofa.
Technically, it is a complicated and time-consuming process to develop massage chairs, with a lot of experiments and testing needed. For example, Osim has engaged massage professionals in the design of different massaging modes. One of the brand's latest products is the uJazz, which brings massaging functions to a comfortable working chair.
'The challenge is to embed the complicated massaging tools into the chair while keeping the exterior looking elegant and slim. In fact, during product development and production, we have taken into account views from both designers and health professionals,' says Jenny Yip, assistant general manager of Osim (Hong Kong).
Panasonic is another brand that brings a new dimension to massage chairs. Its EP-MS40 Momi Sofa has the look of a comfy, low-profile sofa. The model comes in four colours, which are sold independently, to match different home furnishings.
'Over the past decade, massage chairs have become a fixture in modern homes, thanks to their contemporary designs,' says Billy Fong, product manager of the home appliances division at Shun Hing Group, which markets Panasonic chairs.
'Young couples and professionals are particularly receptive to the idea of owning their massage chairs at home as long as they fit in with their lifestyle and with the home setting.'
As far as functions are concerned, the slimmer version offers the same upper body-rubbing massage and the air bag-controlled relief to the legs and feet. The foot rest compartment is retractable, which suits users with different heights, and reduces occupying space. There are four automatic massage courses - deep, quick, relax and refresh - made up of three integrated massage techniques: Shiatsu pain relief, kneading/loosening and rubbing/healing.
To reap the most benefits from your massage chair, Fong says it is important to time your massage carefully and choose the right massage strength. The recommended frequency is twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening, up to 30 minutes each.
'Don't go automatically for the maximum strength - give it a good test and find one that relaxes you. Hongkongers tend to go for the maximum strength, but it may not be good for the muscles,' Fong says.