Massage cushion or massage chair? Which one to choose?


They alleviate pain and reduce tension, relax and unwind, help you fall asleep and provide support in the battle against omnipresent stress — we are talking about massage devices. So today we are going to take a closer look at the most popular of these, the massage chair and the massage mat. Although massage chairs can offer an advanced massage with airbags or massage rollers, massage mat is often, not quite fittingly, regarded as a cheaper alternative.


A relaxation mat is a special overlay, most often equipped with a vibrating mechanism or balls and rollers performing a “theoretical” shiatsu massage. A home-use mat will be what’s called a chair massage mat — placed on the back of a chair. Meanwhile, a car massage mat — will be mounted on a car seat. A spine massage mat most often offers a massage in the range of about 80 cm, mainly massaging the back, and sometimes additionally a vibrating massage affects the buttocks and upper part of the thighs. Most mats available have several massage programs, usually with the possibility of adjusting them. Alongside them, there are also chairs on the market that have a frame with a mounted massage mat, lacking massaging arms, as is the case with massage chairs available in our offer.

Types of massage in the massage mat:

  • Shiatsu massage — this type of massage improves blood circulation, reduces muscle and joint tension, or enhances metabolism.
  • Kneading massage — acts on the deepest muscle layers, stimulating central nervous system receptors in the process, relaxes, and thus improves the overall fitness of the body.
  • Compression massage — works similarly to kneading massage, is recommended for people who spend a lot of time at work.
  • Vibrational massage — positively affects metabolism, oxygenates the skin, and even reduces swelling.

An additional feature in the mat may also be the increasingly popular heating. The mat pleasantly warms the muscles, using massage balls or rollers made of nephrite. Small size of the device and weight also allow taking it with you and enjoying a massage, for example, while traveling. The diversity and price range of massage mats available on the market are huge. Therefore, choosing the best one can be quite a challenge. But is it worth it?


The massage possibilities in a massage chair are much greater than in a massage mat — mats mainly massage the spine, whereas massage chairs can also focus on the legs, feet, arms, forearms, hands at the same time. The massage itself is more versatile. Most importantly, the massage chair uses massaging arms, which, with the advancement of technology, increasingly better mimic the movement of the human hand. Thanks to this, the massage is relaxing, effective, and almost indistinguishable from one performed by a human. This mechanism distinguishes a massage chair from a massage mat — massage mats mostly do not have a mechanism with massaging arms, and in rare exceptions, these are very simple and — due to the mat’s thinness — flat mechanisms with limited range of motion. Advanced features like 4D or 5D (advanced massage modes, even using artificial intelligence) or SL-shape (shaped guide rail) are not available in massage mats. Similarly, popular “massaging” chairs with a built-in massage mat do not provide effects like a real massage chair with massaging arms.

The massage session in the chair usually starts with a scan, which marks the shape of the spine or, in more basic models, height and adjusts the massage to them. This way, the arms do not massage the head, and the massage itself is more precise. In the simplest models, the massage range has to be set manually, although this is becoming increasingly rare.

In the massage chair, there are also many automatic programs and manual techniques at your disposal. The massage covers almost the entire body. Depending on the model, forearms, arms, hands (with airbags) are massaged. If the chair has a leg massager, the calves are affected by massaging mats, and in more advanced models — mechanical calf massage. Feet, on the other hand, are most often relaxed by massage rollers or an acupressure insert. The massage chair also involves massage with advanced technologies, such as the most comfortable Zero Gravity position or SL-shape, and even an artificial intelligence algorithm, which are not available in massage mats.

The longest massage range — up to 153 cm — has the iRest Maesthron (A801) — nearly twice the massage range than the average massage mat. This advanced massage chair has two independent 2D and 4D massaging mechanisms — working simultaneously on different body areas — definitely a more extensive massage than that offered by massage mats.


In addition to the range and method of massage, the chair and mat also differ in many other parameters, not only massaging arms. Attention should be drawn to the dimensions. A massage chair requires a space of about 1×2 meters. It’s a piece of furniture that, once purchased, will become a permanent fixture in the interior. Meanwhile, to use the mat, no additional space is needed. The mat can be used on existing furniture. It should be noted that, thanks to its dimensions, the chair will be suitable for a larger number of people. Thanks to the scanning, it can be used by people varying in height. Almost in all models with a foot massager, the footrest can be adjusted — taller people will find it more comfortable. Also, for people who weigh more, a massage chair would be a better solution. The chair can handle a heavier load and will still be able to massage tense muscles.

One absolute sensation of recent years that continues to evolve is the use of multi-dimensional massage technologies in massage chairs, such as: 2D, 3D, 4D, 5D. As far as the 2D massage option is concerned, the movement of the massager takes place in two planes – up and down and to the right and left; thanks to this mechanism, the balls around the massaging arms move and precisely adhere to the back. The 3D option allows for a more sophisticated massage, as it’s already in three planes. The massaging arms, running along the entire length of the spine, guide the massage up and down and to the right and left, and additionally front to back, precisely taking into account the shape of the spine, aligning with its natural curvature. Furthermore, in massage chairs with the 3D massage function it’s possible to adjust the strength of the massaging arms’ pressure. In addition to being able to work in three planes, the chair with the 4D technology allows the arms to move at different speeds. It has been enhanced with the right combination of acceleration in the massager movement. The pace acts here as the fourth dimension of massage. As of now, a considerable number of available models have replaced this technology with the 5D massage function, which relies on artificial intelligence. Its job is not only to regulate the speed of the massage, but also to take care of its intensity in real time. An algorithm reads the current muscle tension and adjusts the appropriate intensity of the massaging arms to it.

A feature that distinctly distinguishes massage chairs from massage mats is stretching — of the lower body parts or the entire body. Chairs use a specific sequence of the leg massager’s work, airbags and massaging arms. iRest massage chairs — from the Grandease model (A550) upwards have a split guide – iOpen, enhancing the effects of stretching the entire body — chairs can lay out into the Flat position. Bodyfriend Phantom Rovo, on the other hand, thanks to independent leg massagers, provides a unique, asymmetrical stretching. Massage mats do not have a stretching function.

In our offer, there are chairs like iRest Brillactiq (A665) and iRest Maesthron (A801), equipped with the innovative Health Detection function. It measures selected body parameters and based on them selects the optimal massage program, reducing fatigue levels. An increasing number of massage chairs also have add-ons not directly related to massage, such as Bluetooth speakers, which allow for playing favorite music. It’s also worth mentioning modern technologies such as Brain Music in Bodyfriend brand chairs. It uses binaural sounds, increasing brain activity and ensuring a higher level of relaxation. Bodyfriend Davinci, meanwhile, can boast a BIA (body composition analysis) — based on its results, it suggests 3 optimal massage programs.

Although created with the same purpose in mind, a massage chair and a massage mat are significantly different. They represent completely different categories of massage equipment. When making a purchase decision, it’s certainly worth weighing up all the pros and cons and deciding on a top-quality product that you will enjoy for years to come.

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Published: 2023.11.28

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