A History of the Massage Chair

A History of the Massage Chair

With massage chair technology ever-developing and new and more luxurious designs becoming available, the potential for massage therapy continues to grow. But there was a time when massage chairs were a new and innovative technology. For inquiring minds, here is a history of the massage chair.

The Beginnings of Massage

Massage as a medicinal art originated approximately 5,000 years ago in India as part of an ancient form of medical science known as Ayurveda. This science focused on bringing the body into harmony with its environment and viewed massage as a means of returning the body to a state of balance. Following its development in India, it was cultivated in China, where it was incorporated with other traditional medicines and beliefs and developed into a massage form called tui na before eventually making its way to Japan. In Japan, practitioners developed their own massage form from tui na called amma, which was often performed by blind practitioners. From amma came the more modern massage form called shiatsu.

A Chair for a Little Girl

With how much massage was developed in Japan, it should be no surprise that the first massage chair was built there. Although stories vary, the first robotic massage chair was invented by Niichi Kawahara of Sakai, Japan, in 1950. Kawahara’s inspiration for the chair came from his young daughter, Kazumi, who suffered from stiff, knotty shoulders. Kawahara would often massage his daughter’s shoulders to help relieve the pain, but as he was busy at work, he didn’t always have time to give these massages. One day he hit upon the idea of creating a machine that could give his daughter massages when he wasn’t home.

Kawahara worked in a sewing machine parts factory. Using the sewing machine for inspiration, he designed and built a device placed in the back of a wooden chair with two small, padded knobs that moved left and right. The knobs could be manually adjusted to hit different parts up and down the back. Eventually, a bathhouse owner from nearby Osaka, Tomoyuki Nakae, heard about the chair, and by 1953 massage chairs were a popular part of Japanese bathhouses and hot springs resorts.

From there, massage chair technology grew more advanced. The original chairs could perform only a kneading or pummeling action. Manufacturers soon developed chairs that could do both. As Japanese culture became less rural and more urban, new, lighter chairs designed to fit in a family room were developed, specifically targeting fatigued office workers. Eventually, we came to have the massage chair as we know it today.

Contemplate the history of the massage chair from the comfort of one of our truMedic massagers and appreciate just how far they’ve come.

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