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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Seated Vs. Table Massage

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Have you ever had a Chair Massage? Do Chair Massages really do all that much? Is it really worth your time for a ten or fifteen minute Chair Massage?

There are some similarities in Seated and Table massage treatment protocols, but there are also glaring differences. Chief among the differences are the length of session and necessary equipment to provide each. Table massages are often marketed and priced based off hour and half-hour increments of time, Chair massage on the other hand is often limited between ten- and twenty-minute session lengths.

I set us up last month with a great understanding to discuss the history of Seated ,or as it is more commonly referred, Chair Massage. Enter David Palmer. Seated massage was not by any means invented by David Palmer, however the first massage chairs were developed by Palmer and Chair Massage was formalized and popularized in the massage therapy profession in the mid-late 1980s. Recall our histories of Eastern and Western Massage practices last month. I left off with the Western history around the 1960s and ‘70s. David Palmer was a therapist trained in the Eastern disciplines, specifically Anma, and developed a hybrid of Shiatsu and Swedish massage to use with his Massage Chair innovation. (The first massage chairs made for mass production were made by Living Earth Craft in 1986) The Chair Massage design and Palmer’s protocols helped land an account with Apple Computers – which also helped set up the popularity that massage therapy would enjoy in the 1990s & early 2000s!

Chair Massage had some advantages over the traditional table massages of the time. The massage chairs were more accessible- special populations like geriatrics or those with limited mobility were able to straddle the chairs with ease! The fact that clients of chair massages could remain clothed opened doors for people who otherwise wouldn’t ever consider getting dressed down for a table massage! The shorter length of session and lower pricing was also a major selling point for introducing more people to the benefits of massage! And finally, the portability of the massage chairs meant therapists could take their chairs practically anywhere- lending the profession to higher visibility and marketing opportunities at special events (sporting events, music festivals, etc.- the limits are only set by your imagination). Location, Location, Location!

Other benefits of chair massage include requiring less space and a quicker set up- therapists needn’t lease a brick-and-mortar storefront with chair massage. The client being clothed is less threatening and less suggestive to some clientele. Connotations to sex work is all but eliminated with chair massage! The shorter sessions allow for a quicker clean up and turn around. Plus, no laundry! And finally, some clients are also pleased that they needn’t worry about that greasy or sticky feeling after a massage because there is little to no massage lubricant used in chair massage.

These days, chair massage is often used as a supplement to a regular massage practice or as marketing for a massage practice. Chair massage is usually priced at the rate of $1 per minute or if the therapist is booked for a special event or party, a flat rate is negotiated and agreed upon.

Chair massage has a rich history of opening doors that were previously shut for massage therapists and businesses. And as this week’s blog has laid out, has many great advantages to incorporating into a massage therapy practice!

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB

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