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Take A Seat

What is seated massage?

Chair massage or seated massage describes the type of massage that is performed while the client sits in a massage chair or at a desk headrest unit. No oil is used as the treatment is performed through clothing.

Seated massage is not intended to replace treatment for injuries or medical conditions but is as an effective stress management method, triggering the relaxation response. In this calm state the body and mind are given an opportunity to re-charge and let go of stress symptoms, making this the ideal treatment to offer in the workplace.  Having said that there are cases where a client may be more comfortable or secure in a seated position than lying flat on a massage table so the chair opens up more treatment options.

A brief history

Massaging seated clients is not a modern phenomenon. Centuries-old Japanese block prints illustrate people, emerging from a bath house, receiving massage while seated on a low stool. So it’s pretty safe to presume that, for as long as people have been rubbing each other’s aches and pains away, some of the massaging has been done while the receiver was in an upright position.

David Palmer is credited with the invention of the massage chair as we know it back in the 1980’s. Initially it was designed as a way to make massage more acceptable, accessible and affordable to the general population. With the mobility of the chair it became possible to bring massage to the people, anywhere, anytime.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The decade of decadence and greed that was the 80’s saw a lot of stress and seated massage offered an efficient way to offset this. Then into the 90’s with the massive growth in computers and the associated neck and shoulder problems that can bring, ensured seated massage was here to stay.

In the workplace

  • Seated massage in the workplace can improve productivity and reduce stress. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2011 found that chair massages decreased musculoskeletal aching and pain and increased range of motion.
  • Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2012 reported a study showing that offering 15-minute chair massages to nurses during work hours significantly reduced their stress. When employees aren’t hurting and aren’t stressed, they’re more able to focus on job-related tasks.
  • As the benefits of massage are realised, more businesses are offering seated massage in the workplace as an employee incentive and health maintenance resource. Workplace massage can help reduce employee stress while improving overall job satisfaction.
  • Stress at work can result in low morale, increased anxiety and depression, as well as other health-related concerns. A 1996 study conducted by Shulman and Jones of the Touch Research Institute, found that massage in the workplace helped reduce anxiety. The study indicated that 15 minutes of seated massage was more effective than a 15-minute break to reduce anxiety.

The benefits of seated massage

  • Increased circulation
  • Reduced muscular tension
  • Stimulates lymphatic tissues
  • Helps to relieve muscle stiffness and stress-induced tension 
  • Releases endorphins
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Reduces fatigue, anxiety and depression 
  • Helps provide better quality of sleep
  • Leaves you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated
  • Boosts energy and alertness

The tools

A dedicated massage chair is ergonomically designed and offers full support of the head, arms, torso and legs and offers the therapist easy access to the muscle groups in the neck, shoulders, back, arms and hands. It folds up easily and can be set up just about anywhere, requiring very little space. Massage chairs are also generally lighter than a massage table and completely portable.

Smaller again is the desk headrest unit. As the name suggests, the unit sits on a desk top and the client sits in a regular chair and leans into the supportive face cradle with chest support and arm rest.

The actual massage

Before the massage the therapist will ask a few health-related questions to ensure there are no contraindications. The therapist then demonstrates how to get seated and adjusts the equipment until the client is perfectly comfortable.

Most often the areas worked on are the muscle groups in the neck, shoulders, back, arms and hands, the areas where generally most tension builds up. However, it is also possible to work on the scalp, legs and feet. The massage typically lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the agreed upon arrangements.

Techniques involving compression, such as shiatsu and acupressure, lend themselves to seated massage because they can be practiced on a client who is fully clothed. Other useful techniques include lifting, squeezing, rolling, cross-fiber friction, and percussion. Percussion is only used over the thickest part of the muscle, and is applied with an even pressure in a relaxed and upbeat, rhythmic tempo. This is a great technique for ending a seated session, as it enforces the release of tension, while stimulating and energizing the client.

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