Seated massages can last anywhere from 5 minutes up to an hour, though people tend to prefer a chair massage duration of 15-20 minutes.
What happens during that time? Let's run down the numbers.
Like any time of therapeutic bodywork, each seated massage session will be customized for whoever is sitting in the chair. If you have an area that is causing you pain, your massage therapist can focus on it. But if you're looking for just an overall relaxation massage, that can happen too.
Each massage therapist will have their own routine for a standard massage, and every massage client will have different health needs.
So this guide won't work for every massage. Instead, this guide offers a look at one possible routine of a 20-minute massage session.
Here's what you might expect:
A Minute-by Minute Guide to the Ideal Chair Massage Duration
Minutes 1 - 5
Your massage therapist will greet you and ask if you have any health concerns or injuries they should be aware of.
Some health issues mean that massage is contraindicated, and your therapist will be able to work with you to figure out the best next step. If all is well, you'll sit down in the massage chair -- and your massage therapist will show you how if you've never done it before.
Your therapist will start with some introduction work, by gently warming up the muscles of your back.
The massage strokes may get a little firmer and your massage therapist may be noticing areas they will focus on, such as knots or tightness in upper back, shoulders, along the spine, or in the low back along the top of the hip bones.
Your massage therapist will start working on these areas to warm up the tissues, preparing them for deeper work.
Minutes 6 - 10
By now, your chair massage is well into the therapeutic aspects. Your muscles are warmed up and starting to relax more and more.
Your massage therapist will have worked out some smaller problem areas, and may be starting to focus on larger knots or areas of tension.
If you have any old injuries, you may have areas where scar tissue has built up. Scar tissue is a tough, fibrous tissue that can cause further stress on the muscles and tissues surrounding it, so work done on scar tissue may take a little longer for the tissue to soften up.
Minutes 11 - 15
This is usually the sweet spot of the massage session, when the nervous system has fully decided that it can relax. Don't be surprised if you start to lightly doze off a little at this point (your massage therapist will probably expect it -- there's no need to be embarrassed!)
Your therapist will continue working through areas of tension, which by now will have relaxed much more, making it much easier to work out tough knots.
Minutes 16 - 20
As your session nears to a close, your therapist may spend a little time on your arms or even legs to make sure you have a well-rounded session.
To wrap up, your massage therapist may do some compression on major muscle groups of the back, or do the famous "karate chop" method to complete the session.
At the end of the session, your therapist may have some recommendations for stretches or light exercises to do at home that will help alleviate your problem areas. They'll likely recommend that you drink some water following your session.