Massages in chairs or simply in sitting positions have always had their place among the most ancient and traditional massage techniques around the world but the contemporary Chair massage as we know it today and as we occasionally refer to as the On-Site or Seated massage is a trend that began as recently as 1982. The Chair massage was the brainchild of David Palmer, the director of the Amma Institute of Traditional Japanese Massage at that time who is considered to be the “father” of Chair massage. Mr. Palmer came to realize that, whether due to the high cost or the sensual intimacy of conventional table massages, or maybe the lack of sophistication on the part of the public or perhaps due to the combination of the three in one proportion or another, there were too few people who sought such bodyworks services and, therefore, there was not enough work for all the graduates of his institute. Mr. Palmer’s entrepreneurial intuition and insightfulness led him to adopt a few existing old-time techniques and to renovate others to develop a modern massage technique that could be performed anywhere as it required only brief periods of time, no need for the removal of clothing, and quite reasonably priced. Consequently, his Chair massages became convenient, affordable, and non-threatening.
The first clients to enjoy the newly developed Chair massages were the employees and customers of the Apple Computers outlets where David Palmer and his graduates set up their makeshift workstations in 1984. That venture lasted only about twelve months and the demand at the time was not huge, but they did give up to 350 Chair massages each week and it proved to be a step in the right direction and a very good beginning. By 1986 a specially designed and structured chair to better accommodate Chair massages went into production and today, there are well over 100,000 such chairs in use within the United States as well as in many other nations around the world.
David Palmer realized that Chair massage will be truly successful only with further development of this particular niche and he opened continuing education seminars for training graduates of other massage schools. During the twelve months of 1986, he taught 24 Chair massage seminars at 24 different locations in the United States as well as in Sweden and Norway. The concept of the Chair massage was embraced with open arms when presented to the American Massage Therapy Association and as a consequence, by 1990 just about every massage school in the nation was teaching it.
The Chair massage is not officially categorized as a therapy or a treatment but rather as a minimal relaxation technique. Whether that was a deliberate marketing ploy and clever salesmanship or not, it worked to attract people who would otherwise shy away from other kinds of massage therapies and treatments. For the most part, those who took the first step and braved the process of the Chair massage would have become more open-minded about progressing and graduating into the “true” massage therapies.
Nowadays, chair massages are readily available in shopping malls, airport terminals, independent shops, franchises, hotel lounges, hospitals, gyms, spas, bus depots, train stations, supermarkets, community centers, eateries (particularly the new-age cafés), convention centers, beauty salons, barbershops, medical and dental offices, university campuses, corporate workplaces and even at street corners, public parks and city square throughout the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom. The Chair massage is estimated to be the fastest-growing and most popular form of skilled touch, as professional massages are performed on the otherwise touch-deprived masses. It is David Palmer’s greatest dream to see young children performing shoulder rubs among family members and friends as part of their regular daily routine; and expressed in his own words, “When we reach that point I will know that we have arrived at our goal of a world where touch is recognized as essential to the development and maintenance of healthy human beings.”