I have a bad back  and neck, and a good massage chair (MC) is a necessity. But they do not come cheap! I currently own two of the top-of-the-line Japanese MCs, and here is my thorough review of both of them.

My Massage Chairs
OHCO M8 Inada DreamWave (2014 model)

I bought the Inada in 2014, and it actually has more features than the current model, for example a heated seat. I bought a new chair because the upholstery on the Inada has worn out, and it costs $612 to buy a new back, and it is quite non-trivial to replace the part. Mechanically, it is still perfect.

Ripped upholstery on the Inada chair

Overall comments and setup

As can be seen in the above pictures, The OHCO chair has arms that swing out to allow easy access to get settled into the chair. These arms are disassembled for shipping, and come in a separate box. The allows the OHCO to fit through a smaller door (30 inches?) than the Inada (36 inches), and is a great idea. Both chairs come with White Glove service to carry the chairs into your house, set them up, and remove the cartons. These chairs are HEAVY. Do not ruin your bad back by doing this yourself. And Negotiate to get this $450 setup as a throw-in to your cost. Also make sure you get a 5-year warranty on each chair. You will want them to put slider pads under the feet so that you can move the chairs easily.

Feature comparison

Look carefully at the side-by-side images of the two MCs, and you will see some differences:

  • The OHCO has no side pads that inflate to pressure your thighs. This is a part of the Inada DreamWave mechanism that moves your rear end from side-to-side by several inches.
  • The OHCO has no sideways motion of the seating area.
  • The OHCO has 4 dual pads that look a bit like lips that open (like a mouth) to apply sideways pressure to the shoulders and downward pressure on the shoulder tops. Instead, Inada uses U-shaped pads to squeeze the upper arms, and there are two air pads (not visible) that inflate to provide downward force on the shoulder tops.
  • OCHO has rollers in the feet and thighs. Inada just uses air and static bumps in the footbeds.
  • The OHCO thigh pads can move in a circular motion; Inada pads just inflate.
  • The OHCO has heat everywhere, including in the rollers. It can be selectively turned on or off. The Inada 2014 has just a heated seat.
  • The OHCO has many whistles and bells, which I wish were deleted to save money: Aromatherapy, USB ports to play music (My chair is in front of my HiFi system), night lights that come on when you approach the chair. There is an air ionizer and chromotherapy too! The cheaper OHCO model eliminates this froufrou, but also removes the essential (to me) foot massage. I have not tried aromatherapy or the USB ports.
  • The OHCO has a far more modern controller (on a retractible cord) than Inada. It also has many more selectable programs.

Comparing the controllers

Massage Chair Controllers
OHCO Controller Inada Controller

It is obvious from the pictures that the OHCO Is by far the more modern and capable controller.

As shown, the Inada controller opens to reveal buttons that can activate individual massage features (rolling, tapping, kneading,...). But there is no way to save any program that you create, therefore, these manual controls are not very useful. My lid stays closed. There are 8 program buttons below the display, but two (quick and child) are useless to me, so that leaves 6 different massage programs.

On the other hand, the OHCO has 14 programmed selections, and there are 4 focused sessions (Neck & shoulders, Low Back, Glutes, Feet & Calves). Finally, there are also manual sessions.

When you start a massage, the OHCO moves the chair to the zero gravity position. For most of the Inada massages, it assumes you have adjusted the chair to the desired reclination. Then both MCs scan your back for shiatsu points. As soon as the scan completes, you can press the roller switch to adjust the height of the most concentrated massage. For me this is a necessity, because the default programs (both chairs) insist on rolling sideways across my shoulder blades, which is very painful. The OHCO is smart enough to remember this preferred location until you turn the chair off; The Inada requires resetting the location for every individual massage program—it gets old soon.

For me, the zero gravity position is a disadvantage because the raised footrest blocks the direct sound from my loudspeakers. Adjusting the back and feet position on the OHCO is a bit strange. You press the desired button, but must press it again to stop the motion.

The OHCO manual modes (rollers & air) are much more useful than the Inada ones. You seem to be able to combine any number of different manual modes, and unlike Inada, they all run simultaneously. For example, since I don't really like the calf rollers, I can select foot rollers, and foot and calf air, which leaves off the calf rollers.

Winner: OHCO


Massaging the back

For must users, massaging the back to relieve back discomfort is the main raison d'être for buying a MC. Each chair has a different approach to doing this.

The Inada uses gentle motions—rolling, kneading, tapping, "human hands," and shiatsu. It also uses the sideways motion of the DreamWave mechanism to gently shake your spine into position. The Inada's air mechanism sighs with each new movement. And transitions are slow.

The OHCO mechanism has a much broader range of motions, and instead of the Inada side-to-side motions, the OHCO tilts the back left and right. The motions are also much more abrupt; they remind me of the ones a chiropractor uses to readjust the spine. There can be fast side-to side motions accompanied by knocking sounds, but the air mechanism is silent. 

So which system is better? I got rather bored with the Inada motions after 7 years, they became quite predictable. The many more and varied OHCO motions are quite unpredictable, and I do not think I will be able to predict things given the large number of programs. Both MC back massages work, but they are different. I instantly fall asleep during an Inada Massage, but the OHCO's jerkier motions keep me awake.

Winner: a tie


Massaging the arms

Both chairs have a tendency to throw your arms towards you when the arm cushions squeeze. This is exacerbated in the OHCO by the upper-arm mechanism:

OHCO side and top shoulder pads Inada upper shoulder pad

 

You will notice that on the Inada, the upper arm fits into a U-shaped holder that squeezes the arm from both sides. The OHCO pad expands and pushes your upper-arm against your body, and while doing this, pulls your lower arm out of its holder. Not only does this give an inferior massage, but it can also be uncomfortable.

Upper-arm winner: Inada

The lower-arm massage is much better on the OHCO. Inada just has two pad inflation positions. OHCO has a much faster mechanism that locks your arm in place (after you replace it from the upper-arm mechanism ejection) before it can squirt out sideways, and it has three different motions, one of which almost feels like a hammer coming down on the top of your hand.

Lower-arm winner: OHCO


Massaging the feet

Inada has bumps in the footbed that your feet get pressed into when the air pillows inflate. OHCO has heated rollers in the footbeds. The only issue with this might be if you are very ticklish.

Winner: OHCO


Massaging the calves

Again, Inada has only air bags that have two inflation positions. OHCO has airbags that give a circular massage to the sides of the calves, and also heated rollers that move up and down the backs of the calves. Sometimes the rollers feel like a fixed bar is across the back of the calves, a  slight negative.

Winner: OHCO


Massaging the upper shoulders

Inada has a small air bag that inflates and exerts great pressure on the trapezius muscle (just where I am sore). OHCO has an expanding mouth-like airbag (see last picture). One would think that this would work, but it does not. Even with the headrest in its lowest possible position, when the bag inflates, the headrest rises (even while I push back on it with my head), and very little pressure is applied to my shoulder tops. Any pressure that is applied, is to the front of the shoulder.

Winner: Inada


Massaging the neck

Inada applies symmetric pressure to both sides of the neck, and even can squeeze the shiatsu points just below the skull on either side of the spine. OHCO has three modes, one of which is symmetric. But (so far as I can tell), they are only selectable in the manual neck massage mode. The asymmetric mode is used in the pre-programmed massages. For me, this is bad because my neck fusion is very iffy, and side-to-side motion is probably not good. OHCO also applies gentle traction to the neck. OHCO also has neck knead rollers.

Winner: a tie


Massaging the thighs

Inada has thigh and kidney pads that apply air pressure to the sides of your thighs and body, and that also move your body from side to side. This feels good. OHCO has no massage features in this area.

Winner: Inada (by default)


Massaging the posterior (gluteus muscles)

Inada provides gentle motions (up-down & sideways) to the seat area. Moving the seat gently from side-to-side is what Inada calls DreamWave and it is indeed very relaxing. I think it also "shakes" the spine into position similar to the devices I have seen that do this my moving your  legs from side-to-side.

OHCO has 4 air bags that vigorously knead the heated seat, but it feels as if there are rollers too, because it massages the central prostate area also! There is no sideways motion.

Each MC has a different approach here, but they are about equal.

Winner: a tie. 


Other assorted comments

  • Inada programs are either 15- or 10-minutes long and cannot be cascaded in the 2014 model. OHCO programs are 17- or 18-minutes long and can be cascaded.
  • The OHCO stretch program hurts too much for me to use. Inada's stretches sideways as well as along the spine.
  • Two Navy midshipmen rowers loved the OHCO Sports Recovery program.
  • I put a dish towel on the headrest of both MCs to make it easy to keep the headrests clean and oil-free. The OHCO head cover is removable for washing.
  • The Inada chair must be reset (by turning it off and on) after any power failure. I am not sure about the OHCO, because the power has stayed on.
  • I tried the OHCO air ionizer. It emits a not-pleasant smell that is vaguely vegetable-like. I won't use it again! It now smells upstairs where this computer is located.
  • The springs on the OHCO foot rest are too strong. The constant high upward pressure from foot to knee aggravates the torn meniscus on my left knee. Inada's springs are much gentler.

Long-term OHCO updates

I have now lived with the OHCO chair for three months and have used it for an hour each day. Definitely now prefer it to the Inada, mainly because of its extensive massage repertoire.

General comments

The OHCO is a much better chair (for sitting in) than the Inada. When the Inada completes a session, the back rollers are moved so that they give you no lower back support. You can hit the emergency stop button when the rollers are in just the right place, but this is hard, awkward, and then the controls are disabled. When the OHCO finishes a massage session the back rollers are positioned in the perfect spot for lower-back support. And, you can then adjust the chair leg and back positions, to say a comfortable reading position. However, you must go through a whole (at least 17 minute) massage first.

I have now tried all of the massage options and combinations. All massages last a minimum or 17 minutes, and the Stretch massage lasts 21 minutes.Even the Quick massage is 17 minutes. By quick, OHCO seems to mean a little bit of every motion in the chair's repertoire. Inada's Quick massage is 5 minutes. 

If you are buying pads for under the chair's feet (so you can slide the chair on your floor), note that there are six feet.

Nits to pick

It is essential (for my back) to move the "adjusting shoulder blades" position just above my hip bone. If this is not done, the back roller goes between my shoulder blades, which is very painful. The difficulty is that about 20% of the time, the roller adjust buttons does not actually work. The OHCO system only gives you one chance (up or down) to try the adjustment. If you release the roller button (if it worked), the massage starts. Inada lets you adjust the rollers up or down and you have three sideways roller swipes intervals to keep adjusting the roller position (and with both up and down buttons). If the OHCO roller adjustment does not work, you must turn the chair off to get another chance; otherwise you may get a painful massage.

The top shoulder pads, even with high air pressure, do not put any pressure on my trapezius muscles. The side shoulder pads indeed move my upper body from side to side, or roll it, but when they do this, my arms are thrown out of the arm pad slots. Thus there is a constant effort (on my part) to keep repositioning my arms, and this prevents relaxation. (Not all massage programs use the arm pads, so this is not a problem if using one of them.) I think this problem is exacerbated by the fact that I usually do not allow the chair to go all the way to its zero-gravity position for two reasons (mentioned in the original report):

  1. If it is all the way back, my raised feet block a direct path to my HiFi speakers, and
  2. The zero-g position puts pressure upward from my feet, and causes pain down my left side.

Program comments

  • Now that I know to adjust shoulder blade position to just above my hip bones, I have found out that I love the Stretch mode. It initially says 18 minutes, but after I adjust the rollers, it jumps to 21. Unlike the Inada, the OHCO really does stretch you, tightly gripping upper body and feet while tilting backwards and forwards.
  • I find the Manual roller position is very restful, and this can be combined with any of the Manual Air options. I like the foot air.
  • Believe it or not, the list of preprogrammed massages are in fact all different, and better yet, I have not been able to predict the next motion. So it does not get boring. I usually stop the chair recline about halfway back, and set the air pressure to high. If it is not hot in the house, I turn on the heat.
  • Although the for corner region lights may not all be on, most programs massage everything
  • The Focused massages do what they say. I especially like the lower back and glute cycles.
Another great blog by Jim Rome

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