Kneading, Rolling, Percussion, Vibration – What’s the Difference?

by Eric Cotten | Last Updated: July 9, 2017

kneading massageNothing is quite as soothing as kicking back in a good massage chair after a long day – but do you know which massage setting will work best to relieve tension in your muscles?

Understanding the difference between kneading, rolling, percussion, and vibration can help you pick a chair that hits all the right spots for ultimate relaxation.

Many massage chair review sites fail to distinguish between these four different types of massages, and sometimes they mix them up completely. By understanding each technique, however, you can make sure that you are investing in a robotic chair that will relieve tension from your muscles, rather than cause painful kinks.

Why We Love These Features

Kneading, rolling, percussion, and vibration are four of the most common massage chair techniques that you will find, not just in robotic chairs but also in traditional hand massage techniques as well. And with good reason – they can deeply work the muscles to relieve tension and leave you feeling loose and relaxed.

Each of these techniques affects different parts of your muscles, with some targeting superficial tension and others digging deeper for maximum effect. Having a machine that offers multiple of these settings allows you to either combine them or just use one to target a certain point in your muscles.

Whether you’ve suffered an injury or are simply looking for a machine that will sooth your muscles and improve circulation, these four techniques are certainly ones to keep an eye out for.

How Do I Tell the Difference?

You don’t necessarily need to know the difference between massage techniques to enjoy a massage, but if you want to make sure you’re getting the maximum relaxation every time you sit in your machine, you should probably have a general idea on the basics.

To help you understand which massage techniques your muscles simply love (and maybe even the ones you’d rather skip) read on for our breakdown of the four most popular massage techniques.


Think about the motion that your hands make when you are working dough; this is the same type of motion that is used in a kneading massage. Kneading is one of the most popular massage techniques as it is used by masseuses around the world.

This technique can either be a deep massage or a superficial massage depending on the setting, but it generally involves an intermitted pressing and squeezing of the muscles against underlying bone and cartilage.

Kneading is great for stimulating the blood vessels and nerves for improved vital functions like circulation. It also helps prevent connective tissue adhesion and is often recommended to reduce muscle swelling.

If you have this setting in your massage chair, it may look like two nodes that spin in a circular motion against your muscles.


A rolling massage often goes up and down your back, compressing the muscles laterally, as if you were taking a kitchen roller and massaging your back with it. This technique often involves long strokes and applies even pressure along the muscles.


If you’ve ever gone to a massage parlor and seen a masseuse essentially karate chop someone’s back repeatedly, you’ve witnessed a percussion massage.

This massage involves frequent blows to the muscles for a deep tissue massage that stimulates blood flow in the targeted areas. Some even use this type of massage technique to tone muscles and dislodge mucous from the sinuses.

If you have this setting in your robotic massage machine, it may look like small nodes that rapidly pump back and forth to strike your muscles.


Finally, vibration is a common massage technique that involves small shaking movements that stimulate larger portions of your muscles to create a relaxing effect. This technique is typically low intensity and is often recommended for those who suffer from neurological conditions that cause muscle spasms and tension.

Unlike some of the other techniques, vibration is less localized allowing you to soothe your muscles and stimulate blood flow holistically.

Sit Back and Relax

Whether you’re hoping to treat a medical condition or simply alleviate muscle tension and stress, the right massage can be good for both your physical health and your state of mind.

Now that you know the difference between the four basic types of techniques, there is nothing left to do but to sit back, pick your favorite setting, and enjoy a relaxing massage.