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S-Track vs SL-Track: Which One is Better?

Understanding massage chair jargon can be confusing at first, and the goal of this article is to break down the differences between the two different roller types: S-Track vs SL-Track.

What is a Roller Track?

Massage chairs offer a myriad of features, but the chair’s backrest rollers are the primary massage function. The backrest rollers typically comprise of a four-wheel mechanism — sometimes referred to as quad roller heads — which are responsible for the heavy lifting in a massage chair. The rollers perform various massage techniques and styles, such as Shiatsu, Kneading, Tapping, Swedish, and Knocking.

The rollers travel along the path of the track. The length of the track will vary widely depending on the model. Massage chairs will have a roller track length of 27″ at a minimum and a length of 53″ at the other extreme. Almost all massage chairs begin the massage at the top of your neck and shoulders. The rollers will then methodically glide up and down the track to reach all the way down to your lower back. Where the rollers stop is a key difference between an S-Track and an SL-Track.

S-Track Massage Chairs

In an S-Track massage chair, the rollers follow the natural S-shaped curvature of your spine. The roller heads in an S-Track extend forward in the neck portion, retract in the mid-back, and protrude forward again in the lower back. This roller path contours your spinal curves and delivers a consistent pressure throughout your back. S-Tracks usually have a length of 27-33″.

Since massage chairs are designed to pamper your entire body, you will find that most S-Track chairs include airbags and/or a vibration plate inside the seat to compress against or stimulate your gluteal and hamstring muscles.

Note: Some models currently on the market still feature an outdated straight-line track design that does not account for your spinal curve. These models are almost entirely produced by non-name brand manufacturers and we recommend staying away from them.
The Osaki OS-4000T, pictured above, is a classic example of a massage chair featuring S-Track technology.

SL-Track Massage Chairs

An SL-Track, sometimes referred to as an L-Track, is the natural extension of the traditional S-Track. The roller system still follows your spine’s S-shape from the neck down to the lumbar. However, in an SL-Track, the roller heads extend past your lower back, traveling underneath the seat to reach your buttocks. Some massage chairs have a track long enough to even reach the belly of your hamstring muscles. SL-Tracks usually have a length of 42-53″.

SL-Track is newer technology and has only been on the market for about a decade. Most massage chairs now include the SL-Track roller system. And for good reason — an SL-Track covers up to 49% more of your body than an S-Track does.

An SL-Track may occasionally be referred to as an L-Track. These terms are interchangeable. By default, an L-Track will follow the S-shape of your spine during its upper phase, so don’t get too caught up in the differences between the two names.
SL-Track Massage Chairs
The Osaki OS-Pro Admiral, pictured above, contains extended L or SL-Track technology.

S-Track vs SL-Track: Is One Better Than the Other?

On the surface, it may seem obvious that an SL-Track would win outright over an S-Track due to its longer reach, but that’s not necessarily the case for every user. The best roller track style comes down to two major factors: performance and cost.

Performance-wise, an SL-Track is beneficial for more individuals. The extended roller coverage underneath the seat is far more effective than an airbag compression squeeze can ever be. An SL-Track is especially recommended if you’re looking for a massage chair that delivers a better lower back massage or if you have sciatic pain.

On the other hand, a longer massage stroke means the roller system will naturally focus less on your neck, shoulders, and spine. If those are key areas you want the chair to target, an S-Track might be a more suitable option.

S-Track massage chairs generally perform a better stretch than SL-Track models. The reason for this is simple. Since rollers in an S-Track stop at the lower back, the backrest and seat can move in two independent directions. This means the chair can lay out flatter, and your spine can better decompress. However, in an SL-Track, the backrest and seat must move together in unison due to the long roller system, limiting its stretching ability. SL-Track chairs such as the Osaki OS-Highpointe 4D and Osaki 4D Maestro LE 2.0 have made exceptional strides in catching up to S-Tracks in the stretching department. However, if a comprehensive stretch-based chair is a priority, the Infinity IT-8500 Plus and Infinity Smart Chair X3 are two excellent S-Track choices.

Price is another vital component. High-quality SL-Track massage chairs are generally pricier than S-Tracks because it’s a relatively new feature. You will undoubtedly find SL-Tracks for less than they used to be, but because S-Tracks are a generation behind, most lower-priced models are almost entirely comprised of that configuration.

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