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Published Aug. 12, 2021

Is a spa day out of the budget or simply not on the schedule? Then work out those knots, aches, and pains at home with the best back massager. Back massagers let you target sore spots, loosen tight muscles, and relieve pain. However, you’ve got some decisions to make because they come in a wide range of designs. 

From massage pads that cover your chair to models that mimic a deep shiatsu massage, these handy tools pamper and maintain mobility at the same time. You can soothe your muscles with vibration or beat out stiffness with a massage gun. Then, you can apply heat to keep everything loose. Back massagers can make you ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ or weep a tear as they knead tight muscles into submission. Here are some options to fit your needs.

How can the best back massager heal, relax, and soothe your muscles? 

All back pain isn’t the same, and neither are back massagers. There’s a wide variety of designs and features. Some models mimic shiatsu massage, a deep-tissue massage with roots in Japanese therapy. Others offer percussive massage, working out deep muscle knots, as tight muscles may just need heat and vibration to stimulate blood flow. Some massagers provide a range of massage movements, including different nodes to target various areas of the back and body. 

Back massagers may be electric, battery-powered, or manual. Battery-powered models provide portability, making it easier to use the massager throughout your house or take it while you travel. However, electric massagers maintain consistent power. 

With so many affordable electric and battery-powered massagers available, manual massagers have largely fallen out of favor. That doesn’t mean you can’t find one, but you can easily secure an electrical or battery-powered model for a few more dollars. 

Designs range from massagers that cover the seat and back of a chair to a low back-only massager. Choose a design that targets your type of pain. For example, pain may strike only during certain positions like sitting or standing. A chair massager can help those stuck on the sofa, while a handheld model can work for those held hostage in the standing position.

Different muscle issues and pain points may respond better to certain types of back massagers. If you want a massager for general muscle soreness (not just in the back), handheld massagers and massage guns can be used almost anywhere on the body. However, if you suffer from severe back pain, a model that targets and is specifically designed for the back may work better.

The best back massager

Back massagers can dig into knots and pain deep within the muscle.

Deep-tissue massage requires a massager that can reach into the deepest muscle layers and fascia, the muscles’ connective tissues. The massager then uses slow, firm pressure to work out aches and pains. 

Shiatsu massagers also fall into this category. If you are at a day spa, a shiatsu massage would involve the masseuse using their fingers, thumb, and palms to target the body’s pressure points. Electric and battery-powered shiatsu back massagers mimic this type of movement, using slow, intense motions.

Best deep-tissue massager: Comfier Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager

Deep, Portable Massage

This portable massager sits atop an office chair, sofa, or dining room chair to reach pain points in the back, neck, and legs. COMFIER

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The Comfier Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager uses slow, targeted movements to knead the back, shoulders, neck, and thighs. You can also relax the body into the massager to add a pressure massage to the lower back, waist, and thighs. The shiatsu massage balls in each location (neck and lower back) can be turned on or off independently, so you get a massage only where you want it. Users of different sizes can adjust the position of the neck massagers to better fit a taller or shorter torso. This model folds down for compact storage.

Lower back pain (LBP) can make it hard to work, stand, or sit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 28 percent of men and 31 percent of women over the age of 18 experience lower-back pain (LBP). Anything from an injury to weight gain can cause LBP, and it can limit activity, work, and sleep. 

Lower-back massagers target this sensitive area with designs that fit the natural curve of the spine. These massagers also feature nodes and balls that dig into the musculature of the lower back without touching the vertebrae. Lower-back massagers may offer vibration, deep tissue massage, and/or heat. Take your pick of the movement that works best for you.

Best lower-back massager: MagicMaker Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager

Deep Kneading Comfort

This massager’s design cradles the curve of the lower spine but can be rotated for use on the shoulders and upper back, too. MagicMakers

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The MagicMaker Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager features eight rollers that knead into the muscles. The rollers heat, but you can turn the heat on or off as needed. This model’s design works beautifully for the lower back, and its ergonomic design can rotate to fit the neck and shoulders, too. It includes two massage motions, so you can adjust the massage experience to your needs. 

How do handheld back massagers work?

A massager to that lets you target pain points yourself can be invaluable. Handheld massagers do just that. These portable models feature a long handle with a massage head that contains one to four massage nodes. Most include different node attachments from multi-pronged to thin, pointed ones that dig deep into the muscle. 

Most of these massagers use vibration to stimulate blood flow and relax the muscle. However, some use percussion to press into hard knots to relax the muscle. Many include a heated option, too. Models with cases or storage bags let you keep all of the attachments together, so you’re ready for a massage anywhere.

Best handheld back massager: RENPHO Rechargeable Handheld Deep-Tissue Massager

Portable Relief

This model comes with a range of percussion modes and interchangeable nodes let you target problem areas on your own. RENPHO

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The RENPHO Rechargeable Handheld Deep-Tissue Massager features a rechargeable battery-powered design that lets you reach behind your back or legs without getting tangled. This cordless model also comes with five interchangeable nodes to target problem areas. A full charge lasts 140 minutes, though it may be lower depending on the level of the massage. The RENPHO also includes a safety feature to prevent overheating that turns the massager off after 20 minutes.

The difference between deep-tissue and percussive massage

Percussive massage is different from deep-tissue massage, even though both target muscles deep within the body’s muscle structure. Percussive massage, also known as deep-muscle stimulation, targets muscle soreness and soft tissue pain. With this method, short, rapid pulses press deep into the body’s soft tissues, stimulating blood flow and elongating muscle tissue. 

These massage guns go hard and fast. They’re not for the faint of heart, but they can work wonders on the sore muscles for which they are designed. Models with varying speeds and intensities provide adjustability based on your comfort level. These guns can be loud, so look for a model with a motor designed to keep noise down. 

Best massage gun: Theragun Prime

Deep, Percussive Massage

This model takes no prisoners, working sore, tight muscles into a state of relaxation. TheraGun

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The Theragun Prime isn’t cheap, but it includes premium materials and construction and a QX65 motor that’s quiet but powerful. Be prepared for powerful percussion that digs deep into the muscle. With five speeds and interchangeable nodes, you can find a level that works for the level of pain or stiffness you experience. This massage gun features a unique grip that lets you use the gun at various angles based on your pain points. And it also connects to an app to give you personalized routines based on your behavioral patterns.

Mini massagers save space and let you target problem areas

Mini massagers are smaller versions of full-size massagers. They come in manual, battery-powered, and electric designs. These handheld models may also include different nodes for a greater variety of massage options. They typically have fewer speeds and intensities than larger models, but a mini massager can also be much quieter.
If you’re on a budget, look into a manual massager. The only problem with these is you usually need someone else to do the actual back massaging. But a mini handheld with a long handle can do the trick if you’re usually massaging on your own. 

Best mini massager: BOB AND BRAD Q2 Mini-Massage Gun

Small but Mighty

It may be small, but this model still features a range of speeds and heads to target problem areas. BOB AND BRAD

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The BOB AND BRAD Q2 Mini-Massage Gun fits in the palm of your hand yet can do serious work on sore muscles. It includes five percussion speeds and comes with five heads, including a fork head to get muscles close to the vertebrae. Each 3.5-hour charge provides four hours of running time, which means you don’t have to store this model in the charger. At only just under a pound, the Q2 can fit inside your gym bag or suitcase to give you relief when you’re away from home.

FAQs

Q: Are back massagers worth it?

Yes, back massagers are worth it. With the right massage motion, the best back massager can relieve and prevent back pain, sore muscles, and loosen stubborn knots.

Q: What does a vibrating massager do to muscles?

A vibrating massager stimulates the muscle, increasing blood flow. More blood also brings more oxygen, which aids in recovery. There’s also evidence that vibrating massagers can temporarily improve flexibility.

Q: How often should you use a massage gun?

How often you use a massage gun depends on a few factors including the type of massage, the reason behind the massage, and the level of your muscle trauma. For mild soreness, you can use a massage gun every day for several times a day if you keep your sessions short, about 15-30 seconds per muscle group. That said, be careful not to use the massage gun every day in the same place for a prolonged period of time, as you can introduce trauma to the muscle. 

Final thoughts on shopping for the best back massager

A back massager can work wonders on a chronically sore back. A massager that fits your lifestyle and includes movements that target your pain points will offer the most relief. The best back massager will soothe your hard-to-reach areas with little effort on your part. You can lean into them, close your eyes, and let the massager do its work.

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