Let’s face it – our backs take a beating throughout the course of our lives. It’s hardly surprising that most of us suffer from some form of regular back pain. To get relief we turn to massage therapists and chiropractors. But to bring immediate, ongoing relief we need a readily accessible massage tool that’s up to the task.
Enter the handheld back massager.
A back massager can boost blood flow to the affected area. This fast tracks healing nutrients, oxygen and antibodies to provide instant relief. At the same time, it can help work out those deep muscle knots that are giving you a pain in the back.
There’s no shortage of handheld back massagers on the market. What there is a shortage of is quality massagers that will provide you with the relief that your back is crying out for.
In this article, we’ll review the six best handheld back massagers on the 2021 market. We’ll also provide you with a comprehensive buyer’s guide so that you know exactly what to look for when choosing your own handheld back massager.
Our Top Picks
1. Intelitopia Cordless Massage Gun
The Intelitopia massage gun is a battery-operated handheld unit with four interchangeable heads (round ball, flat, fork, bullet). It offers three levels of percussion intensity, ranging from 1800 to 3200 percussion's per minute. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries provide 4-6 hours of running time.
The Intelitopia is an extremely quiet massager to operate. This makes it great to use in the office or other places where you don’t want to interrupt others. The handle provides a silicon grip which makes it quite comfortable to hold as you work on you massage your muscles. And, at a total weight of just 2.2 lbs, it shouldn’t cause any wrist fatigue.
The Intelitopia does not have a rotating head function, so you are not able to get that extra adjustment to reach tricky areas of your body. It is powered by a 24-volt high powered brushless motor and has exceptional heat dissipation, so you won’t have any problems with over-heating.
2. RENPHO Rechargeable Handheld Deep Tissue Massager
The RENPHO hand held deep tissue massager is a cordless unit that has been ergonomically designed to provide a comfortable, natural grip. The handle is long enough to allow you to self- massage tricky areas of the back. The power output of 3600 pulses per minute is enough to provide deep tissue relief and is adjustable to 3 settings.
The built-in battery provides you with up to 2.5 hours of life, which is considerably less than the Intelitopia massage gun. However, the RENPHO gives you an extra massager head, for a total of five. The hard plastic of the round ball and one-point heads make them especially effective for working out deep knots.
The RENPHO handheld massager features an auto shutoff device which turns the unit off after 20 minutes of use to prevent over-heating. This unit delivers a soothing massage with the power to target pain points. It is light and compact enough to be carried with you when you travel.
3. MIGHTY BLISS™ Deep Tissue Electric Handheld Percussion Massager
The Might Bliss handheld massager is one of the most powerful units that we’ve come across, with a max 3,700 rpm. It is a lightweight, compact comfortable design that makes it an ideal travel companion. You get six massage heads with this unit, which is more than any of our other reviewed massagers. The options provided allow you to work your muscle knots from every conceivable angle.
The battery life on this cordless massager will give you two hours of charge which is a bit on the light side comparatively. The operation is whisper quiet. It comes with a lifetime replacement warranty, which is unique among our reviewed products and speaks volumes about the confidence that the manufacturer places in the product.
4. TheraFlow Handheld Deep Tissue Percussion Massager
The TheraFlow handheld percussion massager is an electric device that you plug into the wall socket. The handle is ergonomically designed for comfort and the unit is incredibly lightweight. The 14.8-inch length allows you to reach all areas of your back.
The TheraFlow massager comes with three interchangeable head attachments. These heads are constructed from a flexible silicon material, which provide that happy medium between being either too soft or too hard. The attachments include dual point, shiatsu and ball variations.
The maximum power potential of the TheraFlow massager is 3600 rpm, which puts it on par with most of the competition. This allows for a genuine percussion action trigger point massage.
5. PADO PUREWAVE CM-05 Percussion Therapy Massager
The PADO PureWave CM-05 is a cordless rechargeable handheld all over body massager. It delivers a maximum power output of 3700 rpm, which is the highest equal (with the Might Bliss) of the six products that we reviewed. The extra hundred rpms that it offers over most of the competition may be what it takes to impact that deep residual pain.
This unit only comes with three interchangeable heads. However, one of them provides you with six individual heads to provide a more directed variation to specific pain points. The patented air cushion stick is great for providing relief to your feet, ankles and elbows.
The motor is fitted with anti-heat protection, the unit provides variable speed control and the Li-ion battery will give you up to 3 hours of continuous use. Read our Purewave Massagers full review.
6. Oster Stim U Lax Handheld Electric Back Massager
The Oster Slim handheld massager is a device that straps onto your hand to allow you to work just as you would a sanding machine. This is great for self-massage on the front of your body but makes it difficult to reach parts of your back. This is an electric unit that does not have a battery option.
The Oster Slim is the most well-constructed device we have reviewed, having a chrome housing and rubber hand pad. However, the design is a little top heavy which may make it tricky for the elderly to maneuver. It comes with just one speed setting and does not provide massage heads but, rather, provides you with a flotation motor suspension to provide a unique treatment option. This device will not get into your deep tissue pain points.
There is a wide variety when it comes to types of handheld back massagers. In order to find the one that’s right for you, you need to consider all the options. So, here they are . . .
- Shiatsu Massage
- Vibration Massage
- Kneading Massage
- Rolling Massage
- Percussion Massage
- Compression Massage
- Spot Massage
- Heat Massage
Luxury Hand Held Massager
A luxury handheld massager will contain the most powerful motor and offer the most concentrated vibrations to get into deep tissue. The head of a luxury massager will often be made from medical grade silicon to provide a finer massage sensation.
7 Benefits of a Handheld Back Massager
5 Buying Considerations
Manual or Electric?
Electric back massagers are either operated by batteries or they plug into a wall socket. Battery operated models offer greater portability but are generally less powerful. With electric models you also don’t have to worry about batteries running out. A third option is to buy a manual massager which requires the user to manually provide pressure.
Models differ as to the type of massage that they provide. Here’s an overview of what you’re likely to come across
Pressure point based, slowly loosens muscles.
Firm pressure, rapid vibration, good for numbing the affected area
Get one with adjustable frequency.
Steady pressure without vibration, targets hots spots with small rollers. Ideal for very tight muscles
Look for one that offers both inward and outward motion.
Provides concentrated tension with roller ball effect.
Vibrating massager with long handle to reach all parts of back
Look for a model with variable vibration speed and heat settings.
Provides percussive massage therapy with rapid, fast pulses that reach deep into tissue.
Ideal for soft tissue pain.
Look for a massager than offers a minimum of three intensity settings. The more you pay, the more settings you will get and the more options you have, the more effective your pain relief will be. A dial intensity system will allow more precise settings than a click system. Make sure that the maximum intensity is strong enough to give you serious relief on those bad back days (at least 3,200 rpm).
There are a lot of muscles in the back, some big and some small. You need a massager that is versatile enough to give relief to all of them. That means that it should be able to get into small crevices of the teres minor as well as to sweep across the breadth of the lats.
You should also look for a massager that provides user versatility. Can it only be used when held in your hand, or can it also paid flat so you can lie on it? Can it be attached to your chair so you don’t have to hold it? What about your car seat? Being able to get relief while your hands are busy could make a big difference.
If you are prone to back problems, you’ll want to pack your back massager in your suitcase when you travel. That means you’ll need a device that folds easily and flat and doesn’t weight too much.
Many handheld back massagers have built-in heating pads. These provide an extra element of relief by increasing blood flow to the affected area and helps the muscle to relax. Look for a massager with variable heat settings.
Attachments can turn your back massager into a versatile all over reliever. Here’s what to look out for:
- Different head attachments that allow for massage of different parts of the body as well as extra deep tissue and sports massage.
- An oil stick that will allow you to apply gels and oils to your massage experience.
- An air cushion stick
- A scalp massage stick
- A point stick to get reach extra tense muscles
- Nodes of different softness / hardness
So, how much should you expect to pay for a quality handheld back massager. As with every product category, you get what you pay for. But there is no reason that a high-end handheld back massager should cost you more than $100.
How Often Should You Use a Handheld Back Massager?
For general maintenance of your back muscles, you should have 4-5 sessions with the back massager per week. However, when you have a specific pain issue, you should make use of your back massager whenever that pain is affecting your daily routine. Use the massager for 10-20 minutes, three to four times throughout the day, with your longest session being in the evening just before bedtime.
The best handheld back massager on the market right now is the Mighty Bliss. It delivers superior power, adjustability and, with interchangeable massage heads, it covers all your bases. On top of that, it comes with a lifetime replacement warranty, which is pretty hard to beat!
Coming in a close second is the PADO Pure-Wave CM-05, with its 3700 rpm motor and unique six head massage stick. Rounding out our top three is the RENPHO Rechargeable Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager, which provides you with 5 interchangeable heads, an extra long handle and an auto shut off feature.