The most effective massagers provide both pain relief and relaxation. Here are top-rated handheld massagers in a variety of styles.
Best Handheld Massagers
We looked for the best massage settings, convenience features and price ranges to determine which was the best. Our research helped us discover that the HoMedics Compact Percussion Handheld Heated Massage is the best overall hand massager due to the varying levels of pressure it offers combined with the ability for a heated massage. It’s also less expensive than many other percussion-based handheld massagers while still having high user ratings.
HoMedics Compact Percussion Handheld Heated Massage
The HoMedics Compact Percussion Handheld Heated Massage provides percussion massages that can penetrate deeper muscle groups than many other handheld devices. Also referred to by the model number HHP-350, the design of this model makes it easy to hold and allows you to massage hard-to-reach areas of your back.
You can even choose to have a heated massage, which can help heal sore muscles or simply relax you. There is no independent on or off switch, which means that if you are using the lowest massage settings, you will need to switch through all of the more intense massages before the device will shut off. While this isn’t a serious problem, it can be inconvenient at the moment.
It comes with two sets of heads: a softer set and a harder set. This allows you to choose the level of pressure and intensity you receive from your massages. Users have noted that switching these heads out is very simple and can be done in a matter of seconds. This device is relatively heavy, weighing eight pounds, so your arms will likely get tired quickly. Fortunately, the ergonomic handle makes it somewhat easier to hold. Since there is no battery, this device must always be plugged into an outlet.
Kikkerland scalp massager AR18-A
The Kikkerland A18-A is a very specialized massager. It works best on your chest and scalp but doesn’t really work in any other place.
Since it’s only 1.6 ounces, your arms won’t get tired very easily while using it. The handle comes in many assorted colors, however, you usually don’t have any say in the handle color you receive. Since it is such a simple device it is a lot less expensive than the other devices we compared.
There are nodes on the end of each of the fingers to help gently massage and soothe when making contact with your skin. You can change your angle of approach to slightly adjust the pressure of the massage. Not only is this relaxing but it can even stimulate hair growth for some users. It is only 9.5 inches tall, doesn’t use electricity, and the fingers are flexible, which makes this an easy massager to pack and travel with. Unfortunately, if too much pressure is placed on the fingers, they can bend the wrong way and the metal can weaken. Since this is only a skin-level deep massage, this device cannot be used to penetrate deeper muscle groups.
Brookstone MAX 2
The Brookstone MAX 2 is the perfect massager for traveling and since it can operate cordlessly you won’t always need to be near an outlet to use it. The battery lasts for a decent amount of time so you will be able to get a good massage in before it needs to be recharged.
It also features two handles to help you or your partner get better control of it when giving a massage. Many users have reported that this battery-operated massager isn’t as powerful as it’s corded cousin, but it can still give decent massages. This percussion massager is strong enough to give deep tissue massages to areas like your back and glutes, which many other massagers we compared cannot do.
You can adjust the speed of the Brookstone and it comes with three programmed massages to help you find the best settings for your needs. This is one of the most expensive units in our comparison. Although it offers several different in-depth massage features, it doesn’t provide heated massages. Since this massager contained more mechanical parts than some other devices, it is heavier and will likely wear out your arms faster. Brookstone backs this massager with a one-year warranty, which is typical for devices in this price range.
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Wahl Deep Tissue Percussion Massager
The Wahl Deep Tissue Percussion Massager is an effective handheld massager with infrared heat that gradually warms your skin to deepen relaxation. It comes with two interchangeable massage heads and is an excellent tool for both relaxation and pain relief.
The Penguin uses percussion technology to stimulate your muscles, and it has two-speed settings. On high, it delivers up to 3,350 pulses per minute for deep tissue massage. On low, it provides a more soothing, relaxing massage. This massager works well on your neck, back, arms and legs. Its massage heads cover the impact point and are designed for two purposes. The first head has a smooth surface and impacts the body with precise beats for targeted pain relief. The second has a bumpy surface and provides lighter massages.
It’s important to keep this massager in motion during use. If you leave it in a single position for too long, its intense percussive action can bruise the target area. Also, the device must rest after 15 minutes of use to prevent overheating.
Thumper Mini Pro
The Thumper Mini Pro2’s massage head has two pulsing spheres that apply pressure to your muscles at varied rates. The spheres perform well both on dry skin and over light clothing, and they can be used on all major muscle groups.
This handheld massager is especially effective as a back and shoulder massager, and it has a long, comfortable handle to help you reach all your aching muscles. The Thumper is about 13 inches long and weighs about 3 pounds. It has three-speed settings measured at 20, 30, and 40 pulses per second – the lowest setting is geared toward relaxation, while the highest setting is designed for deep tissue massage.
Unlike many handheld massagers, the Thumper Mini Pro2 isn’t cordless. While it requires a DC plug for power, its cord is long enough that it doesn’t limit the massager’s reach.
How We Evaluated
We made a list of each massager’s features so we could compare them against each other. Massagers that allow you to change the intensity or speed of a massage were given higher rankings since you are more likely to find the settings you want. We also gave more points to products that offered more pre-programmed massages, including heated massages. Some massagers only work well on one or two areas, while others can be used on most muscle groups. We gave more points to devices that offered more versatility.
We also gave more points to battery-operated devices, since they didn’t need to constantly be near an outlet in order to be used. This also meant that they were likely to be better travel companions. The size and weight of each device were also looked at to see how easy they were to hold for long periods. Typically, massagers that were smaller and weigh less are easier to use. Products were also ranked higher if they were easier to grip by offering rubber handles or ergonomic designs.
With corded massagers, we gave more points when cords were longer. Usually, a nine-foot cord will give you plenty of flexibility to massage your body while being plugged in. Since only some of these massagers come with warranties, we gave more points to the products that were covered. We did not score products based on how much they cost, but we did note whether or not they were on the expensive side.
Types of Massage
Shiatsu massage focuses on pressure points and works well on tight muscles. This style of massage is good for most healthy people, though the intensity level can be high. If you have any back injuries you should avoid this type of massager, though it can feel really good on typically strained muscles like the shoulders.
Rolling massage is common among handheld massagers, as it involves applying constant pressure along the part of the body you’re massaging. This is good if you have a hands-on job, like construction work, and is a low-impact way to stimulate the muscles in the lower back. This is a low- to the medium-impact style of massage, so it’s suited for most people.
Kneading massage is less common among handheld massagers. This is done with a circular motion, usually on both sides of the spine. This is good for soothing tension and working on particularly strained pressure points. This type of massage also has high-level intensity.
Percussion massage can be done with some handheld massagers depending on the style. It’s done through a series of rapid movements over a spot on the body for a short period of time. While it looks a little violent, this style of massage can relax your muscles and is effective for athletes.
Adding heat to any of the aforementioned styles of massage can take your massage to the next level. Heat relaxes muscles, making them more susceptible to the kind of massage you’re doing. Heat also reduces the possibility of injuring or straining muscles with a handheld massager.
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Things to Consider for Best Handheld Massager
Versatility & Focus Areas
Some massagers are only good for one or two areas of the body, while others can work just about any muscle group they come across. Additionally, some massagers are very gentle and only work skin deep, while others are more powerful and can work deep tissues. Mechanical devices will often provide various speed and massage settings so you can customize your sessions.
Typically, the more powerful massagers that provide deep tissue massages are filled with more mechanical parts. This often makes them heavier so it might be difficult to hold them for long periods. They also tend to be more expensive. Massagers that are built for simple relaxation will usually just use vibration or non-mechanical means in order to soothe and relax your skin and muscles. These devices are typically lighter and inexpensive so you won’t strain your hands or arms as quickly.
Heating abilities provide greater versatility to regular massages. They can help relieve pain in sore muscles to help them heal better as well as improve blood circulation in your body to reduce tension. This is not a necessary feature but it can definitely help you relax more.
Some handheld massagers need to be plugged into an outlet in order to work while others are battery-operated. Corded massagers tend to have more power and often cost less than battery-operated units. Conversely, battery-powered massagers are usually less powerful but cost more. They also give you more freedom to move around during a session since you won’t have to be right next to an outlet in order to use them.
We reviewed handheld massagers ranging in price from under $1.99 to over $199. The difference in price is related to each device’s design, functionality, and quality. Massagers with multiple settings generally cost more, as do massagers that have enough power to provide deep, therapeutic pain relief. Most people can plan to spend $30 to $70.