Research shows that back massagers stimulate circulation, relax stiff muscles and help to improve your posture.
So it’s no wonder you’re shopping for one!
The market is bursting with different styles of massagers, each with their own unique set of features.
That’s why we’ve created a handy buying guide later in this article to help you understand the benefits of each feature for your back pain.
Our 12 Best Back Massager Reviews
Finding the right massager to treat your pain can be tricky, thankfully we’ve done all the hard work for you and shortlisted the 12 best back massagers for 2021:
Back Massager Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Tool
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options available, then take a look at our back massager buying guide below.
We’ve explained all the different types and features you can consider, to help you make a decision!
Types of Back Massagers
You can choose from a range of different types of back massagers, whether you’re looking for something handy for a recent ache, or need to make a big investment to treat chronic daily pain.
Styles of Electric Back Massagers
A massage chair is the ultimate back care tool. Typically there are massage nodes within the chair, that work up and down your back while seated. Many consider it to be the closest thing to a hands-on back massage.
A good hands-on massage can play a crucial role in alleviating back pain. Similarly, a good massage chair is designed to provide some measure of pain relief and relaxation, however, without the need for person-to-person interaction.
The next best thing to a chair massager is a massage pad that you can attach to your favorite chair. It normally hooks over the back and underneath the seat to give your back full coverage.
Handheld electric massagers are typically wands, that you move over your back to get to the source of the pain.
A belt massager can be wrapped around your lower back or draped around your shoulders so you can get a deep massage in key areas.
Cushion / Pillow
A cushion or pillow massager is handy for use on the neck or lower back where you can tuck it exactly where you need relief.
TENS units work in a different way to traditional back massagers. Instead of massage nodes, a TENS unit sends electrical pulses across the skin, interrupting the pain signals being sent to the brain. Research has shown it to be a powerful treatment for back pain.
Gun / Percussive Massager
A gun massager is a handheld device that delivers rapid bursts of pressure to your muscle tissue. This repeated ‘pounding’ can be particularly effective for loosening knots and tension in the muscles.
Styles of Non-Electric Back Massagers
A cane massager is a simple tool, typically made from plastic. The user can maneuver and apply the necessary amount of pressure to enjoy relief from pain.
S Shaped Massager
An S shaped massager is a stick massager which normally has carefully placed nodes so you can maneuver it to the right position.
Handheld Mini Massager
Non-electric mini massagers generally have three or four prongs (also known as knuckles) that you can use to work out knots and tension.
Wooden Ball Massager
Roll a wooden ball massager over your lower back to help relieve tension. With a handle and wooden nodes, you can decide on the level of intensity you want to apply.
A foam roller has a firm or soft exterior depending on the relief needed. It is rolled up and down the affected area to release tension in the muscles.
Functions and Features of Back Massagers
Both electric and non-electric back massagers offer a wide range of different functions and features.
To help you make sense of each one, and decide if it matters to you, we’ve provided a little explanation below:
The shape of the back massager is important as it determines exactly where you’re able to treat. For example, you might opt for an S shaped stick, but do you have the range of motion to reach your mid back? If not, a chair pad could be more effective.
Take a look at the dimensions, will it provide the coverage that you need? Is it too large to be portable? Think about where and how you’ll use the device, so you can make the most informed choice.
Depending on the style of massager, weight might be a deciding factor. Remember with wand or gun massagers, you’ll need to hold them in place to treat your back. If the device is too heavy, you might struggle to do this for a longer period of time?
Electric / Non-Electric
Consider which option is right for you, whether you want to take your massager on the go, or just ensure you can use it in your favorite chair! Also think about if you’ll be able to apply the pressure needed with a non-electric device.
The number of massage nodes, and the sizes of those nodes, is important as it tells you about the back coverage you can expect.
Percussion is a style of massage that many users have described as “thundering on your back”. Perfect if you want a deep tissue massage, not as ideal if you’re looking for something a little more gentle.
Shiatsu is a Japanese massage technique, that combines kneading, pressing and tapping. If you’d like to replicate the hands of a masseuse, this is a feature to look out for!
If you have knots and want a massage that is really going to work them out, then look out for the kneading function.
Opt for a wand massager or a unit that includes a wand, for easy handheld operation and control over the intensity of your massage.
Some back massagers offer a vibration function, which is another way to treat pain and provide relief.
Heat can offer comforting relief from pain as it dilates the blood vessels, improving circulation and blood flow. Also it’s soothing, and can help relax your body when you’re struggling with back pain.
Certain back massage tools have acupressure points, such as the Aku Mat. Much research has shown that acupressure is powerful for back pain. The therapy works by stimulating nerve centers within the body. It encourages the release of endorphins to help reduce pain.
A timer can be handy if it takes you a while to get to the source of your pain. You can set a period of time and then just sit back and enjoy the relief.
Auto Shut Down
Auto Shut Down is a safety feature, protecting you and the unit from overheating. However if it takes you a while to get to the source of your pain, a short auto shut down could be frustrating.
Speed / Intensity Settings
If you have good days and bad days and need a massager that can flex with you, then you want to look for something with a selection of intensity settings (also referred to as speed settings).
Some devices only come with one setting which might be limiting if you’d appreciate being able to switch between rigorous and gentle.
Increasingly manufacturers are making their products rechargeable. This is great if you want a device you can use daily, without worrying about running out of power.
Though many massagers include a rechargeable battery, the life of that battery will vary from device to device. Running out of battery mid-treatment is frustrating, so check how long you can expect to use the device before recharging.
If you want to take your massager on vacation, or use it in the car or at work, then a portable option could be better. Be aware that you can only use a massager in the car when stationary or as a passenger.
Memory / Recall
If your pain is hard to reach and you get the intensity just right, it can be annoying if your device doesn’t remember your settings. Memory / recall functions remember the intensity and style of massage you enjoy which can be helpful if you’ll use your device daily.
Back massagers will sometimes come with a range of attachments in different shapes. Gun and wand massagers for example will ship with various heads to help you target key areas, such as your lower back or spine.
When shopping around you’ll notice back massagers will sometimes ship with a bag or carrying pouch. Though not a dealbreaker, a storage bag can be useful to keep your device safe.
FAQs about Back Massagers
Below we’ve answered a number of frequently asked questions about back massagers, so you have all the information you need!
What is a back massager?
A back massager is a device that comes in many different forms. It could be a simple pillow, handheld wand or a new piece of furniture. Essentially it mimics the hands of a masseuse to provide you with relief from pain.
What does a back massager do?
Back massagers are designed to simulate a manual back massage. Massage stimulates your circulation and relaxes stiff muscles to give you relief from pain. Massagers can target different areas and use various massage techniques and intensities.
Are back massagers good for back pain?
Research has shown massage to be highly effective in treating back pain. A comprehensive review of a number of studies in 2015, demonstrated the power of both manual massage and back massagers for providing short term relief from low back pain.
How do I choose a back massager?
Doing your research is important before you make a purchase to make sure you choose a back massager that will reach the areas you need and provide the intensity you want.
Speaking to your doctor or a medical professional could help point you in the right direction, however hopefully by reviewing some of the features above you’ll have more of an idea of the one that is right for you.
Can I use a back massager when pregnant?
Check with your doctor before using a back massager when pregnant as advice is mixed.
Non-electric, handheld mini massagers can be useful during pregnancy, however always read the instructions before using any product for warnings and precautions. If in doubt, it’s best to avoid use.
How long can you use a back massager for?
Manuals for back massager products vary a little in their advice, with 30 minutes appearing to be the most common recommendation.
Many products also come with an ‘auto-off’ feature that encourages you to limit your usage to the recommended time.
Can you overuse a back massager?
Yes. Check the manual of your device for guidance around how long you should use the device, to avoid bruising your muscles.
Can you sleep on a back massager?
It’s not recommended that you sleep for a long period on a back massager, as it can cause bruising of the muscles.
Can you drive while using a back massager?
Advice from product manuals indicates that it’s not advisable to use a back massager while driving. However you can buy massage cushions for your car seat to use when stationary or as a passenger.
How much does a back massager cost?
Back massagers vary widely in cost, from a few dollars for a small hand-held wooden massager to thousands of dollars for the highest range massage chair, so it’s best to set a budget. Once you’ve chosen the massager that is right for you it’s prudent to shop around for the best price.
Where can I buy a back massager?
- Acupuncture & Massage College (2015). Back Massagers [Online]. Available from: https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/back-massagers [Accessed 16 August 2020]. ↩
- Schubbe, P. J. (2003). Massage Chairs for Pain Relief [Online]. Available from: https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/massage-therapy/massage-chairs-pain-relief [Accessed 16 August 2020]. ↩
- Nall, R (2021). Which Massage Does Your Body Need, Deep Tissue or Sports Massage? [Online]. Available from: https://www.leaf.tv/8250057/which-massage-does-your-body-need-deep-tissue-or-sports-massage/ [Accessed 16 June 2021]. ↩