A soothing, effective back massager can loosen tight muscles and enhance your overall feeling of well-being—plus, they also make a great gift for moms, nurse professionals, and anyone else who deserves a little self-care. We tested and researched the most popular back massagers, evaluating them based on their effectiveness, features, design, durability, and portability.
Our top pick, the RENPHO Back and Neck Massager with Heat, features an automatic height adjustment, variable intensity levels and massage programs, along with an optional heat setting.
Here are the best back massagers to help ease aches and pains.
Best Overall: RENPHO Neck and Back Massager with Heat
Auto adjusts to fit your height
Pick from varying massage intensity levels
Heavier than other massage cushions
No option for a 'heat-only' setting
Who else recommends it? The Strategist also picked the RENPHO Back and Neck Massager with Heat.
What do buyers say? 84% of 1,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Of all the back massagers we tested, the RENPHO Back Massager with Heat impressed us the most with its features, effectiveness, and design. Our product testers found it delivers a soothing, full-back massage (with plenty of heat, if you choose) and allowed us to assume a comfortable position, without needing to frequently adjust to the massage nodes or hold a handheld device to reach areas like the shoulder blades or lower back.
The automatic height adjustment for the neck massager impressed us during testing. It is designed to work for people between 5’1 and 6’1 and will auto-adjust to give you a targeted squeeze for your neck and shoulders. “I frequently find that massage chairs or cushions fail to give me an effective massage around the neck, since I’m not quite tall enough to reach the proper positioning for neck massage nodes," says our at-home tester. "However, this massager found the perfect spot for my neck and shoulders every time. I was so impressed by this feature!" Other options include the ability to add heat to the massage experience, adjust the intensity of the back massage, and add three levels of seat vibration.
This chair-style massage cushion works well when strapped onto an office chair or positioned in an armchair. Note that our testers found it heavier than other massage cushions, but it didn't significantly impact assembly. There were no indications that durability will prove to be a concern (even after using the back massager for multiple sessions in a row), but it features average materials and construction. All things considered, this model is a great option if you’re looking to target your neck, shoulders, and back.
Best Budget: HoMedics Percussion Action Massager with Heat
Interchangeable massage heads
Heavier than other handheld models
No battery for cordless operation
We like the HoMedics Percussion Action Massager for its simple operation, interchangeable massage heads, and optional heat setting. It’s not the most robust or full-featured massager we tested, but for the price point and durable design, it’s our pick for an affordable option.
While some basic massagers offer very limited options in terms of massage intensity or speed, this model comes with two interchangeable caps that alter the feel of the dual massage heads, giving you a choice between a firmer and softer sensation. Our product tester found them tricky to attach the first few times and had to consult the manual to make sure she was doing it correctly. Adjusting the intensity and controlling the heat function can be done from the handle of the massager using push buttons. Our tester did note that this massager took a bit of time to warm up, which was slightly frustrating as well. “It takes a minimum of five minutes before the heat is perceptible, which seems subpar considering most back massagers are recommended for only 15-minute sessions,” she says.
We also wish that this handheld massager was cordless for greater freedom of movement during use. It was heavier than other handheld options we tested, costing points in the design category. However, it’s not too bulky to be easily stored in a closet or packed in a suitcase, earning a higher score for portability.
Best Portable: Zyllion Massage Pillow
Includes 12V car charger
Minimal operating noise
Few options for massage settings
The Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager stood out as one of the most portable picks, thanks to its slim design and the option for a 12V power source. Our tester could see toting this back massager to the office or using it on a long road trip to provide lower back relief. It should be noted that this isn’t a cordless model, but Zyllion does make a similar back massager if this feature is important to you.
This massager easily fits into the seat of a variety of office chairs. The compact dimensions mean it won’t be uncomfortable, and the minimal operating noise means it's discreet enough for office environments. The design is simple: it has a black PU leather case with a mesh inset across the dual shiatsu-style massage heads. We do like that the massager includes a stretchy sleeve to dampen the intensity, though our product tester preferred to use it without the sleeve. As for features, there is a single button on this back massager and no options to adjust the speed, intensity, or direction of the massage heads. It also took a few rounds of use to realize that the heat setting is optional (you have to press the power button twice to turn off the heater).
The effectiveness of this portable back massager is likely to be subjective, since there is little room to adjust the massage experience. In testing, we found it required a session or two to get used to the massager’s firm touch. However, it provides consistent, targeted relief to the area of use—along with enough heat to relax muscles and provide a soothing sensation. While the massager’s small size is part of its portability, it is limited in features, and we feel it could offer more value with the addition of speed, intensity, or directional controls.
Best Handheld: Mighty Bliss Deep Tissue Back and Body Massager
Multiple attachments and variable speed settings
Long battery life
No heat setting
You’ll find that the best handheld massagers are lightweight and cordless, giving you more freedom of motion while using the massager. The Mighty Bliss weighs only 1.25 pounds and uses rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to provide more than 120 minutes of massaging action.
The slim massage tool pairs with six different attachments to target various areas of the body, including flexible and firm options to adjust the pressure. This percussion-style massager pulsates rather than delivering a shiatsu-style massage. It’s powered by an internal motor that can produce vibrations up to 3,700 RPM, and we found it easy to adjust the speed (and intensity) of the massager using the tool's small dial. We took off a point for the lack of an optional heat setting. “I love the variable intensity of this back massager, in comparison to massagers that have fixed levels," says our at-home tester. "Turn the dial up or down to suit your preference or the area of the body you are working on. The attachments are also incredibly useful for targeting various trouble spots.”
In terms of durability, the Mighty Bliss didn’t give us any cause for concern during our multiple testing sessions. It really wowed us with its impressive battery life, but we wish there was a battery life monitor or low battery indicator. For portability, we liked that you can easily pack this cordless handheld massager in its included storage bag, so we think it would be very easy to store or take along a trip. There’s nothing overly sleek or eye-catching about the design, but our product tester notes that it “feels well-made and has a comfortable grip.”
Best Chair Cushion: Snailax Shiatsu Massage Cushion with Heat
Heat can be used with or without massage function
Comfortable enough to sit on for extended period of time
Limited adjustments for massagers
Only has one setting for heat level
The Snailax Shiatsu Massage Cushion with Heat is a chair-style back massager that gives attention to the upper, lower, or full back using four massage nodes. The nodes deliver a shiatsu-style massage and can be positioned for a spot massage where you need it most. It weighs less than 10 pounds and isn’t the most compact back massager on the market, but is lightweight for a chair pad massager. Our product tester found it simple and fast to set the massager up when using it on an office chair and armchair.
In our testing experience, this back massager delivered a relaxing, 15-minute massage session (you can also choose 5- or 10-minute intervals) but was comfortable enough to continue sitting on when used with our office chair. Contributing to this fact is the comfort flap that can be used to soften the massage experience—or to mask the feel of the massage nodes when the massager is not in use. We wish that the ‘Snailax’ logo wasn’t embroidered across the comfort flap of this chair cushion, but we still give the massager a higher score for design. An optional heat setting can be used with or without the massage function—another major perk of this chair massager. There is no intensity adjustment outside of the comfort flap, so don’t expect to alter the feel of the massage beyond the use of the detachable flap.
Best Neck and Back: RESTECK Neck and Back Massager
Includes wall and car charger
Easily folds into included storage bag
Touch controls give you options for heat, intensity, and massager direction
No way to secure it around your back or waist
Produces minimal heat
If you want to treat your neck and back to a soothing session, choose a back massager that is equipped to do both. This option from Resteck uses a shiatsu-style massage action to work tight neck muscles or gently loosen your back, depending on where you place the central massage pillow. Our product tester found it rests comfortably across the shoulders, delivering pressure and heat to the neck. However, it was easy to position it lower on the back to give specific attention to the shoulder blades or lower lumbar region. When not in use, the massager folds up and can be stowed in the included carry bag. We were impressed with the usefulness of the bag for storage or travel. This, combined with the fact that the Resteck massager comes with a wall and car charger, earns it a perfect score for portability.
In testing this neck and back massager, we found the multiple speed settings easily accesible and useful for adjusting the intensity of the massager. It also features bi-directional massage nodes, which give it a shiatsu-style action. Evaluating these factors, we took points off for delivering only mediocre heat levels. Our tester said she wished the heat setting was more intense and noted that it was barely noticeable through a T-shirt. The functional design isn’t overly eye-catching or aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done.
Best Percussion-Style: Theragun Elite Massage Gun
Connected app for settings and routines
Doesn't produce heat
A percussion-style back massager is a must-have for peak performance and recovering muscles. The Theragun Elite pairs powerful deep muscle treatment with an ergonomic design and smart features that elevate the overall experience of using this massager. While it’s a spendy option for a back massager, it offers top-level performance—earning a perfect score for its design and features. Our product tester was impressed with the "premium" feel of the massager, gushing about the high quality material and crisp OLED display screen. The proprietary brushless motor inside of the Theragun operates at speeds between 1750 and 2400 percussions per minute. It also reaches up to 60 percent deeper than light-duty percussion back massagers, delivering more force to muscle fibers. Five attachment heads and a connected app make it easy to customize the routine to meet your needs for each massage session. A zippered case houses the massage gun and attachments in well-organized compartments and protects it during storage and travel.
We used the Theragun Elite for both post-workout recovery and general tension-relief purposes. It should be noted that a percussion-style back massager delivers a more intense action than other styles of back massagers. "The device itself is easy to hold and operate, and the five attachment heads of varying shapes and sizes were useful for focusing on areas of need in the shoulders, neck, and back,” says our tester. We rated it a near perfect score for effectiveness, since it delivers on its promise of deep muscle treatment. Just keep in mind that it’s not as well suited for a gentle, relaxing massage session.
Best for Lower Back: Comfier Heated Massage Belt
Strong heat output
Includes extender attachment
30-minute massage cycle
Only offers corded operation
Limited massage programs
If you’re looking to target your lower back with heat and soothing vibrations, then a back massage belt is your best bet. We tested the Comfier Heated Massage Belt and found the variable vibration patterns and steady heat to be a great way to relax after a long workday or strenuous workout. This lower back massager features two massage modes and two intensity levels to choose from and runs for a 30-minute cycle. The heat setting is optional, but we found it elevated the massage experience. It’s also worth noting that of the dozen back massagers we tested, this one was among the most powerful heated options and a great way to keep warm on a chilly morning or evening. This massage belt lacked additional massage programs, costing it some points in the features department. Our product tester notes that the massage isn’t as strong as a shiatsu-style massager, but that it still delivers comforting, soothing sensations.
This back massager is primarily intended to be secured around your waist using the Velcro closure and it includes an extension section if needed. It can also be positioned across other parts of the body, such as your shoulders, abdomen, legs, and more. The fabric cover has a surprisingly plush feel, although we wish it was available in a choice of colors rather than the single, bright blue color we received. It folds up when not in use and isn’t overly bulky, but it doesn’t come with a storage bag.
Best Manual: Body Back Buddy Classic Trigger Point Massage Tool
Doesn’t require a power source
3 types of massage nodes
Durable and strong
Must apply pressure during use
Awkward shape for storage
In our testing, the Body Back Buddy Classic impressed us with its effectiveness and durability. We found it especially useful for soothing and relaxing neck and shoulder muscles, while also working great on other tight spots—like sore, tired feet. This massager doesn’t require a power source or rely on battery life, which offers flexibility in the location or duration of use. Instead, you supply the pressure and force that is used to break up knots or soothe aching muscles. The benefit is more control over the massage experience, along with the freedom to use the massager anywhere.
This handheld massage tool features a double hook design, giving you more leverage when applying pressure to sore spots. Much to our surprise, the Body Back Buddy Classic is equipped to supply target relief to specific areas of the body. It features three round knobs for covering large muscles, three pointed knobs for deep tissue action, and a pair of nubs for use on the back. The ability to apply pressure to specific "trigger points"(areas of tight muscle tissue) was surprisingly effective and convenient. “It’s not feature-rich, but I expected that from a manual back massager," says our at-home tester. "However, the various sizes and shapes of the knobs on the tool add to its versatility.”
While it’s very basic in design, testers found it to be incredibly durable. According to the manufacturer, it’s because of the device’s fiber-infused material and single-piece construction. While it’s somewhat oddly shaped for placing it on a shelf or taking it to go, it could slide under a bed or stand upright in the closet.
For a relaxing back massage that also targets tight neck and shoulder muscles, we recommend the RENPHO Back and Neck Massager with Heat. It fits in a variety of chairs and automatically adjusts to match your height. For a more affordable option, the HoMedics Percussion Action Massager with Heat delivers targeted relief for your back, shoulders, or other muscles. The cord and slightly top-heavy design mean you'll need to do a little more work to reach certain areas of the body, but our tester appreciated that it comes with interchangeable massage heads and does offer settings for intensity and heat.
What to Look for in a Back Massager
When you're shopping for a back massager, think about the style that would most suit your specific pain and your lifestyle. For example, if you're simply looking for a way to relax on occasion, a massage chair or cushion may be a good fit. If you have general back pain, a massage belt or mat might help. Those seeking a more precise massage on a certain area of your back might best benefit from a handheld back massager. "Multiple attachments come in handy when using the instrument on different body parts, contours, and hard-to-reach places," says Robert Hayden, DC, spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association.
Features play a part in style, too. While some back massagers will feature only the basic functions, some come with a heat feature, shiatsu, or kneading function.
Power and Speed
"Multiple power and speed settings are important to get just the right comfort level for the condition you are treating," says Dr. Hayden. If you want a versatile option that can help with various aches and pains, choose one that has power and speed settings. But if you know you like a deep tissue massage, then aim for a high-power model that goes deeper into your muscles.
Ergonomics are another important factor to think about when you're choosing a back massager, particularly if you want a handheld model. If that's the route you go, make sure the massager is easy to hold and grip. If it feels heavy in your hand or you may have a hard time using it on yourself or another person, it may be best to consider another, more lightweight model (or one you don't have to hold at all).
How long should you use a back massager?
"To avoid overstimulation of tissues that may be injured, I would limit usage to perhaps every two to four hours for no longer than 15 to 20 minutes," advises Dr. Hayden. He explains that this duration gives a pretty good workout to the muscle with minimal risk of injury. If your back pain persists or worsens, talk to your chiropractor or primary care provider.
How often can you use a back massager?
Generally speaking, you can use a back massager about three to four times a week. Every back massager is different, so follow the instructions that came with yours. While back massagers may provide quick relief and increase circulation, keep in mind that overuse of a vibrating massager is possible. "Use with caution if you have osteoporosis, cancer, or any other condition that may weaken the bone," says Dr. Hayden.
Can a back massager make back pain worse?
If used incorrectly or too often, a back massager may make pain worse. This can happen when the vibrations are too high or you're suffering from a serious health condition. "Increased pain with the use of vibration might be a clue that something is wrong," says Dr. Hayden.
Can back massagers cause damage?
Back massagers can cause damage if used improperly. Use less intensity when massaging vulnerable areas such as the neck, where there is little muscle. The spine should be avoided altogether.
Are vibrating back massagers safe?
Vibrating massagers are safe and beneficial when used correctly. Percussion massagers have more risk associated with them because of the design of the massage heads.
Why Trust The Spruce
To make this list, we spent hours scouring the market for the top-performing back massagers. We then purchased a panel of a dozen popular massagers for our product reviewer to test out. Using a curated methodology, each massager was evaluated based on its performance in multiple sessions. Back massagers were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, considering factors like design, features, effectiveness, durability, portability, and overall value. We chose our top nine picks based on these scores.
Erica Puisis is a product researcher and writer, specializing in appliances and home goods that make life better and easier. For this article, she spent hours comparing the results of testing, along with input from customer reviews, to find the best options for back massagers based on massage style, area of focus, and budget.