Whether it is the pressure of work, the tediums of travel, or the non-stop duties of the household that are adding up, people of all stripes could use a relief. That’s why back massages are so popular – and nowadays people can relieve that tension from the comfort of their own homes with their own back massaging machines. This emerging marketplace has lots of different products that might be right for you. We assessed the leading brands to provide a helping hand in determining the pros and cons of various products on offer. Here’s what we found:

Best Back Massagers

Editor’s Choice

Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Kneading Massage Pillow

Pros: 

  • Easy to clean. The leatherette material is not only comfortable but easy to clean. For those planning on using a massager every day, the ability to quickly clean can not be undervalued
  • Slim design. At only 3.5” inches deep, this device is one of the smaller units in the marketplace
  • Durability. This unit is made of durable materials and has a great warranty. Though this user clumsily dropped it once or twice, the massager was no worse for wear after a few accidents

Cons: 

  • Weight. The device may be thin, but at around four pounds, it is one of the heavier options available
  • Shortage of massaging nodes. While some users will be satisfied with the four massaging nodes, most of its competitors offer options with eight nodes
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Kneading Massage Pillow
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Kneading Massage Pillow
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Kneading Massage Pillow

Zyllion’s Shiatsu Massage Pillow offers heating and alternating direction massage in a slim 3.5” ergonomic design. The leatherette composition of the pillow and the adjustable straps make it a versatile product for everyday use.

Contender

RENPHO Rechargeable Cordless Electric Percussion Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager

Pros:

  • Wireless: Though many products on the market require a constant connection to a powersource, this offering from RENPHO is battery-powered and allows up to 140 minutes of use without a charge. For those going on long trips or in an office that requires constant activity, this might be the perfect product for you
  • Powerful motor. The built-in Electric Percussion motor provides around 3,600 pulses per minute. This can be manipulated with four different strength modes and three speed modes
  • Weight. Clocking in at under two pounds, this device is under half the weight of some competitors and was easy to use for long periods without fatigue

Cons:

  • Charge. Because it is battery-powered, its effective time of use may vary based on how a user uses the device. Sometimes the charge doesn’t last the full promised 140 minutes
  • Arm positioning. The fact that this is a hand-held unit offers some obvious benefits, but on the flipside, it can be tiring to hold in the same position for a lengthy period of time
RENPHO Rechargeable Cordless Electric Percussion Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager
RENPHO Rechargeable Cordless Electric Percussion Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager
RENPHO Rechargeable Cordless Electric Percussion Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager

RENPHO offers a product, the Cordless Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager, that can be used for over two hours without a recharge and is wireless. Whether for use for yourself or a loved one, this product is versatile, portable, and easy to use.

Best Bargain

Etekcity Back Neck Massager with Heat Function & Adjustable Intensity Deep Tissue Shiatsu Massage Pillow

Pros:

  • Use it anywhere. This product has elastic straps that can be attached to car-seats, office chairs, couches, and stools. It measures only 13.3 x 4.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Design. Not only is the Etekcity brand known for its effectiveness, but their sleek, modern look blends effortlessly into most environments. This is perfect for those wanting to keep their massaging discrete
  • Price. Surprising as it may be, but this user found the Etekcity Back Neck Massager as not only the most effective product he sampled, but the most affordable as well!

Cons:

  • No battery. While it has an AC and DC adapter, and can be plugged into most cars, this product doesn’t have the same battery-powered optionality that some of its competitors do
  • Auto shut-off. Considered a valuable safety feature, the unit shuts off after 20 minutes to avoid overheating. While certainly safety can never be over-valued, some users might be annoyed that they have to restart the unit after 20 minutes
Etekcity Back Neck Massager with Heat Function & Adjustable Intensity Deep Tissue Shiatsu Massage Pillow
Etekcity Back Neck Massager with Heat Function & Adjustable Intensity Deep Tissue Shiatsu Massage Pillow
Etekcity Back Neck Massager with Heat Function & Adjustable Intensity Deep Tissue Shiatsu Massage Pillow

The Etekcity Back Neck Massager uses eight 3-dimensional nodes with adjustable speed and heat options. Its small size and comfortable design make it a practical and convenient massage tool for travel and for home & office use.

Also Consider

Nekteck Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager with Soothing Heat, Electric Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Massage Pillow

Pros: 

  • Shape. This device is versatile for use all over the body. Whether for legs, arms, back, neck, or abdomen, this reviewer found the device comfortable and effective. The slips for arms to rest in is a pleasant surprise
  • Alternating direction. Nekteck proudly features alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, allowing for a direction switch every minute
  • Remote control. For those that need muscle and tissue relief in a less-than-convenient position, or like to relax and stay stationary during a massage session, the remote control allows the user to modify, start, or stop the unit with minimal movement 

Cons:

  • Colors. The design features a dull grey to go along with a black base. While not allowing discretion, the unit doesn’t instantly pop for its handsome design either
  • Intensity. Though this might be the perfect product for some users, the effectiveness of the device may indeed be too much for some. The deep massage it provides is perfect for some customers but may prove painful for others
Nekteck Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager with Soothing Heat, Electric Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Massage Pillow
Nekteck Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager with Soothing Heat, Electric Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Massage Pillow
Nekteck Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager with Soothing Heat, Electric Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Massage Pillow

This offering from Nekteck has three custom speed modes, can be directed clockwise or counter-clockwise, and has eight massage heads with built-in heat functionality. Not only can the heat be adjusted to one’s liking, but the direction can be automatically alternated between clockwise and counter-clockwise, making it ideal for those with muscle relief needs across the body.

Best Hands-Off Option

InvoSpa Shiatsu Back Shoulder & Neck Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Pillow Massager

Pros: 

  • Portable. Not only does the InvoSpa Pillow Massager have a handsome carry bag, but it comes with a free car charger. Perfect for those who need muscle and tissue relief on-the-go
  • Hand slips. A major innovation in personal-use massagers, the hand slips allows the user to rest their hands while doing a neck or back massage. This made the experience much more comfortable for this user
  • Auto-reverse. Designed to mimic human hands, this device automatically reverses direction every minute 

Cons: 

  • Weight. At just under four-and-a-half pounds per unit, this is one of the heavier products on the market
  • Design. While some of the competitors vie for a discrete and modern look, there is no hiding the turquoise design of the InvosSpa massager
InvoSpa Shiatsu Back Shoulder & Neck Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Pillow Massager
InvoSpa Shiatsu Back Shoulder & Neck Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Pillow Massager
InvoSpa Shiatsu Back Shoulder & Neck Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Pillow Massager

The InvoSpa Shiatsu 3D Pillow Massager has three speed/strength options, bi-directional control, infrared heat functionality, and comes with a carry bag. The eight roller balls have four big and four small nodes, allowing for various massage capabilities for all around the body.

How We Picked

Everyone has different sores, aches, nagging injuries, and places where they feel fatigue most acutely. Personal massagers are developed specifically to address users with varying needs and tissue massage goals. As each of these products were tested, we used several key characteristics to determine how these devices may help different customers.

Ergonomic Design

As a product that by nature is pressed against sensitive tissue and generally sore body parts, it is critical for the massager to be comfortable, unburdensome, and adjustable. Some units are handheld – these are great for applying to very specific body parts. Other units are designed to strap to a chair or car-seat – allowing hands-free usage. Determining the manner in which the product will be used is very important when deciding which one to get. Someone expecting effortless use may be in for more trouble than it is worth if the unit isn’t comfortable.

Results

Though most of the top brands offer Shiatsu multi-direction, heated massage nodes, they are all powered differently and at different speeds. How much you can adjust the speed, strength, and direction can make a big difference in how well it helps relieve muscle tension and tissue soreness. Taking advantage of the warranties and money-back guarantees that some companies offer may be a nice way to determine whether heat, direction, or strength is more important to you.

Portability

Muscle soreness can flare up at any time. Being on a business trip or at a kids’ soccer game may be the last place someone may think to have a personal massage device. Some units can be plugged into a car, some are portable and battery-powered, while some simply have to be plugged in at all times. Keep this in mind when deciding your purchase; how you use it, when you use it, and how often may be the most important questions you ask.

Relaxation vs. Relief

Massagers have varying strength and functionality, each with corresponding results on our tissue and muscles. Massaging can have a naturally occuring relaxation sensation. Some units, however, are powerful in their massaging and might actually be painful for some users. Whether you are a casual user, an everyday user, or someone with acute massage needs, it is useful to check how powerful, comfortable, and how many relaxing functionalities each product offers.

Coloring

Some products use colors and design to jump off the shelf – perhaps an effective way to grab your attention, but not always the best way to be discreet about your health needs. Some products are small, some are all-black, while some are white and colorful. For use at home or for a family, this may not be a problem. Those using the product on the road or in an office may be on the look-out for a sleek design.

Price

Ranging from under $30 to around $50, these devices can provide more bang for the buck or perhaps longer shelf-life. Though none of them will truly break the bank, customers looking for a discount may be turned away by the more expensive pricepoints, while those looking for something that gives the comfort of being “top-of-the-line” may be looking for a higher pricepoint.

Buying Tips

Neck Pain Massage

Not sure which personal massager is best for you? Consider the following tips when making your choice:

  • Which parts of your body are aching? These devices have different modalities – slipping over a carseat, handsfree, comfortable wrapping around your neck, or totally cordless and for use on any part of the body. If you have multiple areas that ache, or have soreness in a region of the body that is not easily accessible or comfortable to constantly massage, you should distinguish between the products based on how they can be used. And remember, massagers can be a useful personal tool, but they won’t fix everything. If you experience long-term injuries and chronic pain, consult with a medical professional.
  • Who will be using this massager? Not all products will be useful for more than one person, while others are perfect for everyone in the family to use. Slip one over a carseat and whoever is driving can enjoy the benefits. Or buy a cordless travel unit and use it as a personal massager wherever you go.
  • How much adaptability do you need? These devices can be manipulated in several ways. Some offer speed controls, other automatically or manually let you adjust the direction. Heat is something that can often be adjusted, while others don’t feature any heating functionality.
  • Can it be transported easily? While most of the products on the market are rather small, some are over twice the weight of their competitors. The carry bags and cordless/battery-charged aspects of some products are huge pluses for those hoping to take their massaging devices with them.
  • Remote control. Not all the units offer remote control functionality, but if you are planning on resting for long periods while getting a massage, using a remote control can make a world of difference, when getting up and adjusting the speed and strength or turning back on after an auto-shutoff could be a recurring hassle.