Back massages, like other types of massages, not only aid in reducing stress and anxiety, but can also help improve sleep, reduce back pain and tension headaches, lower blood pressure, decrease muscle tension or soreness, and relieve tight back muscles. However, a back massage at a spa can be pretty expensive and time-consuming, making it difficult to find the time and money for regular appointments. That’s where buying your own home back massager can come in handy, as it allows you to reap the benefits of regular back massages in a more cost-efficient manner, and you can use it on your own time. Here are a few back massagers that we recommend.
Buying Guide for Back Massagers
Why buy a back massager?
Why not? The health benefits of a massage are many and well established. It’s safe to say that if you’re reading this article, you know why people love and believe in a massage as a therapeutic treatment for the body and mind. The spine and surrounding soft tissue allow the body to twist, reach, bend, pull, push, and do lots of other everyday movements, so it’s important to have your back feeling good. Plus, if you buy your own back massager, you can enjoy a massage whenever you like and only pay once.
What should you look for in a back massager?
- Massage Style: Perhaps the two most popular types of massages offered by back massagers are vibration and Shiatsu. While both can provide stress-relieving benefits, they’re quite different in operation and intensity. Vibration massagers offer an all-over pulsing or vibrating sensation, don’t have massage nodes as a result, and are less intense. They’re best suited for soothing tired muscles. Shiatsu massagers offer a deeper, kneading sensation meant to mimic a deep tissue massage. These use rotating nodes to massage your back and are ideal for treating knots and back pain resulting from injuries. There’s also a percussive massage, which entails a massage head that moves back and forth to comfortably tap or hammer out your tense muscles.
- Type: There are three main styles of back massagers from which you can choose: handheld, pillow, and seat pads. Handheld massagers are usually wand-shaped and manually operated, requiring more effort, movement, and lifting on your part. However, they also allow you better control over the massager’s angle and location, are great for getting to hard-to-reach spots, and often allow you to rotate different massage heads in and out at will. Pillow massagers stay in place behind you and are the best choice if you want to target a certain area, such as the lower back. They can also be used on other body parts like the neck or calves. Seat pads are meant to be placed in a chair or couch and used as you sit. They cover the most surface area and allow you to enjoy a massage as you’re sitting at your desk at work or on your couch at home.
- Features: There are a couple of different features you can look for in a back massager. Most will be electric, but there are non-electric options out there as well, usually the handheld models. Some non-electric models are rechargeable. Plenty of electric models offer heating features, most often with two or three different heat settings. They will often have three or four different speed and intensity settings as well. Other back massagers have a timer or automatic shut-off functions. And some have memory settings, which store your preferred heat, speed, and/or intensity settings so that you can call them up again with greater efficiency.
Can back massagers cause harm?
That’s a smart question to ask. While a back massager could cause harm, it’s highly unlikely. Ask your doctor first. If you have severe and untreated back pain, or an injury to the spine, broken bones, high fever, sunburn, or pneumonia—pretty much any illness where the body is compromised, a massage could potentially cause harm. Because a massage increases circulation, it could possibly make a sick person sicker. However, if you’re feeling healthy overall, a back massager shouldn’t cause harm, but rather, help improve your sore muscles.
Our Picks for the Best Back Massagers
Snailax Vibration Massage Seat Cushion with Heat 6 Vibrating Motors and 2 Heat Levels, Back Massager, Massage Chair Pad for Home Office use
A vibration cushion massager for the back and hips with easily adjustable functions.
Pros: The Snailax vibration massage seat uses six vibrating motors spaced strategically throughout the seat to gently vibrate and give your back, hips, and thighs a spa experience. The cushion itself is ultra-plush for maximum comfort, and the heating pads have built-in heat protection. You can operate all four zones (upper back, mid-back, lower back, hips and thighs) at once or individually. The Snailax massager also provides five programming modes and four vibration intensities, so you can customize your back massage. Choose from pulsating, tapping, rolling, auto (which cycles through various massage patterns), and kneading modes. Need more convincing? The Snailax is affordable and portable!
Cons: The Snailax massager is only a vibration massager, not a Shiatsu massager. If you’re looking for a deep-tissue Shiatsu massager with rolling nodes, check out the other products that we recommend. Some users might find the Snailax programming features to be a bit stressful, as there are so many modes and features. Also, the massager isn’t battery-operated, so you’ll need to sit near an outlet.
Bottom Line: If you prefer a gentler massage over the more intense Shiatsu approach, this vibration massager could be ideal. The Snailax provides heat to the back and seat if you so choose. That’s probably the most favorable aspect of the massager. It gives you great variety, with numerous massage modes, target areas, and intensities to accommodate your needs. You just have to tell it what you want! However, if you’re looking for a deeper massage, check out the other products that we’ve included.
COMFIER Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager – 2D/3D Kneading Full Back Massager with Heat & Adjustable Compression, Massage Chair Pad for Shoulder Neck and Back Full Body, Gifts for Men Dad
A shoulder, neck, back, and hips Shiatsu cushion massager with heat and air-compression massage functions.
Pros: Probably the biggest attraction to the Comfier Shiatsu Back Massager is its design: a full-sized back massage cushion. You can put it on a recliner or couch, wherever you like to sit. The technological innovation behind this back massager is certainly impressive. Comfier reinterpreted the traditional Japanese Shiatsu massage with this electronic new-age experience. They implement rolling 2D and 3D nodes that mimic a massage therapist’s fingertips—two nodes at the neck and two at the back. This seat back massager hugs your body with double-layer air chambers and warms it through a heating pad. Plus, you get to choose among three intensity settings.
Cons: Users control the Comfier back massager with a handheld device, which they might discover works suboptimally. For some, the nodes might not protrude enough for the deep massage they’re looking for. This back massager is also rather expensive compared to other similar products. Some users might find all the features, functions, and adjustable settings to be a bit over-the-top and prefer a more streamlined version.
Bottom Line: If you like what you see, the Comfier Shiatsu Back Massager could be your new best friend. It might not take the place of a real, in-person massage, but the accessibility and portability of this back massager are certainly winning attributes.
NATWOAK Massage Gun for Athletes, Portable Percussion Massage Gun Professional Deep Tissue Massage Gun for Pain Relief with 6 Massage Heads 20 Speed High-Intensity Vibration Massager Gun (Black)
A portable, handheld massager with changeable massage heads and an impressive array of speed settings.
Pros: The NATWOAK Massager is a 24-volt brushless, motorized, multi-headed beast of a massager. Wow! This tool utilizes so-called percussive therapy, a therapeutic approach to reducing lactic acid build-up and muscle pain while also improving range of motion and circulation. Percussive is the key word here. Like a drummer with their drumsticks, the massager pummels your muscles strategically and with specifically shaped massage heads to target points of pain. It has 20 different speeds to choose from and six massage heads. With an amplitude of 16 millimeters, the head gives a truly deep massage. Additional amenities include a portable case, an LCD screen, and a rechargeable lithium battery.
Cons: To be honest, there aren’t many downsides to this massager. It’s on the expensive side, although it’s pretty well-priced for a percussive massager. Although anyone who’s able to lift and operate the device can use it, the massager could be a poor choice for some medically. You’re essentially pounding a specific sore muscle spot repeatedly, so if you have any injury in that area, you could worsen the pain and have a slower recovery.
Bottom Line: This massager is an awesome buy. That is to say, if you like this type of massage. Percussive massage therapy relieves soreness, but it’s not the gentlest approach. However, for people who like the intensity of a deep-tissue massage, this product is likely to impress. Plus, users will avoid the nightmarish deep-tissue traditional massage scenario with the unrelenting massage therapist who doesn’t respond to your “Ouch, that hurts” feedback. You have control.
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager - 3D Kneading Deep Tissue Massage Pillow with Heat for Muscle Pain Relief, Chairs and Cars (Wired Connection; NOT Cordless) - Black (ZMA-13-BK)
A portable pillow back massager that's contoured to fit the upper and lower back alike.
Pros: If you’ve had a genuine Shiatsu massage from a massage therapist and absolutely loved it, the Zyllion back and neck massager could be the next best thing. In some ways, the pillow can have some advantages over a standard massage. For one thing, the product is FDA-registered, and no masseuse can claim that designation! The Zyllion pillow is also compact, portable, and easy to use. By a simple press of the button to activate the pillow for a heated or nonheated massage, the Zyllion Shiatsu massage nodes get to work, switching direction every minute. The infrared heat function has an overheat protection mechanism as well as a 20-minute auto shut-off feature, so it’s both soothing and safe. By using the adjustable straps, you can position the pillow on the backrest of your car seat for an on-the-go Shiatsu massage!
Cons: This back massager isn’t battery-operated, but must be plugged into an outlet to operate. It does come with a power adapter and a car adapter, which is nice, but this could be inconvenient. Some might be hesitant to take it into the car since the point of a massage is to relax, not remain attentive and alert on the road.
Bottom Line: If you know that you like a Shiatsu massage or you’re curious to find out whether you do, the Zyllion pillow massager could be a great buy. The compact, ergonomic pillow is small enough to take with you. When it comes to back massagers, portability is a tantalizing feature, giving you the option for a spontaneous massage. The 20-minute auto shut-off feature and overheat protection are both valuable safety attributes. Users can also take comfort in knowing that the Zyllion is FDA-registered. Think about the fact that the massage pillow is restricted to the old-fashioned plug-in method.
Comfier Full Body Massage Pad
Check out this full-body, multi-functional heat massage mat with a Shiatsu massage neck pillow.
Pros: The Comfier massage mat is a full-body experience, as it includes a long mat and a pillow. To make the massage as customizable as possible, Comfier packed in five massage modes, three intensity levels, and four selective massage zones, all intended to give users a thorough and customizable massage. The mat is long enough to give users a head-to-foot massage, which is a unique characteristic in the world of back massagers. The Shiatsu neck massager pillow, which is designed with rotation balls and 10 vibration massage nodes, can be used at the neck to create the full-body experience or moved to target the back. From the base of the neck down, the mat offers a vibrating massage. Next, there’s heat. The mat has four heating pads, all of which can operate without a massage if you prefer.
Cons: It’s kind of a complex system, and generally speaking, products with many features can be more prone to operational or physical defects. Short users should have no problem getting a full-body massage, but tall users might have difficulties. Because the Shiatsu massage feature is limited to the pillow, users who want a full-body Shiatsu massage might be left disappointed.
Bottom Line: Users who enjoy such a myriad of options and gadgetry in electronic products will enjoy this massage mat. Just take into consideration that this is a full-body massager, not just a back massager. It’s also possible to lay the mat on a couch or chair for a seated massage. If you like what you see and are able to invest the money, the Comfier massage mat is a good buy.
There are many design styles among back massagers. As previously noted, there are pros and cons to each type, but with all the variety, you should be able to find one that’s just right for you and your preferences. In the end, it’s clear that there’s a common denominator: At-home back massage products will spare you time, money, and tension.