What is the Best Back Massager? Pick Between a Handheld, Vibrating, Electronic Pulse Massager and a Shiatsu Massage Cushion

Dr.Anatom  |  Updated 10/18/2018
Best Electric Muscle Stimulators

When back pain becomes unbearable, you decide to obtain a massager that will always be at hand. It turns out that Amazon.com alone sells over 2000 massagers made by different manufacturers and of various qualities. How do you not get lost in that choice? Should you pick a handheld back massager or a full back massage cushion? What will be better for relaxing spasm in muscles: a vibration, percussion or shiatsu back massager? Which one is more appropriate for osteochondrosis or neuralgia treatment?

We’ve picked the top 10 best massagers and we’ll classify them for you and explain their purpose. We’ll start with the simplest and cheapest one before gradually moving on to the most expensive ones listed.

Massagers are used worldwide in all cultures. They have become truly popular at the beginning of the 21st century when office jobs became a reason for neuralgia, joint and spine dysfunctions of millions of people.

Massagers are used both as primary and replacement therapy for athletes, white collar workers, drivers and doctors’ treatments as well as for rehabilitation. Their use neither requires any special skills nor involves a second person.

What You Will Learn from This Guide:

What Is the Best Back Massager That Will Suit You and Solve Your Problem?

There are 4 techniques inherent to classical massage: stroking, rubbing, kneading and vibration relaxing. While the vibrations help relieve muscle spasm tension, deep kneading allows working the muscles and intensifying blood circulation.

  • If you need a full back massager, you’ll find a Shiatsu-nodded cushion most suitable for that. It will cover the entire back. Let us warn you about different pain thresholds. It is very individual, and while Shiatsu balls motion may seem too crude for some people, it's unfair to expect perfection from a massager.

  • Handheld electro massagers with massage heads are perfect for tense and spastic muscles. They will relieve fatigue after sports or improper desk posture. You can massage the muscles that require more attention yourself.

  • If you experience a problem with your upper back or neck, a neck & shoulder massager with Shiatsu balls should be enough.

  • Drivers will find a heated vibrating massage cushion more appropriate. Many customers are dissatisfied with weak vibration, so you can buy a powerful and expensive $189 full back massager with 8 Shiatsu balls for deep and intense neck and back massager for home or office.

  • Pulse massagers are another story. Technically, they are electro stimulators and not massagers. There are two types of electro stimulation, and these devices can either provide TENS or EMS or a combination of both.

TENS (transcutaneous electroneurostimulation) works by stimulating hypodermic nerves with current. The method has been clinically tested and is effective. It relieves chronic pain of musculoskeletal nature (osteochondrosis, intercostal neuralgia, and post-traumatic neuralgia).

EMS (neuromuscular electrical stimulation) improves muscle tone of extremely untrained and paralyzed people. It is also useful during stroke recovery. These devices are often positioned as a tool for weight loss and gaining muscle, but in fact they are useless for that.

Top-10 Back Massagers

We’ve picked 10 different back massagers for different people and situations: handheld massagers for you to determine the massage areas, electronic pulse massagers for muscular electro stimulation, Shiatsu back massagers for deeper muscle treatment, a vibrating massage cushion for driving and a full back massage cushion to put in your armchair so that you can fully relax with the confidence that an electronic masseur will do the job perfectly. We’ll start with the cheapest and simplest hook back massager.

The Cheapest and Simplest Hook Back Massager - LiBa Back and Neck Massager Tool for Trigger Point

The Cheapest and Simplest Hook Back Massager

Slight fatigue can be relieved with a regular wooden or plastic massager with protruding elements such as this 5-balls self-massage stick. It has a long handle, so you can reach the least accessible spots. It fits in your gym bag easily and is designed for a quick massage after intensive training or hard work

Price: ~ $14.99 Check the current price

Picking a Handheld Back Massager

We’ve picked different electric back massagers that are similar in terms of appearance. Unlike Shiatsu massagers, the massage head is static, and neither rotates nor vibrates. It is a percussion massager which means the heads go in and out like hammers.

A Typical Electric Back Massager - WAHL 4290-300 Deep Tissue Percusion Massager

WAHL 4290-300 Massager
WAHL 4290-300 Massager
✔ The Deep-Tissue Percussion Therapeutic Massager relieves pain and fatigue
✔The variable speed feature allows you to adjust the massage intensity from light to intense

This massager with five nozzles on a long handle is a quick helper against stress or pain: its huge flat disk kneads large muscles while four finger-like nodes nozzle mimics manual massage. The acu-point is well suited for concentrated massage of small areas and if the pain point is located deep in the tissue, a simple round nozzle is designed for a relaxing massage. This is a family massager.

Price: ~ $36.88 Check the current price

A Heated Electric Back Massager - HoMedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager

A Heated Electric Back Massager

Two features distinguish this from similar massagers: it has two massage heads and it exudes infra-red heat. It is not as big (it weighs only 2.5 pounds) as WAHL, but other characteristics are identical. It is likely that heating will be the key factor when making a decision. It is used for gentle massage.

Price: ~ $37.49 Check the current price

A Portable Back Massager with Beauty Mode - Pure-Wave CM7 Cordless Massager Body + Facial (Dual Mode)

A Portable Back Massager with Beauty Mode

This most expensive massager (it is three times as expensive as the previous items) is portable meaning that you are no longer dependent on an outlet and can use it on the road, in a plane, in a queue or anywhere else! It weighs less than its rivals (only 1.8 pounds). Furthermore, there are two additional nozzles for your face and scalp. Not only will this massager replace a manual masseur, it will also become your personal beautician by relaxing and improving the tone of facial muscles. When used on larger muscles, it relieves pain and cramps, especially if you use a 6-head nozzle. Each of its heads is equipped with 8 silicone fingers for deep, fast and intensive muscle massage.

star What do buyers say? star

«this thing was the answer to my prayers for something to help deal with my muscle tension! its a percussion massager not a vibrator: just gently run it across your muscle and let the motor do the work. ive used it for a month 3 times a week without issue. it does a great job. for avid runners its a must. let it sit right on your patellar tendon (below kneecap) on the low setting for a couple minutes while watching tv and it really loosens up your knees».

«You'll find all sorts of sore spots you never knew you had with this. And a couple important things: 1) When using this on your face (or near any bony part of your body) use the deep tissue attachment (the spherical one) at an angle so it doesn't bounce off the bone and smack you in the head! 2) Do not press hard into your muscles with this! It's a percussive massager meaning this thing will beat on your muscles at high speeds, its not a whimpy vibrating massager».

Price: ~ $124.95 Check the current price

Picking a Neck and Back Massager

If your problem is topical (neck or lower back), you might find it sufficient to use an upper back & lower back massager. You can hold this small massage pillow against the affected area (your neck or knee) or place it under your lower back in the car on your way home. The second option, a Shiatsu shoulder massager with long looped handles attached to the massage nodes, is best for treating large areas, such as your back, shoulders, buttocks or thighs. Pulling the straps up and down, side to side and diagonally will practically replace a real-life masseur.

A Best-Selling Neck massager - Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat

Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager
Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager
✔ Powerful 3-Dimension Deep-Kneading Shiatsu Massage Nodes relax overused and tight muscles (Automatically changes direction every minute)

This is the smallest Shiatsu massager suitable for your neck, ankles, knees, elbows, and it can also be placed under your lower back. Zyllion has an ultra-thin design and is only 6 cm thick. Simultaneously, it provides complete acupressure with 4 Shiatsu nodes and heat muscle relaxation. It is popular for office and car use, as within 20 minutes it relieves stress in the most vulnerable areas when performing sedentary work. It is a bestselling pillow neck massager with 5 590 reviews.

star What do buyers say? star

«This pillow is a serious therapeutic tool. It run with the heat on for 20 minutes, will loosen my back right up. It is a huge help and not some cheap piece of junk. I have not been able to stop the motors from turning and I am 215 lb. And put my full weight on this pillow. The heat is fantastic, although it does take about 10 minutes to reach full temperature. The unit will run for 20 minutes before shutting off so you may want to let it run for 10 minutes to warm up and then turn it off and back on so the timer doesnt shut off on you».

«I've had this for a couple of weeks (chronic lower back pain and shoulder stiffness). This pillow does a pretty good job of hitting the right spots since I can position the pillow where I want it. The heating feature is really nice on painful stiff areas, and the rollers on this massage pillow are also very strong, so much so that if it rolls over bony areas, it really hurts».

Price: ~ $39.95 Check the current price

A Best-Selling Shoulder Massager - Nekteck Shiatsu Deep Kneading Massage Pillow with Heat

 Nekteck Shiatsu Deep Kneading Massage Pillow

Use this massager for semi-professional lower back, back and hip massage as the straps allow for faster and easier massage of large muscles than compact handheld massagers do. Nekteck provides 3 massage speed modes and manual intensity adjustment settings. A variety of options minimizes possible pain. Its indisputable competitive edge over rivals is in the double number of massaging elements as Nekteck has 8 built-in Shiatsu balls.

star What do buyers say? star

«Sad, but i can't afford a chiropractor. I have been wanting someone to squeeze the back of my neck and lean on my shoulders, and I feel like I got a little strong man in the form of a device. I feel so much relief. The only thing I don't like about this product is that it has a 15min timer on it. I wish they made this with and 2 to 4 hour limit on it».

«I've had tight knots in my neck & upper shoulders for months. It literally "walked" up my back to my neck when I slightly held my arms out. My arms didn't get tired. The heat was minimal for me. It shut off after 15 minutes & my muscles were so relaxed-for the first time in months! As far as soreness this was no different than a human massage».

Price: ~ $39.95 Check the current price

An Electronic Pulse Massager

As we’ve mentioned before, TENS (transcutaneous electroneurostimulation) stimulates hypodermic nerves with current and effectively relieves chronic pain of a musculoskeletal nature (osteochondrosis, intercostal neuralgia, post-traumatic neuralgia). EMS is neuromuscular electrical stimulation. This method improves muscle tone of extremely untrained and paralyzed people. It is also useful during stroke recovery.

This category features two leaders, namely HealthmateForever TENS unit Electronic Pulse Massager  –

HealthmateForever TENS Electronic Pulse Massager

and TEC.BEAN Tens EMS Unit with 16 Modes and 8 Pads Pulse Impulse Pain Relief Massager.

TEC.BEAN Pain Relief Massager

Electronic Pulse Massager is perfect not only for reducing back pain, but also for removing tunnel syndrome, "tennis elbow" syndrome, and arthritis pain. Eight applicators are fastened in the pain area and work in 15 modes and 20 intensity levels.

The cheaper one looks like a TV remote control, and the more expensive one resembles a smart phone. The former is convenient for seniors as it has large buttons, there is backlighting and it is battery-powered. By default, a single session lasts for 80 minutes which is enough for a full massage. It is not recommended for use for people with pacemakers and heart disease. This is a #1 Best Seller in the Patient Treatment Equipmen category with 3000 reviews and high consumer rating.

Price: HealthmateForever ~ $27.49 Check the current price

Price: TEC.BEAN ~$29.99 Check the current price

Full Back Massagers

Here we’ve picked two massagers, a vibrating and a Shiatsu-balls one. If you drive, go for a vibrating one (Be careful not to fall asleep as vibration massage is relaxing). Shiatsu balls are inconvenient for a car seat. Imagine how they would constantly stick in your back. You will be tired rather than pleasured by this if you are travelling a long way. At home, on the other hand, you can completely relax and have a deep Shiatsu massage.

The rolled massage will make you feel hard and merciless (yes, merciless, as many buyers claim that this massage is too strong) masseur’s fingers. Naturally, the massage comes with some relaxing heat for your tense muscles.

A Heated Back Massager - New Five Star FS8812 10-Motor Vibration Massage Seat Cushion with Heat

A Vibrating Back Massager

New Five Star FS8812 universally relieves back and spine muscle pain and treats neuralgia, cramps, and arthritic pain in large joints. Massage of the back of thighs accelerates blood circulation in the legs, which is essential for people leading a sedentary lifestyle. Ten vibration zones across the entire surface provide for an even massage, even when driving.

There are no balls here as this cushion is designed for relaxing and soothing tired back muscles. Its purpose is to relax a driver’s muscles during a long and tiring trip. However, judging by the reviews, many buyers would prefer having Shiatsu-balls along with vibrating elements. Still, such a design is dictated by common sense: long-term exposure of the back muscles to idle Shiatsu rollers will create discomfort.

This heated massage cushion is suitable for those who have a high pain threshold and can endure the pain or discomfort caused by Shiatsu balls massage. This is definitely the most functional option in the category of massage cushions without Shiatsu elements.

Price: ~ $44.99 Check the current price

Shiatsu Back Massager with Heat and Adjustable Neck Massage Height - Naipo Shiatsu Neck and Full Back Massager Massage Seat Cushion with Heat

Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager

It is suitable for people of various heights, ranging from 150 to 185 cm as two top Shiatsu nodes built-in the headrest will provide you with quality massage if you adjust the cushion to your height. It is especially recommended for people shorter than 165 cm, as they usually find it difficult to buy a back massager with the headrest balls reaching their neck muscles. Two vibration sources with three intensity levels are built-in the seat, and four Shiatsu nodes move along your lower back in a complex trajectory. Each of the nodes contains two balls creating a deep 3D massage effect.

Price: ~ $169.99 Check the current price

The Best Back Massagers Comparison Chart

Photo Model Description Price
The Cheapest and Simplest Hook Back Massager LiBa Back and Neck Massager Tool for Trigger Point The cheapest hook back massager


WAHL 4290-300 Deep Tissue Percussion Massager WAHL 4290-300 Deep Tissue Percussion Massager A handheld electro-massager


HoMedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager HoMedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager A handheld electro-massager with two massage heads


Pure-Wave CM7 Cordless Massager Body Pure-Wave Massager Body + Facial (Dual Mode) for Foot, Legs, Neck, Back, Shoulders A personal electro-massager with face massage


Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat Ultra-thin; pillow massager


Nekteck Shiatsu Massage Pillow with Heat Nekteck Shiatsu Deep Kneading Massage Pillow with Heat Has most shiatsu-balls, 3 massage modes


YK15AB TENS back massager HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS unit Electronic Pulse Massager  Electrostimulation against neuralgia


Impulse Pain Relief Massager TEC.BEAN Tens EMS Unit with 16 Modes and 8 Pads Pulse Impulse Pain Relief Massager Is perfect for removing tunnel syndrome, "tennis elbow" syndrome, and arthritis pain. 


  Massage Seat Cushion with Heat New Five Star FS8812 10-Motor Vibration Heating Massage Seat Cushion Has most vibro-areas, gives a delicate relaxing massage


 Naipo Shiatsu Back Massager Massage Naipo Shiatsu Back Massager Massage Seat Cushion with Heat Shiatsu neck and back massager with heat and adjustable neck massage height


Add comment
Lice 2018-06-04 21:16
my husband was presented with a Vibration Massage seat. And this is my new friend who's waiting for me at home after work. After a hard day perfectly relieves fatigue. My back doesn't hurt anymore.
FEISCO 2017-02-28 22:11
Is it better to pick one fancy massager or a couple of simpler ones?