What is the best back massager? It is important that the device allows you to relax and is convenient to use, otherwise, there would be no point in massage. Shiatsu techniques deliver relaxing deep tissue massage. It should have a universal application so that you could use the massager with various types of armchairs and chairs. And a good model is the one that is multifunctional, adjustable and has several settings. We believe that Naipo Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager fits these criteria best.

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 9 best massagers and we’ll classify them for you and explain their purpose. 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.

Table of Content

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

There are 4 techniques inherent to classical massage: stroking, rubbing of the skin, kneading of muscles and vibration relaxing. While the vibrations help relieve muscle spasm tension, deep kneading allows working the muscles and intensifying blood circulation. The latter also removes toxins out of the body and increases metabolism. 

Specialists from Mayo Clinic say that massage, such as kneading and stroking, relieves muscle tension and stress mainly in the short term. However, there was a study showing that acupressure, a kind of massage that imitates acupuncture but without involving the needles' use, can have a longer-term effect. There are devices delivering Shiatsu massage — therapy based on the traditions of Oriental Medicine. As experts from Acupuncture Massage College explain, Shiatsu amplifies the body's ability to heal itself. This therapy works by stimulating the immune system and helps to restore physical functions of the nervous system and internal organs.

  • 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. 

  • If you have tense and spastic muscles, feel fatigue after sports or have improper desk posture, a handheld electro percussion massager with massage heads would be the best choice. The device will relieve these symptoms and make you feel good. 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.

  • If you feel discomfort in your back when driving a car, you will find a heated vibrating massage cushion more appropriate. Many customers are dissatisfied with weak vibration, so you can buy a powerful full back massager with 8 Shiatsu balls for deep and intense neck and a back massager for home or office.

  • If you suffer from osteochondrosis, neuralgia, pain in your back and neck, a pulse massager will definitely help. Technically, these devices are electro stimulators and not massagers. There are two types of electrostimulation, and they can either provide TENS or EMS or a combination of both.

TENS (transcutaneous electroneurostimulation) works by stimulating hypodermic nerves with the 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-9 Back Massagers

We’ve picked 9 different back massagers for different people and situations: handheld massagers for you to determine the massage areas, electronic pulse massagers for muscular electrostimulation, 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.

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.

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

Shiatsu Back Massager with Heat: photo

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.

Naipo Shiatsu Massager:  Check the current price

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

Vibration Massage Seat Cushion with Heat: photo

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.

New Five Star FS8812: 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.

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

Portable Back Massager with Beauty Mode: photo

This model is quite expensive but there are reasons for that. With 10,000 vibrations per minute, it delivers powerful deep tissue massage that is so effective that many therapists and sports trainers have chosen this device for professional use. For the record, Pure Wave is a registered trademark of PADO, a US-based company that is engaged in creating new technologies and, in particular, manufacturing professional-grade massagers.

The device works in two modes, delivering both body percussion therapy and soothing micro-vibration to your face. The percussion motor can produce up to 3,700 RPM (the number of turns in one minute), which makes it the best in its class. The facial motor located at the other end of the machine features a speed of up to 11,000 RPM.

According to clinically conducted trials, this massager helps to break down scar tissue, improves blood circulation, and relaxes muscles. There are two additional nozzles for your face and scalp. Not only will this massager replace a manual masseur, but 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. One more advantage I’d like to mention is the unit’s portability, 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).

Pure-Wave CM7: Check the current price

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

Heated Electric Back Massager HoMedics: photo

Two features distinguish this from similar massagers: it has two massage heads and it exudes infra-red heat. With a weight of only 2.5 pounds, this model is portable and convenient. It is likely that heating will be the key factor when making a decision. The device is used for gentle massage.

HoMedics HHP-350:  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.

5. Neck massager - Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat

Neck massager - Zyllion: photo

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 about 10,000 reviews.

Shiatsu Neck Massager: Check the current price

6. Shoulder Massager - Nekteck Back, Neck and Shoulder Massager with Heat 

Nekteck Shiatsu Deep Kneading Massage

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.

Shoulder Massager:  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 the muscle tone of extremely untrained and paralyzed people. It is also useful during stroke recovery.

7. HealthmateForever TENS unit Electronic Pulse Massager  

HealthmateForever TENS Electronic Pulse Massager: photo

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 smartphone. 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 Amazon's Choice in the Muscle Stimulator category with over 9,000 reviews and high consumer rating.

HealthmateForever: Check the current price

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

The Cheapest and Simplest Hook Back Massager: photo

Slight fatigue can be relieved with a regular wooden or plastic massager with protruding elements such as this 5-ball 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

LiBa Back and Neck Massager Tool: Check the current price

Other Good Back Massager

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

Electric Back Massager WAHL: photo

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 acupoint 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.

WAHL 4290-300:  Check the current price

How I’ve tested a back massager and used it for 5 years

I spend 18 hours a day sitting in front of the computer. In my nearly 40 years I’ve “earned’ a degenerative disc disease, the curse of intellectuals with a sedentary lifestyle. I have a pull-up bar and a treadmill at home; I do 50 pushups on average daily, as well as stretching and other rehabilitation exercises to keep myself in shape.

Twice a year I visit a professional massage therapist who stretches the muscle tissues, relieves muscle spasms, and stimulates the spinal nerves. Therapeutic massage plays an important role in our faced-paced modern lives. In its normal state, the muscle tissue has to be smooth and elastic. This is exactly what therapeutic massage aims to achieve.

But massage is still not enough. Due to sedentary living, the muscles shrink and weaken. The cervical region is particularly affected. Cervical degenerative disc disease is associated with neck pain and stiffness, the insufficient blood supply to the intervertebral discs, which lead to their atrophy, shrinkage, and pressure on the spinal nerves.

Long sitting hours cause your muscles to be statically tense even if you change your position. The muscle spasms are characterized by aching, nagging pain, which makes you feel like an old man.

Therefore, in between the therapeutic massage sessions, you can use a simple homemade hand massager. This is an emergency, short-term solution that would relax the tense muscles and alleviate muscles fatigue, as well as increase blood flow and stimulate nerves. You definitely need this massager if your lifestyle is primarily sedentary or you drive long hours, at least as a preventative measure against disc degeneration processes.

What can a handheld back massager really do for you? As tested by me:

  1. Quickly remove the spasm of the superficial muscles. However, do not expect the massager to reach the deep muscles, which can only be reached by the hands of a professional massage therapist.
  2. Accelerate blood circulation in the massaged area and oxygenate the muscle tissues.
  3. Percussion of up to 3,600 pulses per minute should be sufficient to reach superficial muscle tissues.
  4. However, the effectiveness of Acupoint therapy, which is featured by many manufacturers, is essentially questionable (according to evidence-based medicine). It’s also highly unlikely that an average person has specific knowledge about acupuncture and which spots to stimulate for the desired effect.

In my opinion, the Percussion-type massager is currently the most scientifically proven among back massagers.

However, let me remind you again that not a single home massager will replace physical activity (at least 20 minutes a day) and the hands of a professional massage therapist.

Types of Back Massagers, Indications For Use, Effectiveness, Scientific Evidence

As you can see, there is a number of massage types. But which one is suitable for you?

Percussion massagers use vibration to penetrate deep into the muscles and relax them. Generally, such devices are hand-held and do not require professional assistance, something that makes them particularly convenient. Using strikes and thumps, the massager stimulates not just skin and muscles, but also bones, veins, nerves, and internal organs. As a result, the therapy relieves spasms and stress and also helps to remove mucus from the lungs.

Shiatsu massage can be delivered by specially designed chairs or more portable devices. This therapy resembles a palm massage and provides a gentle squeeze. Shiatsu helps relax and reduce stress and is particularly recommended for people with sore muscles. In addition, this treatment assists the drainage of toxins and increases blood circulation. Is Shiatsu effective? Well, scientists from the University of Salford (UK) have carried out research to reveal the effect of Shiatsu both in the short-term and long-term. British and German citizens took part in the test that has demonstrated that the therapy helps to relax muscles as well as affects the person’s sleep and posture.  

The TENS machine is another therapy suggested for treating sore muscles. The unit works by creating tapping and kneading that make the muscles relax. For instance, Hui En Gilpin from Pacific University has conducted a study to find out whether TENS machines are able to relieve severe pain in patients with osteoarthritis. The results have shown a significant improvement in pain following ten sessions. Based on these results, the researcher recommends using TENS equipment at 100 Hz and 200 µs for 40 minutes five times a week for two weeks. That said, British scientists from Leeds Metropolitan University note that TENS does not work for postoperative or labor pain.

Vibrating massagers cause muscle contraction, improve blood circulation and temperature of the treated area. This therapy is recommended for dealing with neuralgia and fatigue, relieves pain and relaxes muscles. However, experts warn that vibrations can negatively affect nerve tissue because “nerves do not like being battered.”

Kneading involves squeezing and compression of the tissue. For better results, you can press the device firmer to penetrate deeper tissues. Kneading works by stimulating the vital functions of your body, including nerves and blood vessels. This treatment is also helpful for releasing toxins. For this purpose, it is recommended to drink more water so that more toxins could be eliminated with urine.

The Best Back Massagers Comparison Chart

Product Description Price

LiBa

The Cheapest and Simplest Hook Back Massager

The cheapest hook back massager

WAHL

WAHL 4290-300 Deep Tissue Percussion Massager

A handheld electro-massager

HoMedics

HoMedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager

A handheld electro-massager with two massage heads

Pure-Wave

A personal electro-massager with face massage

Zyllion

Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat

Ultra-thin; pillow massager

Nekteck

Nekteck table

Has most shiatsu-balls, 3 massage modes

HealthmateForever

YK15AB TENS back massager

Electrostimulation against neuralgia

Nursal

Impulse Pain Relief Massager

Is perfect for removing tunnel syndrome, "tennis elbow" syndrome, and arthritis pain. 

Five Star

 Massage Seat Cushion with Heat

Has most vibro-areas, gives a delicate relaxing massage

Naipo

Naipo Shiatsu Back Massager Massage

Shiatsu neck and back massager with heat and adjustable neck massage height