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All the Best Massage Tools We’ve Ever Written About

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Going to see a professional massage therapist or having a masseuse come over can be expensive — or maybe you just want the relaxing and tension-relieving benefits without having to disrobe in front of a stranger. So we have the next-best option: a curated list of all the best massage tools that you can buy online and use yourself in the comfort of your own home, from mechanical rollers to heated Shiatsu massagers, many of which come recommended by massage therapists, professional athletes, podiatrists, doctors, nurses, chiropractors, personal trainers, yoga instructors, and our own writers. So whether you’re looking for a mini massage gun or a chiropractor-recommended back massager, here are the best massage tools that we’ve written about on the Strategist.

Best electric back massager

For an all-in-one back massager, Renpho’s Chair Massage Pad is our best overall pick, as it’s hands-free, there’s heat to relax your muscles, and there are multispeed and multidirectional nodes for different intensities. Professional ballet dancer Kate Byrne of My Ballet Coach says Renpho has helped with the muscle pain and back spasms she’s experienced throughout her career, while Kevin Cronin, owner of ARC Physical Therapy, says the light-colored faux leather is easy to clean and isn’t an eyesore; he bought a similar version for his his wife, who says she loves it.

[Editor’s note: This product is out of stock. This Snailax full back massager is a good alternative – it meets the criteria laid out above, and has over 11,00 five-star ratings on Amazon.]

Best (less expensive) overall electric back massager

This Mighty Bliss massage wand is a fraction of the price and size of the Renpho, making it an affordable option for those who don’t want to commit to a larger device. With a long, ergonomically designed handle, the wand can be used alone to reach various parts of the back without having to twist uncomfortably, Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo says. Meanwhile, Meera Watts, founder and CEO of Siddhi Yoga, says she likes the versatility of the six different massage heads, which help her relax her muscles and get a good night’s sleep.

Best electric back massager pillow

Melissa Kotlen, a lactation consultant and labor-and-delivery nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital, says she recommends this portable and ergonomic massager pillow for new moms experiencing lower-back aches as their babies get older and heavier. Its multidirectional nodes target the area to relieve pain, Kotlen says. Former Strategist senior editor Casey Lewis also says she uses it to soothe her work-from-bed back and persuaded Corsillo to buy one as well — she uses hers while watching TV in bed.

Best (less expensive) electric back massager pillow

Byrne says she also uses this HoMedics back-massage pillow, which, at $35 less than the Zyllion’s regular price, offers the same single-speed and multi-directional massage features. The heated device has helped her most with her recurrent muscle pain, Byrne says. To further relax stiff muscles, the nodes vibrate as they move in and out, as well as rotate, according to the brand.

Best manual lower back massager

Actor Simon Rex told us that relies on this “hip hook” from Aletha — he takes it with him wherever he travels. He explains that the hook helps to release the front of your hips, and in turn that helps to open up your lower back. He explains, “You lay your psoas area onto this hook, and then you turn the hook and it releases the front of your hips. That’s an area that causes your lower back to hurt all the time.”

Like the other manual muscle massagers we feature below, there is a pleasant sort of pain involved, Rex adds. “It hurts at first — your body’s tightening up and it doesn’t want to lean into this hook — but then you kind of release into the pain. And then once you really relax and breathe and just totally surrender, it will fucking open it all up.”

Best Shiatsu electric foot massager

$110

This heated foot massager from Renpho is our best-overall pick for its use of air compression, optional heat, round nodes, and a textured rolling spool to provide a deep massage. Strategist writer Kitty Guo tested it and says “deep” is no understatement, as “the ‘high’ settings really give your feet good pummeling.” She prefers using the medium settings while on her laptop or watching Netflix, and while she says the machine has a low, constant hum while on, it’s not distracting or loud. After your choice of a 15- or 30-minute session, the device will shut off automatically, but Guo says you could also easily maneuver the control-panel buttons with your toes to be completely hands-free. Lastly, if you’re sharing the Renpho with others, the foot chambers can accommodate up to a men’s size 12 — and yes, the liners are removable and washable.

Best (less expensive) Shiatsu electric foot massager

Guo also tried this Shiatsu foot massager from HoMedics, and although she says it doesn’t envelop your feet like the Renpho does, she says she likes that it allows you more freedom to move and adjust the pressure of your massage. “The sensation is definitely a less intense experience,” she says, but adds that it’s still soothing. HoMedic’s massager is about $80 cheaper than Renpho’s and has a slightly smaller profile. It’s also simpler, with three settings for massage, heat only, and heated massage.

Best foot-massage ball

Danelle Morgan, a professional dancer, Radio City Music Hall Rockette, and Pilates instructor, recommends this particular foot massage ball for targeting the balls and arches of her feet. She recommends it to anyone seeking relief after wearing uncomfortable footwear, as the ball’s rubber construction means you can customize the pressure of your massage with your own body weight, she says.

Best hand massager

When writer Fiorella Valdesolo developed carpal tunnel syndrome during her third trimester of pregnancy, she picked up this ceramic, ecofriendly massager on the advice of her acupuncturist and said in a previous version of this story that it was the only tool that relieved her nerve tension. To use, she said she simply fills the vessel with hot water, plops the silicon cover back on, then rubs the octagonal humps of the ceramic base (now a soothingly warm temperature) across any areas of discomfort. After her carpal tunnel syndrome passed postpartum, she began to use it on post-workout calves and tight shoulder blades.

Best electric massage gun

Drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova says this massage gun has paid for itself in just four tries because it feels the same as going to an actual masseuse. Although the five interchangeable head attachments “look torturous,” she says they accommodate different musculature across the body and have varying levels of intensity for specialized treatment. Professional surfer Kelly Slater also says he likes the Hyperice and uses it to loosen up after surfing, sitting for hours, or after a hot bath. And compared to the Theragun he owned previously, the Hypervolt is half the price and much quieter, Slater says.

Best (less expensive) electric massage gun

Corsillo says she likes that this Turonic massage gun comes with multiple heads for different uses across the body. Her favorite is the soft round-ball head, which is quiet but still plenty intense for her. “It lets me and my husband give each other massages that are actually effective, without getting bored or wearing out our hands,” she says. Plus, Corsillo says the battery lasts a long time, but the device does conveniently come with a zipper case that has enough space to fit a charger.

Best portable massage gun

This Theragun Mini is a favorite of Strategist beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton, who says that, while it feels lighter than a MacBook Air, it’s powerful. “It vigorously vibrates to loosen up muscles while the attachment ball thrusts up and down, massaging deep into those sore spots,” she says. Amanda Westfall, a podiatrist at Central Oregon Foot and Ankle, says the Mini is effective for foot massages, as it’s small enough to get into the arch and relieve tension on specific trigger points.

Best electric hand-held massage tool

Vanity Fair senior editor Maggie Coughlan recommended this Black & Decker power tool in a previous version of this story. Although it’s designed for automotive polishing projects, Coughlan said it operates like “what a foam roller wants to be when it grows up” and soothes body-wide tension with a simultaneous spin-and-vibrate motion. Plus, it has a following among Amazon reviewers, Reddit commenters, and Strategist readers alike.

Best mechanical muscle massager

Thera Cane Massager
$40

In a previous version of this story, our columnist Chris Black extolled the virtues of the Thera Cane Massager. Despite being an “early adopter” of the foam-roller, he insisted that his back has “never felt better” than after using this J-shaped device equipped with six treatment balls, which target specific muscles for maximum pain-relief. Black’s claims are supported by massage therapist David Vargas who recommended the Thera Cane as a perfect non-mechanical pick for dad’s with aching backs.

Best mechanical muscle massager for athletes

On the other side of the muscle massager face-off was the Tiger Tail: a large, non-mechanical muscle massager that Strategist contributor Rima Suqi said she swore by in a previous version of this story for rolling out muscles—in a “hurt-so-good” way—after her intense, three-times-a-week weight classes. Among athletes, Suqi isn’t alone in her adoration of this roller. Here at the Strategist, the Tiger Tail has been named among the best workout accessories — it got former Strategist senior writer and five time marathon runner Karen Iorio Adelson through hundreds of miles of training.

Best mechanical muscle massager for neck pain

Pilates teacher — and Strategist contributor — Kate Garfield found out about the Davinci Tool through a daisy chain of well-informed contacts, including two professional singers (one opera, one Broadway), and a massage therapist. It’s a kind of plastic triangle, which helps with deep tissue release — fast. “Place the tool at the base of your skull, breathe, and allow your body weight to relax onto it, even if it’s a tiny bit uncomfortable at first. Then rest on it for ten to 30 seconds,” Garfield advises. And though Garfield originally used her tool to help with her neck pain, she also recommends it for, well, most other aches. “The tool has also helped me stave off shoulder-gripping tension headaches, release super-deep knots in my back, and loosen up my glutes and hips. No matter where you put it — traps, hips, what have you — you would use the tool the same way.”

Best foam roller

Five fitness experts, from yogis to CrossFit lovers, vouched for the unparalleled efficacy of this TriggerPoint foam roller in relieving muscle and joint pain and increasing mobility. Radan Sturm, founder of the group weight-training class Liftonic, said in a previous version of this story that it’s “just the right density to be effective without bruising,” and is “the perfect size that allows you to target all major parts of the body.” It’s also a Strategist recommended gift for sporty girlfriends and best friends, or anyone training for a marathon.

Best portable foam roller

Strategist fitness writer Jeremy Rellosa owns several foam rollers, but none of them are suitable for traveling with (especially as he likes to travel light). He recommends the Mobot foam roller, which combines a water bottle and a foam roller. Rellosa explains, “There’s no weird folding mechanism or vibrating feature that might otherwise complicate its design. It’s just a water bottle with a bumpy rubber coating, and it works incredibly well.” At just 11 inches tall, he can easily fit it into a carry-on bag. “I usually take a 32-ounce Nalgene (8.25 inches) with me anyway, and the Mobot has now replaced it,” Rellosa writes. He’s since used it on several summer trips, and has “happily rolled out at various Airbnbs, hotel rooms, and airport gates.”

Best acupressure mat

In a previous version of this story, former Strategist writer Lori Keong said she was experiencing back and neck pain so intense that no amount of stretching or rubbing helped — until her roommate tipped her off to this acupressure mat. Like acupuncture, this mat relieves pain through “touch and pressure,” but unlike acupuncture it is non-invasive and inexpensive. Keong said the spiky mat is “an acquired comfort,” but after five or six minutes of use she said “the soreness had mysteriously melted away and didn’t return. I could roll my arms back and forth without any lingering tension — something I hadn’t been able to do for days.”

Best acupressure rings

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Sales director and beauty insider Yana Shept said in a previous version of this story that she discovered these acupressure rings that double as “self-care fidget spinners” a couple of years ago. A few rolls on her finger and they help her feel less stressed, stay focused, and mitigate headaches. She said “the tingling pain the ring imparts when you roll it took my attention away from the headache, and I suddenly started feeling better — like my body was slowly balancing back to normal.”

Best aromatherapy massage tool

When we consulted with experts about the best massage oils and lotions, Lara Katsman, a massage therapist at Haven Spa, recommended these scent-infused massage balls in a previous version of this story. She said they’re easy to use for beginners who are giving someone else a massage, and they can be used to relieve bodywide tension. All you have to do is rub the rubber balls in the area where they (or you) need relief. Plus, the balls can be heated or cooled, and the scent provides calming aromatherapy.

Best wire scalp massager

In a previous version of this story, Corinna Rachel, a licensed massage therapist and the ASMRtist behind ASMR Massage Psychetruth, said this multi-contact massage tool is “marvelous” for relaxing the commonly tight muscles in the scalp. Zeel national community director Eva Carey recommended using the “tingle-inducing” wire head massager on yourself or someone else for three or four minutes.

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All the Best Massage Tools We’ve Ever Written About