Having your feet, neck, back or even scalp massaged is one of life’s simple pleasures that can quickly become a very expensive habit, so if you’ve ever wondered how to get a professional-grade massage at home for less, know that you’re far from alone. That’s part of the reason why our writers and editors have long been on the hunt for 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. (We’ve also learned that back massagers make great gifts for almost any person on your list.) So whether you’re looking for an NBA-player endorsed massage gun, or a chiropractor-recommended back massager, here are some of the best massage tools that we’ve written about on the Strategist.
Best electric back massager
This well-reviewed back and neck massager is so effective that many Amazon customers say that it has replaced their massage therapists. In fact, one satisfied reviewer calls it “maybe my best Amazon purchase of the year,” describing the massage pressure as “perfect and the heat option takes it over the top!” We’ve also featured the Zyllion back massager in a couple of our gift guides, and it’s since become a reliable favorite for hard-to-shop-for men and dads with aches and pains.
Best portable electric back massager
After hearing about the massager that had been recommended to a bevy of L.A. celebrities, like Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon and actress Dree Hemingway, Natalie Toren tried out this Etekcity back and neck massager at designer Leslie Aitken’s studio and was sold. It felt to her “as if real human fists were kneading me” and the massage nodes were comparable to “hot stones a masseuse might use for an actual spa treatment.” After learning that this massager was under $50 Toren bought one right then and there, and now uses it all over her body, four or five times a day.
Best massage pillow
This plush pillow has also garnered favorable reviews among Amazon customers for its soothing, Shiatsu technique plus heat, which “helps to work out the knots” and provides “relief of shoulder and back pain.” And last summer, after we called it a great last-minute Father’s Day gift for dads with headaches, this heated head-and-neck massage pillow placed among Strategist readers’ top five purchases two months in a row.
Best electric foot massager
This Shiatsu foot massager has long been a bestseller among Strategist readers, a popular gift for boyfriends, girlfriends, and dads alike. But it’s also well-reviewed on Amazon, with over 1,100 five star reviews, including one from a professional massage therapist who vouches that it “hits all the meridian trigger points” and relaxes your entire body.
Best non-electric foot massager
Manual massage purists and reformed electric massage users are among the thousands of Amazon reviewers to give the manual TheraFlow foot massager five stars. “I hate to say it, but I think it does a better job than my fancy Shiatsu massager,” writes one sheepish reviewer. The roller is also celebrated by many people with sore feet for its fast-acting pain relief. One reviewer who had “become a hermit” due to their foot pain, noticed a “huge difference” after using this massager for just one day at work.
Best foot massage ball
Dr. Lori Weisenfeld, D.P.M, a New York City sports podiatrist, hears rave reviews from patients about this spiky massage ball. For people with foot pain the “little nubbies massage the arch,” she explains, and the rolling motion is good “for people with tight, taught muscles and arch and heel pain.” The compact, $7 ball has also impressed hundreds of Amazon reviewers, earning our pick as best-rated, less expensive foot massage tool.
Best electric hand-held massage tool
This $600 Theragun is said to decrease pain due to its intense vibrations and unparalleled range of motion, which is why many professional athletes (like Kyrie Irving) have gone to bat for the muscle-relaxing magic of this must-have workout accessory. Mark Hunter, a.k.a. the party photographer Cobrasnake, and now founder of the Instagram-famous Cobra Fitness Club, uses the Theragun multiple times a day, and says it keeps him going “longer and stronger,” without trips to a massage therapist.
Best less-expensive electric hand-held massage tool
For people who are looking for a powerful hand-held massage tool without the $600 price tag, Maggie Coughlan recommends this Black & Decker power tool. Although it’s designed for automotive polishing projects, Coughlan insists that 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
In the great Strat muscle massager face-off of 2017 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 Rima Suqi swears by 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, and is a device that has gotten writer, and five time marathon runner, Karen Iorio Adelson through hundreds of miles of training.
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 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 vibrating foam roller
Another expert-recommended foam roller is the HyperIce Vyper, which is celebrated by personal trainers and chiropractors for it’s muscle penetrating and pain-alleviating vibrations. Celebrity personal trainer Danny Musico noted that the Vyper has multiple levels of vibration “so it gets deeper into muscles than any other foam roller I’ve used.”
Best acupressure mat
When writer Lori Keong was experiencing back and neck pain so intense that no amount of stretching or rubbing helped, 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 admits that the spiky mat is “an acquired comfort” but after five or six minutes of use she found “that 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
Sales director and beauty insider Yana Shept has known about the physical relief of energy-diffusing medicine, namely acupuncture and acupressure, since she was 7 years old. But, she didn’t discover these acupressure rings that double as “self-care fidget spinners” until a couple of years ago. A few rolls on her finger and they help her feel less stressed, stay focused, and mitigate headaches. She writes: “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 scalp massager
Although this is not a typical massage tool, writer Alison Freer swears that using this Marvy scalp brush is a “blissful” experience akin to “getting a scalp massage at the hair salon (with extremely firm fingers.)” Thanks to flexible, rubber bristles that deliver a perfectly pressured massage, this pack of two brushes has totally eradicated her dry, patchy scalp skin.
Best massage chair
In the world of massage tools, massage chairs are the litmus test of excellence, but they aren’t often described as compact or cheap — which makes the Kahuna Zero-Gravity Full-Body Recliner something of an exception. In addition to its “simply blissful” comfort and coziness, many Amazon customers give the chair rave reviews for it’s “small footprint.” Granted, at a $2,000 price tag the full-body recliner is hardly inexpensive, but it costs four times less than another Kahuna chair, which was the most expensive Strategist purchase of 2018.
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