10 Best Handheld Massagers Review for the Relief You “Knead” – Jan. 2021 with Buying Guide
It’s been a strenuous workout – or run – or bike ride.
It’s been long day of difficult manual labor – or stressful meetings – or parenting.
In other words, it’s been a normal day. You’re tired and your body is aching.
A wealthy person might head for the spa or sauna, or call their regular massage therapist for an urgent appointment. A college or professional athlete might head to the training room for one-on-one attention. But what can ordinary people like us do?
The smart ones pull out their trusty handheld massage machine.
It’s true that a handheld massager won’t deliver quite the same experience – or relief for muscles – as an experienced, professional therapist. But the best modern massage machines designed for home use can come pretty darn close.
The National Institutes of Health reports that massage therapy is effective for a number of pain issues. Studies have confirmed the benefits of massage for everything from sleep problems to sagging skin. And the Mayo Clinic says “massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever.”
The obvious conclusion: whether you work out regularly or simply have to deal with the stresses of everyday life, owning a handheld massager (unless you can afford to have a massage therapist on speed dial) makes good health sense.
No handheld unit can perform all of the massage techniques that a human therapist has spent years perfecting. But there are many versatile units with multiple heads and variable speeds which can deliver a home massage experience far beyond what was possible just a decade ago.
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The Groom+Style review team was daunted by the assignment of checking out handheld massagers. In fact, we were all badly stressed by the prospect – and immediately needed to find a suitable way to relax.
G+S thoughtfully provided massage machines that were up to the task.
Here’s how the team ranks the best handheld massagers, along with our comprehensive buying guide to help you decide which unit fits your needs.
Best Handheld Massagers
1. Purewave CM-07 Dual-Motor Percussion + Vibration Therapy Massager
The majority of handheld massagers on the market are percussion-style, delivering strong, rapid pulses of energy to work deep into sore muscles. You can also buy vibration massagers intended primarily to provide a soothing, relaxing massage to tense muscles in the face, jaw, and neck. The Purewave CM-07 uses two different motors (the vibration motor is built into the handle of the unit) to let you choose whether you want a percussion or vibrating massage – and that’s one reason the Groom+Style review team believes it’s the best handheld massager you can find.
There’s another reason why the team loves the CM-07. It comes with six different attachments, allowing you to customize the type of massage you receive and target your specific problem areas. The Point node is for deep-tissue massage, the Six-Head node provides a similar experience for larger muscle groups, and the Air Cushion node provides a softer percussion massage. Three additional nodes are designed for scalp massage, facial massage and simulating the spa experience by applying pain cream or massage oil together with a relaxing massage.
This is a rechargeable cordless model with a lithium-ion battery. A charge takes 60 minutes and lasts for two hours, and the massager is easy to maneuver since it has no power cord. We’ve only found two negatives for the Purewave. First, it doesn’t provide a heated massage. More importantly, it exemplifies today’s “disposable” culture; the battery is soldered onto the internal circuit board and can’t be replaced, so after 4-5 years you’ll have to replace the entire massager. For the quality of massage experience the CM-07 delivers, though, we think that it’s well worth that annoying design flaw. This is, as you might expect, just about the most expensive option on our list.
Even though it doesn’t deliver heated massages, the Purewave CM-07 is the best, most versatile handheld massager you can buy. That’s why so many chiropractors and sports trainers use it in their practices.
Facts and figures for the Purewave CM-07 Dual-Motor Percussion + Vibration Therapy Massager:
2. Wahl 4290-300 Deep Tissue Percussion Handheld Massager
You won’t find all of the Purewave’s features in this percussion massager, but you will find most of the important ones, at an extremely good price – making the Wahl the review team’s pick as the best value in handheld massagers. It has a variable speed function allowing it to deliver up to 3350 pulses per minute, letting you choose anything from a gentle relaxing massage to a powerful, deep-penetrating one.
The Wahl also comes with four nodes: a round, all-purpose deep-muscle massager, a flat disc to cover larger muscle groups, an accupoint head which can target specific muscles for special massage attention, and a “four fingers” flex node for gently massaging neck and shoulder muscles in the same fashion that a therapist would use. This handheld unit has to be plugged in, but the eight-foot cord gives you a decent range of motion to hit different areas of the body.
The Wahl delivers a powerful, deep-tissue massage with lots of flexibility in choosing your massage strength, at a surprisingly reasonable price.
More details for the Wahl 4290-300 Deep Tissue Percussion Handheld Massager:
3. Naipo Handheld Percussion Massager
Our top two choices, sadly, don’t offer heated massages. This Naipo percussion model does, along with most of the features you’d want in a good handheld massager. There is a variable speed control, with the unit able to reach an impressive 3800 pulses per minute. There are three massage nodes: a rounded one for general deep-tissue use, a rolling head with protrusions for more intense massages, and a tapered one for specific pressure points. (There are actually six attachments, but three of them are duplicates because for some reason they each come in silicon and plastic versions.)
The one feature we wish Naipo had added was variable heat control, since there’s only an on-off button on the handle and no way to adjust the temperature when massaging more sensitive areas. Even so, the heated massage ability of this unit, along with its good price, put it squarely at #3 on the Groom+Style rankings. The Naipo is a corded model with an ergonomic handle, although the cord is somewhat short at six feet.
It doesn’t deliver quite the experience as the Purewave or Wahl, but the Naipo still can pack a good massage punch and its heated massage ability makes it worth checking out.
Looking closer at the Naipo Handheld Percussion Massager:
4. Renpho Rechargeable Handheld Deep Tissue Massager
The Renpho rechargeable isn’t the most powerful handheld massager. It doesn’t come with the most massaging nodes. It isn’t the least expensive. It doesn’t have a heat function. But as an all-around choice for a portable percussion massage machine, it’s really, really good.
This unit tops out at 3600 pulses per minute, making it almost as powerful as the PureWave and the Naipo. It has five attachments (one fewer than the PureWave), but they’re well-designed: a round ball node for deep massages and a tapered node for targeting specific muscles, small and large three-point nodes which are great at relieving stress and loosening tight muscles, and a curved node which can follow the contour of the body for a more gentle massage. And while it’s not sold at a bargain price, the cost is more than reasonable for an excellent all-around handheld massager.
The Renpho is cordless and rechargeable (again, with a battery that can’t be replaced when it dies) and a charge lasts for more than two hours; there are three selectable power levels and four “modes” which let you adjust how the pulses are spaced out.
The Groom+Style team couldn’t select the Renpho as a #1 or #2 choice because it didn’t stand out in any one category – but overall, it delivers a strong performance in almost all of them.
The inside story of the Renpho Rechargeable Handheld Deep Tissue Massager:
5. HoMedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager
Here’s the first double-headed handheld massager on our list. The advantage of two heads working simultaneously, of course, is that they can cover more area while also attacking a single muscle group from two different angles at once. The heads on the HHP-350 each are able to pivot when you move the massager, as they also move up and down to simulate the action of a human therapist pounding rapidly on the body.
In reality, “pounding” may be overstating things just a bit. The HoMedics has four speed settings, but even at its highest it doesn’t deliver as powerful a percussion massage as the earlier entries in the G+S rankings. That makes it, in the review team’s opinion, more suitable for a surface massage than a deep-tissue one – especially when you make use of the HoMedics’ heated massage function. The corded unit comes with two sets of very similar round nodes, one set for a firm massage and one set for a softer one.
Two heads can be better than one for a handheld massager, and while the HHP-350 isn’t our top choice for relief of deep knotted muscles, it does an excellent job delivering a soothing surface massage.
Specs for the HoMedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager:
6. Ohuhu Double-Head Deep Tissue Percussion Massager
Since we’ve already given you one option for a double-headed massager, let’s give you another. The Ohuhu is bulkier and heavier than the HoMedics, which is one reason why it slips in just below the HHP-350 in our rankings. It’s a little more versatile, however, with three sets of interchangeable rubber nodes including two sets with protrusions that deliver a good, intense massage, as well as standard round heads for standard massage. The Ohuhu is a bit underpowered at just 2800 PPM at its maximum.
There are three power settings but no heat function, another reason why the review team liked the HoMedics unit a little more. This is a corded unit with a relatively short power cord. On the brighter side, the price is definitely right for a good double-headed handheld massager.
The Ohuhu double-head percussion massager isn’t everything we look for, but it’s versatile, it delivers a good massage, and it’s definitely affordable.
Going more in depth on the Ohuhu Double-Head Deep Tissue Percussion Massager:
7. Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Back And Neck Massager
The small ZMA-13 is designed as a pillow massager which can be strapped to a chair (or to your body) to provide a deep massage as you work or relax. It’s certainly small enough (although somewhat unwieldy) to be held in the hands, though, which is why we’ve included this relatively-expensive model on our list as a handheld unit.
This Zyllion also provides a very thorough Shiatsu-style massage, with four deep-kneading, rotating nodes built into the pillow. The nodes automatically reverse direction every 60 seconds to vary the massage to the best effect. It also has an on/off heating function (which runs pretty hot, so be careful) to accentuate the soothing and kneading action of the heads. You do have to plug the ZMA-13 into the wall (or into your car, since the unit comes with a car adapter) which lessens the versatility of this massager, but staying in one place is a small price to pay for a great Shiatsu massage. There is a 20-minute auto-shutoff and overheat protection built in.
Using the Zylllion as a handheld massager takes a little coordination and you may need a bit of time to get used to maneuvering the pillow, but it’s a terrific option.
Digging deeper on the Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Back And Neck Massager:
8. Therarub Double Head Percussion Massager
For those who want a plug-in massager but get frustrated trying to reach difficult areas of your body with six- or eight-foot power cords, we offer the Therarub massager for your consideration. This isn’t an extraordinarily powerful unit, with a high speed of just 3260 PPM. But it’s quite good for a relaxing all-over massage, without forcing you to do gymnastics just to get the heads to your feet or calves, and it has a very convenient 14-foot power cord.
Three sets of nodes (since this is a double-headed machine) come with the Therarub: round, three-point and a deep-tissue head with protruding points. There’s a variable speed control as well, so you can choose between a very satisfying stress-relieving massage or a decent deep-tissue one. There is no heat function on this handheld massager.
There are better massagers on the G+S review list, but none with the flexibility of the Therarub’s 14-foot cord that lets you easily reach every spot on the body.
A deeper dive on the Therarub Double Head Percussion Massager:
9. Oster Professional 103 Stim-U-Lax Massager
This thing is a monster, and since it’s a professional massager you may have seen it anywhere from a spa or podiatrist’s office, to a beautician’s salon (some use it on clients’ scalps or necks after cutting their hair). It’s not as heavy as it looks, but it’s not the easiest massager to work with until you’ve had some experience with it. It’s been around for decades, though, so it’s stood the test of time.
The action of the Oster is unique. The suspended motor inside the chrome housing shifts its weight up-and-down and from side-to-side to generate vibration. That allows it to rotate against and pat the skin for a powerful yet gentle and calming massage. It’s not like any other handheld massager that G+S reviewed and it’s pretty expensive, but it definitely deserves a place on this list.
Don’t expect the Stim-U-Lax to give you a deep-tissue massage, but it can work at surface level to ease muscle pain. Its better use is for an invigorating massage, particularly on the head and scalp.
What you should know about the Oster Professional 103 Stim-U-Lax Massager:
10. Loverbeby Waterproof Cordless Handheld Wand Massager
At first glance, this looks more like a tool that you might see advertised by Adam and Eve on late-night television. But this isn’t necessarily an X-rated device (although we aren’t saying that it can’t do double-duty); it’s a waterproof handheld massager made from medical-grade silicone. If you want to massage in the shower or bath, the Loverbeby can handle it.
This is a vibration massager with nine selectable frequencies; you charge it via USB cable and a charge lasts for as long as ninety minutes. Don’t expect a deep-tissue massage from this small, purple model, but it can certainly do a good job relaxing you.
A surface massager shaped like a tool for a more specific use, the Loverbeby is also a surprisingly good surface massager you can take into the bathtub.
What you need to know about the Loverbeby Waterproof Cordless Handheld Wand Massager:
Best Handheld Massagers Buying Guide
There is a variety of options when you’re ready to take the plunge and buy a massage machine to use at home. But if you have a specific target area in mind, the decision-making process is relatively easy.
A handheld massager is the most versatile tool you can buy to treat pain or relax the muscles in several parts of the body, because it can be moved from spot to spot and positioned “just right” to hit the muscles and tissues which need attention.
Here’s a deeper look at how to evaluate handheld massagers.
A trained massage therapist has a wealth of techniques he or she can use to work your body to best effect. A home machine can’t replicate all of those techniques, but there are three important types of massage that a handheld unit can perform.
A percussive massage stimulates and relaxes skin, muscles and soft tissue, while also improving blood flow. It’s useful for everything from easing cramps and soreness after workouts (because it boosts muscle recovery), to relieving overall muscle pain and soreness and increasing flexibility (because it stretches muscles and reduces tension while increasing blood flow to the affected areas). Percussion is also used to break down scar tissue and adhesions created by surgery.
A handheld percussion massage machine replicates the technique by delivering rapid pulses of energy to differently-shaped attachments, which vibrate, pressure (and sometimes pound) muscles. Well-designed units can reach deep into soft tissues to provide pain relief and increase muscle function.
Kneading is the best way to relax tight muscles and relieve soreness and pain. This allows the targeting of deep muscle tissue to ease pain, while also stretching or realigning damaged collagen fibers which restrict the range of motion and flexibility.
A handheld kneading machine makes use of special attachments which push muscles against bones in the same way that a therapist would, greatly relieving pain and boosting flexibility.
You usually won’t find tapping massage (or as delivered by handheld massagers, simple vibration) used to ease sore muscles or pain; it’s more often combined with other alternative health methods to treat anxiety and stress, but there is some evidence that it can also help those with chronic pain.
Many times, the heads of a handheld percussion machine can be set to deliver light tapping instead of percussion.
The Importance of Heat
Heat therapy is familiar to anyone who’s participated in athletic programs or visited a sports medicine specialist, and just as familiar to those who reach for a heating pad after a long, hard day.
The latter group understands that heat applied to sore muscles and joints makes them feel better. The former group understands the reasons why: heat promotes muscle relaxation, it improves blood circulation so damaged muscles can receive the blood and nutrients they need to heal, and it stops muscles from “burning” due to the buildup of lactic acid which occurs after vigorous activity. That last issue is common when attempting a new activity and then experiencing what’s known as “exertion soreness.”
Many handheld massage units have a built-in heating element, and you’ll probably be glad you paid the small additional cost to be able to combine a therapeutic massage with effective heat therapy.
Handheld Massager Attachments
Another important buying consideration is the number and style of attachments (commonly called “heads” or “nodes”) that come with a handheld massage machine. Each of the heads provides a different type of massage, so the most versatile massagers will include a number of interchangeable nodes.
Here are the most common attachments provided with the best handheld massagers.
The best handheld massagers typically come with three or four nodes, but you can find some models with as many as six attachments. There are also models with multiple fixed heads, which let you work a greater surface area of your body or attack the same muscle group from two different angles at the same time.
Speed and Convenience
The two final factors to consider when shopping for a handheld massager are the number of speed settings it has, and how convenient it is to use.
An adjustable speed feature allows you to vary the feel and overall experience of your massage. Setting your machine at a lower speed will provide a relaxing massage for stress relief, while ramping up the speed will work your muscles harder for pain relief or working out stubborn muscle knots.
There are two issues to think about when it comes to convenience. The first is the size of the massager; a smaller unit is easier to handle and move around the body to tackle different problem areas, a wider unit lets you complete your massage faster and massage specific muscle groups more completely, and a longer one allows you to reach difficult spots like your lower back.
Secondly, you can choose between a corded or cordless massager. You’ll find that a handheld model with a cord is more powerful but much tougher to maneuver; a cordless unit won’t work give your muscles as strong a workout but since you’re not tethered to an outlet, you can use it anywhere in the house, or even at the office or while relaxing outdoors.
Frequently Asked Questions About Handheld Massagers
Q: Can a handheld massager really give you a massage comparable to one you’d get from a therapist?
The best units, however, allow you to come pretty close to the relief provided by an in-person massage – the big “X factor” is how well you use the massager to hit the areas of your body which need relief, and that only comes with time and experience. But also consider this: a good therapist will charge you at least $50-60 per hour, while the best handheld massager in the Groom+Style rankings costs less than a couple of visits. Owning a quality machine that you can use whenever you need it is a bargain.
Q: Which massage heads are most important?
Q: How quickly will a handheld massager relieve my muscle soreness?