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Best handheld massagers 2020: Including the top percussion massagers

Best handheld massagers 2020: Including the top percussion massagers
(Image credit: Theragun)

The best handheld massagers are ideal for helping to relieve any pain, tension or soreness you may be feeling in your muscles, and are a fantastic way to help you unwind and relax before sleep. Percussive massagers are growing in popularity, and are used to deliver deep-tissue massage at home, saving you money in the longterm if you normally shell out for a masseuse.

When it comes to the current crop of the best handheld massagers, certain brands tend to dominate. Therabody, formerly known as Theragun, is one such company. This percussion massager brand makes jaw-droppingly good handheld massage tools designed to deliver a customized massage wherever you need it most. 

Theragun devices are expensive compared to most of the models in our guide to the best handheld massagers, but that's because they're true game-changers, enabling you to achieve a pro-level massage at home. They speed up recovery post-exercise, and can also be used to help you warm up before a workout. The latest model, the Theragun Mini, offers pre-sleep massage routines (via the companion app) to relax over-worked muscles before bed. 

Unlike back massagers or foot massagers, these portable massagers can be put to work on different parts of your body, ranging from your thighs and glutes to your arms and feet. The best handheld massagers do their job efficiently, without causing damage to your skin. Some of the more feature-rich portable massagers offer a heated massage function too, so you can enjoy the benefits of heat therapy at the same time.

Before we look at these massagers and how they could relieve any pressure or tension you're feeling, let's talk about discomfort. As you know, there are many causes for pain and tension in the body, including sleep on a mattress that isn't right for your sleep style. If you're experiencing pain, speak to a healthcare professional who is qualified to advise you on how to manage it and what treatment might be needed before you can start using one of the best handheld massagers for wellness at home.


1. Theragun Mini: Best handheld massager overall

Best handheld massagers: Therabody Theragun Mini

(Image credit: Theragun)

Therabody Theragun Mini

A small percussion massager for easing muscle soreness and tension

Powerful massage function
Relieves deep tension and soreness
Fantastically easy to use

Theragun massagers are some of the most coveted wellness products in the world, so we were very excited when the Theragun Mini landed. This dinky handheld massager is now the baby of the Theragun bunch, yet it still delivers an incredibly powerful performance despite its small stature. 

Therabody’s Theragun Mini is super-simple to use, with an on/off button and three speed settings to cycle between. As such, you can enjoy a more custom massage in the exact area you need it most. It’s a total game-changer among the best handheld massagers, and can be used on various parts of your body to ease muscle tension and soreness. 

You’ll be able to enjoy 150 minutes of use per full charge, with Therabody’s own QX35 Motor with QuietForce Technology helping to keep the noise down. We don’t agree with Therabody that it’s ‘so quiet you can hardly hear it’, but compared to other handheld massagers, it’s far more discreet.

We’d highly recommend the Theragun Mini to anyone looking to engage in a regular practice of deep tissue massage at home, and to gain relief from muscle soreness and tension. We'd also recommend it for enjoying a deeper sense of proper, full body relaxation to help you feel replenished, as via the Therabody app you can even find massage routines to perform to help relax your muscles ready for sleep.


2. Mighty Bliss Deep Tissue Back and Body Massager: Your neck needs this

Best handheld massagers_Mighty Bliss Deep Tissue Back and Body Massager

(Image credit: Mighty Bliss)

Mighty Bliss Deep Tissue Back and Body Massager

The best handheld massager for reducing neck stiffness

Instant relief from cramps
Quickly eases neck stiffness
Gets to work on knots and tension
Lifetime replacement guarantee

If you suffer from occasional pain or tension in your neck or upper back and shoulders due to intense exercise, posture issues or a non-ergonomic desk setup, and have been cleared by your doctor to use a handheld massager at home, the Mighty Bliss Deep Tissue Back and Body Massager is a good choice. It’s powerful and effective, pushing out 3,700RPM to relax tight muscles and ease cramps and muscle knots. 

While it isn’t the quietest model in our round-up of the best handheld massagers, it’s lightweight, easy to use and also one of the most versatile devices here. In fact, there are six different massage heads included to help you enjoy a range of different massage techniques on various parts of your body. This enables you to play around with what feels best for you. 

The Mighty Bliss handheld massager is safe for use on your back, arms, neck and legs, and is perfect for regular use as part of an at-home massage therapy treatment. You could also use it to warm up your muscles before a high intensity fitness class or workout, though nothing substitutes for proper stretching. 

The highest speed setting delivers a moderately intense massage pressure. In short, it will pummel away stiffness and cramps, providing immediate relief.

In terms of battery life, you’ll get around two hours of use per full charge, and it usually takes around an hour to charge the device. Bonus: you can even charge the massager while using it. Mighty Bliss also operates a ‘hassle-free’ lifetime replacement policy to boost your confidence when buying this massager. 


3. Thumper Massage Sport: Best back handheld massager

Best handheld massagers: Thumper Massager Sport

(Image credit: Thumper)

Thumper Massage Sport

Dealing with back and shoulder pain? Loosen up with this

Powerful massage
Great for fitness use
Slightly bulky in the hand

Enjoy a deep tissue massage at home with the Thumper Massager Sport, specifically designed for fitness fans who might be dealing with muscle soreness and tension after an intense workout. But you don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to get the most out of this handheld massager - it’ll work wonders for relieving everyday tension and pain too. 

The Thumper Massager Sport uses a ‘tapotement’ action, which is basically a form of percussion massage best suited to fleshier parts of the body such as the thighs. Like the Theragun Mini above, it’s designed to reach deeper into your muscles to offer deep tissue treatment. It isn’t as compact and simple to use as the Theragun Mini, but it does have a longer handle for dropping the massager right down into the middle of your back.

On the head of the massager you’ll see two interchangeable massage spheres that sit flush against your body to knead and work your muscles without dragging your skin. The Thumper Massager Sport also has variable speed control from 20-40 pulses per second. Once the speed is set, the Thumper will maintain that pulsation speed even if you apply extra pressure to the massager.

Thumper's massager is safe to use on all major muscle groups, such as your shoulders, back and legs, and can be wiped down with a damp cloth after use.


4. HoMedics Percussion Pro Heat: Best handheld massager for heat therapy

Best handheld massagers: HoMedics Percussion Pro Heat

(Image credit: HoMedics)

HoMedics Percussion Pro Massager Heat

A highly relaxing combination of heat and massage

Works well on deeper muscle groups
Provides heated massages
Heavier than most
Cycles through every speed to turn off

The HoMedics Percussion Pro With Heat Massager penetrates deeper muscle groups than many other handheld devices. The design makes it easy to hold while tackling those harder to reach areas of your back.

You can even choose to have a heated massage to boost recovery of tight or sore muscles. Let's be honest, heat is also massively relaxing, which makes this one of the best handheld massagers for simply relaxing and unwinding too. 

There is no independent on or off switch, so if you're using the Percussion Pro With Heat on the lowest speed setting, you'll need to cycle through every speed setting before the device will shut off. That's pretty annoying.

The HoMedics massager comes with two sets of heads, one of which is soft, one firm. This enables you to choose the level of pressure and intensity you receive from your massages. Changing the heads is simple too. 

The HoMedics Percussion Pro With Heat Massager is heavy, so our arms became tired quickly during testing. Fortunately, the ergonomic handle makes it somewhat easier to hold. Oh, and since there's no battery, you can't escape the mains outlet. The cord is a decent length though, so it's not a huge issue.


4. Renpho Rechargeable Handheld Massager: Best handheld massager for tight muscles

Best handheld massagers: Renpho Rechargeable Handheld Massager

(Image credit: Renpho)

Renpho Rechargeable Handheld Massager

Enjoy deep tissue massage on the go with this portable massager

Deep tissue massage
Quickly relaxes tight muscles
Five different massage heads
Basic design

The Renpho Rechargeable Handheld Massager comes with five different massage heads, each designed to provide a different massage technique for various parts of your body, such as your shoulders and thighs. The Renpho is superb at relaxing tight muscles, especially those in the upper back, and would suit people who are used to receiving a sports massage. 

If you’re looking for a relaxing handheld massager, this isn’t it - we’d point you instead towards the HoMedics Percussion Pro With Heat (above), or even the Wahl 4120-600 All-Body Massager (see further down this list). The Renpho is powerful and effective for a full body massage, though it will only run for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time to prevent the massager from overheating. 

It’s among the heavier models in our round-up of the best handheld massagers, but the pay-off is fast relief from aches and stiffness, with strong vibrations that travel deep into your muscles. The Renpho pumps out 3,600 pulses per minute to reduce pain, and each of the five heads can be swiftly switched in and out. As for battery life, it will run for roughly 140 minutes per full charge.


6. Thumper Mini Pro: Best handheld massager for deep tissue massage

Best handheld massagers: Thumper Mini Pro

(Image credit: Thumper)

Thumper Mini Pro 2 Body Massager

Designed to penetrate connective tissue for a deeper massage

Variable speed settings 
Easy-grip handle
Can't be used cordless
Lacks interchangeable heads

The Thumper Mini Pro 2’s massage head has two pulsing spheres that apply pressure to your muscles at varied rates. The spheres perform well both on dry skin and over light clothing, and can be used on all major muscle groups.

This handheld massager is especially effective as a back and shoulder massager, and sports a long, comfortable handle to help you reach all your aching muscles. The Thumper has three speed settings measured at 20, 30 and 40 pulses per second – the lowest setting is geared more toward relaxation, while the highest setting is designed for deep tissue massage.

Annoyingly, the Thumper Mini Pro 2 isn’t cordless. However, while it requires a DC plug for power, its cord is long enough that it doesn’t limit the massager’s reach.


Best handheld massagers: Wahl 4120-600 All-Body Massager

(Image credit: Wahl )

7. Wahl 4120-600: Best handheld massager for beginners

Wahl 4120-600 All-Body Massager

New to at-home massage therapy? Start with this body massager

Easy to use
Four interchangeable heads
Longer length cord
Only two speeds

Wahl proves yet again that you don’t need to spend a fortune in order to enjoy a spot of massage therapy at home, though we will say that the therapy on offer here is very light compared to the likes of the Theragun Mini and the HoMedics Percussion Pro With Heat. That’s because the Wahl 4120-600 All-Body Massager is an entry-level model with two basic speed settings, whereas the other massagers are far more powerful. 

The Wahl body massager provides a relaxing massager and is a good tool to use if you need a hand unwinding in the evenings. On the highest setting it can also be used to help you warm down after exercise, though the Theragun is better for boosting recovery post-workout. 

Wahl’s body massager compares favorably in terms of price though, as it costs a fraction of what the top-performing models do. And considering that you get four interchangeable heads with this handheld massager, that’s impressive for the sub-$30 price tag. 

While we’d prefer it to be a cordless design, the cord is plenty long enough to not hold you back or impede your freedom when massaging yourself or another person. If you’re new to self-massage and want a simple to use device that provides a soothing massage, and don’t need deep tissue therapy, this is definitely the best handheld massager for you.


8. Kikkerland Scalp Massager: Best handheld massager for your head

Best handheld massagers: Kikkerland scalp massager AR18-A

(Image credit: Kikkerland)

Kikkerland AR18-A Massager

A cheap and fun way to massage your scalp

Lightweight
Affordable
Easy to use
Easily bends out of shape 

The Kikkerland AR18-A Massager is a very specialized handheld massager, on that it works best on your scalp but doesn't really work effectively on other parts of your body. Since it weighs just 1.6oz, you arms won't get tired when using it, and as it's such a simple device, it's infinitely less expensive than the other massagers above.

There are nodes on the end of each massagers 'fingers' to gently massage and sooth your scalp. You can change your angle of approach to slightly adjust the pressure of the massage. Not only is this relaxing, it helps stimulate blood flow. The Kikkerland AR18-A Massager is only 9.5 inches tall and the fingers are flexible, which makes this a massager that's easy to pack and travel with.

Unfortunately, if too much pressure is placed on those fingers they will bend the wrong way and the metal will weaken, so be careful with it. Ultimately, if you want more of a sensory massage experience, and are focused more on your scalp than releasing muscle tension or pain, this one is fun to use.


Best handheld massagers: a woman enjoys a head massage from a handheld scalp massager tool

(Image credit: Getty)

Choosing the best handheld massager for you

When it comes to figuring out which is the best handheld massager for you, there are some things to consider...

Versatility and focus areas
Some massagers are only good for one or two areas of the body, while others can work just about any muscle group they come across. Additionally, some massagers are very gentle and only work skin deep, while others are more powerful and can work deep tissues. Mechanical devices will often provide various speed and massage settings so you can customize your sessions.

Typically, the more powerful massagers that provide deep tissue massages are filled with more mechanical parts. This often makes them heavier so it might be difficult to hold them for long periods. They also tend to be more expensive. Massagers that are built for simple relaxation will usually just use vibration or non-mechanical means in order to sooth and relax your skin and muscles. These devices are typically lighter and inexpensive so you won’t strain your hands or arms as quickly.

Heat settings
Heating abilities provide greater versatility to regular massages. They can help relieve pain in sore muscles to help them heal better as well as improve blood circulation in your body to reduce tension. This is not a necessary feature but it can definitely help you relax more.

Power
Some handheld massagers need to be plugged into an outlet in order to work while others are battery-operated. Corded massagers tend to have more power and often cost less than battery-operated units. Conversely, battery powered massagers are usually less powerful but cost more. They also give you more freedom to move around during a session since you won't have to be right next to an outlet in order to use them.

Price
We reviewed handheld massagers ranging in price from under $1.99 to over $199. The difference in price is related to each device’s design, functionality and quality. Massagers with multiple settings generally cost more, as do massagers that have enough power to provide deep, therapeutic pain relief.


Bets handheld massagers: a woman massages the back of her neck

(Image credit: Getty)

Best handheld massagers: types of massage

Shiatsu massage
This focuses on pressure points and works well on tight muscles. This style of massage is good for most healthy people, though the intensity level can be high. If you have any back injuries you should avoid this type of massager, though it can feel really good on typically strained muscles like the shoulders.

Rolling massage
Common among handheld massagers, as it involves applying constant pressure along the part of the body you're massaging. This is good if you have a hands-on job, like construction work, and is a low-impact way to stimulate the muscles in the lower back. This is a low- to medium-impact style of massage, so it's suited for most people.

Kneading massage
Less common among handheld massagers. This is done with a circular motion, usually on both sides of the spine. This is good for soothing tension and working on particularly strained pressure points. This type of massage also has high-level intensity.

Percussive massage
Can be done with some handheld massagers depending on the style. It's done through a series of rapid movements over a spot on the body for a short period of time. While it looks a little violent, this style of massage can relax your muscles and is effective for athletes.

Heated massage
Adding heat to any of the aforementioned styles of massage can take your massage to the next level. Heat relaxes muscles, making them more susceptible to the kind of massage you’re doing. Heat also reduces the possibility of injuring or straining muscles with a handheld massager.

Technology can help us deal with a range of health and wellness issues. From a preventative standpoint, good sleep and regular exercise can boost your health, so take a look at our guides to the best mattress online and the best pillow for different sleep styles, plus our guides to the best treadmills and the best fitness trackers to help you move more often.