Best Handheld Massagers of 2018

Rebecca Spear ·
Digital Photo Editing & Small Appliance Writer
Updated
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We have evaluated handheld massagers for the past three years. In our most recent evaluation, we spent over 26 hours researching and comparing 9 products. We looked for the best massage settings, convenience features and price ranges to determine which was the best. Our research helped us discover that the HoMedics Percussion Pro is the best overall hand massager due to the varying levels of pressure it offers combined with the ability for a heated massage. It's also less expensive than many other percussion-based handheld massagers while still having high user ratings.

Best Overall
HoMedics Percussion Pro
HoMedics Percussion Pro comes with two sets of interchangeable heads so you can choose the pressure level of your massage. It also offers heated massages to heal muscles and help you relax.
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Best Budget
Kikkerland AR18-A
Kikkerland AR18-A is a very simple scalp massager that doesn't use electricity. The nodes at the end of the fingers can help circulation in your scalp and can even stimulate hair growth.
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Best Portable
Brookstone MAX 2
Brookstone MAX 2 can work both corded and cordlessly so you don't need to be concerned about being near an outlet the whole time. The ergonomic handle also makes it easy to hold.
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Best for Deep Tissue Massage
The Thumper Mini Pro2’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 they can be used on all major muscle groups.
This handheld massager is especially effective as a back and shoulder massager, and it has a long, comfortable handle to help you reach all your aching muscles. The Thumper is about 13 inches long and weighs about 3 pounds. It has three speed settings measured at 20, 30 and 40 pulses per second – the lowest setting is geared toward relaxation, while the highest setting is designed for deep tissue massage. Unlike many handheld massagers, the Thumper Mini Pro2 isn’t cordless. While it requires a DC plug for power, its cord is long enough that it doesn’t limit the massager’s reach.
Pros
  • Has variable speed settings and a long handle
Cons
  • Isn’t cordless and lacks interchangeable heads
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Best Overall
The HoMedics Percussion Pro provides percussion massages that can penetrate deeper muscle groups than many other handheld devices. Also referred to by the model number HHP-350, the design of this model makes it easy to hold and allows you to massage hard-to-reach areas of your back.
You can even choose to have a heated massage, which can help heal sore muscles or simply relax you. There is no independent on or off switch, which means that if you are using the lowest massage settings, you will need to switch through all of the more intense massages before the device will shut off. While this isn't a serious problem, it can be inconvenient at the moment. It comes with two sets of heads: a softer set and a harder set. This allows you to choose the level of pressure and intensity you receive from your massages. Users have noted that switching these heads out is very simple and can be done in a matter of seconds. This device is relatively heavy, weighing eight pounds, so your arms will likely get tired quickly. Fortunately, the ergonomic handle makes it somewhat easier to hold. Since there is no battery, this device must always be plugged into an outlet.
Pros
  • It works well on deeper muscle groups.
  • The design allows you to reach all areas of your back.
  • It provides heated massages.
Cons
  • It cannot be used cordlessly.
  • It's a bit heavy, weighing 8 pounds.
  • You must go through every speed to shut it off.
$126.00Amazon
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Best Budget
The Kikkerland A18-A is a very specialized massager. It works best on your chest and scalp but doesn't really work in any other place.
Since it's only 1.6 ounces, you arms won't get tired very easily while using it. The handle comes in many assorted colors, however, you usually don't have any say in the handle color you receive. Since it is such a simple device it is a lot less expensive than the other devices we compared. There are nodes on the end of each of the fingers to help gently massage and sooth when making contact with your skin. You can change your angle of approach to slightly adjust the pressure of the massage. Not only is this relaxing but it can even stimulate hair growth for some users. It is only 9.5 inches tall, doesn't use electricity, and the fingers are flexible, which makes this an easy massager to pack and travel with. Unfotunately, if too much pressure is placed on the fingers, they can bend the wrong way and the metal can weaken. Since this is only a skin level deep massage, this device cannot be used to penetrate deeper muscle groups.
Pros
  • It's inexpensive.
  • It is very lightweight.
  • It is easy to pack when traveling.
Cons
  • It cannot massage as many places as other massagers.
  • It doesn't provide a deep tissue massage.
  • It can easily get bent.
$1.39Amazon
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Best Portable
The Brookstone MAX 2 is the perfect massager for traveling and since it can operate cordlessly you won't always need to be near an outlet to use it. The battery lasts for a decent amount of time so you will be able to get a good massage in before it needs to be recharged.
It also features two handles to help you or your partner get better control of it when giving a massage. Many users have reported that this battery-operated massager isn't as powerful as it's corded cousin, but it can still give decent massages. This percussion massager is strong enough to give deep tissue massages to areas like your back and glutes, which many other massagers we compared cannot do. You can adjust the speed of the Brookstone and it comes with three programmed massages to help you find the best settings for your needs. This is one of the most expensive units in our comparison. Although it offers several different in-depth massage features, it doesn't provided heated massages. Since this massager contained more mechanical parts than some other devices, it is heavier and will likely wear out your arms faster. Brookstone backs this massager with a one-year warranty, which is typical for devices in this price-range.
Pros
  • It offers multiple speed settings and three programmed massages.
  • It provides deeper muscle penetration.
  • The battery allows it to work cordlessly.
Cons
  • It doesn't provide a heated massage.
  • It isn't as powerful as the corded version.
  • It is an expensive device.
$167.21Amazon
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Best Heated Massager
The Prospera PL008 Penguin is an effective handheld massager with infrared heat that gradually warms your skin to deepen relaxation. It comes with two interchangeable massage heads and is an excellent tool for both relaxation and pain relief.
The Penguin uses percussion technology to stimulate your muscles, and it has two speed settings. On high, it delivers up to 3,000 pulses per minute for deep tissue massage. On low, it provides a more soothing, relaxing massage. This massager works well on your neck, back, arms and legs. Its massage heads cover the impact point and are designed for two purposes. The first head has a smooth surface and impacts the body with precise beats for targeted pain relief. The second has a bumpy surface and provides lighter massages. It’s important to keep this massager in motion during use. If you leave it in a single position for too long, its intense percussive action can bruise the target area. Also, the device must rest after 15 minutes of use to prevent overheating.
Pros
  • Has infrared elements for soothing heat
Cons
  • High speed setting may be too intense for some users
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Best for Deep Tissue Massage
The Thumper Mini Pro2’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 they can be used on all major muscle groups.
This handheld massager is especially effective as a back and shoulder massager, and it has a long, comfortable handle to help you reach all your aching muscles. The Thumper is about 13 inches long and weighs about 3 pounds. It has three speed settings measured at 20, 30 and 40 pulses per second – the lowest setting is geared toward relaxation, while the highest setting is designed for deep tissue massage. Unlike many handheld massagers, the Thumper Mini Pro2 isn’t cordless. While it requires a DC plug for power, its cord is long enough that it doesn’t limit the massager’s reach.
Pros
  • Has variable speed settings and a long handle
Cons
  • Isn’t cordless and lacks interchangeable heads
-
Read the full review

Why Trust Us? 

We have compared handheld massagers for the past three years. In our most recent evaluation, we considered 9 products, researching and comparing for over 26 hours. While we didn't test these objects ourselves, we relied heavily on user experiences to determine which products were the best. As we continued to research, we looked into user reviews to better understand the common experiences users had with each product. We looked to find products that were dependable, safe to use and offered a variety of massaging options. Products with safety concerns were removed from our comparison.

How We Evaluated  

We made a list of each massager's features so we could compare them against each other. Massagers that allow you to change the intensity or speed of a massage were given higher rankings since you are more likely to find the settings you want. We also gave more points to products that offered more preprogrammed massages, including heated massages. Some massagers only work well on one or two areas, while others can be used on most muscle groups. We gave more points to devices that offered more versatility.

We also gave more points to battery operated devices, since they didn't need to constantly be near an outlet in order to be used. This also meant that they were likely to be better travel companions. The size and weight of each device, was also looked at to see how easy they were to hold for long periods. Typically, massagers that were smaller and weigh less are easier to use. Products were also ranked higher if they were easier to grip by offering rubber handles or ergonomic designs.

With corded massagers, we gave more points when cords were longer. Usually, a nine-foot cord will give you plenty of flexibility to massage your body while being plugged in. Since only some of these massagers come with warranties, we gave more points to the products that were covered. We did not score products based on how much they cost, but we did note whether or not they were on the expensive side.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Handheld Massager 

Versatility & 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 typcially 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 Sources
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. Conversly, 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. Most people can plan to spend $30 to $70.