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No massage therapist needed: Massage guns to ease your aching muscles

Massage guns offer a cheaper, more convenient option to a massage therapist


Regardless of whether your muscles get sore via exercise or work, modern massage guns can provide the relief for which a traditional massage therapist may charge $50-$150 per hour. Besides being a cheaper alternative, they are also far more convenient – and you can even incorporate them into pre- or post-workout stretching regiments at home or at the gym. Their popularity has exploded since the first modern “percussive” massager, the Theragun, came out in 2016. Now there are myriad devices to consider with varying features and wide-ranging costs. Check out the following selection of massage guns. Hopefully one fits the bill for both your muscles and wallet.

The OG at an entry-level price: The aforementioned Theragun is notable for its patented triangle handle that gives users flexible positioning options. This version is a one-button, three-speed device that should work just fine for the average user looking to relieve back pain, soothe neck tension or simply aiming to relax before bed. It comes with three attachments. The “standard ball” is the general all-body workhorse. The smaller “thumb” is designed to target trigger point and painful knots, and the dampener is designed to provide a more cushioned relief to tender or sensitive areas.

  • Includes 3 attachments: the Dampener, the Standard Ball and the Thumb
  • Features 3 speeds

Back-specific massage gun: “Oh, my aching back!” is something nearly everyone is likely to say at some point in their life. If you are looking for a massage gun specifically for your back, then a unit with an extended handle and a U-shape may be just what Dr. Amazon ordered. Think of it as a traditional back scratcher with a built-in massage therapist. In this scenario you obviously want to zero in on the back-friendly handle, but also make sure that the device includes multiple massage heads and operates at various speed levels.

U-shaped design and extended handle

Articulating massage gun: If reaching your back isn’t enough and you want to be able massage nearly every part of your body without contorting yourself into a pretzel, then a massage gun that offers both an extension handle and an articulating arm is your best bet. Plus, the last thing you want to be doing post-workout is wearing yourself out further by simply attempting to massage your muscles. Make sure the unit has a long battery life and comes with multiple heads and speed modes.

  • Extra-long 6” extension handle with textured grip
  • Features heated massage head

Travel-friendly option: If your massage gun sessions become a daily ritual, chances are that you are going to feel the need to find a unit that you can bring along for your travel. This scenario is all about finding a powerful, reliable massager in a smaller package. The Theragun Mini checks all these boxes as it is 20% smaller and 30% lighter than their standard units, while still utilizing the same attachment heads. It even connects to the Therabody app via Bluetooth.

  • Ergonomic grip
  • 3 foam attachments

Heated massage gun: Another intriguing option in the massage gun universe is the heated head attachment. These are generally rechargeable attachments that introduce an element of heat to the massage experience. If you have tried other units and feel that you could benefit from some muscle warming during your massage sessions, then these are a good call. Just make sure that the heated head attachment shape (ball, flat, arc, etc.) is one that you prefer for general use on various areas of your body. You can buy heated attachment heads separately, but it’s probably best to find a unit that comes with one to ensure compatibility will not be an issue.

  • Features HeatBall technology
  • Quiet motor

Massage gun with multiple accessories: If you’re the type of person that wants a massage gun with all the bells and whistles to show up magically on your doorstep in a single box, then the Muscle Buddy deep tissue massager may be just what you’re looking for. It comes packed with 10 different attachment heads (including standards, such as ball, U-shape and bullet), but what sets this unit apart is that the flat head also gives you the option for heating and cooling relief via an LED touch display on the unit.

  • Heat up to 107°F and cool down to 61°F
  • 20 speed levels
  • 10 interchangeable heads

The Rolls Royce of massage guns: Whether you have tried multiple massage guns and you just want to up your game, or you just want superior performance from the get-go, the Theragun Elite should be your pick. It features Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to connect the Elite to the Therabody app where you can follow guided routines and save three of your favorite speed and time settings directly to your device. The internal lithium-ion battery can last up to 120 minutes and five attachments (dampener, standard ball, wedge, thumb and micro-point) are included with the unit.

  • App-guided routines
  • Rechargeable

BONUS BUY: The back buddy wall mount

If you are looking to get a great back massage from your massage gun but feel you need more pressure on your skin than the extended handle options can offer, then consider purchasing a clamping massage gun holder that can be installed on a wall, door frame or cylinder. After the unit is installed at a height that works for you, simply place the massage gun inside, tighten it so it doesn’t move, turn on the unit, and mimic a bear scratching its back on a tree. What a genius concept!

  • Lasts up to 3 hours with continuous use
  • Designed to fit most massage guns

Dryw Keltz is a freelance writer living in San Diego County. He has written hundreds of news features, human interest profiles, and film and music reviews over the course of his 20-plus-year career. Keltz has a bachelor’s degree in English writing with an emphasis on creative non-fiction from the University of Pittsburgh.