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You don’t have to be a serious athlete or fitness buff to appreciate a massage gun. Sure, their intention is to release tight muscles and increase mobility, but they can also help if your neck gets sore from sleeping on the wrong pillow or your hips are tight after a long hike. And a muscle massager is less expensive than going to see a massage therapist.
Tony Gentilcore, cofounder of high-performance training facility Cressey Sports Performance and a certified strength and conditioning specialist, said that the convenience of using a massage gun is a great perk. “People who work out, who are training, they are going to get sore and a massage gun gives them easy access to soft tissue therapy that doesn’t require them to travel or pay the price of a massage therapist.”
How do muscle massage guns work?
Massage guns offer a different sort of therapy than you’d normally get from a massage or physical therapist, even ones who specialize in sports. These massage guns offer a percussive massage treatment, which combines elements of traditional massage and vibration therapy, Leada Malek, a licensed physical therapist and board-certified sports specialist with her own virtual practice, told BuzzFeed News.
“Massage can reduce tension in muscles and impact flexibility by reducing muscle stiffness, increasing blood flow and so forth,” she said. “With the massage gun, the idea is that you combine those treatments to prepare for activity and/or prime for recovery.”
Gentilcore said that massage guns can temporarily improve your range of motion, but those improvements aren’t going to stick unless you also incorporate other methods to help maintain that new range. Muscle massagers generally provide transient, short-term benefits, though that’s really all they’re intended to provide, he said.
In a small 2020 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, researchers looked at the effect of five minutes of handheld percussive massage on the calf muscles of 16 healthy men who were recreational athletes. They found that there was an increase in the range of motion similar to what you would get with a conventional massage. Massage in general (using hands rather than a massage gun) has been associated with small improvements in flexibility and delayed onset muscle soreness.
How and when to use a muscle massager
Laura Pachnos, a senior coach at Solidcore in New York City who is also a certified instructor in vinyasa yoga, spin, and Pilates, recommends using a massage gun if your muscles feel tight when you wake up or before a workout. She incorporates it into her own stretching routine, especially after heavy lifting days.
“Basically if you’re feeling like you need it, do it,” Pachnos said.
Though they’re a great option for loosening up tight muscles, Malek advises against using massage guns on any acute injury or areas of inflammation, such as a muscle strain. You should also avoid using them on a bony prominence, which is any part of the body where the bone is directly under the skin without a padding of fat or muscle.
She suggested staying away from bony points and smaller joints altogether, and using the softest attachment anywhere that feels tender. “If you’re feeling more soreness or pain or bruising, you definitely overdid it,” said Malek.
Which massage gun should you get?
Personally, Malek likes massage guns that beat at a higher-than-average amplitude. The Theragun Pro, for example, beats at 16 millimeters of amplitude and 40 beats per second, while other less expensive options may not have comparable motors so they’re working at a different level of impact. That intensity is her preference, but she did note that a slightly weaker motor likely won’t alter the effects dramatically.
One thing she did recommend is a massage gun that comes with different head attachments. Various muscles and parts of the body require different kinds of pressure, so having multiple options lets you target each area safely and effectively.
Our experts specifically mentioned Hypervolt and Theragun as the most sturdy and reliable massage guns, and they also have the strongest motors and number of attachments. Both companies make a wide variety of muscle massagers that meet different needs and have different price points as well.
Pachnos favors Hypervolt since it’s less expensive than Theragun and offers all of the same features and results (in her experience). However, she also purchased a generic massage gun on Amazon for her dad and found it to be just as good.
The best muscle massager for you may depend on your activity level, the type of exercise you do, how or where you plan to use it, and your budget. All of these are great options, Theragun included, so you really can’t go wrong.
This massage gun has a hefty price, but we couldn’t ignore the brand that most experts agree is the best. The Elite is the company's more premium mid-level option, landing in between the professional-grade Pro, Prime, and the Mini when it comes to both power and price point. In the less expensive models, there tend to be fewer attachments. Theragun Elite has the same technology and sound insulation as the Pro, which helps keep the volume down. This massage gun has an ergonomic grip, customizable speed range, app integration, and five different heads. Each head has a different impact level and is intended to be used on a specific body part. Overall, the Elite looks sleek, feels sturdy, and delivers deep muscle treatment no matter which attachment you use.
Promising review: “This thing is a life saver! Before COVID forced us to stay at home, I used to get regular massages to keep my body in check. With that no longer an option, I had to pivot to something else. The Theragun is the perfect alternative and pays for itself in just a few sessions. I almost prefer it to in-person massages, because I can use it at my own convenience, choosing the right speed and attachment for my muscles.” —Rachel
What else to consider: While the Prime and Mini are probably the most popular options from Theragun, the Elite offers a bit more functionality without getting into Pro splurge territory. That also means it’s bulkier than those two, but the carrying case keeps everything organized and compact. Some reviewers noted that it was actually too powerful for their liking, so be aware it can be intense and make sure to use the proper attachments.
Best for: anyone interested in the premium, name-brand Theragun experience for powerfully deep muscle massage that’s somewhere in between their most intense/expensive offering and the smallest/cheapest option.
You can buy the Theragun Elite from Amazon for around $399.
The Hypervolt Plus is probably as close as you can get to a Theragun without paying for an actual Theragun. Though the Hyperice massage guns do start at a lower price point than the Theraguns, this premium mid-level option isn’t much less than the Theragun Prime, but it is more in line with the Elite when it comes to features. The Hypervolt GO is likely the best option if you’re looking for something light and reliable with as much power as you can get for under $200. The Plus, however, comes with five different head attachments, three speeds, and a sensor that gives you a digital indication of how much pressure you’re applying. The design is more basic than the equivalent Theraguns, so it may be less ergonomic, yet it still looks sleek and compact with a 30-watt motor and technology to keep the rumbling sound to a minimum.
Promising review: “Purchased as a gift for my 16-year-old basketball playing son. Purchased the Bluetooth model and he loves it. Use it pre- and post-workout. Able to reduce muscle cramping following a good workout. More intense than using foam rolling, which was his practice before this purchase. He uses it nearly every day. No muscle stiffness since he started using this. Easy to get started right out of the box. You won’t regret this purchase.” —TheShopper
What else to consider: One reviewer compared this model directly to the Theragun Elite and actually preferred it for force, speed, and ergonomics. It doesn’t come with a case, which makes it less convenient for travel, and some reviewers noted that it’s still quite loud at times.
Best for: those in need of some serious muscle tension release who want good value without splurging on a Theragun. Essentially, it’s the next best thing, or actually even better according to some experts.
You can buy the Hyperice Hypervolt Plus from Amazon for around $280.
While these Amazon dupes may not give you the same power as the name-brand options, some, like this Toloco option, are still solid and extremely well-reviewed for a fraction of the price. The Toloco muscle massager offers the same type of handheld, deep tissue percussive massage and has 20 speeds and 10 different massage heads. It’s very lightweight, which can make it feel poorly made, but the silicone handle is comfortable to hold and the carrying case allows you to easily take it on the go. The touchscreen display also makes it very straightforward to use while monitoring speed and power levels.
Promising review: “Amazing product! Amazing price! My wife has scoliosis so we decided to get something to relax her muscles and massage her simultaneously. Definitely helps her with pain and the battery life seems to be great so far! This product deserves every bit of their 5 star rating!! We love it!” —Bodhi Hines
What else to consider: There is a newer version of this massage gun for the same price, which could be even better, but it only has a fraction of the reviews. If you still trust them and want to jump straight to the most updated option, that could be the way to go.
Best for: people who don’t mind an off-brand massage gun that’ll get the job done, according to thousands of reviews that vouch for the quality.
You can buy the Toloco Massage Gun from Amazon for around $100.
Sometimes one head just isn’t enough. If that’s your experience, you should try this double-headed massage gun that allows you to target more muscle tissue with each placement. There are two staggered motors to maximize pressure from each head, both of which can be swapped for any of the attachment options. It’s lightweight and promises to remain quiet even at the fastest speed of 3,200 strokes per minute (rpm).
Promising review: “Very satisfied upon opening the package when it arrived. Was surprised to see that it comes with a carrying case, all the attachments fit in their own slots plus it was 60 percent charged so ready to use right out of the case. Instructions were included also but a bit hard to decipher but got familiar with it regardless. Works as I expected plus it was recommended by my physical therapist who is treating me for a recent neck surgery.” —Amazon Customer
What else to consider: While most reviewers noted that it is fairly easy to operate once you get the hang of it, the instructions can apparently be a bit confusing so it may take a minute. Some also reported receiving defective guns that they were never able to get working, but the majority had perfectly adequate functionality. It won’t be the same quality or power as the more expensive guns, but the double-headed design is definitely a plus for certain muscle areas.
Best for: targeting more muscle tissue for effective though less powerful massaging. If you prefer lower intensity or are OK with that as long as it’s more affordable and works, go for it.
You can buy the Fishda Double Head Massage Gun from Amazon for around $160.
For better or worse, I am often swayed by aesthetics. Given that disclaimer, this massage gun is by far the most tempting to me at first glance. The minimalist matte design of the gun and compact accessories/storage dock is visually appealing. It also comes in a variety of colors to match your decor vibe. The company claims it targets muscles and safely stimulates the nervous system with a lower amplitude and therapeutic range of frequencies. That supposedly means it requires less pressure to achieve the same benefits for a more comfortable, less aggressive massage experience. There are four functional massage heads and the docking station doubles as an induction charger, which gives it up to four hours of life per full charge. Another perk is that the Lyric has Wi-Fi connectivity, giving you regular access to new therapies and content and allowing your device to be updated without having to buy a newer version.
Promising review: “My favorite thing about the Lyric is that unlike other massage guns it doesn’t feel like you’re getting beat up when you use it. My second favorite thing is the extension arm, it makes it easier to relax while you’re using it and lets you reach places you’re not able to with the short handle. I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact the the docking station is also a wireless charger AND holds the interchangeable heads. It really is a beautiful, effective and easily usable product. I recommend it 100 times over.” —Lizzy via Target
What else to consider: If you’re aiming for maximum power for the price, this is probably not the muscle massager for you, but if you prefer less intensity with more range, it’s a great option. Reviewers noted that the software updates are a bonus and continuously help the device function more effectively.
Best for: my fellow aesthetic-minded folk who want a gentle, far-reaching muscle massage.
You can buy the Lyric Therapeutic Massager from Target for around $200.
Didn’t think a deep tissue muscle massager for under $100 with thousands of 5-star reviews existed? Sportneer somehow made that happen. Though the device won’t quite give you that Theragun power, it’s equipped with a high-torque brushless motor, five speed levels, and 11 millimeters of stroke amplitude. There are also six different massage heads and five vibration modes to safely target any part of the body. Sportneer claims to use the newest sound reduction technology to max out at 45 decibels so that the noise won’t bother you or anyone else, and it comes in a compact case that’s ideal for travel.
Promising review: “I’m an avid runner and always work out. Constantly need a form of recovery along with my yoga and stretching. This does wonders for my fascia and eliminating any deep knots I have. I was debating between this and Theragun but this price won me over. I was pleasantly surprised with the packaging, the replacement parts, all the different heads available for different pain and healing management and just the product overall. It is very silent compared to others I’ve used and battery is lasting forever before the next charge. Highly recommended!!” —AC
What else to consider: Most reviewers were very impressed by the quality of this product given how much less it costs than other comparable products, but keep in mind that it’s still not going to feel quite as powerful or solid as the more expensive name brands.
Best for: the most bang for your buck, as they say, aka great value for the price.
You can buy the Sportneer Deep Tissue Muscle Percussion Massager Gun from Amazon for around $85.
The brand name Sharper Image makes me feel nostalgic for the early 2000s, and since the retail stores went out of business, I actually had no idea that they were still making products. Given my shock that this Sharper Image massage gun even existed, I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance and great reviews given its reasonable price in this category. The aesthetics are strong, which I admittedly value too much, with a matte black exterior and bright orange detailing. It has a long handle similar to that of the Lyric, but a larger barrel that resembles the more powerful guns on this list. It also claims to use an industrial-grade motor for whisper quiet yet powerful deep tissue percussive massage. Five different attachment heads are included, as well as a lightweight and compact carrying case.
Promising review: “I have one of these massagers and love it. This one was for my son. I use it on my scar tissue, and sore muscles all over my body. The three speeds make it easy to get the depth of pressure you want!” —Teaches1, via Target
What else to consider: It may not be the most intense or longest-lasting device on the market, but it is quite sleek and available at a much lower price point than other muscle massagers.
Best for: a solid massage gun that allows you to look good while relieving muscle tension.
You can buy the Sharper Image Deep Tissue Massager from Target for around $98.
The design of this muscle massager almost reminds me of a drill, but that’s part of why it’s appealing if you want to get really deep into your muscle tissue. It looks sturdy and ergonomic with fingertip access to speed adjustments for easy and intuitive use. It’s not as quiet as some other options, but promises to keep the volume relatively low for a whopping 3,000 strokes per minute at 12 millimeters of amplitude. There are also five different massage heads included, varying intensity levels to best suit your needs and thousands of great reviews from satisfied customers.
Promising review: “I’m a personal trainer and MMA fighter, so I’m always having to work on myself. I’ve used other percussion guns and this one has been great. The soft tip on this tool is amazing and really helps relax the muscle. I highly recommend giving it a shot.” —Favian Gutierrez
What else to consider: The only complaint multiple reviewers seemed to have was about the battery life. It says that it can run for three to six hours per charge, which is a strangely wide range, so we cannot speak to exactly how much use you’ll be able to get out of it before needing to juice it up again.
Best for: a drill-style massage gun that allows you to hold on tight and get deep into those muscles for maximum targeted relief.
You can buy the Sonic Handheld Percussion Massage Gun from LifePro Fitness for around $120.
With more attachments (seven) and some of the highest speed and amplitude (up to 3,200 strokes per minute, 12 millimeters of amplitude), this Mebak muscle massage gun has earned 5 stars from an overwhelming majority of reviewers. It charges quickly and can last for up to three weeks of normal daily use, or three hours of continuous use.
Promising review: “This gun is amazing. I love the packaging that it comes with, it has a nice little case that you can carry with you everywhere. The gun already comes with some charge, so you can use it right away, which was awesome to me cause I received the gun after working on my feet the whole day. The battery lasts for about 3 hours if you use it continually. I only use it a few minutes throughout the day, so I don't have to charge as often. Another great feature is the noise level, the gun is super quiet, consequently providing you the chance to relax while in use.” —Juliana Ellis
What else to consider: This is definitely one of the larger guns and not the lightest, so while it does come with a hard shell carrying case, it’s probably not the best to travel with if you’re trying to save space.
Best for: superior speed and amplitude for less.
You can buy the Mebak Massage Gun from Amazon for around $120.
Finally, we’re on to the minis, because sometimes the priority is size and portability rather than power or bells and whistles. While this mini massage gun is newer and doesn’t have a ton of reviews, it’s adorable and literally pocket-sized, plus it promises great functionality. The Lola gun comes with four different massage heads, all able to give off high frequency vibration to provide deep massage, dissipate fatigue, relax muscles, and alleviate pain. It’s the only product in this space that’s made for women specifically, though it’s perfectly versatile enough to work for anyone (and comes in non-pink colors).
Promising review: “Don’t even think about buying the expensive counterparts. This has all you need, and more. Plus it’s small and portable. Great weight to it, and easy design. Very durable and the charge lasts for a long time!” —Spence11, via Nordstrom
What else to consider: The surprisingly small, lightweight design of this muscle massager means that it’s obviously not going to offer as much power as some of the bulkier options, but that’s reflected in the price. It also features quality aesthetics and durability that may make it worthwhile to have on hand.
Best for: keeping in your pocket as an on-the-go massage gun to use in conjunction with something more powerful back at home.
You can buy the Lola Portable Muscle Massage Therapy Device from Nordstrom for around $80.
Another mini massage gun that’s a smaller and more affordable alternative to the Theragun Mini, this FitRx option has a similar design to the Lola with a bit more functionality to offer. It’s compact, lightweight, and portable, making it ideal to use for travel or to keep at your desk at the office. It features four different heads and multiple speeds, reaching up to 3,200 strokes per minute, as well as 6.5 hours of battery life. It also comes with a hard carrying case to keep everything organized on the go.
Promising review: “I have purchased so many massage guns trying to find the best one for me and my needs. I have finally found it with the ProFit super mini! This is the smallest one I have and definitely the best! It is quiet but powerful. Compared to the larger models this one is super light and very easy to use. It does not make my arms ache while I am using it. I highly recommend!” —Julesinos
What else to consider: This very mini muscle massager packs a lot of power into a small size, though again it won’t achieve quite the same effect as one of the larger options. The vast majority of customers who reviewed this little guy gave it 5 stars.
Best for: those who like to have a muscle massager on them at all times that’s actually super lightweight and portable (enough to pop into your pocket).
You can buy the FitRx Mini Pro Massage Gun from Walmart for around $72.