The Best Handheld Percussion Massagers for Effective Pain Soothing, Recovery and Trigger Point Relief

Whether you’re an athlete, you spend a lot of time at a work desk or you just want a simple way to relieve stress, massage is key to improving your health and well-being.

This guide has everything you should know about handheld percussion massagers and the best ones on the market.

We’ll start with what electric percussion massagers are, how they work and the benefits you can expect from them.

We’ll also review the pros and cons of 7 massagers and select one that stands out as the cream of the crop.


What Is an Electric Percussion Massager?

A handheld percussion massager is a tool you can use independently to relieve muscle pain and tightness wherever and whenever you need to.

It’s electric but portable, and if other types of massagers haven’t worked for you, a percussion massager could be well worth a try.

A typical massage uses pressure and kneading to work out muscle knots and restore blood flow to tight muscles.

Percussion massagers provide another form of massage therapy called percussion therapy (sometimes called vibration massage therapy).

Percussion therapy consists of rapid pulses that apply pressure and vibrate the muscle tissues, boosting blood flow and relaxing your muscles.

Increased circulation allows oxygen and nutrients to enter muscle tissue and toxins to be carried out.

This way, tissue damage gets repaired and muscle function is improved.

This is how percussion therapy relieves pain and enhances muscle flexibility, range of motion and performance.

Who Can Benefit from Percussion Therapy?

Percussion therapy helps your muscles recover faster from strenuous exercise, which can help you perform better in sports and get more workouts in each week.

It also reduces your risk of injury when used after exercise because it softens stiff tissue and breaks down adhesions.

In addition to athletes and anyone with an intense workout regimen, percussion therapy can also benefit people who have stiff, tight muscles but find more traditional forms of massage too painful.

Percussion therapy is able to penetrate deep muscle tissue without the need for painful pressure because it works by gradually shocking the muscle fibres to break up tension until the tissue is fully penetrated [1].

Anyone who sits for a long time at a desk can also benefit from percussion therapy, as well as people with chronic back pain and stiffness.


Which Type of Massager is Right for You?

There are many types of massagers on the market and finding the right type for you will usually determine the amount of relief you’ll get from a massager.

In this section, we’ll take a look at the various types of massagers so that you can be sure that a percussion massager is the right one for you.

Massage Pillows

Shiatsu massage pillows are small massagers that typically work by kneading muscles with small rolling balls, and some of them have a heating feature to better loosen muscles.

Some massage pillows also have a vibration feature.

Percussion massagers are different because they have a narrow point of pressure that vibrates, as opposed to the whole pillow moving.

Massage pillows are easily portable and are generally in the same price range as a percussion massager.

Shoulder and Neck Massagers

Shoulder and neck massagers work just like massage pillows, but they’re designed to fit around your neck and over your shoulders to give a complete massage.

As opposed to massage pillows, you don’t have to adjust shoulder and neck massagers and move them around your body.

However, they don’t give you as many options for massage, as they’re primarily designed only for neck and shoulder muscles.

They’re generally pricier than massage pillows, but more convenient and comfortable to use if you just want to target your neck and shoulders.

Massage Chair Pads

Shiatsu massage chair pads massage your back when you sit in a chair or on a couch, which makes them convenient at a work desk.

To use one you simply place the large pad over your favourite chair.

They generally have rolling balls that knead muscles, but many also feature vibration and heating options.

When it comes to self-massage tools, these massagers are at the more expensive end of the spectrum.

TENS Unit

A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit consists of pads you adhere to your muscles in order to relieve pain.

The TENS unit works by emitting electrical currents that contract and relax the muscles, stimulating nerve endings and interrupting pain signals that are sent to your brain.

As far as pricing goes, the TENS unit is more comparable to a percussion massager.

It’s most convenient for people managing chronic pain, as opposed to people with sore or tight muscles looking to recover or relax.

Massage Sticks

A Trigger point massage stick is a tool that helps you massage yourself accurately and deeply, whether you need it on your back, neck, shoulders or anywhere else.

They’re less expensive than most other massage tools and are easy to transport.

Although they take more effort to use compared to something like a massage chair pad, massage sticks work well for people with specific pain points and muscle knots that need to be worked out, as opposed to people who just want to relax.


What to Look for When Choosing a Percussion Massager

If you decide that percussion therapy is the way to go for you, here are some things you should consider when choosing a percussion massager:

Comfort and Ease of Use

Your handheld massager should be easy to grip and allow you to reach almost any area without strain.

It should be durable enough to last, but not so heavy that it’s tiring to use

Power

You want your percussion massager to have a strong motor so that it applies a decent amount of pressure rather than a mere “buzz” that only massages on the surface.

Most muscle pain and tension is rooted deep in the tissue, so handheld massagers need plenty of horsepower to penetrate sufficiently.

Percussion Mechanism

The percussion mechanism on a handheld massager, often called a “hammer,” should be strong enough to penetrate your muscles deeply and transfer the vibration from the devices motor, all the way into your muscle tissue.

If the percussion mechanism is too flimsy, the power from the motor doesn’t go far.

Heat Option

While you don’t need heat to get a good massage, research shows that the application of heat during a massage improves pain relief [2].

Some handheld massagers offer a heating feature, while most of them don’t.


The Top 7 Handheld Percussion Massagers Worth Considering

If you suffer from muscle pain or tightness, trying out percussion therapy with a handheld massager is worth a try.

Let’s take a look at 7 of the best percussion massagers on the market today.

1. Pure-Wave CM7 Massager by Pado

PUREWAVE CM-07 Dual Motor Percussion + Vibration Therapy Massager (Black) | Official Patented CM-07...
  • RECOMMENDED BY CHIROPRACTORS, PHYSICAL THERAPISTS...
  • DUAL MOTOR DESIGN:  Powerful Percussion &...
  • PATENTED | MADE IN KOREA | FDA REGISTERED #2349002

Pros

  • You can use it to relieve facial and scalp tension
  • It has a strong motor
  • You can change out the percussion mechanisms for different effects


Cons

  • Battery weakens over time
  • More expensive than other models

The Pure Wave CM7 handheld percussion massager gives you six different attachments that are made to use on different parts of your body and to treat different types of pain.

In addition to its regular percussion mode, it also has a facial vibration mode that lets you gently massage your temples, scalp, face and jaw.

Because of this feature, it’s a good choice if you suffer from jaw tension or TMJ, or if you get tension headaches.

It has a padded attachment you can use to protect bones from the percussion mechanism as you guide the massager along your muscles.

The drawback to the Pure Wave CM7 is that its battery gets weaker with regular use, which eventually means you can only use it for a short massage before you need to set it aside and let it charge again.

It’s also pricier than most competitors.

That being said, it is generally viewed as the best all-rounder percussion massager on the market.


2. RENPHO Rechargeable Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager

RENPHO Rechargeable Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager for Muscles, Back, Foot, Neck, Shoulder, Leg,...
  • RENPHO Deep Tissue Massager Relieves Pains for...
  • Powerful Motor and Safety Design: Great motor with...
  • Portable and Flexibility: Hand held and Cordless...

Pros

  • Round attachment heads let you knead muscles firmly
  • Relatively low priced


Cons

  • Vibration isn’t very strong
  • Heavy to hold

The Renpho Rechargeable lets you change between 5 different attachments for different percussion effects.

Two of them are firm, round attachments that help you get a deeper, firmer massage if you need something more intense to work out a muscle knot.

There are also 3-point heads that give you a wider area of percussion therapy.

Unfortunately, many users find this massager heavy and hard to hold for longer massages.

Its vibration also doesn’t have as much horsepower as its competitors, but its attachments are quite firm on the muscles.

If you’re looking for something with a great vibration, however, this may not be the one for you.


3. NURSAL Handheld Deep Percussion Massager

Sale
6 Interchangeable Nodes Massager, NURSAL Handheld Deep Percussion Massager with Heat, Variable Speed...
  • 6 INTERCHANGEABLE NODES: This NURSAL portable...
  • VARIABLE SPEED ADJUSTMENT: With the variable speed...
  • PERCUSSION ACTION MASSAGER WITH HEAT: With just...

Pros

  • Low price
  • Choose your intensity by changing the percussion speed


Cons

  • Too clunky
  • Some users find the heat function doesn’t always work

The Nursal massager is one of the most affordable percussion massagers on the market.

You can adjust its percussion speed and choose between 6 different attachment heads. It also has a heat function to loosen up your muscles even more.

It doesn’t use a battery, so it needs to be plugged in during use.

This makes it less portable, but prevents issues with battery and charge status.

Many users also found it too large and heavy, and the heat function is prone to giving out with use.


4. Brookstone Max 2 Cordless Dual-Node Percussion Massager

Brookstone Max 2 Cordless Dual-Node Percussion Massager
  • Cordless design powered by a rechargeable,...
  • Unlimited reach helps you to soothe sore muscles...
  • Lightweight and durable machined-aluminum body...

Pros

  • Pricey
  • Long battery life


Cons

  • Harder to target small areas

The Brookstone Max 2 is made with aluminium that makes it elegant and more durable, but also costs more than most percussion massagers.

Although it’s battery-powered, its battery lasts longer than other massagers such as the Renpho Rechargeable, as the Brookstone gives you 3 hours before you have to charge it.

You can customize your massage and regulate the intensity by choosing between 5 speeds and 3 massage programs.

The head of this percussion massager is larger than most, which lets you massage a larger area at a time but makes it harder to target precise trigger points.

If you want a massager that provides simple percussion therapy, the dual-node massager with 3 different massage styles is more than what you’re looking for.


5. Pure-Wave CM5 Extreme Cordless Percussion Massager

PUREWAVE CM-05 Percussion Therapy Massager (White) | Treat pain for back, sciatica, neck, leg, foot,...
  • POWERFUL, GENTLE & QUIET: High Quality Cordless...
  • MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS: Most Versatile Massager for...
  • 3 MASSAGE TIPS: Deep Tissue, Swedish, Acupressure...

Pros

  • Easy and comfortable to use
  • Lightweight and easily portable


Cons

  • Reported to break easily

Like the Brookstone massager, the Pure Wave CM5 has a long battery life, giving you up to 3 hours of use.

Its small size, light weight and curved design makes it easy and comfortable to reach your back.

In spite of its size, the Pure Wave CM5 massager has a powerful motor that delivers a strong pulse.

You can change between different nodes and percussion speeds to customize your massage.

Like the Pure Wave CM7, this model is costly compared to other percussion massagers, but it’s less expensive than the CM7 model.

Unfortunately, some users found out that it’s not built to last, as it wore out or broke after just a few months of use.


6. HoMedics Percussion Action Massager with Heat

Sale
HoMedics Percussion Action Massager with Heat | Adjustable Intensity, Dual Pivoting Heads | 2 Sets...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & PORTABLE: This Handheld Heated...
  • SOOTHING HEAT FEATURE: This deep kneading...
  • DUAL PIVOTING MASSAGE HEADS: The dual pivoting...

Pros

  • Great heat feature
  • Dual pivoting massage nodes provide additional action beyond percussion for a more complete massage


Cons

  • May be too heavy to use comfortably

Like the Nursal massager, the HoMedics percussion massager also provides a heat function to loosen stiff muscles. However, it’s more reliable and made to last.

The HoMedics massager is more expensive than the Nursal, but generally at a lower price point compared to most percussion massagers.

You can customize your massage by swapping between nodes, and it provides 3 different styles of percussion massage.

If you’re looking for something more than just percussion, its two pivoting heads can deliver a kneading-style of massage.

At 2 ½ pounds, it’s on the heavier side compared to other massagers.


7. VIKTOR JURGEN Handheld Back Massager

Sale
VIKTOR JURGEN Handheld Back Massager - Double Head Electric Full Body Massager - Deep Tissue...
  • Double Head Electric Massager - Dog head...
  • Professional Strength Massager - a powerful motor...
  • Easy to Use - Non-slip & comfortable grip,built...

Pros

  • Double-head massager covers a wider area of tissue
  • Comfortable padded rubber grip


Cons

  • Slightly bulky

The Viktor Jurgen massager is also in the more affordable category.

It’s made with a rubber grip to prevent it from slipping out your hand.

However, many users find it’s better to have someone help you, and that it’s too clunky and inaccurate for use as a self-massager.

It’s not battery powered, so you need to have it plugged in while using it, which makes it even more awkward if you’re using it for self-massage.

As a double-head massager, it’s designed to imitate a masseuse’s hands.

While it may be too large and awkward for some, depending on your size and strength, you may find it works as a self-massager.


Our Pick: Pure-Wave CM7 Massager by Pado

PUREWAVE CM-07 Dual Motor Percussion + Vibration Therapy Massager (Black) | Official Patented CM-07...
  • RECOMMENDED BY CHIROPRACTORS, PHYSICAL THERAPISTS...
  • DUAL MOTOR DESIGN:  Powerful Percussion &...
  • PATENTED | MADE IN KOREA | FDA REGISTERED #2349002

While it may be one of the pricier options, the Pure Wave CM7 rises above the rest as a handheld percussion massager for giving you the most options, strong motor and comfort of use.

You have to be careful not to hurt yourself with a percussion massager, because hitting a bone could cause bruising.

The Pure Wave CM7 gives you protection against this with an attachable pad that helps guide your motion safely.

You do get your money’s worth because with just one device you can get several different massage styles all over your body by interchanging the percussion heads and switching between modes.

The fact that you can safely use this percussion massager on your face to relieve stress and tension makes it truly unique.

You can reap the benefits of percussion massage therapy at home when you buy a handheld percussion massager.

When you purchase a new self-massage device, it’s always important to read the instructions thoroughly and consult with a physical therapist or other professional if you need additional advice.

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