Massages are one of the great pleasures of life. Not only that, they’re a legitimately healthy experience: They come with a plethora of wonderful health benefits, from reducing muscle soreness to relieving stress.
That said, there may come a time when you have neither the time nor the resources to go out and get a massage. In such situations, acquiring a little bit of massage gear so that you can administer it yourself is a great tactic. You can reap all the benefits of a normal massage, but on your own schedule and likely at a lower cost.
The world of massage products is wide and varied; for a new enthusiast it can be hard to navigate. How do you pick the best products in each category? Which aspects should you look for? What do you need to consider when taking a leap on a new product you’ve never tried before? That’s why here, we’ve accumulated buying guides for every category of self-massage items. Keep reading to sort through them and find the advice you need to start giving yourself great self-massages.
Massage chairs are a classic. They’re not very portable, but they’re one of the most effortless ways you can give yourself a massage. Adding one to your home is a great way to make sure you can get a quick massage in any time, regardless of your own skill level.
In this buying guide, we’ve brought together some of the best options currently on the market, as well as filled out some advice for prospective buyers to think about while researching their next massage chair. There are some potential drawbacks to consider: while convenient, massage chairs are large pieces of furniture and they also aren’t particularly portable but if you are looking for the best massage chair experience you have come to the right place.
Some things you should think about are: how well a given massage chair fits you; whether portability is important to you in terms of massage potential; and what style of chair is most appealing.
Neck and Shoulder Massager
Again, this is more of a subcategory of massagers than anything else. The name is pretty self explanatory: for those who get the most muscle tightness or pain in their neck and shoulders should get the top rated neck and shoulder massagers to help with that. They often look like high-tech or slightly bulky scarves or necklaces, which drape across the areas they massage.
It might seem obvious, but such massagers are limited in what they can be used for. If you sometimes get neck pain, and your shoulders are a little tight, but you also want to tackle your hamstrings after your pickup basketball games, then a neck and shoulder model probably isn’t a good investment. You’d be much better served by something more versatile.
On the other hand, neck and shoulder massagers are indeed great at what they do: neck and shoulders. So if that’s where your main problems reside, and you have no need for any other kinds of massages, then this could be the way to go.
Portable Massage Table
Portable massage tables are the enthusiast’s choice. If you’re really serious about the craft of massages, then a portable massage table gives you the perfect canvas to practice on. Unfortunately, they’re not as automated as other options on this list, like a heating pad or a massage chair. That means that for users who want to expend less effort in the name of saving time or maximizing convenience, massage tables might not be the best option.
On the other hand, portable massage tables are great for those who are deeply interested in learning about giving massages, not just getting them. And because they’re portable, many of the tables in this guide are a great compromise between versatility and usability. Read our comprehensive massage table reviews here.
Massage tables are a time-tested standby. A good massage table will always do what you want it to do, without the possibility of electrical failure.
A TENS unit is, essentially, a small, handheld machine that delivers pain relief therapy through sending small electric impulses across an area of your skin. The stimulation from said therapy stimulates your nervous system and ensures that, even in areas of chronic or acute pain, you’ll be able to get some respite.
Many of the best TENS units come with built-in massage modes, but they’re not quite as dedicated as some of the other massage options on this list. That said, they’re a great option for consumers who are specifically looking for solutions to chronic joint or muscle pain, as well as athletes who like keeping their muscles loose and relaxed, even after strenuous workouts.
TENS units are widely used in the fields of physical therapy and athletic training, which should tell you something about their normal use cases and best applications. They’re one of the more therapy-intensive options on this list, and as such aren’t quite as optimized for the comfort side of massages.
Massage cushions are very similar to massage chairs, but slightly more versatile, portable and adaptable. You can think of massage cushions as the cooler, more interesting cousin to massage chairs. You can put a cushion on any chair that will fit it, and then administer a massage the same way you would in a traditional massage chair.
This makes massage cushions a great option for those who like the massage chair style, but are looking for an option with slightly more portability and versatility. A cushion could also be a good choice if you already have comfortable chairs in your home that you know would work perfectly for a massage, or if you don’t have enough space to add another piece of furniture.
In any case, cushions are a versatile option that will fit a large percentage of users’ needs.
Comfortable recliners aren’t so much their own category as a subset of massage chairs. There are many different options when it comes to chairs, but recliners are perhaps the most iconic: You lay yourself down and get swallowed up by a huge, bed-like chair as the massage action starts. When one says the words “massage chair,” this is probably what most people think of.
Of course, just like the larger option of massage chairs in general, these aren’t the most portable massage devices out there. They also take up a lot of space, and may not be suitable to small apartment or walk-up. Furthermore, they’re relatively expensive. But if you have the money and space to pay for all that comfort, it could be well worth your investment. There isn’t really a more satisfying method of massage out there.
Unlike many of the other self-massage devices listed here, heating pads are a pretty use specific category. Just like in a common massage, the heat therapy from a heating pad can help easy daily aches and pains. Heat pads can also be particularly useful if you have pain or soreness in a particular joint or muscle that regular massages just never seem to reach.
That said, many will also offer normal massage functions either separately or in conjunction with heating modes so that you can get different kinds of therapy from the same device. Heat pads are also more portable than, say, a comfortable recliner or a massage table, meaning they could be a good choice for all-around users as well. They’ll never match massage tables or chairs in terms of pure convenience and comfort, however.
Some things to think about when purchasing a heating pad: Do you need massage functionality as well? If so, how important is it to you? Will you be leaving your heating pad in one place all the time, or taking it around with you?
Massage oil is not an appliance in and of itself, but it’s an important component of nearly any massage. Yes, the physical act of kneading muscles and flexing joints is what brings relaxation in massages, but an oil’s scent or texture can have a huge effect on any massage, whether it’s self-administered or otherwise.
That’s why in this buying guide, we’ve covered not only some of the most common and best massage oils on the market today, but also a buying guide that will help you choose the right one for your needs.
There are a truly staggering number of massage oils out there, for every kind of massage imaginable. Different products might vary widely between texture, spread-ability, and aroma or therapeutic ingredients. To address that multiplicity of options, our buying guide will help you figure out your needs, narrow down your choices, and choose an oil that actually compliments your massage purposes.
Handheld massagers, in contrast to large devices like massage chairs or tables, are perfect little devices for consumers who need a portable option. You’ll have much of the convenience of larger, more automated device, but you’ll be able to stuff a handheld massager in your backpack rather than having to wait until you get home.
Some things to think about when buying a handheld massager for back or neck pain: What kinds of massage are important to you? What area of your body are you mainly planning on using it for?
Also, if you’re considering a handheld massager, you’d do well to think about tens units as well. If you want a massager mostly for chronic pain, soreness, or joint aches, then a tens unit may actually serve your needs better than a handheld massager.
In contrast, massagers are great for those who don’t quite need pain therapy, but do want to invest a little in the health benefits and relaxation that come with typical massages.
Finally, if you’re only looking at using a handheld massager for a single part of your body, you should remember that there are many massagers out there targeted to specific body parts, some of which we cover in the listed buying guides: neck and shoulder massagers, head and scalp massagers, even back massagers. Don’t jump too quickly onto handheld massagers unless you know a different kind won’t suit you any better.
Just like head and shoulder massagers, foot massagers target a very specific kind of use case. You might even be wondering why one would ever buy a foot massager over a more general-use device that could be used to target different parts of the body.
It’s a valid concern, but foot massagers can be very beneficial for certain subsets of customers, like those that need to treat foot-related medical conditions. If you want to use massage therapy as a tool to help with plantar fasciitis or even just long days spent standing up or walking around, foot massagers can be more effective than more widely applicable devices.
Just like foot massagers, foot spas primarily target pain and other issues with your feet. It’s pretty simple, right? Unlike foot massagers, however, they take a rather novel approach to doing so. If you’re finding that a normal foot massager just doesn’t do it for you, and pain, ramps or tightness are a recurring issue, then investing in a foot spa might be very beneficial.
The hydrotherapy approach of foot spas is a bit softer than foot massagers, and it also works out the kinks in a slightly different way. When used alone or in conjunction with other types of massage, they’re an effective treatment for soreness, cramps and even some medical conditions.
Some things to think about when purchasing a foot spa: How big are your feet? Is anybody else going to use this foot spa besides you? Where in your house are you going to put it?
Back massagers are an icon of luxury and time well-spent. They’re innovative devices. While a handheld massager can help you target soreness or tightness in your body, it only works for the areas you can actually reach. Back massagers solve that one outstanding problem by letting you reach even the most difficult areas of your back.
Back massagers are more portable than something like a massage chair, but they take serious effort to use in comparison. In addition, they’re probably not a good choice for anybody who wants to massage, say, their feet or their legs on the side.
Some things that we cover in this buying guide are: How do you choose the right back massager for you? Can anybody benefit from using one? What aspects of back massagers should I pay the most attention to when buying? How powerful should a back massager be?
Head and Scalp Massager
Head and scalp massagers are very similar to neck and shoulder massagers, just with a different target area.
As with all the other specific-area massagers on this list, these are generally only a good idea if you know exactly what you want, and if you don’t need to massage any other areas of your body. They’ll do their job well, but head and scalp massagers aren’t exactly the most versatile tools when considering self-massage devices.
That said, they could be well worth the investment. A good head massager isn’t just a comfort device; it can do wonders for migraines and other truly painful conditions.
Lower Back Pain Relief Products
Finally, to round out this list we have a catch-all category of sorts: lower back pain relief products (not including back massagers, which we’ve already covered in a separate buying guide). This could include anything from pills and traditional medicines to wearable back massagers to lower back-specific tens units and even different kinds of topical therapies, like icy/hot patches, gels, oils and liniments.
Lower back pain is troubling but common, and it’s also hard to get rid of. If a traditional ens unit or back massager isn’t helping you with your lower back pain no matter how much you use it, then this guide will help you find an alternative solution.
Some things to consider when looking at lower back pain products: which therapies have you tried already, and which have you never even thought of before? What has historically seemed to work the best for your body? What’s the root cause of your lower back pain, and what’s the established medical consensus on the best treatment options for said cause?
Yes, we realize this is a very, very long list. But every single buying guide listed here is directed at getting you informed about your best options. If you’re curious about any of these product categories, our respective buying guide will help you identify your needs and pick the product that best suits you and your lifestyle or use cases.
To sum things up, self-massage devices are a great investment. They give you the benefits of massage therapy at a lower cost and in a more convenient format than you’d otherwise be able to access. But many such self-massage devices require serious commitment of space or money.
That’s why our buying guides are here to make sure that you make the right choice, no matter who you are and what your massage goals look like. With that in mind, good luck and happy shopping!