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The Best Handheld Massager

Updated


After consulting with a licensed massage therapist, we tested eight highly rated handheld massagers and selected the Pado – PureWave – CM7 as the best handheld massager for relieving muscle strain. It has two separate massage modes at either end of the device — one for a percussive massage and another for a gentle facial massage — a unique feature no other handheld massager has. Our budget pick is the Renpho – EM-2016C. It isn’t as sophisticated as the PureWave, but it will give you a soothing or invigorating massage for one-third the cost.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall


Pado

PureWave

See Price at PadoUSA

Budget Pick


Renpho

EM-2016C

See Price at Amazon

After consulting with a licensed massage therapist, we tested eight highly rated handheld massagers and selected the Pado – PureWave – CM7 as the best handheld massager for relieving muscle strain. It has two separate massage modes at either end of the device — one for a percussive massage and another for a gentle facial massage — a unique feature no other handheld massager has. Our budget pick is the Renpho – EM-2016C. It isn’t as sophisticated as the PureWave, but it will give you a soothing or invigorating massage for one-third the cost.

Table of contents

How we selected products to test

We consulted with holistic-health practitioner and massage therapist Vincent Bennett, who worked for The Mighty Ducks in Anaheim for three seasons before opening his own practice. Vincent specializes in sports massage, shiatsu, deep tissue massage and neuromuscular therapy, and he advised us during our testing and reviews of the best leg massagers, back massagers and percussive massage guns. (Other self-massage tools we’ve reviewed are: the best foam rollerbest foot massager and best neck and shoulder massager.)

“The athletes I worked with were supermen in a way, and they healed very quickly, but some injuries needed more time and work. An injured muscle needs to be coaxed — not pummeled — into relaxation.” Vincent explained that the goal is to make the muscle more flexible by applying gentle pressure, which increases blood and oxygen circulation and helps the muscle heal faster.

Long-term massage therapy is expensive, and the majority of Amazon reviewers of handheld massagers were seeking a lower-cost option for treating muscle fatigue and stress. Almost all handheld massagers currently on the market are percussion massagers, which administer rapid percussive pulses — between 3,100 – 3,700 pulses per minute — which relax muscles and get blood flowing and — as Vincent told us — helps muscles heal.

Most handheld massagers are inexpensive, running between $30 – $50, so we chose eight of the highest-rated models, both corded and cordless. Two of the eight handheld massagers are fierce competitors and are significantly more expensive — nearly three times the price — and we wanted to test them to see if they really were any better than the cheaper models.

Compare the best handheld massagers

ProductPriceTypeUser-FriendlyPerformance
1. PureWave - CM7$$$Cordless, rechargeable★★★★★★★★★★
2. Renpho - EM-2016C$Cordless, rechargeable★★★★★★★★★
3. TheraFlow - BD2098$Corded★★★★★★★★
4. Mighty Bliss - BD-1372$$$Cordless, rechargeable★★★★★★★★
5. Snailax$$Cordless, rechargeable★★★★★★★
6. Wahl - 4290-30$Corded★★★★★★★
7. Victor Jurgen$Corded★★★★★★
8. HoMedics - HHP-350$$Corded★★★★

Cordless

Corded

Important features to consider

Corded vs. cordless: We tested four corded handheld massagers and four cordless handheld massagers. We detected no difference in power between them. The cordless massagers charged in one to two hours and held their charge for two to three hours. Most of the corded massagers had a power cord between 7 and 9 feet in length, which forced us to stay in position near an electrical socket. The cordless massagers, however, could be used anywhere and were extremely easy to maneuver all over the body without getting tangled in a power cord.

Single vs. dual motor head: A handheld massager with a dual motor head may seem to be more efficient because it has a wider coverage area. But a dual-head massager is also twice the weight: This worked in its favor when massaging the lower back, since gravity pulls the head downward. The weight also played against the dual-head massager because it was heavy to lift to massage arms, neck and upper back.

Single-head massagers are curved wands and designed to feel well-balanced in your hand. This type of massager weighs between 1.5 – 2 pounds and is very easy to lift and maneuver over any part of the body. The single-head massager is the best type for someone who has weak hand- or arm-strength.

Rubber or silicone attachments: Most of the massagers we tested had hard plastic attachments that are screwed into or slide over the motor head. The hard plastic bounces over bony areas, particularly shoulder blades and the spine, which we found to be painful, especially with the massager on its lowest setting. The best attachments are either made of rubber or silicone, which have more flexibility on bony areas.

Shape of attachments: During our testing, we tried many attachments with a variety of shapes and sizes. Manufacturers of handheld massagers market their product as “shiatsu” or “deep tissue” massagers and include a three-prong attachment or pointed stick that are supposed to simulate human fingers. Nothing could be further from the truth: A three-prong attachment or a pointy stick made of hard plastic that jackhammers into your neck just hurts.

We found that the attachments with a less severe shape — such as a flat disc or the domed disc on the Pado – PureWave CM7 — are gentle over sensitive and bony areas but are also effective in soothing sore muscles, especially around the neck. Another attachment to look for is one that’s triangular or star-shaped with small balls on the points. This attachment is best for working larger muscle groups, such as thighs and calves.

How we tested

Corded massagers

The four corded massagers had power cords that measured between 7 feet (TheraFlow) and 14 feet (HoMedics), and so we needed to be positioned near an electrical outlet throughout testing. We tried out each attachment on the muscle group or body part recommended in the instruction manuals. We also used the attachments on non-recommended muscles to discern if there was any difference.

We began each test at the lowest intensity level and massaged for 5 minutes before increasing the intensity and massaging the same area again. All of the massagers have three intensity levels, so each muscle was massaged for 15 minutes, which is the recommended time for using a handheld massager. However, if an attachment was painful to use we stopped and moved on to another attachment.

We noted if range of movement was limited because of the length of the power cord. In most cases, it was; the HoMedic was the exception. The corded massagers were twice as heavy as the cordless massagers, so we also considered whether the weight of each unit affected how long we could hold it before tiring.

Cordless massagers

The four cordless massagers needed to be charged; all were charged in two hours. Some Amazon reviewers claim their cordless massager discharged in one hour or less. We did not find this to be the case. After we completed testing, we left the cordless massagers powered on, and even after two hours, they all held their charge. The Mighty Bliss kept going strong after four hours.

We did the same tests — working through each attachment and intensity level — and except for the slightly heavier Snailax, the cordless massagers gave us more freedom of movement and were much easier to use than the corded massagers.

Best overall: Pado – PureWave CM-07

The Pado – PureWave CM7 is the most versatile handheld massager we tested. Its unique design has a dual-function motor that can be switched from a percussion-style massage to a gentle vibration-therapy for facial massages.

The PureWave is cordless: It charges in one hour and stays charged for two hours or longer. It’s a sleek 16-inches long with a rubberized handle that’s half the length, so you can grip it midway or by the end, depending on which body party you’re massaging. The PureWave weighs only 1-½ pounds with most of the weight in the motor, which allows you to dangle the head down the length of your entire spine.

The PureWave has six attachments:

  • a six-pointed star with six ½-inch balls for areas that are more muscle than bone (thigh, bicep, tricep, lower back)
  • a point stick with a raised-star shape for pinpointing one particular muscle
  • a flat, smooth disc for applying massage oil
  • a disc with soft bristles for a scalp massage
  • a mushroom-shaped cushioned disc for massaging bony areas, like the spine and shoulders
  • a small, chrome-covered disc for facial massage

Most Versatile: Pado - PureWave CM7

The PureWave is a cordless, dual-mode massager with effective attachments that can massage every part of your body.

The facial massage disc is unique; no other handheld massager we tested has it. With a flick of the power switch, the massager is switched from percussive massage to a gentle vibration at the tip of the handle. We found this function to be especially soothing when massaging forehead wrinkles and applying moisturizer around the eyes and mouth.

Most other massagers we tested had a ball attachment for massaging areas with more bone than muscle; however, they were all uncomfortable to use since the percussive action bounces the ball off bone. The PureWave patented Air-Cushion disc is a soft rubber half-sphere that absorbs the intense vibration and glides over bony areas, like the shoulder blades, neck and feet.

A few of the other massagers have a bristled disc for scalp massages, but the bristles are hard and quite painful, even at the lowest intensity. The PureWave bristles, however, are medium-soft rubber and are more gentle, giving an invigorating scalp massage.

We also loved the PureWave’s ergonomically designed stand for holding the massager and all of the attachments. The head balances in the top of the stand — seemingly defying gravity — and the handle is arched towards you, so it’s ready to be picked up at any time.

The PureWave is three times the price of the other massagers we tested (except for the Mighty Bliss). The difference in quality, however, was easy to see. With its two motor functions, effective attachments and clever storage stand, PureWave is definitely better than the rest.

Key takeaways:

  • The PureWave CM-07 has a dual function motor than can be switched from percussive-style massage to a gentle, vibrating facial massage.
  • It’s lightweight and ergonomically designed to balance in your hand.
  • The PureWave’s six attachments — including a unique facial-massage disc — effectively massage particular muscle groups or areas with more bone than muscle.

Budget pick: Renpho – EM-2016C

The Renpho – EM-2016C handheld massager is similar to the other massagers we tested, but it has a few features the others don’t have. It’s a cordless, chargeable model with a powerful single-head motor and two massaging modes: continuous and pulsating. The continuous mode works much like the other handheld massagers with three levels of intensity.

The Renpho and the Snailax are the only two with the pulsating mode. When engaged, the motor pulses in short bursts that increase in speed. This mode is especially effective when massaging a particular knotty muscle by simulating a shiatsu massage.

The Renpho weighs a little bit more than the PureWave, and its single-head motor is a little wider. That stated, it’s still a slim and lightweight massager that’s well-balanced. The Renpho’s short handle has a rubberized grip, and it’s easy to hold. But if you’re a tall person or have a long torso, the Renpho won’t reach the full length of your back.

Five plastic attachments are included: a round ball, a wide three-pronged triangle with spiked balls, a round ball with a pointed tip, a small disc with three small balls and a curved C-shaped attachment. The curved attachment is unusual, and as the manual instructs, it’s for massaging arms and legs. Although it’s too narrow for a calf muscle, it fit biceps and triceps perfectly and was very effective in massaging those muscles.

Budget Pick: Renpho - EM-2016C

Slim and cordless with five attachments, the Renpho is very well-priced for such a powerful handheld massager.

The three-pronged triangle is great for massaging both muscle and bony areas, including down the spine. Although it’s made of a hard plastic, it didn’t bounce and wasn’t irritating, even at the highest intensity. The round, tipped attachment worked best in the pulse mode for massaging one muscle.

Like the PureWave, a storage stand is included with the Renpho. It has a similar, ergonomic design, but oddly, there are only two slots for the five attachments. The Renpho isn’t as sophisticated as the more expensive PureWave, but it will help relieve sore muscles at a budget price.

Key takeaways:

  • The Renpho – EM-2016C handheld massager has two massage modes for continuous percussive massage and short, powerful pulses.
  • Its five attachments include a unique, curved C-shape that is great for massaging biceps and triceps.
  • The Renpho isn’t as sophisticated or lightweight as our top pick, but it will give you a soothing or invigorating massage at a lower price.

Other handheld massagers we tested

Mighty Bliss – BD1372

The Mighty Bliss – BD1372 is the main competitor with our top pick, the PureWave, and the company aggressively markets its handheld massager as better. However, Mighty Bliss has an identical design: a sleek, curved wand that’s 16 inches in length. Even the six massage attachments are virtually the same, including the air-cushion disc.

It’s a cordless massager that charges in an hour and holds its charge for two hours. Although the Mighty Bliss company claims that its massager is a ¼-pound lighter than PureWave, it feels the same weight. It balances well in the hand, and holding it from the shoulders, you can reach the base of your spine. The major difference we discerned between the two is that Mighty Bliss’s lower intensity tends to make the attachment bounce, so we had to keep the intensity level at medium-to-high at all times.

The Mighty Bliss is only a few dollars cheaper than the PureWave, but it doesn’t have the facial-massage mode, nor does it come with a storage stand. These two deficiencies convinced us that PureWave was the better product.

Snailax

The Snailax cordless massager is very similar to our budget pick, Renpho. It has two modes — continuous and pulsating — and has the same physical design: long handle and heavy single-motor head. Its attachments are a bit cheaper in quality; the three-headed triangle, for example, scratched and irritated our tester’s skin. The bristle attachment — the instruction manual calls it an acupuncture disc — actually felt best used up and down the back, like a back scratcher.

The Snailax has a heating element that cannot be used with any of the attachments. We tried it several times, even letting the massager run for 15 minutes, and the only heat we felt was a barely perceptible warmth. We also found that the power button is too close to the high end of the handle, and several times during our testing we accidentally shut the massager off.

TheraFlow – BD2098

Another corded massager we tested was the TheraFlow – BD2098. This massager had one of the best user manuals, with photos demonstrating how to use each attachment, a detailed diagram of acupressure points and a list of safety precautions in which the most important words are bold. The TheraFlow has three attachments made of silicone, which are very flexible and easy to put on and take off the single-motor head.

The TheraFlow was one of our favorite massagers, but it has a design flaw we couldn’t overlook. The motor head is quite heavy, and the handle is too short, so you need to grip the massager higher up. Since the power/level dial is on the upper part of the handle, we kept slipping and either changing the level intensity or shutting the unit off.

Wahl – 4290-30

The Wahl 4290-30 is a corded massager with a single-head motor and four attachments. However, in the instruction manual, two other attachments are shown, one of which is a gel pack that can be heated or frozen. We contacted the company as to why “some kits may not have all attachments,” but we received no response from our inquiry.

The Wahl is 15-inches long and isn’t too heavy. Two of the attachments have hard pointed ends, and we found these to be too uncomfortable, even on muscle areas. The round-ball attachment worked with neck and shoulder muscles. Best of all was the large, flat disc, which could be used all over the body without discomfort. Intensity is adjusted with a dial on the underside of the handle. Its position, though, makes it too easy to accidentally change the level.

Victor Jurgen – BD1441

The Victor Jurgen – BD1441 is a corded double-motor massager that resembles E.T. Its head is a broad 6 inches that tapers down to an 8-inch handle that’s too short to support the head’s weight. The Victor Jurgen was one of the heaviest and bulkiest massagers we tested. It comes with six small attachments, two of each kind: a sphere, a ball with three prongs and a disk with bristles. They all worked fine on muscle but were very uncomfortable on bony areas.

On the plus side, the spacing between the two heads gave a wide coverage area, so the massager could be maneuvered from the back of the neck and down the spine. But because its handle is so short and doesn’t reach down the length of the back, you’d need to switch positions (and possibly hands) for massaging the lower back and tip of the spine.

HoMedics – HHP-350

The HoMedics – HHP-350 is another corded dual-head massager that suffers from poor design. If the Victor Jurgen resembles E.T., the HoMedics’s enormous head, glowing red “eyes” and spindly handle bring to mind one of the terrifying Martians in “War of the Worlds.” The “eyes” contain the massager’s heating element, and like the Snailax, it generates no discernible heat.

The HoMedics has four attachments, two smooth plastic half-spheres and two rough rubber half-spheres, which snap onto the two motor heads (the “eyes”). The rubber attachments were more comfortable on bare skin; the plastic attachments, however, are hard and unyielding. Since the motor head is so large and heavy, the massager bangs painfully on any bony areas. Although the HoMedics wasn’t the heaviest of the massagers we tested, it was the most difficult to lift because of the short handle.

Vibration intensity is controlled by the power button rather than a separate switch or dial. When you want to turn the unit off, you need to cycle through the three intensity levels first.

The bottom line

The best handheld massager is cordless and lightweight enough to maneuver it around any part of your body. It should also have a variety of attachments for comfortably massaging muscles and bony areas, such as shoulder blades and spine.

We selected the Pado – PureWave CM7 as the most versatile handheld massager because it has two additional defining features: a dual-function motor than can switch from a percussive massage to a more gentle vibration for facial massage and a functional and attractive storage stand for the massager and all of its six attachments. It’s also one of the most expensive massagers we tested, but the PureWave’s many benefits and performance make up for the cost.

For the budget-conscious, we also recommend the Renpho – EM-2016C. For a third of the price, it isn’t as sleek and sophisticated as the PureWave. But it has two massage modes — percussive and pulsating — that we found to be very effective in giving either a soothing or invigorating massage. The Renpho’s five attachments include an unusual C-shape attachment that’s best for massaging biceps and triceps.

Best Overall: Pado - PureWave CM7

A unique dual-function motor with six effective attachments, the PureWave can give you a full percussive massage or a gentle facial at the flick of a switch.

Gene Gerrard, Writer

Gene has written about a wide variety of topics for too many years to count. He's been a professional chef, cooking-appliance demonstrator, playwright, director, editor of accountancy and bank-rating books, Houdini expert and dog lover (still is). When he's not writing for Your Best Digs, he's performing as a magician at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

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