Whether you exercise regularly and are looking for ways to help with your post-workout recovery or are experiencing newfound back pain as a result of a less-than-ideal desk setup, it might be time to invest in a targeted deep-tissue massager, otherwise known as a massage gun.
“What the massage gun does is combine impact and movement, known as vibration therapy, to help loosen up tight and sore muscles, similar to that of a massage, as well as stimulate blood flow to help increase recovery,” says physical therapist John Gallucci Jr., CEO of Jag-One Physical Therapy.
To help you pick the right massage gun for your needs, we spoke to experts about what to consider when shopping for one of these devices and collected some of their favorite massagers on the market.
How we picked the best massage guns
According to experts, there are some notable features you should consider when shopping for a massage gun. Here’s what they suggest paying attention to:
- Strength: Some massage guns offer different speed levels measured in percussions per minute, or PPM. ”Higher speeds or velocity will yield a more superficial numbing effect, and higher power models will reach deeper into the muscle fibers,” says Bianca Beldini, an acupuncturist, physical therapist and certified triathlon coach. Choosing a device that has adjustable PPMs will make it more versatile.
- Weight: A massage gun is meant to be used with one hand, which makes the weight extremely important. “If the gun is too heavy, your hand or arm may become fatigued before you are finished with your massage session,” Gallucci says.
- Portability: Along with weight, you want to take size into consideration if you want to keep your massage gun in a gym bag or take it with you when you travel.
- Head attachments: Buying a massage gun with a range of head attachments will give you the flexibility to work on different areas of your body. According to experts, a big round head can be used on larger muscle groups like your quads, while a flat head can be used on small, dense muscle groups like the shoulder blades.
Best massage guns in 2024
Below, we highlighted expert recommendations for the best massage guns, along with a few NBC Select staff picks. All of the options below have multiple speeds and attachments.
Beldini personally uses the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 model and says it provides a great all-around value. It has three speeds up to 3,200 percussions per minute (PPM), five head attachments and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that holds up to three hours of juice, according to the brand. “It is easy to handle, and it is relatively quiet,” she says.
This massage gun is suitable for athletes at every level and is relatively lightweight at under 4 pounds, according to the brand. It has five levels of vibration up to 3,200 PPM and comes with four different attachments. “This machine is great for on the go and comes with a rechargeable built-in battery,’’ Gallucci says.
Hypervolt massage guns are known for their quick-charging batteries, minimal noise levels, power and ease of use, says Gallucci. “Weighing in at 1.5 pounds, this product packs a lot of power into a travel-friendly option,” he says, noting that it’s “nearly as powerful as many full-size guns.” In addition to being lightweight, it has three different speeds and three hours of battery life, according to the brand.
This massage gun stands in a class of its own due to its ergonomic grip and adjustable arm, says Gallucci. You can angle the arm for a customized massage for any body part. “A few other special features include the six speeds, seven attachments, two batteries lasting five hours total and Bluetooth capabilities. This massage gun is an investment, but fitness enthusiasts and athletes feel it is well worth the splurge,” he says The Pro model is also over 50% quieter than previous Theragun models, making it unobtrusive to use in public, says Allen Conrad, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center.
An NBC Select Wellness Award winner for best massage gun, the Theragun Mini is the smallest, most portable massage gun from the brand. It has three massaging speeds and comes with three head attachments, a soft case and a charging cable. “It’s small style means I can bring it everywhere, which I love,” says commerce leadership coordinator Alexa Arent, who used it to target very specific body aches, using different attachments depending on which muscle was involved. “I mostly used it on my legs and shoulders — the rounded-top attachment was my go-to.”
Conrad recommends this option for beginners looking for a budget-friendly option before making a more sizable investment. It comes with four attachment heads, and although it isn’t battery-operated, it has a 9-foot-long power cable so you can move relatively freely. It also has two speeds and two vibration settings with up to 3,350 PPM, according to the brand. One thing to note: This option may not be powerful enough for larger areas, like the hamstrings, but can be useful for smaller regions, like the calves and forearms, says Conrad.
This option is quiet, has an ergonomic handle and packs plenty of power, according to Conrad. Gallucci agrees: “Theragun is the pioneer in this market, and this fourth-generation [massage gun] lives up to the top-quality products that Theragun is known for.” The Theragun Prime is 70% quieter than previous models and has five built-in speed settings, two hours of battery life and four attachments, according to the brand. Users can also download the Therabody app, which integrates with Apple Health and Google Fit and recommends guided wellness routines based on your behaviors. With the app, you can also select any speed between 1,750 and 2,400 PPM.
What is a massage gun?
A massage gun — technically called a percussion massager — is a handheld tool that limbers muscles by providing rapid mini bursts of pressure in concentrated pulses, Gallucci says. This tool is often referred to as a “mini jackhammer” for your muscles, and it’s meant to be used when you feel sore or tight. “The percussion therapy provided by the massage gun will help to loosen up or relax tight muscles or trigger points — hyper-irritable spots located in a tight band of muscle — and will also increase blood flow to the affected area,” says Gallucci.
Other names for this type of therapy include a deep tissue massage or a self-massage, and it can be done on areas of the body with significant muscle mass — such as the neck, back, shoulders and legs — to help alleviate or prevent muscle soreness. “A massage gun can encourage local stimulation to drive the cascade of blood flow and associated nutrients to those areas,” explains Dr. Rahul Shah, an orthopedic spine and neck surgeon. “These are also the areas where muscles are likely to build lactic acid [which causes a burning sensation] and other byproducts of increasing muscle fatigue. By stimulating blood flow to these areas, these toxins can be effectively neutralized.”
It’s important to know that massage guns are not recommended for everyone. “Anyone who suffers from hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fractures, swelling, varicose veins or any autoimmune or muscular disorder should consult with their doctor before using a massage gun,” says Conrad.
Massage guns: Pros and cons
There are pros and cons to take into consideration when it comes to using a massage gun. By understanding them, you can better make an assessment if a massage gun is right for you, says Gallucci.
After a tough workout or even some strenuous house or yard work, Gallucci says that it’s common to experience sore muscles. Using a massage gun not only alleviates pain but also speeds up your recovery time by aiding in the removal of waste product from damaged tissue and breaking up scar tissue, he says.
Massage guns also offer enough pressure to actually make a difference, unlike other massage tools like foam rollers, according to Gallucci. “Some people cannot physically push hard enough, while others are afraid of the pain they may feel in the affected area,” he says. “Massage guns are battery-powered and mechanical, so they do not hold back and always provide the same level of intensity and ensure pressure.”
Massage guns need to be used properly. Those who are inexperienced or have not done enough research on how to properly handle the massage gun can end up injuring themselves. “You may end up massaging an area that is experiencing referred pain and not actually targeting the area that needs help with recovery, doing more harm than good,” Gallucci says.
Massage guns used on injuries such as strains, sprains, broken bones or even extreme swelling can also potentially make your injury worse. “They can further damage the injured tissue or even increase swelling rate. You should check with your doctor if you have a chronic condition before using a massage gun to see if it is right for you,” says Gallucci.
Overusing a massage gun can have adverse effects, Beldini says. “Leaving a massage gun in one area for too long could ultimately cause some soft-tissue trauma, leaving some internal bruising,” she says. To avoid this, Beldini suggests moving the gun from area to area in short durations — like 10-20 seconds in each location. “This will ensure that you are not overdoing it on one tissue segment,” she says.
How to use a massage gun properly
When using a massage gun, Gallucci recommends keeping these tips in mind:
- Try to relax your body before using the massage gun. “There is a reason that when you go get a massage by a masseuse, they do so in a relaxing setting,” says Galluci. “Your body will see better results from massage when the muscle is relaxed.”
- Use a slow and steady tempo. Especially when you are first using the device, it will treat the targeted muscle more effectively without over massaging them.
- Don’t just target the painful area. Also work on the muscles surrounding this area. “The body compensates by asking the surrounding muscles to act when another muscle is under stress. Treating the entire affected area can enhance the healing process,” Gallucci says.
Meet our experts
At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- John Gallucci Jr. is the CEO of Jag-One Physical Therapy
- Bianca Beldini is an acupuncturist, physical therapist and certified triathlon coach
- Allen Conrad is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center
- Dr. Rahul Shah is an orthopedic spine and neck surgeon
Why trust NBC Select?
Lauren Levy is a contributor with work published on The Knot, PopSugar, CafeMom, Mom.com, Bridal Guide and Care.com.
Bethany Heitman is a contributor at NBC Select and a journalist who regularly covers topics like beauty, home and lifestyle.