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Best back massager 2023: Ease back pain and banish knots

Soothe your aching back and invigorate your muscles, with our pick of the the best back massagers you can buy

Working from home, driving long hours, and long days at your desk can leave your back in a painful, knotted mess. The best back massagers are an affordable, easy-to-use fix that you can use at home, even while you work and drive.

Back pain is a serious problem. Around four in five adults experience lower back pain at some point, with more than a quarter reporting problems in the past three months. Back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and missed work days. Explore these and more alarming statistics via UK orthopaedic organisation The Regenerative Clinic.

A professional massage can really help, but the cost adds up fast. So, it’s well worth investing in a back massage device that you can use regularly at home, or wherever you are. The best back massagers are adjustable, convenient, highly effective and often cost less than a single session with a massage therapist.

Skip ahead to find out which devices we recommend, or read on for more tips on choosing the best back massager for you.

Best back massager: At a glance

  • Best for back pain: Renpho Shiatsu Massager | Buy now
  • Best back massage cushion: Beurer MG149 | Buy now
  • Best back massage chair: HoMedics ShiatsuMAX 2.0 | Buy now
  • Best cordless for sports massage: Renpho Hand Held | Buy now
  • Best back massager for the car: Streetwize | Buy now
  • Best handheld Shiatsu: HoMedics Handheld Shiatsu Massager | Buy now
  • Best massage mat: HoMedics Stretch Plus | Buy now

How to choose the best back massager for you

What type of back massager should I get?

Back massagers come in all shapes and sizes, from handheld wand devices to full-sized chairs that massage your whole back at once. We’ve included a range in our recommendations. Beyond shape and size, though, back massagers also aim to deliver specific types of massage, mimicking different massage therapies. Here’s a quick guide to the jargon.

Shiatsu massagers mimic the traditional Japanese massage therapy which delivers a deep, kneading massage with circular motions. These massagers contain ‘nodes’ that move around and apply pressure, like the fingers and palms of a massage therapist. Shiatsu is great for loosening painful knots, releasing chronic tension and improving circulation, and is a wonderful stress-reliever.

Percussion massagers use vibration to deliver a pummelling sports massage that helps your muscles recover, for example on a rest day during a training programme. This would be the type of back massager to buy if you want to save cash on expensive sports massage therapy.

Spot or ‘trigger-point’ massage aims to dispel tension that radiates from a very specific spot in the muscles. It eases pain caused by sciatica, plantar fasciitis (PF) and painful knots. Many back massagers, such as the Renpho Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager and HoMedics Handheld Shiatsu Massager, have special attachments that help them deliver deep spot massage, either with percussion or Shiatsu-style pressure.

Rolling massagers run up and down the length of your back or thighs, mimicking Swedish massage techniques of long, gliding strokes. It’s an excellent way to stretch and soften the muscles, and feels incredibly relaxing. This type of massage is hard to recreate with a portable back massager, so you tend to find it only as an option in larger massage chairs and mats.

READ NEXT: The best foam rollers to buy for aching muscles

What other features should I look for when buying a back massager?

Heat helps to relax tense muscles and make them easier to manipulate, for an even more soothing, beneficial massage. Also good for warming up your muscles on cold days and before stretching. Most cushion, mat and chair-style massagers have a heat option that you can toggle on and off.

Adjustable massage settings are available on some of the higher-end back massagers, and let you get just the right massage for you. For example you can choose a low-intensity massage for everyday muscle relief and relaxation, medium-intensity to loosen up sore muscles, and high-intensity to dispel painful knots.

Automatic switch-off is available on all our recommended back massagers. Most switch off automatically after 12 or 15 minutes so they don’t overheat, and to avoid overdoing it on your poor muscles. You can have too much of a good thing, after all!

READ NEXT: The best mattresses to buy for a bad back

The best back massagers to buy now

1. Renpho Shiatsu Neck, Shoulder and Back Massager: Best back massager to soothe back pain

Price: £44 | Buy now from Amazon

Wraparound back massagers are becoming very popular, because they’re ideal for wearing while you work from home. This new ergonomically-designed Shiatsu massager from smart-device specialist Renpho is the best of the bunch for turning that home-working desk into a pleasure zone. You don’t have to wear it around your upper back and shoulders, either. You can also wrap it around your lower back, abdomen, thighs, or even your feet – wherever your aching muscles could benefit from a deep, satisfying, kneading Shiatsu massage.

You can then choose between multiple settings to get just the right intensity of massage for that area. You can set its eight Shiatsu massage nodes to massage at three different speeds, with optional vibration and heat for additional pain relief. If you have trouble dropping off to sleep, use this massager to massage your legs while applying gentle heat, then let it automatically switch off after 15 minutes.

Renpho’s massager is pretty sizable and needs to be plugged into the mains, so it’s not especially portable, but buyers don’t seem to give a hoot about those minor downsides. Verified buyers say it’s “amazing, potentially life changing” and “ESSENTIAL”, and claim that it relieves back pain more effectively than pricey massage therapists.

Key specs – Device type: Wraparound; Massage type: Shiatsu; Size: Not given; Heat option: Yes

2. Beurer MG149 Shiatsu Massage Cushion: Best back massager cushion

Price: £51 | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy

Beurer’s back massage cushion has a pair of buckle straps that you can use to secure it to your office chair, where it’ll then knead the muscles of your lower or upper back with a really firm, satisfying massage. Its Shiatsu-style rotating heads automatically switch between clockwise and anticlockwise every 30 seconds, and with one extra press of the power button you can add gentle heat. After 20 minutes, it automatically powers off to prevent “overstimulation”.

You can’t adjust the massage strength on this one, but users report that the massager adapts well to different body parts such as neck, shoulders, arms and legs, so it’s pretty versatile. And with its dinky size and 2m cable, it’s really easy to store, move around the house, or take with you to the office.

Key specs – Device type: Cushion; Massage type: Shiatsu; Size: 33 x 20 x 11.5cm; Heat option: Yes

Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy

3. HoMedics ShiatsuMAX 2.0 Massage Chair: Best back massager chair for a full-back massage

Price: £300 | Buy now from HoMedics

Our most expensive recommendation is this superb mains-operated back massage chair (well, chair cover), which fits over your office chair or car seat. It’s packed with features, including a remote control, and no fewer than 14 massage styles and strengths. These include Shiatsu, vibration massage (great for aching thighs) and ‘rolling’ (Swedish-style) massage, all with optional heat. The remote control even lets you adjust the position of the nodes to ensure they hit the spot, whatever size or shape you are. The cover is removable, too, and can be machine-washed at 40C.

Key specs – Device type: Chair cover; Massage type: Various, including Shiatsu and rolling massage; Size: 50 x 120 x 140cm; Heat option: Yes

Buy now from HoMedics

4. Renpho Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager: Best cordless handheld back massager for a sports massage

Price: £46 | Buy now from Amazon

It may be light, cordless and affordable, but Renpho’s wand-style percussive massager is high on power and features, and buyers love it. Its powerful motor delivers up to 3,600 pulses per minute for a deep-tissue massage that makes for a great sports massage. It also works well to break up painful knots in your back and shoulders. There are four less intense settings too, for when you’d prefer a more relaxing pummelling. You also get five interchangeable head attachments, including a ball head for intensively targeting acupressure points.

The built-in rechargeable battery lasts 140 minutes on a full charge, so this is a brilliant massager to keep in the car or pack for an activity break.

Key specs – Device type: Cordless wand; Massage type: Percussion-style deep tissue; Size: 40 x 11 x 13cm; Heat option: No

5. HoMedics Handheld Shiatsu Massager: Best handheld Shiatsu back massager

Price: £40 | Buy now from HoMedics

The rotating Shiatsu-style massage heads in this handheld device deliver a powerful, satisfying massage. There are plenty of ways to adjust it, too: you can tweak the speed and intensity, and swap between three different attachments, including one to tackle muscle stiffness and one to give a deep tissue massage. You even get a special soft cover that turns the device into a facial massager.

It is relatively heavy for its size, though, so not everyone will find it easy to use as a personal back massager. However it is brilliant for giving your partner a back massage. So if you’ve always wished your other half would give you a massage, buy them this as a pressie!

Key specs – Device type: Corded handheld; Massage type: Shiatsu; Size: Not given; Heat option: No

Buy now from HoMedics

6. Streetwize Heated Lumbar Massage Cushion: Best lower back massager to use in the car

Price: £30 | Buy now from Argos

This supportive lumbar cushion can’t compete with our other recommendations for a really strong pummelling, but not everyone wants to be beaten up by their back massager! Its adjustable pulsating massage action is gentle but effective, with buyers reporting that it really makes a difference to lower-back pain when driving. The heat function (also adjustable via the remote control) is great for keeping your blood flowing on long journeys, and will be welcome during the colder months. The cushion is compact enough to take anywhere, and has a 12V plug for plug-and-play operation in the car, with no need for an adapter.

Key specs – Device type: Cushion; Massage type: Gentle pulsating; Size: 32 x 43 x 5cm; Heat option: Yes

Buy now from Argos

7. HoMedics Stretch Plus: Best massage mat

Price: £183 | Buy now from Amazon

If your favourite part of the day is the big stretch before you force yourself out of bed in the morning, this massage mat is made for you. One of Homedics best-selling devices, it uses seven inflating air pockets to move your body through a gentle but powerful sequence of Thai massage-inspired stretches, with six basic preset sequences including ‘unwind’ and ‘recover’.

At a glance, you’d never guess how good a stretch this mat gives you, especially once you start to move through the three intensity levels. It’s pretty expensive, but If you’re struggling with lumbar pain and tension, it’s well worth the price. It will leave you feeling energised but also incredibly relaxed, and much less tight. Plus, it’s easy to operate without moving, other than lifting a finger to operate the handheld control, and you can fold it for easy carrying and storage.

Key specs – Device type: Mat; Massage type: Thai stretch massage; Size: 53 x 27cm (x17cm cushion); Heat option: No

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