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.
There are many types of massagers on the market, some are manual which requires some work on your part, however, on the other hand, there are electric massagers where they do most of the hard work.
This is where handheld ‘percussion’ massagers come in.
A percussion massager is an electric device that you hold over different parts of your body to administer a massage. It’s unique over different types of massagers because it delivers a ‘hammer’ type of massage rather than a rolling one.
If you’re looking for a type of massager to relax muscles, get the blood flow circulating and heal certain body pains, a percussion massager could be what you are looking for.
This guide has everything you should know about handheld percussion massagers and the best ones on the market. If you are looking for massage guns, head over to our best percussion massage guns page. If you don’t know the difference then stick around as we cover the differences and help you to find out which one is best suited to you.
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 10 massagers and select one that stands out as the cream of the crop:
- Pure Wave CM-07
- Renpho Rechargeable
- Nursal percussion massager
- Brookstone Max 2
- Pure Wave CM5
- HoMedics percussion massager
- Viktor Jurgen massager
- Vivreal Deep Tissue Massager
- Wahl Lithium Ion Cordless Percussion Massager
- Thumper Mini Pro
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 with this type of action being particularly common among the home shiatsu massagers.
Percussion massagers are totally different in their actions.
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.
The benefits of increased circulation allow 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.
Which Type of Massager is Right for You?
As stated earlier, 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.
Percussion Massage Guns
Percussion massage guns offer the same percussive style massage as a standard percussion massager, however massage guns offer a lot more power over a traditional percussion massager.
The other difference is that percussion massage guns whilst more powerful lack the long handle of a percussion massager which makes it difficult to reach target areas on your own back.
If you think this is the type of percussion massager for you, head over to see our page on the best percussion massage guns.
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. Therefore if you want a more general massage over larger areas of muscle a shiatsu pillow may be more appropriate.
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.
They don’t give you as many options for massage, as they’re primarily designed only for neck and shoulder muscles (however our editor swears by these types of massagers and uses them all over the body!).
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.
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.
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. This means percussion massagers with a long handle will be advantageous.
In addition, it should be durable enough to last and have a well-balanced weight. You do not want it to be so heavy that it’s tiring to use and at the same time so light that the massager lacks 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.
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.
Percussion massagers that are cordless are easier and more convenient to use than a wired one. There is nothing worse than having to constantly untangle cords from your body as you are using your percussion massager.
Whilst cordless percussion massagers are more convenient to use over wired ones, you also want to make sure that you are not compromising power. Battery powered massagers may naturally possess less power than a wired one.
While you don’t need heat to get a good massage, research shows that the application of heat during a massage improves pain relief .
Some handheld massagers offer a heating feature, while most of them don’t.
Range of Different Percussion Heads
Percussion massagers will usually come with a variety of different attachments that you can use to alter up the type of massage you receive.
Make sure your final choice offers a good variety of options.
The Top 10 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 10 of the best percussion massagers on the market today.
1. Pure-Wave CM-07 Massager by Pado
- RECOMMENDED BY CHIROPRACTORS, PHYSICAL THERAPISTS...
- DUAL MOTOR DESIGN: Powerful Percussion &...
- PATENTED | MADE IN KOREA | FDA REGISTERED #2349002
- 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
- Widely recommended as the cream of the crop
- Battery weakens over time
- More expensive than other models
The Pure Wave CM-07 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 CM-07 is that users have reported 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 Deep Tissue Massager Relieves Pains for...
- Powerful Motor and Safety Design: Great motor with...
- Portable and Flexibility: Hand held and Cordless...
- Round attachment heads let you knead muscles firmly
- Relatively low priced
- 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.
On the plus side, this device is an extremely popular percussion massager and is seen as a viable option if you do not want to spend as much on the Pure Wave percussion massagers.
3. NURSAL Handheld Deep Percussion Massager
- 6 INTERCHANGEABLE NODES: This NURSAL portable...
- VARIABLE SPEED ADJUSTMENT: With the variable speed...
- PERCUSSION ACTION MASSAGER WITH HEAT: With just...
- Low price
- Choose your intensity by changing the percussion speed
- 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
- Cordless design powered by a rechargeable,...
- Unlimited reach helps you to soothe sore muscles...
- Lightweight and durable machined-aluminum body...
- Long battery life
- 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
- POWERFUL, GENTLE & QUIET: High Quality Cordless...
- MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS: Most Versatile Massager for...
- 3 MASSAGE TIPS: Deep Tissue, Swedish, Acupressure...
- Easy and comfortable to use
- Lightweight and easily portable
- Reported to break easily
The Purewave percussion massager comes in two models and this is the CM5 version which is the model down from the CM07 version.
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 also change between different nodes and percussion speeds to customize your massage.
So what’s the difference between this model and the CM-07?
Like the Pure Wave CM-07, this model is costly compared to other percussion massagers, but it’s less expensive than the CM-07 model.
The CM5 has one less motor than the dual motor of the CM-07, and comes with 3 fewer attachments than the CM-07. The CM-07 possesses the facial massage function at the other end of the massager whilst the CM5 does not.
Overall, this massager is well-built and a powerful effective option.
6. HoMedics Percussion Action Massager with Heat
- LIGHTWEIGHT & PORTABLE: This Handheld Heated...
- SOOTHING HEAT FEATURE: This deep kneading handheld...
- DUAL PIVOTING MASSAGE HEADS: The dual pivoting...
- Great heat feature
- Dual pivoting massage nodes provide additional action beyond percussion for a more complete massage
- 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
- Double Head Electric Massager - Dog head...
- Professional Strength Massager - a powerful motor...
- Easy to Use - Non-slip & comfortable grip,built...
- Double-head massager covers a wider area of tissue
- Comfortable padded rubber grip
- 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.
8. Vivreal Deep Tissue Massager
- 6 Interchangeable Massage Nodes: This handheld...
- Adjustable Speed Control & Massage Modes: This...
- Ultra Powerful Motor: Our handheld massager has a...
- Provides 100 minutes of use before recharging is needed
- 6 speeds and 6 massage heads for customizing your massage
- Powerful motor for working out tight muscle knots
- Includes a scalp massage head
- Some users find it too hard
- May be uncomfortably heavy to hold for some
The Vivreal percussion massager comes with 6 different massage heads, and you can choose between 6 different speeds of percussion.
Thus, there’s plenty of customization for use on various body parts, though its classic design provides you an over-the-shoulder reach for massaging your back. One of the nodes has several conical nodes that works well for scalp massaging.
It has a powerful motor and an ergonomic grip. The battery runs for 100 minutes before it needs recharging. Since the device is cordless it’s an ideal massager to bring on-the-go and use when you need a boost in circulation and some relief from pain.
Some users found that the Vivreal’s massage heads, which are made of hard plastic, felt too painful. Others, on the other hand, appreciated its ability to knead out tough muscle knots.
All in all, it’s a powerful device that has received tons of raving reviews.
9. Wahl Lithium Ion Cordless Percussion Massager
- Deep Kneading Power – Our sleek ergonomic...
- Cordless Convenience - Makes it easy to take...
- Variable Intensity - Offers a customized...
- Battery lasts up to 3 hours before it needs recharging
- Long grip ideal for reaching down the back
- Uniquely shaped massage heads for different body parts and purposes
- Dial for adjusting the speed as you go
- The grip vibrates
- Too heavy for some users
- Not powerful enough for some
Whereas the Vivreal massager has harder massage heads, the Wahl percussion massager does feature a massage head with softer padding, similar to the PureWave’s air cushion attachment.
You can easily increase or lower the device’s speed while you’re using it, by scrolling the dial on its grip. It also has a unique massage head designed to work along the muscles on either side of your spine.
The head has two small nodes and a hollow in between, so that you can massage the muscles around your spine without hurting the bone.
The Flex X massage head is another uniquely shaped node with grooves and ridges that help with myofascial release over a wide surface area.
Some users found it too heavy to use for longer periods, and others had problems gripping it because of the grip’s vibration. While it is cordless, some users have complained it’s less powerful than corded massagers they’ve used.
10. Thumper Mini Pro
- Thumper Patented Percussive Action
- New look with sleek new packaging!
- Ideal for all round massage
- Heavy-duty percussion with deep tissue penetration
- Variable speeds
- The grip is not comfortable or easy to hold
- Needs to be plugged in (no cordless feature)
- Only one massage head (not suitable for all places, such as your scalp or other delicate areas)
The Thumper Mini Pro has a patented percussive action designed to penetrate all fascial layers to relieve muscle tension. Instead of having interchangeable massage heads, it has one permanent massage head with two spheres that are anatomically designed for use on muscle groups in your back, shoulders, legs and feet.
If you’re looking for a corded massager that provides robust percussion power that cordless models may not offer, the thumper mini pro is for you. It runs on a heavy-duty DC motor.
The company claims that 95% of the device’s energy is directed right into your muscle tissue.
On the downside, the device doesn’t feature a very ergonomic design. The grip is made of hard, rectangular plastic, rather than a rubber ergonomic grip. With the weight of the massage head, it can be difficult to handle with control and comfort.
Our Pick: Pure-Wave CM-07 Massager by Pado
- 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 CM-07 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 and the CM-07 has an attachment head option that helps prevent against this. The Pure Wave CM-07 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 CM-07 is unique in that it possesses a completely different head at the bottom of the massager for effective facial massages.
The fact that you can safely use this percussion massager on your face to relieve stress and tension makes it truly unique.
The Purewave is also incredibly powerful despite the fact that it is battery powered.
If you are serious about getting a good effective percussion massager then the Purewave CM-07 is your best bet as it’s been used and recommended by countless professionals. For a more in-depth review see our PureWave CM-07 Review.
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 .
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.
Before this article ends it’s important to remind you that 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.
It may also take some time to get the best out of your percussion massager as it takes time to work out the best way to use it on your own body.
However, over time, you’ll start to see the benefits of using your percussion massager.