Share on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Back pain is a leading cause of disability, and it’s estimated that about 80 percent of people will experience this pain in their lifetime. About a quarter of American adults seek care for acute, or short-term back pain, while 8 percent experience long-term or chronic back pain.

Treating back pain is time consuming and costly. For some back problems, spinal or joint problems that require surgery could be the case. In many cases, however, pain can be treated with a variety of less invasive treatments.

Nonpharmacological treatments — or those that don’t involve medication — are preferred by most healthcare professionals, since back pain generally improves over time regardless of treatment.

Examples of non-invasive, nonpharmacologic treatments for back pain include:

  • acupuncture
  • massage
  • heat
  • spinal manipulation

Spinal manipulation and acupuncture usually require the care of a specialized professional, like a chiropractor. The cost and time involved in these treatments can add up. Home massage units might be an option that can offer relief for acute and chronic back pain in between or instead of chiropractic care.

There are many types of back massagers on the market. Some are targeted to provide relief to certain areas, like the shoulders or lower back.

An ideal back massager for home use will incorporate the two hallmarks of nonpharmacologic treatment for back pain, outside spinal manipulation and acupuncture. These are heat and massage.

Below is a ranking of the top-ranked back massagers you can use at home.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $40
  • $$ = $40–$60
  • $$$ = over $60

Nekteck Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager

  • Price: $$
  • Distinguishing features: This massager drapes over the area you’re trying to treat. Using eight deep Shiatsu kneading massagers, this device can be used on different parts of the body, and you can set the intensity level.
  • Target areas treated: back, neck, shoulders, legs
  • Heat: yes
  • Safety: adjustable intensity levels and auto shut-off for heating element and power
  • Usability and versatility: It can be moved to different parts of the body, with numerous modes and intensity levels. The device comes with a car adapter for portability.
  • Reviews: more than 32,000 reviews, with 72 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: Draping design could be challenging to treat smaller, hard-to-reach areas. Some reviewers have negative comments about product quality.

Snailax Shiatsu Massage Cushion with Heat

  • Price: $$$
  • Distinguishing features: This is a seated massage unit. It can provide therapy to multiple areas at once, and even be used while seated for work. Using four moving massagers, you can set three modes to target your entire back, lower back, or upper back. There are controls to adjust intensity and heat, and the seat of the pad features three levels of vibration.
  • Target areas treated: full back
  • Heat: yes
  • Safety: adjustable intensity levels and auto shut-off for power and protection against overheating
  • Usability and versatility: It can be used in a variety of seated positions, whether it’s an office chair, recliner, or sofa. Trouble areas can be targeted, but there’s only a home power adapter cord.
  • Reviews: around 11,000 reviews, with 66 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: This product can only be used in the seated position and doesn’t feature a car adapter or battery to allow for better portability.

Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager

  • Price: $$
  • Distinguishing features: This pillow has three deep tissue massagers that can be used to target smaller areas like the lower back or between the shoulder blades. Massagers automatically change direction. While this product can only treat one area at a time, it’s praised for reaching into the contours of your body. There’s no option to adjust intensity, but the device comes with a padded cover for a gentle massage. There’s also a model with eight deep tissue massagers.
  • Target areas treated: back, neck, shoulders, abdomen, legs, calf, thigh
  • Heat: yes
  • Safety: auto shut-off for heat and overheating protection
  • Usability and versatility: This device can be moved to different parts of the body. An adjustable strap allows you to secure the device where you need it, and it comes with a car adapter for portability.
  • Reviews: around 39,000 reviews, with 74 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: This device can only treat one area at a time, and it must be plugged in to use. Intensity level can only be adjusted with a removable sleeve.

LifePro Sonic Handheld Percussion Massage Gun

  • Price: $$$
  • Distinguishing features: Massage guns are a popular product for delivering different types of massage and custom intensities to any part of the body. This vibrating gun comes with eight interchangeable massager heads to switch the type of massage and pinpoint therapy. It also features different intensity settings and a rechargeable battery.
  • Target areas treated: anywhere
  • Heat: no
  • Safety: can remove the device from the area you are treating at any time
  • Usability and versatility: It delivers a highly customizable massage and is portable.
  • Reviews: more than 11,000 reviews, with 80 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: You must be able to hold this device in position wherever you want treatment and keep it there for the duration of therapy.

Mighty Bliss Cordless Massager

  • Price: $$$
  • Distinguishing features: This handheld massager comes with six different massage heads. You can apply however much pressure you want on any part of your body with a percussion massage.
  • Target areas treated: anywhere
  • Heat: no
  • Safety: can be removed at any time, and intensity depends on how firmly you apply it
  • Usability and versatility: The device can be moved to different parts of the body, with a selection of different massager heads. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery makes this device very portable.
  • Reviews: more than 11,000 reviews, with 82 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: You must hold this device in position to use, so it could be difficult for those who can’t hold it in place or to reach out-of-the-way areas.

Renpho Rechargeable Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager

  • Price: $
  • Distinguishing features: This massager is similar in function to a massage gun, with the design of a handheld massager.
  • Target areas treated: anywhere
  • Heat: no
  • Safety: auto shut-off to avoid overheating
  • Usability and versatility: This device can be moved to different parts of the body, with numerous massage heads and speeds. The unit is cordless and rechargeable for portability.
  • Reviews: almost 50,000 reviews, with 69 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: Draping design could be challenging to treat smaller, hard-to-reach areas. Some reviewers have negative comments about product quality.

Body Back Buddy Classic

  • Price: $
  • Distinguishing features: This device may look simple, but it gets the job done. No batteries or charging required, massage hooks use a curved rod with knobs in various locations to allow you to put any amount of pressure you want on targeted areas of the body.
  • Target areas treated: anywhere
  • Heat: no
  • Safety: completely manual device has no safety guard in place
  • Usability and versatility: This manual device requires no batteries, power cord, or charging. It can be placed anywhere on the body using whatever pressure you desire.
  • Reviews: more than 13,000 reviews, with 75 percent 5 stars
  • Cons: You have to do all the work with this tool. You will only get the benefit of whatever angle or force you use.

While using a back massage might seem like the easiest fix for your back pains, these products should be used with caution, too.

Research suggests massage can help lessen back pain, but there’s little evidence as to which types of massage offer the most benefit.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow when using massage for back pain:

  • Do see a healthcare professional to rule out anything that could require surgery or other more significant treatments.
  • Do see a healthcare professional to identify the root cause of your back pain.
  • Do consider a multi-faceted approach to treating your back pain.
  • Don’t ignore pain that becomes more severe over time.
  • Don’t continue to massage an area if it’s causing you more pain.
  • Don’t avoid seeing a doctor or chiropractor if your pain becomes worse over time or affects your ability to complete daily tasks.