Massage Guns for Back Pain Pros & Cons (and Top Pick)

Is a massage gun good (and safe) for you – if you suffer from chronic back pain or acute back injuries?

These handheld devices have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to provide targeted muscle relief and relaxation.

But before you jump on the massage gun bandwagon, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons.
best massage guns for back pain pros and cons

While these devices can be incredibly effective for some people, they may not be the best fit for everyone.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of massage guns and what you should consider before using a massage gun for back pain.

Massage Gun Pros & Cons 

massage guns pros and cons

A massage gun is great for muscle recovery after working out and makes a very efficient sports massager for athletes.

If used cautiously, it can help greatly for people with chronic back pain from sciatica, arthritis, muscle strain, and back stiffness.

However, if you suffer from severe muscle pain, use it carefully and at low settings – to avoid further damage to your back muscles.

Pros

  • Powerful percussion massagers
  • A few minutes of daily treatment is enough to get the benefits
  • Portable and can be taken to work or travel and use anywhere

Cons

  • It may cause further injuries if not used properly or overused
  • Is not fit for people with low pain tolerance
  • High price (compared with less powerful handheld back massagers)

What is Unique About a Massage Gun?

A massage gun is a high-intensity handheld massager that provides rapid bursts of pressure into the muscle tissue, as the head oscillates back and forth.

The massage gun overrides pain signals to the brain, boosts blood circulation, flushes fluids out of the muscle tissue, relaxes tight muscles, reduces muscle soreness, and breaks up scar tissues.

Massage guns are either percussion back massagers, vibration massagers, or both, and were essentially made for athletes’ recovery after (or before) an intense workout.

Massage therapy is scientifically proven to help muscles recover faster by increasing blood circulation and reducing muscle aches and lactic build-up while improving flexibility and range of motion.

The different massage gun models work with either a thumping or a circular motion, at varying speeds and pressure.

We’ve compared the 3 best selling massage guns in 2024 – Theragun vs. Hydragun vs. Hyperice!

Who can Benefit from Massage Guns?

Everyone from professional athletes to frequent gym-goers can benefit from massage guns, and so do people who suffer from work-related back muscle pain, such as back pain from sitting, lumbar pain from standing, drivers, construction workers, and more.

Here’s why:

  • Improving blood circulation to the pain area
  • Increasing oxygen supply to the area
  • Reducing the accumulation of lactic acid (after a workout)
  • Decreasing the occurrence of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

A review of 13 studies about massage guns has shown that a single massage gun treatment has led to an acute increase in muscle strength, explosive muscle strength, and flexibility. Several treatments have led to the reduction of musculoskeletal pain.

However:

Is it safe to use if you suffer from Sciatica, Arthritis, or spinal disc injuries?

keep reading to find out.

What is the Best Massage Gun for Back Pain?

If you’ve decided that a massage gun is right for you, we saved you a lot of time and found the 3 most versatile massage guns for back pain, all of them have a low-intensity option, which we found to be safer for back injury treatment.

Massage GunMassage Heads/
Speed options
Battery LifeBottom Line
Hydragun
Top Pick
6 speed settings
6 attachments
6-hour battery$299 at Hydragun
Renpho Massage Gun
Best for Sciatica
Low Cost
8-hour battery$69 on Amazon
Hyperice Hypervolt 2
Best for muscle Stiffness
5 heads
5 speed settings
3-hour battery$199 at Hyperice

This post may contain affiliate links, at no extra cost to you.

1. Hydragun Best for Lower Back Pain

best massage gun for back pain and sciatica

Best for – pinched nerves, sciatica, back injury recovery, workout recovery

  • Strokes per Minute – 1200 – 3200
  • Speed Options – 6
  • Battery life – 6 hours
  • Weight – 2.2 lbs.

$299 at Hydragun (free shipping)

Our number one choice for people with back pain is the Hydragun massage gun because it has 6 speed settings (ranging from 1200 – 3200 RPM), and the first two speeds are gentle enough to use for any back injury – without causing too much pain.
massage gun for back pain trial and results

This great massage gun allows you to start gradually – without pounding your back muscles too roughly – if your back is sensitive.

On the other hand, the higher speed levels are powerful enough to soften any muscle knot or muscle stiffness before and after working out.

Hydragun massage gun results

Hydragun 6 attachments – inside the case

The Hydragun is also the quietest massage gun on the market and comes with 6 attachments – allowing you to pinpoint a trigger point, or cover a larger muscle group with the ball head and the forkhead.

The battery lasts at least 6 hours after a single charge, the case is small yet roomy enough to carry all the attachments, and customer service is great.

Available at Hydragun ($299)

2. Renpho Massage Gun Best for Sciatica

best affordable massage gun for back pain

Best for – back muscle knots, muscle soreness, preventing pain after a workout, muscle recovery, joint pain

  • Strokes per minute – up to 3200
  • Speed options – 5
  • Battery life –  single battery unit, lasts about 8 hours. Recharges in 2-3 hours.
  • Weight – 1.5 lbs.
  • Attachments – 5

$69 on Amazon

With no less than 5  speed options and 5 attachment heads, this lightweight yet powerful massage gun is highly versatile and can be adjusted to any level of tolerance you are at, wherever you are (it’s cordless and can be charged by USB or power bank!).

This 100% portable high-quality massage gun is quiet (less than 45 dB at the highest speed) and the rechargeable battery lasts for 8 hours (!) after a single charge.

  • The ball head is best for large muscle groups like (quads/glutes) and joint soreness.
  • The bullet head is best for deep tissues, joints, and trigger points.
  • The hammerhead is best for all parts of the body.
  • The U-shaped head is best for around the spine, neck, and shoulders.

renpho massage gun review

Available on Amazon ($69)

3. Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Best for Muscle Stiffness

hyperice hypervolt massage gun for sciatica

Best for – back muscle knots, sciatica, muscle tightness, preventing pain after a workout, and muscle recovery.

  • Massage type – percussion & vibration.
  • Strokes per Minute – 1800 to 3200
  • Speed options – 5 (ideal for varying levels of pain)
  • Battery life –  single battery unit, lasts about 3+ hours. Recharges in under 6 hours.
  • Weight – 1.8 lbs.

$199 at Hyperice

hyperice vypervolt for back pain

The Hyperice massage gun is a perfect fit for people who may be injured by a powerful massage gun (like the popular Theragun) and is a gentler, quieter massager, perfect for people who cannot take too much pain, yet just as effective.

Available at Hyperice ($199) and on Amazon ($199)

Are Massage Guns Good for Back Pain?

According to many physical therapists, massage guns are safe and effective at delivering a quick hit of relief to the body parts that often carry stress (such as the back and shoulders).

They are effective at warming up the muscles before activity or helping with cool-down.

However, even if you don’t suffer from a chronic back pain condition, you have to use a percussion massage gun with caution, gradually and after learning how to use each feature.

If you experience severe muscle soreness or very tight muscle knots, you may need to hold the device slightly away from your skin so it doesn’t punch you to full pressure.

High-end massagers have more applications and you have to learn about them and start gradually, or not at all if you have certain injuries.

We would recommend NOT using massage guns for neck pain – in the cervical area.  Alternatively, you can use neck traction to safely treat your injured neck.

Also, massage guns and prescription blood thinners such as heparin and warfarin should not be used together.

Can You Use a Massage Gun for Pinched Nerves/Sciatica?

Using a high-end powerful massage gun for back injuries such as sciatica or arthritis may sometimes cause more harm than good.

More power and pressure do not mean better treatment, and you may actually be overstraining an already jeopardized structure.

According to Theragun founder,  Dr. Jason Wersland, you should treat the side where you feel pain focusing on the low back, hamstrings, and calves for one minute each.

He also created a Sciatica protocol inside the Therabody app to use it safely and effectively.

We recommend using a lower-intensity massage gun and to make sure to not touch your spine at all.

Alternatively, you can try a vibrating foam roller, so you can control the intensity of massage with your body weight!

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The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain Relief – at Home!

Is a Massage Gun Safe for Inflammation in the Lower Back?

If you suffer from an inflamed lower back, you may want to steer clear from massage guns for now or use them cautiously if you suffer from tendonitis, bursitis, and fasciitis.

Also, we advise pregnant women to avoid using a massage gun altogether.

Can You Use a Massage Gun in the Cervical Area?

We would highly recommend avoiding using a massage gun in the cervical area if you suffer from neck injuries such as a cervical bulging disc, DDD (degenerative disc disease), or neck arthritis.

This could cause possible trauma if not done by a professional and could lead to further muscle and spinal damage.

Instead, consider using a gentler cervical massager. See the best-selling gentle neck massagers.

How to Use a Massage Gun for Back Pain

Here’s exactly how to use a massage gun for back pain and sciatica:

  1. Turn on the massage gun without putting it against your body, for better control.
  2. Rest it on your lower/upper back muscles without adding any pressure. Next, glide the percussion gun along the muscle slowly – about an inch a second or slower.
  3. If you hit a muscle knot or a more tender area, let the massage tool just rest on that spot – without adding more pressure to it – before moving on.
  4. Breathe slowly and feel the relief.

A few minutes of back massage is enough to get the benefits of a massage gun. There’s no need for more than this.

Warning – Avoid the bones. You probably won’t cause any damage if you accidentally hammer at a bone, but it won’t be comfortable.

Focus on large muscle groups until you get the hang of using the massager.

Here’s a short video demonstrating how to use it. Notice the gun barely touching the skin:

How to Choose the Right Attachment for Your Specific Back Pain

The type of massage gun attachment to use for specific back pain depends on the location and type of pain. Here are some common attachments and their uses:

  • Ball attachment: Good for general muscle soreness and pain.
  • Flat attachment: Good for larger muscle groups such as the back and hips.
  • Fork attachment: Good for targeting trigger points and knots.
  • Bullet attachment: Good for a targeted, deep-tissue massage.
  • Cone attachment: Good for working on smaller muscle groups such as the neck and shoulders.

We hope you’ve found this post useful. Let us know if you have any questions or share your experience with percussion massage for back pain – in the comment section below.

Pro Tip

Combine traction therapy at home to enhance healing from back injuries. See all about back traction at home!

The Back Pain Relief Products Team

Studies

Sams L, Langdown BL, Simons J, Vseteckova J. The Effect Of Percussive Therapy On Musculoskeletal Performance And Experiences Of Pain: A Systematic Literature Review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2023 Apr 1;18(2):309-327.

Crawford C, Boyd C, Paat CF, et al. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population. Pain Med. 2016;17(7):1353–1375.

Tiffany Field, et al.  (2005) CORTISOL DECREASES AND SEROTONIN AND DOPAMINE INCREASE FOLLOWING MASSAGE THERAPY, International Journal of Neuroscience, 115:10, 1397-1413

Imtiyaz S, Veqar Z, Shareef MY. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(1):133–136.

Nina C. Franklin, Mohamed M. Ali, Austin T. Robinson, Edita Norkeviciute, Shane A. Phillips. Massage Therapy Restores Peripheral Vascular Function following ExertionArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2014

Meital James
 

Meital James, Founder and CEO of 4 healthy living blogs, has a background in Naturopathic medicine, research, journalism, and nutrition. Her blogs are the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and experience and all the posts are verified by scientific findings.

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