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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 back injuries?

In this post, you’ll find who should you use massage guns for back pain and sciatica, massage guns pros and cons, who should avoid it, and the best massage guns for back pain relief.

massage gun pros and cons for back pain

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Related: The Best Vibrating Foam Rollers | The Best Wireless TENS Unites

What is a Massage gun?

what is 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 boosts blood circulation, flushes fluids out of the muscle tissue, relaxes tight muscles, reduces muscle soreness, and breaks up scar tissues.

They 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, in varying speeds and pressure.

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.

  • 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)

This results in faster muscle recovery after working out or overuse of back muscles at work, while increasing flexibility and range of motion and speeding up muscle healing after soft tissue injuries.

And a great bonus:

When used correctly and at the right time, massage therapy can help you reduce stress and sleep better.

Why?

Because muscle pain relief calms the nervous system and helps to fall asleep – especially if you use it a few minutes before bedtime.

However:

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

Massage Guns Pros & Cons 

massage guns pros and cons

Here’s the bottom line:

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. But, if you suffer from severe muscle pain, use carefully and on 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)

Are Massage Guns Good for Back Pain Sufferers?

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. Howevereven 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 to use 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 making 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 Low Back Inflammation?

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, 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.

What is the Best Massage Gun for Back Pain?

Massage GunMassage Heads/
Speed options
Bottom Line
🥇Hydragun
Our Pick
6 speed settings
6 attachments
$299 at Hydragun
Playmakar MVP
Percussion
Massage Gun

Best for the Money
6 heads
6 speed settings
$199 at Playmakar
Save 10% with coupon code meital10
OPOVE M3 Pro
Popular
5 heads
4 speed settings
$119 with free shipping at OPOVE
Renpho Massage Gun
Best for muscle knots
5 heads
20 speed settings
$69 at Renpho
15% discount with code BFCM22
Hyperice Hypervolt
Best for Sciatica
5 heads
5 speed settings
$149 at Hyperice
Exerscribe Vybe Pro
Best for Beginners
8 heads
9 speed settings
Check Price on Amazon
Comparing the best massage guns for back pain according to features and price.

If you’ve decided that a massage gun is right for you, we saved you a lot of time and found the 5 most versatile massage guns for back pain, all of them have a low-intensity option, which we found to be safer for back injuries treatment.

1. 🥇 Hydragun Best for Lower Back Pain

best massage gun for back pain and sciatica

Hydragun – $299 at Hydragun

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

Our number 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.
hydragun trial and results

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

This excellent 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 fork head.

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.

Price – $299 with free shipping Hydragun

2. Renpho Massage Gun Best for Sciatica

massage gun for sciatica

Renpho massage gunview on Amazon

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

  • Strokes per minute – up to 3200
  • Speed options – 20 (ideal for varying levels of pain)
  • Battery life –  single battery unit, lasts about 8 hours. Recharges in 2-3 hours.
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds.
  • Attachments – 5

With no less than 20 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).

This 100% portable high-quality massage gun is quiet (less than 63.5 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

Price – $69 at Renpho (15% discount with code BFCM22) or check the price on Amazon

3. Hyperice Hypervolt  Best for Muscle Stiffness

hyperice hypervolt massage gun for sciatica

Hyperice Hypervolt – view at Hyprice

👉 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 percussion per minute.
  • Speed options – 5 (ideal for varying levels of pain)
  • Battery life –  single battery unit, lasts about 3+ hours. Recharges in under 6 hours.
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds.
  • Attachments – 4 (round/flat/bullet/ fork). The fork is great for in between the shoulders)

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.

✅ Price – $149 at Hyperice, or check the price on Amazon

4. Exerscribe Vybe Pro Cordless Massage Gun  Best for Beginners

exerscribe vybe pro massage gun

Exerscribe Vybe Pro Massage gunview on Amazon

👉 Best for – deep pressure massage, back muscle recovery.

  • Speed options – 9
  • Strokes per minute – 1800 – 3400
  • Battery life – 3 hours (1 lithium-ion battery included)
  • Massage type – percussion (1800 to 3400 strokes per minute)
  • Massage heads – 8 attachments to fit different muscle groups (Large Ball, Fork, Flat Head, Wedge Head, Bullet Head, and more)
  • Weight – 2.5 pounds

The Exerscribe massage gun is a good starter massager for you to see if you even like and benefit from massage guns.

Why?

Because the price is lower than most percussion massage guns yet it’s similar in its shape and function, with 9 speed settings you can choose from to fit your pain level accurately. Plus, it’s completely portable (cordless) and is perfect to use at work or travel.

Price – check the price on Amazon.

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:

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

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. doi:10.1093/pm/pnw099

Tiffany Field, et al.  (2005) CORTISOL DECREASES AND SEROTONIN AND DOPAMINE INCREASE FOLLOWING MASSAGE THERAPY, International Journal of Neuroscience, 115:10, 1397-1413, DOI: 10.1080/00207450590956459

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. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971

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; DOI: 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.02.007

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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