In this Guide
When you’re looking to work out a specific knot or muscle group, there’s no better tool than a percussion massager. You can use these tools pretty much anywhere on your body, from stiff shoulder muscles to sore calves. Percussion massagers are also the most affordable massage therapy tools out there, which makes them a great choice for people who need treatment on a budget.
There are a huge range of percussion massagers out there, and as your massage experts, we’ve taken a close look at all the options. For this guide, we’ve selected three top models that we think deserve your attention. We chose them for their effectiveness, ergonomics, reliability and value. Our recommendations are chosen to provide a range of choices for all conditions and all price levels.
Below, we’ve put together in-depth reviews of all our recommendations, as well as a quick how-to section to help you choose the one that’s best for you.
Jumping right in, here’s our Top Three at a glance:
Best on a Budget
- Our Rating: 4.5
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.5
- Popularity: High
- Rating: 4.3
- Reviews: 407
Best Percussion Massager Reviews 2018
1. iHaus Plus
Our favorite percussion massager for people on a budget comes from iHaus. This model has all the basic hallmarks of a great model: a powerful motor, interchangeable nodes, and a simple design that’s easy to use and easy to adjust.
This is an excellent first percussion massager for folks who haven’t owned one before. It’s also a very affordable choice for people on a tight budget! As long as you don’t expect too much, it’s quite satisfying.
It’s pretty powerful, for such a cheap tool. This one has an internal motor that can run up to 3350 pulses per minute! Buyers said it did a very respectable job on tense muscles, especially compared to other models at this price.
You can adjust the intensity via a simple slider switch on the handle. Previous buyers said the lowest settings were best for feet, while the highest speeds were better for working into thicker muscles on the back or calfs.
The dual-node design allows you to cover ground quickly. It also comes with several different sets of nodes, so you can find the sensation that’s best for each muscle and each session. There are three sets, ranging from completely smooth domes to spikier circles filled with individual nodes.
It really does the trick. Previous buyers said it does a pretty good job anywhere on the body! While most used it around the neck and shoulders, reviewers said they also had good results using this one on calves and on lower back muscles. It might not have the finesse or pedigree of pricier options, but it provides the same basic function.
It’s very inexpensive. The iHaus is available for well under $50, and it provides much better power and reliability than other budget options. In fact, while this isn’t the sturdiest massage tool out there, we couldn’t find any complaints from previous buyers about the longevity of this model.
It has a long power cord, at 72”. Most people said they could use this conveniently without an extension cord.
The description isn’t completely accurate, so buy with caution:
It doesn’t have heat. In the description, this unit claims to have heated nodes, when there’s no onboard heater at all. The nodes don’t pivot, either, which contradicts the description. This one just vibrates.
It’s built pretty cheaply. Reviewers noted the clunky, loud power button and adjustment switch, both of which feel very cheap and flimsy. Some buyers also noted that the power cords on their units were loose. This one also heats up after extended use, so you can’t use it as long at a time as some nicer options.
It’s heavy. One downside of budget percussion massagers like this is that they’re just not efficiently designed. This one weighs 3 pounds, which can be a lot for some people to hold over their shoulder or at other awkward angles.
Overall, the iHouse is simply a bit more awkward to use than smaller, sleeker, more expensive options. That’s mostly due to the large head, which makes it difficult to reach into tight spaces, like between the shoulder blades.
It’s also not so good at deep massage. Since it only vibrates, and doesn’t have quite the brute power of more expensive models, it’s a good preventive tool, but not great for severely knotted muscles. You can use this for basic relaxation, not chronic conditions.
2. Pure Wave CM7
The CM7 from Pure Wave is our favorite midrange choice right now. It’s an incredibly popular percussion massager, and we think it’s easy to see why. It offers cordless convenience, lots of power, and a whole range of attachments to help you get the most out of your machine.
We think it’s easily the most convenient percussion massager on the market right now. We highly recommend it to people who want performance and versatility in a portable design. The Thumper might be more powerful, but the Pure Wave is easy to bring wherever you may need it.
It comes with 5 different attachments to modify the node. There’s also a separate attachment for facial treatments, which can be used with or without oil. The air cushion attachment is good for Swedish-style massage on joints. The point stick makes specific adjustments like reflexology and acupressure easy. The 6-head attachment offers wide coverage and more dig for working out tough, knotted muscles. There’s also a scalp massager tool, and a smooth node for massaging with body oil.
It’s easier to fit in tight spaces, since it only has one node. This one’s great for working between shoulder blades, or under the arch of feet. Reviewers said it was particularly useful for dealing with plantar fasciitis in their feet.
It’s more powerful than the iHaus. The motor in the Pure Wave can run from1500-3700 rpm. It’s certainly the most powerful cordless model we’ve ever reviewed! Buyers said it did a much better job at deep tissue work than budget choices like the iHaus.
There’s a separate, dedicated micro-massage motor for relaxing your face without causing wrinkles. It’s a vibration feature which works with a metal node face to work out stress around your temples and under your chin.
You can adjust the speed and intensity of the main percussion node as well as the facial massager via an easy dial.
Since it’s so versatile and powerful, it’s a better choice for people dealing with specific or chronic musculature issues. We found that buyers said it worked wonders on stiffness from arthritis, on fibromyalgia, and plantar fasciitis. It’s also better than budget models for folks who work out a lot and have thick muscles to rub out at the end of the workout. It’s a very popular choice among athletes
Reviewers with chronic conditions said the Pure Wave made a big improvement in their symptoms, and helped them get through the periods between physical therapy sessions or visits to the chiropractor.
It’s lighter than the iHaus, at just 1.75 pounds. That’s nearly half the weight shaved off!
It’s cordless. The battery provides up to 120 minutes of continuous operation. It’s enough to last the average user about a week, with 20 minute sessions each day. It only takes an hour to charge.
It’s much quieter than the iHaus. That’s more important than you might think, especially if you use your massager regularly and don’t live alone.
It has a soft silicone grip.
It’s extra long, which makes this one more convenient for reaching down your back and over your shoulder.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty. Buyers who ran into issues said the company was quick to offer replacements. Pure Wave also take the time to respond to customer feedback in online reviews.
It has some quality control/reliability issues. We’re impressed with Pure Wave’s customer service, but it would really be better to not have to need it. Some buyers received dysfunctional units out of the box, and some others said their units started having trouble after a few uses. On the bright side, replacements are readily available, and the most recent batches of this model seem to be better in terms of quality control.
The single-node design makes this one a more specific tool than the iHaus, but it takes longer to cover the same amount of ground as the larger tool.
It’s pretty expensive. At more than $100, the price may make the Pure Wave cost-prohibitive for some buyers. We only recommend it to people who will get lots of use out of it.
You can’t replace the battery. While the company say their testing shows that the battery on the Pure Wave should last 500-1000 charge cycles, we would really prefer a replaceable battery on something this expensive.
For a black version of the Pure Wave:
3. Thumper Sport
This Thumper model is available for about the same price as the Pure Wave. We think it’s slightly better in terms of performance, but the difference is marginal. We’re giving the Thumper our top quality slot because the corded design makes it a better choice for long massages, especially over the long term for folks with chronic issues. It also adds a bit of extra power, and heavier build quality. If you’re looking for the closest thing to professional spa treatment at home, this is it!
It has a similar design to the iHaus, only more refined and ergonomic. The Thumper has a long, slender handle, and a wide head that works well both on yourself and on others. It reaches easily over a shoulder, or down to your feet.
It’s professional-grade. Many reviewers compared the Thumper favorably to massagers they’d used at their chiropractor or naturopath’s office. In fact, Thumper’s commercial series are some of the most popular for professional and medical users. This one packages that same power and finesse in a consumer product. Overall, we found that people with chronic conditions or special considerations (like being lifelong athletes) said the Thumper was the best home percussion massager they’d used.
This one has the extra power to reach deep into taut muscles, as well as working the surface. It’s the best massager here for deep tissue work. Previous buyers said the Thumper easily went deep to the heart of muscles, which led them to actually release, rather than just ease slightly. Bike riders in particular found it helpful for loosening up chronically tight calfs.
It has 5 different speed levels. You can also adjust between the set levels, to fine-tune your massage experience. All the adjustments are simple and straightforward, with a handy dial and power switch.
It’s more ergonomic than most corded models. The Thumper is a bit heavier than a cordless unit, but it has a balanced design that feels a lot less awkward on your wrists and forearms.
It has dual nodes, like the iHaus. That allows you to cover ground quickly, and to massage on both sides of the spine as you work on back muscles.
It’s very quiet, especially for a dual-node model. Previous buyers said they were very pleased with the relaxing hum this produced, compared to the racket a lot of other percussion massagers make.
It’s made in Canada. That’s a big advantage both for build quality and quality control from the factory. Canada also has much stricter environmental and safety standards than factories in China. Cheap options like the iHaus tend to be made from smelly plastic which probably isn’t up to scratch with Western standards for emissions or chemical content. This is a much safer option for your body.
We’ve also found that while the occasional buyer received a Thumper damaged in the shipping process, these machines tend to last much longer than the budget options over the long term. That makes them one of the wisest long term purchases out there for active folks or people with chronic muscle pain/soreness.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty. Thumper also take the time to respond to buyer questions and concerns in online reviews.
It’s not as convenient as the Pure Wave. You can only use this tool in places with a power outlet nearby. Thankfully, the power cord is pretty generous, so you shouldn’t need an extension cord.
It’s a bit heavy. One downside of the Thumper’s heavier build quality compared to other percussion massagers is that it feels hefty in the hand. Most buyers didn’t have a problem, but it could be a bit hard for an older person or someone with weak wrists to use.
The Thumper isn’t winning any points for versatility. It only has the primary set of nodes. Many other premium units have adjustable width between the nodes, or an accessory kit with different attachments for massaging different muscle groups. That’s not the case with the Thumper. It only has one set of nodes, and you can’t make any adjustments besides speed.
It’s expensive. The Thumper will cost you close to $150, which is no small purchase. With that said, it lasts a lot longer than cheaper models, and you’re less likely to need to replace your massager over time. We’ve seen lots of buyer reviews from folks who had been using their Thumper’s for years.
While the quality control on these units is better than most brands, there are still some issues. Some buyers received massagers with rattling internal parts, and a few had issues with durability over time. However, that’ll all be covered by the warranty, and the vast majority of buyers didn’t report any issues. On the contrary, they felt that this was the best-made massage they’d used to date.
It’s powerful, but not the most intense option. For something even more intense, Thumper make a Mini Pro model with more power.
Which Professional Percussion Massager Should You Choose?
The Haus is the obvious choice for people who haven’t used a percussion massager before, and want to try out the experience to see if it’ll improve their symptoms. It’s also a decent, effective solution for people who simply can’t afford the Pure Wave or Thumper. On the downside, it doesn’t have the power to reach deep into muscle tissues, and it’s not the most heavy-duty massage tool out there. It’s not ideal for people with chronic muscle stiffness or other conditions to deal with. The Haus is also the most awkward, unwieldy of the three to use, especially over your shoulder. It does the trick, but you should limit your expectations.
The Pure Wave is our top quality recommendation for people who value versatility and convenience. It’s the only one of our recommendations that runs on cordless power, and it packs more oomph than other cordless options.
Plus, it comes with a full set of attachments and tools to help you get your money’s worth. This is a good value pick for folks who like to have lots of different massage techniques and modes on their percussion unit. It’s effective just about anywhere on the body, and it’s excellent for people with specific conditions to treat.
On the other hand, its battery pack is soldered-in, so this is a product with a limited lifespan. It’s also not quite as powerful as the Thumper, which means it’s not as good for deep tissue work.
The Thumper is our choice for people who want professional-grade massage quality at home. It’s the most expensive percussion massager here, but it packs the most power, and lasts the longest. It’s simple, straightforward, and very effective.
Plus, it has better build quality than the other two, and a longer warranty as well. We think it’s the best choice for people with chronic muscle pain or other health issues that require daily use and extended massage sessions.
However, it’s not as versatile as the Pure Wave, and you’ll need to plug it into an outlet. This one’s also the most expensive unit here, so it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re going to get lots of use out of your percussion massager, and want to see real health benefits, we don’t think you can do any better!
How to Choose the Right Percussion Massager
Decide on your budget:
Percussion massagers can cost anywhere from $25-$250, or more for a commercial-grade tool.
If you’re looking to try one for the first time, you can do quite well with something in the $25-$50 range. These budget models can give you a good introduction to the general sensation of a percussion massager, so you know whether investing in a full-powered version will make a difference to your well-being.
They’re a decent, affordable option for the average person who just wants to work out some kinks when they get home from the office. However, the budget models we’ve reviewed lack the power to do much about deep tissue soreness or tension.
They also have very light build quality, which means you can’t run them very long before they start overheating or falling apart. We don’t recommend them to anyone who’s confident that they’re going to use a percussion massager on a regular or daily basis.
We recommend that anyone who wants real performance from their percussion massager spend in the $100-$250 range. Athletes looking for post-workout relief and folks with more serious muscle tension will find that these models make much more of a difference than the budget options, which vibrate on the surface but don’t reach deep into muscle tissues, where a lot of that tension is held. Anyone who’s going to use their percussion massager regularly for more than light work should be prepared to spend in this price range for a machine they can depend on.
If you have a chronic condition, you’ll definitely want to skip over the budget range and go for something $100+. Only these nicer tools have the power and longevity to alleviate your muscle aches or pains. Cheaper models won’t reach deep within tissues, and they won’t give you the runtime you’ll need to address your issues.
Think about the muscles and conditions you’re looking to treat:
As we’ve said, only the $100+ percussion massagers can really treat more than general stiffness. Most units in this price range can handle folks who need deep tissue work, athletes with sore muscles, and people with other considerations.
However, as you shop, you should pay attention to the actual techniques your percussion massager will use, so you can find the model that best suits your condition. For instance, do you want a single-node massager, for working in tight spots, or do you want a dual-node massager that can work your back muscles on both sides of the spine at once?
Are you massaging only larger muscle groups? If so, you’ll want larger attachments that can get right into bunched up muscles. If you’re massaging smaller, thinner muscles, you’ll probably want to have multiple attachments, with a few smaller tools for those more delicate tissues.
For working on joints, you need something with an air pocket. Look at the specific attachments that come with your massager, and the different settings for the motor. These features will give you a good sense of which specific types of massage your tool will help with.
Cordless or corded:
One final key decision to make is whether you’ll be buying a cordless or corded percussion massager. Cordless models are generally a bit more expensive, but once you get into the top price range, the differences are negligible. So, since price isn’t a big deciding factor, you’ll want to think about whether cordless convenience or corded power is the best option for you.
If you have a chronic or severe muscle symptom to alleviate, you’ll probably be best-served by a corded massager. A corded model will give you the extra runtime and power to do deep tissue work, without having to worry about the battery conking out.
If you’re an average buyer, looking to relieve general stress tightness or post-workout stiffness, you may find that a cordless model is the most convenient for you. These massagers don’t usually have quite as much power as corded options, but they allow you to massage yourself or a family member pretty much anywhere, and for a reasonably long time.
However, since they have limited runtimes and weaker motors, we don’t usually recommend these for most chronic conditions. If you’re going to use a cordless model for regular, deeper work, make sure you spend top dollar for something that can really provide the power and ruggedness you need.