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Best Massage Guns to Relieve Muscle Soreness

Give your muscles some TLC with these tried-and-true massage guns.

In this article

Everyone tries to be consistent with their workouts, but it's even more important to be consistent with your recovery. That means getting enough sleep and eating well, but it also means tending to your sore muscles. Aches and pains can kill your motivation to work out, but not everyone has time for a massage. That's where massage guns can be clutch. They once seemed like an item exclusive to elite athletes, but since their boom, they've become more accessible to anyone who's seeking ways to relieve soreness at home.

Massage guns use percussive therapy, a form of soft tissue massage that uses vibrations. Percussive therapy relieves aches, sore muscles, knots, tension and other pains you may be experiencing. "Some athletes like to use the guns in their warmups to massage the muscles and help them get moving since percussive therapy has shown increased acute flexibility within the muscles used," said Future performance coach Connor Derrickson. 

If you're an avid exerciser, percussive therapy can help reduce muscle pain and soreness, lactic acid buildup and fatigue. If you work on your feet all day or spend hours hunched over a computer, massage gun vibrations can help release any muscle knots or stiffness you may experience. 

With the number of massage guns out there, I tested various kinds to determine which are the best. If you're looking to invest in a massage gun, you can shop early Black Friday fitness deals, which include some of our favorites. Before buying, use this guide will help narrow down the right style that's right for you and your needs.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

The Theragun Elite is a powerful, easy-to-use massage gun with a comfortable handle. It provides 40 pounds of pressure and has five built-in speeds, ranging from 1,750 to 2,400 percussions per minute. It also has an amplitude of 16 millimeters, which gets deeper into the muscles. 

The Elite has five attachments: a dampener, standard ball, wedge, thumb and cone. It also comes with a carrying case, which keeps the massage gun protected when not in use. The Elite has Bluetooth connectivity, which lets you access preset guided routines from the Therabody app (available for iPhone and Android) in case you need help getting started with your massage gun. 

This massage gun has a 120-minute battery life and is easy to charge with a power adapter. If you're willing to spend extra, you can get the Elite wireless charging stand ($79), which makes charging simple. 

Once turned on, the Elite has a screen that indicates its current speed setting and remaining battery. I tried the various included attachments and experimented with different speeds to see how well it penetrated my muscles. It's obviously a powerful massager, falling between the Theragun Pro Gen 5 and the Theragun Prime. However, the Elite is more user friendly, thanks to the simplicity of its features, while having more power than the Prime. Both beginners and well-established athletes will get good use from the Elite to break down knots and eliminate sore muscles.

My one gripe with the Elite is that it's supposed to be one of Theragun's quieter massage gun models, but I still thought it was on the louder side, especially as you amp up the power. It also has a shorter battery life than the other guns on this list. If you're content with keeping the massage gun at home and breaking it out when needed, the Theragun Elite is a solid pick. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • It has carrying case for safe storage
  • OLED screen makes it easy to read settings
  • Can be controlled through Therabody app

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Wireless charging stand is extra
  • Battery life could be longer
  • Loud
Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

The fifth generation of the Theragun Pro has an upgraded design compared to the previous model. It's 20% quieter, smaller and slightly lighter than the original (2.76 pounds vs. 2.91 pounds). Therabody kept the important features of its predecessor: an adjustable head angle, five speeds, a 150-minute battery life, 16 millimeters of amplitude and 60 pounds of pressure. 

New upgrades include customizable speed ranges and visually guided built-in routines through the OLED screen: Sleep, Warm Up, Recovery and Theragun Break. Other additions include a new attachment, the Micropoint, intended to increase stimulation. It also has Bluetooth connection, so it's easy to manage from the Therabody app.

Once turned on, it's noticeable that it's significantly quieter than the previous version. However, it's still powerful even at the lowest speed. Therabody kept the rotating arm, which makes it easy to target hard-to-reach areas. I've been dealing with IT band issues, so the wedge attachment does a good job targeting that area.

The downside to the newest Pro is that it's still the most expensive massage gun on this list. This may not be the best option for everyone since you can get a similar experience with a less expensive device. However, athletes and others who are physically active all day would benefit the most from this full-featured massage gun.

Pros:

  • Most powerful massage gun on list
  • 20% quieter than previous model
  • Lighter than older version
  • Has customizable and preset programs

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • May be intimidating for average person
  • Upgrades are not drastic compared to last version
Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

Lifepro's Sonic Handheld Percussion Massage Gun is less intimidating than other heavy-duty massage guns. It's also on the quieter side. The battery lasts three to six hours, depending on which speed you use, and consists of five speeds ranging from 1,200 to 2,800 revolutions per minute. The LED panel on the Sonic has all the speeds and battery life listed in one place. This design makes it easier to read the speed it's set on and if it needs to be charged. 

The Sonic has the most massage head attachments of all the massage guns on this list. It comes with eight massage heads and a carrying case. However, it's on the bigger side so it's not suitable for traveling.

An issue I had with the Sonic is that I had to set it at the highest setting to feel the power of the massage gun. This is less common with heavy-duty massage guns, like the Theragun, because you can feel the intensity at the lowest setting. Another aspect that could be improved is the design on the body of the gun. It's made up of plastic, which makes it appear less durable. 

Otherwise, if you're new to percussive therapy this is a good option that gives you the full experience without breaking the bank. 

Pros:

  • Quiet motor
  • LED display makes it easy to read settings
  • Plenty of massage head options 
  • Inexpensive 
  • Has a carrying case

Cons:

  • It has to be set at the last two settings to really feel power
  • Plastic design makes it appear less durable
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The Hypervolt 2 is the lightest massage gun on the list -- excluding the minis -- weighing 1.8 pounds. It's the second edition of the popular Hypervolt massage gun and has three speeds. With its QuietGlide Technology, it's quieter than some of its competition.

The Hypervolt has five head attachments: a fork, ball, cushion, flat and bullet head. It also has a three-hour battery life and is TSA-friendly, so you can take it with you while traveling. The downside is it doesn't have a travel case. Using the Hypervolt 2 is similar to the Theragun because it also has an app. It has Bluetooth capability and connects to the Hyperice app, which is available for iPhones and Androids. 

The app has built-in massage routines that focus on specific body parts or to help you get to sleep. You can also design a massage routine based on muscle groups. This takes the guesswork out of how to use the massage gun, what attachments to use and for how long. 

The Hypervolt handle could be improved by being designed to access hard-to-reach areas, like the back. I would've also liked more speed options, which the Hypervolt 2 Pro has, but it's bigger and heavier. 

If you want a massage gun that isn't too complicated to use, is lightweight and makes less noise, you'll like the Hypervolt 2. 

Pros:

  • Quiet
  • Lightweight
  • Good for travel
  • Built-in massage routines through app

Cons:

  • No travel case
  • Only has three speeds
  • Can be hard to massage hard to reach areas
Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

The Renpho R4 Pro Massage Gun doesn't look as sophisticated as the other massage guns on this list, but it is still effective. It also has a quiet motor for a big massage gun. 

The R4 Pro has a rotating head that can be adjusted into five positions by pressing a large button on the side of the massage head. This feature reminded me of the Theragun Pro, which functions similarly. Being able to change the angling of the massage gun is key because you can target hard-to-reach areas. The R4 Pro also comes with six attachments: L ball head, M ball head, fork, bullet, flat and air-cushioned head. 

The power button is at the top of the handle and has a panel that reads the four speeds (ranging from 1,200 to 3,200 revolutions per minute) and the battery level. This battery lasts up to two hours, which is similar to the Theragun Pro's two and a half hour battery life. It has 10 millimeters of amplitude so it doesn't penetrate as deep as the Theragun Pro. It comes with a carrying case for storage, but I wouldn't recommend it for traveling because it's big. If you want a massage gun that isn't expensive but has the features of a high-end one (minus the app function), the Renpho R4 Pro Massage Gun is a solid pick. After all, $60 is reasonable compared to spending hundreds of dollars on a massage gun with similar features. 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Quiet for a big massage gun
  • Good alternative to Theragun Pro: Gen 5
  • You can change the massage head angle to hit hard-to-reach areas
  • Easy to use and follow

Cons:

  • Not as stylish as the high-end massage guns
  • Could use longer battery life
Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

The Ekrin Athletics B37S Percussion Massager has a whopping eight-hour battery life, the longest out of all the massage guns on this list. The B37S has five adjustable speeds ranging from 1,400 to 3,200 percussions per minute. This includes up to 56 pounds of deep percussive force which gets into those hard-to-reach knots. The ergonomic handle has a 15-degree angle which requires less wrist extension and sits comfortably in your hand. It also has six head attachments, so you have many options to choose from. 

This massage gun is sturdy and less bulky than other massage guns with various features. The power button, found at the top of the handle, controls the speed and is easy to maneuver. Even at the lowest speed setting, the B37S felt powerful. With some of the other massage guns, I would have to crank it up a few speeds before getting to that point.

The B37S is on par with elite massage guns like Theragun and Hypervolt. It's just as expensive (at over $300), but it has both brands beat on battery life. This is important if you're not looking to constantly charge your massage gun. So if battery life is important to you, you'll be satisfied with the Ekrin Athletics B37S.

Pros: 

  • Long battery life
  • Quieter than most massage guns 
  • The handle is angled for extra comfort

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • May be a bit big for travel
Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

Mini massage guns have gained popularity because they're compact. The Ekrin Athletics Bantam is the best option for traveling. It's sleek, slim, lightweight, compact (the size of an iPhone) and comfortable to hold. It also has a six-hour battery life which is long for most massage guns, let alone a mini. 

The Bantam comes with a travel case and four head attachments. You have more options than its competitor the Theragun Mini second generation which only has three. The Bantam has three speeds ranging from 2,000 to 3,200 percussions per minute and provides 10 millimeters of amplitude and up to 35 pounds of pressure. If you're traveling with the Bantam and need to recharge it, you can easily do so with its USB Type-C charger.  

It's quiet yet powerful even at the lowest settings. My only problem with this massage gun is that the design was simpler than I would've liked. The power button, which is on the bottom of the handle, controls the speed as well. Unfortunately, there's no way to see what speed level the massage gun is on unless you click through each one. 

If you want a reliable massage gun to take to the gym or while traveling, look no further than the Bantam.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Has travel case
  • Powerful
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Power and speed are controlled by the same button
Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

Similar to its siblings, the second-gen Theragun Mini second a powerful punch. It's the new and improved Mini in the Theragun collection and it's a solid upgrade from the original. The second-gen Theragun Mini is quieter than the original Mini, 20% smaller and 30% lighter. This time around you get three attachments with your Mini instead of just the one that the original had. 

This massage gun has three speeds ranging from 1,750 to 2,400 percussions per minute. It has 12 millimeters of amplitude, which is deep for a mini massage gun. By comparison, the Bantam massage gun only has 10 millimeters of amplitude. 

The Theragun Mini second generation maintains the same solid ergonomic handle that the original Mini has to make up its compact shape. The Mini's power button also controls the speed and uses lights to indicate the speed level. Another plus is that it's Bluetooth enabled, so you can connect it to the Therabody app. 

The problem with this design is that there's no way of knowing when it's time to recharge the massage gun. The travel case it comes with is a soft pouch, making it easy to throw into a gym bag or purse while traveling. However, I'd hoped Therabody would upgrade to a sturdier case to avoid any possible accidents. 

If you're looking for a small yet powerful massage gun that's portable, the Theragun Mini is a good choice. 

Pros:

  • Smaller and lighter
  • Powerful
  • Can be used for travel or on the go

Cons:

  • Battery life is still hard to determine
  • Could use a better travel case 

Other massage guns we tested

Hypervolt 2 Pro

The Hypervolt 2's successor was louder and heavier than I would've liked, but it has five speeds and is a good option if you find the speeds on the Hypervolt 2 aren't enough.

Hypervolt Go 2

Hypervolt's travel-size massage gun fell short when it came to power. It also didn't come with a travel case. It's a good option if you prefer something quieter than the Theragun Mini.

Theragun Prime

This Theragun version seems too expensive for its simplicity. However, if you're loyal to Theragun and prefer a simple massage gun, the Prime is your best bet. 

Theragun Pro (fourth generation)

This version didn't make the list because the fifth generation stepped things up a notch, and it's quieter. If you don't care for the new updates, you can get the fourth generation for $100 cheaper right now. 

Theragun Mini (first generation)

Compared to the new Theragun Mini, the original is heavier, bigger and louder. But it is still a good option if you're looking for a small massage gun you can use on the go. It's also $20 cheaper than the new version.

Vybe Flex Percussion Massage Gun

This massage gun had attachments that felt like cheap plastic, and it wasn't as powerful as others on this list. It's inexpensive, though, so it can be an alternative if you're not looking to spend a lot.

Vybe Pro Percussion Massage Gun

Compared to the other massage guns on this list, the design for the Vybe Pro looks less sophisticated and the buttons feel easy to break. I also found the arm too long, which adds to the weight of the massage gun.

Lifepro DynaMini Massage Gun

This mini lacked power unless you cranked it up to the last two settings. It would have also benefited from a non-slip rubber coating on the handle because the whole massage gun is made up of a heavy metal. 

Renpho Mini Massage Gun

This pocket-sized massage gun is an affordable option if you aren't looking for a fancy design. But it's made up of all plastic and makes me question its durability if it were to fall. 

How We Picked and Tested

  • Speed
    We looked at the speed levels provided by each massage gun.
  • Design
    We looked at the design of the massage gun and its functionality.
  • Intensity
    We looked at the pressure provided by the massage gun when in use.
  • Battery life
    We looked at the longevity of the battery life for each massage gun.
  • Amplitude
    This refers to how deep the massage gun penetrates the muscle tissue. Massage gun stroke lengths go from as low as 8 millimeters to as high as 16 millimeters.

Factors to consider

  • Think about how much you're willing to invest in a massage gun because a good one can cost anywhere from $100 to $600. 
  • Determine if you're looking for a heavy-duty version or if you'd be happy with a less intense massage gun. 
  • Some massage guns offer either vibration or percussion therapy. Put simply: Vibration therapy sends vibrations and constantly touches the surface of the skin, whereas percussive therapy uses pressure to get deeper into the muscle and glides on and off of the skin. The latter tends to be the preferred option of many. 
  • Ask yourself how often you'll be using the massage gun. If it's frequently, then you'll want to consider a massage gun with a decent battery life. 
  • Determine if you're planning on taking it while traveling or on the go. There are smaller massage guns on the market that are suitable for these purposes. 

FAQS

How do massage guns work?

Massage guns work by sending fast and powerful pulsating strokes that penetrate deep into muscle tissues. They increase muscle stimulation, reduce soft tissue pain and improve blood circulation, speed up recovery and improve your physical performance.  

What are massage guns for?

Massage guns typically use percussive therapy, which has been found to help with recovery after a workout, relieving muscle aches, soreness and pain. Some people like to use a massage gun to warm up and promote circulation to a specific area before their workout.

Where should you use a massage gun?

You can use a massage gun on big muscle groups like your quads, hamstrings, glutes, back muscles and even your neck, hips and calves. However, you want to avoid using a massage gun on any injured areas, bones or joints. Remember that harder and faster isn't always better. Derrickson advises, "Start on the lowest setting and find your tolerance and what you need in the moment." He says you should never be forceful with a massage gun, adding, "You don't want constant pressure on one area the entire time, instead let it glide over the muscles."

Who should use a massage gun?

Typically it's OK for anyone to use a massage gun. But if you have a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, it may interfere with the circuitry. If you're pregnant, you should also avoid massage guns or first get clearance to use one from your doctor. 

Is it OK to use a massage gun every day?

Massage guns are safe to use every day, as long as you use proper technique, but you don't want to overdo it since it can reduce the benefits of the therapy. Dr. Grant K Radermacher, a sports chiropractor, says, "Start with a small region of soft tissue and work with it for a maximum of 2 minutes." Anything longer than two minutes or static work can irritate the region, and/or create an adverse reaction of restricted blood flow due to compression. 

More health and fitness recommendations

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.