For the best workout results, it’s critical to stick to a consistent routine. But when your muscles are still sore and achy, exercising can be challenging, unpleasant or even harmful. Promoting muscle recovery after a workout is just as important as the workout itself, and there’s more to it than just sitting around and waiting to feel better. Proper sleep and nutrition can help, but the most effective way to reduce muscle soreness and speed up rehabilitation is with a massage gun.
Like many things, massage therapy became much less accessible during the pandemic, and the market for personal massage guns exploded to fill the void. There are tons of options out there when it comes to shopping for a new massage gun, and finding the best one for your needs can certainly be a challenge. So let’s break down how these percussive massagers work and why they can be so helpful.
A massage gun uses the force of percussive therapy — also known as vibration therapy — to manipulate your body’s soft tissue. They’re essentially backed by the same extensive scientific research that supports massage therapy as the optimal tool for treating a sore muscle after a workout. From recreational gym-goers to professional athletes and people with chronic pain, a lot of people love percussive therapy from these powerful massagers.
Percussive therapy has been shown to help muscles recover faster while reducing muscle pain, lactic acid buildup and muscle fatigue. It can also help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness. A percussion gun allows you to focus on a certain muscle group or muscle knots for immediate pain relief. It can also improve your range of motion and flexibility, encourage blood flow, help with muscle stiffness and more. Percussive therapy may even help with stress and sleep. Also, not that you should invest in a muscle massage gun for this reason alone, but the slow-motion videos of massage guns punching muscles look insanely Insta-worthy. Just be careful about using a massage gun if you have any injuries beyond a muscle ache from a tough workout.
We’ve tested more than 30 massage guns at this point, and the following six are CNET’s picks for the best massage guns for 2022 for muscle recovery and pain relief. We’ll continue to update this best massage gun list as we see fit.
The Theragun Prime is part of the fourth generation of Theragun massage guns. Its prior equivalent was the Theragun Liv, which used to be in this list of best massage guns, and is also reviewed in-depth here.
The Theragun Prime’s main impressive feature is that it’s much quieter than its now-defunct counterpart. In fact, the Prime rivals the famously quiet Hypervolt Plus in terms of volume level — that’s a massive improvement from the Liv.
The improvements don’t stop there, though: Where the Theragun Liv only had two preprogrammed speeds and came with two closed-cell foam attachments, the new Theragun Prime has five built-in speeds (from 1,750 rpm to 2,400 rpm) and comes with four closed-cell foam massage gun attachment heads.
At $299, the Theragun Prime is pricey, but doesn’t induce sticker shock quite like the Pro G4 (below). This percussion massager sometimes goes on sale for $249 or even lower, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
To me, the improvements make the Theragun Prime seem well worth the price. The competition to the Prime, to me, is the original Hypervolt: These two massage guns have many similar features and hover around the same price range. The choice is yours for the making!
Therabody’s Theraguns are considered the gold standard in percussive therapy, so its most luxurious, feature-rich muscle gun model must be one of the best, right?
In all truth, I have to say yes. Having tested more than 20 massage guns, including three other Theraguns, the Theragun Pro is pretty dang impressive — especially compared to the previous line of Therabody massage guns. (The Theragun G3, a similar percussion massager version, was previously on this list. You can read our full review to learn more.)
The Theragun Pro G4 is, first and foremost, much quieter than its former iteration. Loudness has been a chief complaint of Theragun buyers since the company’s early days, and the brand finally made a move to remedy that.
I’m not saying the Pro G4 is silent — the noise level is still louder than most other massage guns — but it doesn’t rattle my brain like the G3 did, thanks to Theragun’s new QuietForce Technology. If you’re an athlete or serious exerciser who can deal with a massage device that sounds like a muted turkey carver (and you’re willing to pay top dollar for percussive therapy at your fingertips), the Theragun Pro G4 is a great choice for you.
With up to 60 pounds of force, a rotating arm and ergonomic handle, a deep reach of 16mm into your muscle tissue, and speeds up to 2,400 repetitions per minute, the Theragun Pro is built for those who need legitimate percussive therapy multiple times per week. In short, this percussion massager is the real deal, but it’s probably not worth it for the average exerciser.
Previously, the TimTam All New Power Massager was my pick for the best high-powered massage gun, but if you have money to spend, you can’t beat the power and relative quietness of the Theragun Pro.
This $130 percussive massage gun, which is currently $30 off, from Sportneer works surprisingly well for the price. It delivers six speeds of percussive therapy and reaches up to 220 watts and 3,200 repetitions per minute.
Depending on what power setting you use, the battery life on this massage gun can last from two to six hours. I used the Sportneer device before and after workouts, as well as on rest days, and I never felt dissatisfied with the deep tissue massage experience.
The Sportneer massage gun comes with six head attachments, two of which have metal tips. You can use the metal attachments to massage yourself with CBD oil, essential oils or pop them in the freezer for a touch of cryotherapy.
This percussive massager is also relatively quiet: The website claims the massage gun reaches a maximum of 40 decibels, which is a softer noise level than the volume at which most people listen to music.
I previously reviewed the Sportneer K1 massage gun, which is another good value device from this brand for $30 less.
In the percussive therapy arena, there’s a common trade-off: power for sound. It’s tough to find a moderately priced and quiet yet powerful massage gun. Ekrin Athletics has created just that with its B37 massage gun.
The Ekrin Athletics B37 massage gun packs all the leading industry standards, including an ultra-quiet motor (even quieter than the Hypervolt, in my opinion), multiple speed and pressure settings that deliver up to 56 pounds of force, an eight-hour battery life, an ergonomic design and a convenient carrying case with several massage head attachments.
At a list price of $230, the value is phenomenal — it’s a low price for the value you get, as the Ekrin massage gun compares to the well-known and highly desired brands in the percussive therapy arena. And, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty, so there’s really no reason not to at least try the Ekrin Athletics B37 massage gun.
Ekrin Athletics is a relative newcomer on the muscle gun scene, but make no mistake: This brand, founded by two former collegiate athletes, is raising standards and lowering prices for percussive therapy.
The Hypervolt Go is the newest launch from Hyperice, and it’s lighter, smaller and the most affordable gun in the Hypervolt line. At less than $200, it’s a great deal for a gun that’s nearly as powerful as the full-size models that retail for $300 and up. It weighs 1.5 pounds, making it ideal for travel when you don’t want to compromise precious space in your carry-on or gym bag.
I tested the Hypervolt Go and was seriously impressed at how powerful the gun felt. Compared to the Hypervolt (which I also tested), I almost could not tell a difference in terms of force. The full-size Hypervolt does come with more attachments (the Go has two), but the Go also has three speed settings, which is still impressive for a small gun. If you’re new to massage guns and are looking for a solid product to try at a lower price, the Go is a great product to start with.
— Mercey Livingston, CNET contributor
The Achedaway Pro is a favorite for super-sore days. Quiet and easy to handle, this massage tool features five power and speed settings ranging from 1,700 to 2,800 rpm, which according to the company are suited to wake up muscles, release fascia, eliminate lactic acid, provide deep tissue massage and facilitate muscle recovery.
Its list price of $299 is closer to the high end of things — actually, this Theragun alternative is up there with the top-level Theragun Pro — but the Achedaway Pro often goes on sale. The Achedaway massager feels sturdy, doesn’t make the inside of your head rattle and provides varying levels of muscle relief massage that are suitable for sore muscles.
The higher power settings felt great when I wasn’t sore, but didn’t hurt tender muscles, either — a perfect combo in my book. Like many other massagers, the Achedaway Pro comes with multiple head attachments for massaging different muscle groups. The rechargeable battery is removable for easy and portable charging.
We tested the following percussive massage guns over the last two years. Though they didn’t make the cut for the above categories, many of these are still great products. Check them out and see if one might be the right choice for you — and be sure to check for on-page coupons to bring the price down even further.
If you’re looking to spend over $300 on a massage gun, you may as well get the most powerful massage gun out there and go for the Theragun Pro.
Though mighty (and mighty convenient), the Theragun Mini is louder than anything I’d want to use on a plane. My experience is that the Hypervolt Go has the most settings with the most travel-friendly features.
A solid massage gun, the Hypervolt Plus rivals the Theragun in functionality and effectiveness, but the Ekrin Athletics B37 swiped its spot as “most quiet.”
Hyperice’s original massage gun is still a good percussion massage gun option, but I’d personally spend the extra $50 to get the Hypervolt Plus if this was the brand I was after.
This is a solid mini massage gun, but it doesn’t pack as many features as the Hypervolt Go. It is $40 cheaper, though, so it could be the right choice for you.
Another great product from Ekrin Athletics, the B37S is nearly as quiet as its sibling the B37. My experience with the B37S is that it’s similar to the Hypervolt in terms of power, design and noise.
TimTam’s Pro massage gun is super powerful, but it does have some gentler settings as well — it has five settings versus the two settings found on its step-down counterpart, the TimTam All New Power Massager.
With all the massage guns out there these days, the ExoGun DreamPro isn’t one of our top picks, even though you can get it at a steep discount right now. It offers lukewarm power and the design is somewhat clunky, making it uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time.
This massage gun didn’t impress: It’s not very powerful, yet this percussion massage gun is still louder than many models on this list. The sensation feels more like vibration than percussion.
Coming from the company that makes the bright orange foam rollers found at every gym, I had high expectations for the TriggerPoint massage gun. They weren’t quite met, as the massage gun comes with just one attachment and is not as powerful as I expected.
The Compex massage gun feels like a cross between TimTam and Theragun. It has an adjustable head and three speeds, so while it’s nothing spectacular, it gets the job done.
This massage gun was a top pick until Sportneer came out with a new version. I still think this is a high-value massage gun and it’s worth trying if you want something in the $100 range. It’s listed for $120 at Amazon, but you can save $30 when you activate the instant coupon on the product page.
At only $79, this massage gun is a great entry-level option for anyone scared to pay for a full-sized massage gun or higher-end portable massage gun.
A less expensive product from MuscleGun, this device is on par with others in its price range. It’s comparable to the Sportneer Elite K9 massage gun. The aluminum attachments are a nice touch.
With nine speeds and eight attachments, the Vybe Pro is a great option for people who want a lot of versatility.
This one matches the TimTam massage guns in terms of power, noise and design, so I wouldn’t recommend it to the average person. However, if you want something very intense, go for it.
The heating element on this massage gun is a nice touch and it’s very soothing. However, the cord and minimal power output will outweigh that effect for many.
Another budget-friendly pick, the Renpho Back Massager definitely makes full back massages easy and doable on your own (whereas many other devices require a second person). It’s not that powerful, but it is relaxing.
My original “best budget pick” from two years ago has since been replaced, as masses of massage guns have appeared on the market. This is still an inexpensive and solid deep tissue massager option, as long as you’re OK with a cord (I know, blasphemy).
Speed and power: These two elements are definitely the most important. Everyone’s pain tolerance and massage preferences differ, but anyone can benefit from a massager with at least two settings: one being less intense so you can still use the gun on very sore muscles where you are experiencing muscle tension or pain.
Type of motion: As discussed in the NordicTrack description, percussion and vibration are very different. When shopping for a massage gun, consider which mechanism is more important to you.
Portability: If you’re going to be traveling with your massage gun, you’ll want one that can easily fit into a bag or suitcase, or one that has its own carrying case. Though most are indeed handheld massagers, some units are rather bulky, such as the TimTam models.
Attachments and accessories: Where on your body will you use the massage gun? If you’ll only use it on your large muscles, such as your back and legs, you probably don’t need many attachments or accessories. But if you intend to use it on specific areas and trigger points, such as the arch of your foot or your neck, you would benefit from smaller attachments intended for those specific areas.
Battery life: Pretty self-explanatory — the longer the battery life, the better, as with all electronics.
Cost: You’ll want to look for a therapeutic massager device within your budget. The most expensive massage guns usually offer more adjustable speed, power and motion settings, but less expensive models can certainly get the job done.
If you’re not exactly into the idea of punching your muscles — which can be painful if you’re really sore and tender — you should know that massage guns aren’t your only option for post-workout recovery.
Cryotherapy: Ever wonder what it’s like to submerge your body in subzero temperatures? With the growing popularity of whole-body cryotherapy, you can try it out pretty much anywhere.
Far-infrared therapy: Tom Brady uses fancy infrared-infused pajamas and bed sheets to keep himself in tip-top shape. It’s supposed to induce the same benefits as heat therapy, but without actually making you sweaty. Find out if it works.
Compression therapy: What’s been around for ages as a medical therapy has made its way into the fitness world as a recovery mechanism. You might feel silly wearing big inflatable boots, but there’s some pretty convincing science behind compression therapy for muscle recovery.
Using a foam roller: You can always stick to the basics. Science says using a foam roller is great for tight muscle issues and joint mobilization, which may help relieve some soreness — or at least make it easier to move around when you’re already really sore. Hyperice, the company that makes the quiet Hypervolt massage gun, also makes a vibrating foam roller, so you can get the effects of percussive therapy and foam rolling at the same time.
Recovered and ready to hit the gym again? Beat boredom on your next treadmill run and find out if Orangetheory Fitness is worth the hype.
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.