If there's one thing fitness fanatics and gym gurus alike know, it's that it takes a lot to keep a body in motion, staying in motion. Not only is it worth investing in the proper attire and shoes to help get your best workout in, but the equipment you use to help you warm up and cool down from those gym sessions matter as well.
Whether you need it after a pickleball session or getting your blood pumping before a long run, a massage gun's main purpose is to relax and relieve the muscles. Used by professional athletes, physicians and anyone who regularly exercises — including TODAY staffers — this device is one step above the trusty foam roller sitting near your home gym equipment.
We spoke with experts about how to properly use this device and how to choose one that's most suited for your wellness goals.
What do massage guns do?
In short, massage guns use vibrations and pressure applied to muscles to increase blood flow and circulation, while relieving soreness in the process.
Ted Kepros, founder and CEO of Kepros Physical Therapy clinics in southeastern Iowa, utilizes a metaphor that explains the efficacy of massage guns. Imagine we, as humans, are robots. Stiff, non-bendable ligaments guide our every move. Massage guns help to break up that rigidity, helping to promote circulation, fluidity and flexibility.
"Number one, I want to bring blood flow to the tissue," he says. With this change comes the movement of fluids (think blood!).
"I’m changing the electromagnetic properties, a little bit of that tissue and therefore with that blood flow and that combination of pushing fluids through it, it’s going to reduce trigger points," Kepros adds. Furthermore, "it’s going to reduce chemical stasis, going to decrease pain and...improve the fluidity of that muscle, so the muscle’s not guarding, holding or improperly positioned in itself."
How can one effectively use massage guns to aid in recovery efforts?
According to chiropractor Dr. Jan Lefkowitz, massage guns help to decrease DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness.
“Using massage guns can really help aid with recovery, flush out waste products in the muscles and potentially shorten this time frame, which helps you get to your next workout much more quickly,” he says.
Kepros advises to not go from zero to 100 with the massage gun, though. Instead, start slow on the muscles you’re working to relieve to slowly introduce the muscle tissues to the pressures.
“Start light on a comfortable level...along the length of the muscle,” Kepros says. “If you find an area that’s irritated, do a little circular motion around that area...Think of it like doing a counter-clockwise and a clockwise circle around that area.”
Kepros also recommends not pushing hard on the muscle to avoid bruising.
Theresa Acosta, head athletic trainer for the New York Liberty, suggests testing massage guns in-person before making a decision. According to UCLA Health, the four main aspects you should consider when it comes to shopping for a massage gun are speed, weight, noise and battery life.
"You've got to find the right style," Acosta says. "There's a lot of different massage guns out there with a lot of different settings and a lot of different modular heads [that] work in different areas."
Physicist Dr. Naimish Baxi also notes that if you're targeting a certain muscle or surface, you might want to pay attention to the speed settings while shopping.
"Typically, the more superficial structures [areas around the elbow or knee] can be more sensitive to higher force and speed. Deeper, larger structures like the periscapular muscles [the area around the shoulder blade] can tolerate faster speeds and larger forces."
Award-winning massage guns
Category: Best all-in-one set | Intensity: 7 different speed levels | Battery life: 6 hours | Attachments: 10 different heads | Other notable features: Includes an LED touchscreen
Affordable and versatile, reviewers loved this product because of how much variety it offered without having to shell out big bucks for it. With 10 attachments and seven speeds, users can truly individualize their experience with this gadget, targeting tight muscles and knots where needed.
“The product is easy to use, easy to charge and self-explainable,” says Drew Schwendiman, TODAY's social media video producer.
Category: Best splurge | Intensity: 3 different speeds | Battery life: Doesn't specify | Attachments: 3 | Other notable features: Handheld, compact, easy for on-the-go
Previously featured as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, this mini massage gun is portable and packs just as much power as its full-sized version. It has three speeds that span the 1,750 to 2,400 percussions per minute range.
The mini also comes with three attachments, depending on how you want to soften and relax certain muscles. This massage gun was so beloved, it became one reviewer's “everything.”
“I typically hold tension in my shoulders, and with the dampener attachment, I have felt release in that part of my body for the first time in years,” raves TODAY.com food reporter Joseph Lamour. “Years! I also was on a long road trip and I took it with me — slipped easily into my bag — and I was able to use it on sore muscles at rest stops.”
Best massage guns, according to shoppers
Intensity: High and low vibration | Battery life: Doesn't specify | Attachments: 3 different heads | Other notable features: Slide switch to turn on; navigate vibration levels
The handle on this portable massager makes it easy to hold while gliding across the muscles as the experts recommend. It includes three attachments and runs on batteries, meaning there's no need to fuss with packing a charger along.
Intensity: 20 different levels | Battery life: 6 hours | Attachments: 10 different heads | Other notable features: Brand claims little to no noise
Get the most bang for a little buck with this massage gun that includes 10 attachments, a carrying case and a digital touchscreen that allows you to control the speed with ease. It has 20 levels, ranging from warm up to professional mode, that span between 1,200 to 3,200 percussions per minute.
Intensity: 20 different levels of intensity | Battery life: 5 hours | Attachments: 10 different heads | Other notable features: The brand claims it has a motor that's as quiet as an electronic toothbrush
Weighing in at a little bit under two pounds, this massage gun can be easily implemented into your warmup or cool down routines at the gym, in the locker room or on the track. It includes six interchangeable heads, lasts for over four hours on a single charge and has three speeds to switch between.
Intensity: 4 different speeds | Battery life: 3-4 hours | Attachments: 5 different heads | Other notable features: Includes hot and cold therapy options
If you love cryotherapy or a good ice bath after a rigorous workout, then this is the massage gun for you. It includes the option to incorporate both hot and cold temperatures to aid in your recovery session, as well as seven attachments and three varying speeds.
Intensity: 3 different speeds | Battery life: 4 hours | Attachments: 3 different heads | Other notable features: Includes noise reduction technology
Weighing in at less than one pound, this mini massage gun is smaller than your smartphone, meaning it packs and travels easily. Four different attachments and three speed settings help to apply 40 pounds of pressure to muscles, leaving reviewers "impressed" with the power this mini therapy gun holds.
Intensity: 3 different speeds | Battery life: 3 hours | Attachments: 5 | Other notable features: Connects to Hyperice app, where you can be walked through guided videos
With five attachments, three hours of life off of one charge and three speeds, it's easy to see why this Hyperice massage gun is Shop TODAY senior social media editor Kate McCarthy's go-to. McCarthy (who ran the New York Marathon in 2022!) hypes this one up because "it's the perfect tool to relax tight muscles, and I can give myself a massage from the comfort of my couch."
Intensity: Customizable speed range | Battery life: 2 hours | Attachments: 4 | Other notable features: Ergonomic handle
This Therabody option has brand name recognition, and it isn't just because it's gained popularity as one of the most well-liked options by reviewers, athletes and doctors. The ergonomic handle makes it easy to maneuver across muscles, while four different attachments ensure that you're targeting these areas with proper textures. With 120 minutes of life off of one charge, not only is this device long-lasting, but you can easily see how much life is left thanks to the app.
Between 1,750 to 2,400 percussions per minute, altering the speed allows you to target sore muscles fresh from a run or warm them up to tackle your next fitness challenge.
How we chose
The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. We interview expert sources, comb through customer reviews and even use our own personal experiences to make shopping easier for our readers.
As an editorial team, we independently create content and determine coverage based on research, reporting and what we think TODAY.com readers would like to read about. The goal of our content is to provide a service and inform readers who are on the hunt for the latest products to help make their life better.
Meet the experts
- Theresa Acosta, MS, ATC, LAT-R, is the head athletic trainer for the New York Liberty. Beyond working for the WNBA team, Acosta has also served as an athletic trainer for USA Basketball, and the Olympic and Paralympic Committees. She earned a masters in kinesiology from the University of North Texas and holds certifications from the National Athletic Trainers Association.
- Naimish Baxi, MD, specializes in sports and musculoskeletal medicine, spine care and pain management at the Hospital for Special Surgery locations in New Jersey and New York. Baxi earned a medical degree from New Jersey Medical School, and completed residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mount Sinai in New York.
- Ted Kepros, PT, MPT, MTC, ASTYM certified, is the founder and CEO of Kepros Physical Therapy, which currently has three clinics in the state of Iowa. Kepros received a masters in physical therapy, and holds certifications in manual therapy and sports metrics.
- Jan Lefkowitz, D.C., is the founder of Body in Balance Chiropractic, that has offices in both New York City and Westchester, New York. Lefkowitz earned a doctor of chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic college and is an active member of multiple chiropractic associations, including the American Chiropractic Association and Internal Chiropractic Pediatric Association, among others.