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This guide aims to provide more information on the different types of massage tools available so that you can make an informed and weighted decision about which product would be suitable for your needs. Massage tools are quite literally the tools of the trade for some people; such as Massage Therapists, Sports Massage therapists, Physiotherapists, Sports Therapists and many more professions that make use of massage as either a treatment for pain relief or for relaxation.
Massage tools are not always strictly for people who have been trained to use them, self-massage is one of the most popular means of pain relief and recovery. In fact, quite a lot of products mentioned in this buyer's guide come in handy for self-massage, self-myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Some tools in this buyer's guide such as the Therapist Thumb, as the name suggests, are better suited for therapist use because it's quite hard to use for self-massage unless you are treating your arms and anything below the torso. We have a lot more massage tools not included in this buyer's guide, please visit our relevant Massage tools section to see the rest.
A wide range of products can be used as a massage tool, some are designed specifically for massage treatments but some products have multiple uses or are primarily used for something else. Here's a list of some products:
There are various different types of massage balls, they are made of different materials such as rubber and foam and they come in different shapes as well. A spiky massage ball refers to a ball that has finger-like protrusions which makes them good for blood circulation, they stay in place better and they apply more pressure. Some massage balls are smooth, these are commonly just referred to as foam massage balls or smooth massage balls, they are better suited for more tender areas. There are also some massage balls that just have dimples and these are a good combination of spiky massage balls and foam massage balls.
A massage stick is used by rolling it over an area with muscle tension or pain and this helps work any knots, ease muscles and take the stress off joints. Due to the shape of massage sticks, they are used primarily for body parts like the calves and thighs
This refers to tools that have been specifically designed for massage therapy techniques. The aim of these massage tools is to emulate fingers and thumbs and this is useful because massage therapists or anyone who does significant amounts of massaging can end up with fatigue in their thumbs and fingers. The different types of tools such as the Therapist Thumb and the Four-Way Massage Tool are therefore perfect for therapists who don't want to rely on their hands too much for kneading and the tools are also more effective for deep tissue massages.
A massage gun is a handheld precision massager. It is used for percussion therapy and due to the shape of the heads, it can be used on specific muscles or whole muscle groups, it is typically used by sports therapists and physiotherapists when working on specific muscle injuries but it is becoming an increasingly popular tool for self-massage. Some medical professionals actually recommend that you don't use a massage gun unless you are properly trained or have a proper understanding of biology, this is one of the main reasons why we don't currently sell any massage guns.
As mentioned in the introduction to this buyers guide, there are loads of uses for different types of massage tools, here are some of the uses that our range of massage tools covers:
Now that we have addressed the basic information about Massage Tools and hopefully answered some of your questions, we will take you through our range of Massage tools and make some recommendations.
This product is a handheld tool, you would typically hold one of the heads and use either the other 3 or you can use as many as you like. More specific pinpoint massages that target specific trigger points would benefit from a single head, especially as more pressure can be applied. This tool can be used on the neck, shoulders and back but it can also be used on the upper and lower leg for self-massage.
This is another type of knobble tool used by therapists, unlike the previous one it only has one head that is designed to emulate a thumb. It can be used with massage oils and it is useful for deep and stubborn knots or trigger point massage.
Like a thumb, you can target a specific area but unlike a thumb, you can apply a lot of pressure due to the ergonomic shape of the tool that fits perfectly in your hand. This massage tool is a lifesaver for massage therapists and sports therapists.
This massage tool is useful for a range of treatments such as deep tissue massage and trigger point massage. This makes it a good tool for Massage therapists and sports massage therapists who use these massage techniques quite often, especially because it is designed to help reduce the strain on a therapist's hand.
It can also be used for general massage because it is great for relieving muscle tension and working out tricky knots. You can even use the Therapist Thumb with massage mediums such as Massage Oils, lotions and creams which make for a more relaxing massage and can help provide extra glide if needed for massage techniques like full body massage and sports massage.
Thumper's range of massagers is perfect for both therapists and anyone who is looking for a massage tool that can relieve neck and back pain or muscle tension.
The Mini Pro is a great option for self-massage use because it has a great design that allows the massage heads to effectively reach any part of the upper back and neck, which can be done by holding it over your shoulder as demonstrated in the picture.
This means, unlike a massage gun, it is a neck and back massager that you can use on yourself with a much lower risk of hurting yourself but more effective and targeted pain and tension relief.
The Thumper Sport is a great option for sports massage but it is also a more affordable option for massage therapists, it is slightly less powerful than the other models as well which makes it another recommendable massager for self-massage and neck and upper back pain.
The verve is better suited for home use, it is a small handheld massage device that is effective for muscle groups as well as more targeted pain and tension relief in the hard to get areas where knots can get out of control.
Please check out the rest of the Thumper range if you are a therapist
Wavestone is also has a very good range of massage tools, the original Wavestone which is shown in the picture is a very versatile tool due to its shape. It can be used for ankle pain (Achilles tendinitis), neck pain, tennis elbow and foot pain such as Plantar Fasciitis.
For more information on foot pain, please visit our Plantar fasciitis treatment buyers guide. The Wavestone's usefulness is really with Hot and Cold Therapy which is a very effective form of pain relief.
The Wavestone range includes other massage tools such as a white jade facial massage tool and the black jade Wavestone spheres which are effective for tense muscles and neck and back pain, they are typically used in conjunction with the massage tool for the best results. If you know what a gua sha is, that is essentially what the facial massage tool is.
The Rockbaldes 2.0 and Rockblade Mohawk are massage tools intended for use by therapists. The Rockbaldes 2.0 have been expertly crafted to maximise the value gained in each treatment. The two soft tissue massage tools are the Mallet and Mullet, the Mallet is perfect for tissue scanning and treatments and the Mullet is designed for soft-tissue manipulation treatments.
Both tools are made from surgical-grade stainless steel so they are reliable and very functional for treatments. The Mohawk comes as a kit with three tools that allow for a fully IASTM system to be performed, Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a demanding yet effective soft-tissue treatment aided by myofascial release therapy.
These are some of the most important tools for both massage therapy and physical therapy, they are instrumental in trigger point therapy, myofascial release, pain relief and easing muscle tension. Massage balls are usually distinguished by their characteristics, for example, Spiky Balls have little spikes or bumps and Foam massage balls are made of foam.
Spiky massage balls are better suited for physical therapy and increasing blood circulation whereas smooth massage balls are effective for pinpoint trigger therapy and back & shoulder pain. There is actually little difference between them though and it depends on what appeals to you or what you think will target your tense muscles better but try to avoid using the spiky ball anywhere near your spine.
If you would like more information on massage balls then please visit our Massage Balls section or read our buyer's guide on Massage Balls. If you are looking for Massage Ball Exercises that you can use for self-massage then please why not check out our Massage Balls exercises guide which has loads of helpful videos.
Foam Rollers are another product that has various uses in physical therapy and massage therapy. In massage therapy, it is primarily used for self-massage techniques so you can use a foam roller for neck and back massages without the aid of someone else.
They are also particularly instrumental in easing Sciatica pain. As demonstrated in the picture, the different surfaces on the massage roller are meant to emulate the tools used by trained massage therapists with protrusions that mimic the finger, thumb, fingertips, forearm and palm so you can get a complete massage with one simple tool.
Here's an example of how to use a normal foam roller for massaging out tense muscles in your thighs, which is very useful for athletes who end up with overworked and tight muscles or similarly with lack of movement, you can end up with tense thigh muscles that need to be massaged.
1. Van den Dolder, P.A. and Roberts, D.L. (2003). A trial into the effectiveness of soft tissue massage in the treatment of shoulder pain. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 49(3), pp.183-188.
2. Portillo-Soto, A., Eberman, L.E., Demchak, T.J. and Peebles, C. (2014). Comparison of blood flow changes with soft tissue mobilization and massage therapy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(12), pp.932-936.
3. Koren, Y. and Kalichman, L. (2018). Deep tissue massage: What are we talking about?. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 22(2), pp.247-251.
4. Moraska, A. F. et al. (2017). Responsiveness of myofascial trigger points to single and multiple trigger point release massages–a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 96(9), 639.