Handheld percussion massagers are all the rage right now and have been for some time.
It seems like anywhere you can read about massage and muscle recovery online these devices are mentioned. Especially the premium massager from Theragun known as the G3 Pro is a hot topic, and both top athletes and celebrities have been seen using it.
If you like many others were shocked when you saw the high price tag of the Theragun G3 Pro, then I am sure you will find value in the 6 alternatives that I have listed below.
All the alternatives are so-called handheld percussion massagers which is what make them comparable, but not all of them have the same design as the Theragun.
The design you see on a model like the Theragun, which looks something like a repurposed jigsaw or maybe a gun, is arguably the design of the most recent generation of handheld massagers.
The 6 Theragun alternatives are sorted from cheapest to most expensive, but they are, of course, all significantly cheaper.
Summarising Comparison Table
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1. Renpho Massager
The Renpho massager comes with 5 different interchangeable massage heads and can work at three different levels of intensity and 4 different speeds maxing out at 3600 pulses per minute.
This is a very affordable massager, and while it definitely gets the job and is liked by many, it is clearly not of the same quality as the more expensive options on this list
The Renpho got a long battery life of approximately 140 minutes, but the massager will stop every 20 minutes to prevent overheating.
- low price
- a bit heavy to hold
- massage is less powerful and stops every 20 minutes
A common complaint is that it gets too heavy to hold for operating longer sessions comfortably. On the other hand, some people say it can be an advantage when massaging the back.
Even though the massager is not as powerful as others, it still gives a good massage for the money which is why it is so popular.
2. Jigsaw Massager Adaptor
Jigsaw massage adaptor is as the name implies a massage adaptor for your jigsaw.
Technically it is not a percussion massage in itself, because it requires that you have a jigsaw and equip it with the adaptor (instead of a saw blade).
The adaptor was invented by a 2014 CrossFit Games champion who wanted a much cheaper solution than what was on the market. When he started selling his custom-made jigsaw adaptors at his local CrossFit gym (“CrossFit box”) it quickly became popular.
There is a selection of three different massage heads which you can buy separately or in a bundle.
The massage itself obviously depends on the which jigsaw you use, but the adaptor fits well into most jigsaws and will give you a decent massage.
Pros And Cons
If you want a cost-effective percussion massager and own a jigsaw then getting the massage adaptor is a great choice.
It is definitely not as cool-looking and gimmicky as other massagers, and you might get some weird vibes if you bring it along to a sports event or at the gym. However, it gets the job done.
If you don’t have a jigsaw already at home, a popular choice seems to be the Black & Decker BDCJS20C 20V MAX JigSaw with Battery.
A fair warning: you will also have to overcome the initial uncomfortable feeling of “immediate danger”. A jigsaw is normally not supposed to be used on the body.
3. Pure Wave CM5
The CM5 is the “mid-tier” model in the massager product line from Pado. It does many of the same things as the CM7 mentioned just below, but it is less versatile compared to the CM7.
It has 3 included massage heads and can work up to 3700 RPM. It got a built-in battery that can last for about 180 minutes.
The CM5 has a similar design as the CM7 and is also well-suited for self-massaging the back.
4. Pure Wave CM7
The CM7 is the flagship model from Pado and is a very popular massager.
Unlike the CM5, It has a special dual-motor design each with its own distinct functionality. I have not found other handheld massagers that offer this.
Basically, you get a more versatile massager with the potential to suit a broader variety of needs.
Paired with the 6 different massage heads that are included and its variable speed and you can get a massage anywhere from very subtle to intense.
It has a long battery life of up to 180 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about constantly charging.
The Pure Wave CM7 customers are generally very positive towards the product, and the pure wave is also liked and recommended by professionals.
You can see for yourself what these two cool physical therapists have to say about the massager. By the way, I can highly recommend their youtube channel.
The Good And The Bad (includes the CM5)
The CM7 is a great and affordable massager designed for normal consumers.
With its longer length and shaft you are able to massage your upper and mid-back easily by yourself, which is not the case with the “jigsaw”-design like on the massage adaptor and TimTam.
A critique would be that although the CM7 has a long battery life compared with others, the battery is built-in, which means if (when) the battery someday dies the machine is useless as well.
The company has tested the battery thoroughly and reports that the battery should at least be able to work 2-4 years of frequent use.
It should be noted, that the CM7 is a consumer product and its durability should not be expected to be the same as for example the Thumper or Timtam which are designed with professionals in mind, i.e. treating clients.
5. Thumper Mini Pro (Not Only For Pros)
The Mini Pro has two massage heads that operate simultaneously and is unique in that way compared to the other massagers.
It is designed to be used with either one or two hands and because of its long shaft it is great for self-massaging back and neck similar to both models from Pure Wave.
The Mini pro is intended for use at home or at the office for easy treatment of aches and pains
Advantages And Disadvantages
While it does have a relatively small and light design, its main selling point is not portability and it is operated with a power cord.
So if it is important for you to be on-the-go with your massager, then the Mini Pro is not the one for you.
On the other hand, if you just want to treat yourself at home then using a power cord might be a fine choice and you won’t have to worry about charging.
It comes with a 2-year warranty.
6. TimTam All New Power Massager
The TimTam Power Massager is a very powerful massager. With its industrial-grade motor, it is the most powerful one on this list.
It is endorsed by many professional athletes and among all the options here, it is the massager that is most similar to the model from Theragun.
The TimTam will quickly eliminate muscle soreness and also warm up the muscle by penetrating deep into even the thickest of muscle tissue, e.g. a thick bodybuilder thigh.
According to the company, spending as little as five minutes using the massager could give you a complete treatment of most areas on your body.
Pros And Cons
The TimTam is a very powerful and durable massager and is completely comparable to the Theragun. It is a clear rival but at a significantly lower price.
Comparing to the other massage alternatives here, the TimTam is with only one massage head included, so it is not as versatile. However, other massage heads can be bought separately.
If you have someone to assist you, the TimTam will make quick work of your body and you probably have to spend less time compared to the other massagers mentioned here.
UPDATE: Power Massager v1.5 is discountinued and replaced by the better “All New Power Massager”. TimTam also has a new model named “Power Massager v2.0” coming out soon. You can preorder it here and save 100 dollars.
Percussion Massager Specs: Comparison
Each of the massagers you see above can all serve as a good alternative to the more expensive model from Theragun.
If you are not sure which one to chose, then these tables should be useful.
As you can see, all the massagers can get to a speed of about 2500 RPM which some experts claim to be the optimal speed for boosting muscle recovery.
However, the Pure Wave can go highest with up to 3700 and the CM7 has its second massaging unit that does 11,000 RPM of so-called micro-vibrations which are great for the scalp and other delicate tissue.
The TimTam and B&D jigsaw equipped with the massage adaptor have the greatest stroke length and about the same estimated battery life. The Pure Wave has the longest battery life.
Both the Thumper and the Pure Wave are great for self-massing the back and neck because they have easy reach. The TimTam is the most compact masager.
The Thumper and the TimTam come with less option to modify the massage, although additional massage heads can be bought seperataly for the TimTam.
Perhaps one of the most noticeable differences is the heavy weight of the jigsaw massage adaptor equipped on a Black & Decker jigsaw. It will be a workout in itself to do that massage.
The Pure Wave is on the other hand lightest of the devices.
Making The Decision
If you don’t care about getting a massager with the newest design, then the Pure Wave CM7 is a great choice. It might not be as powerful as the TimTam or a very strong jigsaw, but it still works very well.
If you don’t have a jigsaw already, and won’t need it for something else, then it could be worth spending the extra on the TimTam for a lighter and more compact massager. It is also the closest you will get to the Theragun.
Don’t want the hassle with all the batteries? Then the Thumper mini pro is your choice.
Why Get A Percussion Massager?
I put this section in the end because I wanted to briefly cover the topic of why you would want to spend your hard-earned money on these devices.
Lightweight and handheld percussion massagers have become extremely popular in recent years. However, massage devices are far from being a new invention.
Perhaps the rise in popularity is due to an increasing variety of massagers available that actually work well. Perhaps it is because the memories of all the crappy and cheaply made massagers in the past are finally fading. Personally, I still remember many 🙂
Or perhaps it is the combination of the two.
In any case, there is a good reason to be excited about them. Based on the overwhelming amount of positive feedback, it does seem like they really work.
It might not be as good as the old manual massage, but it is still very good and useful.
If you are in need of frequent treatments at a sports-masseuse, physical therapist or chiropractor, these handheld massagers present a convenient and cost-effective method.
As mentioned there is a massive amount of anecdotal evidence that these work to both provide relief for sore muscles and to speed up muscle recovery for athletes and sports enthusiasts.
However, it should be noted that the scientific evidence surrounding the topic is not very clear about why it works or the extent of it. But this is a general concern for massage, and not specific to these massage guns. Notable effects that evidence suggests include:
- It could help alleviate delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Read more about it here (meta-analysis).
- The so-called myofascial-release can potentially help muscle recovery and performance. Read more about it here(meta-analysis).
- Decrease to cortisol and increases to the level of the two neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
In my fair opinion, with the rise in popularity and as the market for these devices grows larger, I would also expect a growing commercial interest in having clear scientific evidence proving that they actually work.
So perhaps we can expect more research on the topic in the future.