Back pain is a modern menace and for many the onset of degenerative back problems such as spinal stenosis mean that a little extra help is needed to relax, perhaps courtesy of a back massager. Review your options prior to buying any massage device as some may be unsuitable for certain conditions or may not have all the features you’d like, such as added heat, cycling massage strengths, or the capacity to cover more than just the lower back, for example, without being moved around.
After wading through seemingly endless options for back massagers, below is a select sample of those most popular with back pain sufferers, ranging from a little local lumbar massage to a full body seat massage pad for those long-distance drives on chilly winter days.
HoMedics BKK-200 Shiatsu Lumbar Massager
$59.99 on sale at Amazon for $32
Starting with the least expensive of the bunch, the HoMedics Shiatsu Lumbar Massager is a fairly small massage device that also applies soothing heat during a variable intensity treatment. Only really designed for the lumbar back, those with cervical spinal stenosis or thoracic spinal stenosis might not find this all that helpful, but anyone with lower back pain is likely to get some wonderful benefits once they figure out how to work this little device. The instructions are somewhat lacking, so it’s best to play around with it either by placing it against your lower back in a chair or by lying on it on a bed, or even the floor or sofa. Using it in a chair will also help you to maintain a healthy back posture and the heat is a welcome addition to any cold morning in the office.
For those with particularly sensitive skin it might be worth placing a towel or other type of padding over the HoMedica Lumbar massager as those massaging fingers can get a little too prod-happy after a while. Anyone with spinal stenosis and widespread back pain might want to skip this budget device and just get the souped-up Homedics SBM-500H Therapist Select Shiatsu One Massaging Cushion with Heat instead for a thoroughly relaxing back massage.
iNeed Lumbar Massage Pillow
$40 from Amazon
Second in our list is this fabulous little massage pillow that is, ostensibly, for easing lumbar back pain but can be moved around with some handy adjustable straps included with the product. As such, you can even attach it to a chair at neck height or in a position to massage the thoracic spine, not that such things are expressly mentioned in the product information of course. The iNeed Lumbar Massage Pillow has four dual-rotating nodes to give you a relaxing back massage with added heat if you like and those nodes certainly know where to apply pressure to work out tension and knots in the spinal muscles. Rather usefully it also has an automatic shut-off for if you’re using it to lull you to sleep or if you find yourself relaxing more than expected.
iNeed Lumbar Massage Cushion – Electric Back Massager
The iNeed massage pillow can be used when lying down, or even when walking around as it can be attached with the straps, but does seem to work best when attached to a chair as you can lean back into it for a little extra pressure. Those with spinal stenosis and sciatica may find it helpful to keep their spine aligned whilst standing and having a nice warm massage at the same time. It is extremely portable and comes with a carry-case, making it easy to take to and from the office, or even on train journeys (assuming a power outlet is available). Again, if you have widespread back pain then go for a more extensive back massager as you will likely get tired of having to move this one between the upper and lower back, however great it is once it’s there.
Prosepra Personal Jade Massager with Heat
$99.99 on sale at Amazon for $79.99
Fed up with ugly functional massage devices and want something a little sleeker, snazzier, and modern to soothe your tension? The Prosepra Personal Jade Massager certainly fits the bill as this portable device combines functionality with beauty by incorporating jade, a precious stone used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its healing powers. This massage device is a little more versatile than the HoMedics and the iNeed devices as it can help work out the kinks in your back, shoulders, calves, thighs, and more. It also comes with a variety of programs with differing intensities, along with heat level and speed controls, as well as a manual program option to allow an individually tailored massage as needed.
The Prosepra Jade Massager works on a similar mechanism to previous devices with rotating massage nodes applying a Shiatsu-style massage along with thermotherapy to loosen tension in the back and get the blood flowing. A particular advantage for this massage device is that it is quiet without compromising on power meaning that your relaxation is not disrupted by an irritating whirring and grinding noise. Start on the lower power settings however, and work up so as to get your back used to the intensity of the massage. Those with spinal stenosis may find that jumping straight in to the highest setting will cause their back muscles to get cranky and cramp up so get them warmed up first before applying any deeper tissue massage techniques. The only real negative with this massager is the same as for any of the smaller models; it only covers one area of the spine at any given time. Those with degeneration throughout the spine, with significant upper and lower back pain might want to try one of Prosepra’s fuller back massage models, or the Five Star Motor Massage Seat below.
The Five Star FS8812 10-Motor massage seat cushion with heat
$149.99 on sale at Amazon for $56.99
The Five Star FS8812 10-Motor massage seat cushion with heat might not have the snappiest name in the world but you won’t care about that as it melts away your back pain and muscle tension. A little pricier than the smaller models for localized back pain, the Five Star has ten motors to cover the whole of the neck, back, and thighs so is perfect for those with widespread spinal stenosis and extensive back pain. The hand control unit, along with the built-in thermostat, allows you to tailor the temperature, speed, and massage programs as desired with three speed options and four massage programs to choose from. Designed to be used in the car, home, or office, the Five Star massage seat cushion comes with both an AC adaptor and a car adaptor and has an auto-shutdown for safety and peace of mind.
Working on four zones, the shoulder and upper-back, the lower back, the lumbar region, and the thighs, the Five Star also has a heat on/off button, and is fairly portable so you could switch it between the home, car, and office all in a day if you needed to. It’s a good idea to start on the lowest intensity with a little heat in order to warm up the spinal muscles first as the higher settings can feel like a bit too much of a pummeling if you start on those. Perfect for the office or to relax at home, or on the way home, it can even be used if you are making an extra long road-trip in order to avoid the stiffness and soreness that comes with sitting in a car for such a long time. Whilst pricier than the smaller models, it is still great value for money, especially in comparison with the equivalent daily massage treatments.
Patients with spinal stenosis, tension in the back and/or neck, or other sources of back pain or neck pain should consider a back massager as a serious investment. It is important to review the options in light of the specific back pain (isolated or widespread) that the patient suffers from, and then try one out as most of these manufacturers offer no-risk trials for thirty days. The only thing you really have to lose by trying a back massager is your chronic back pain.