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Whether you’re hunched over a screen all day, didn’t have the best sleep, or just finished an intense workout, a massage is a proven way to quickly reduce stress and relieve sore neck muscles. Massage therapy, the manipulation of soft tissue, eases pain and tension in muscle fibers for improved range of motion and productivity1 . While weekly visits to a professional massage therapist would certainly help keep your body and your mind relaxed, many of us don’t all have the time or the budget for that luxury. Fortunately, the best neck massagers can provide similar relief from home. Small Neck Massager
To help navigate the many options, we spoke with Lisa Jamison, holistic massage therapist and owner of Lift Performance Enhancement. Below, she shares what neck massagers are, how to use them, and how to choose the best one for your body and needs. Plus, find our list of the best neck massagers of 2023.
“A neck massager is any tool that manipulates or mobilizes the soft tissue of your neck, the area of your cervical vertebrae and the connections between the head and the thorax,” Jamison explains. “Like a massage therapist or bodywork professional, it allows someone to sit in relative stillness while the work is performed from the outside. Massagers are used to decrease tension in the muscles and can decrease discomfort.”
Neck pain is way more common than you might think—and even more surprising are all the natural ways to relieve it. If you’re part of the 27% of the U.S. population2 who experience neck pain, you might have already considered yoga poses for neck relief, dry needling, or herbal remedies. From there, it’s a great idea to explore the best mattresses for neck pain, pillows for neck pain, neck stretchers, and, of course, neck massagers.
According to Jamison, “Neck massagers should be used when you are addressing the soft tissue, or the muscles of the neck. It should not be used for nerve pain or to change the alignment of the spine.”
Athletes experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can also benefit from massage and vibration therapy3 .
Jamison says people who “feel like they have a pinched nerve or need an adjustment from a chiropractor,” should seek medical advice before using a neck massager. “In addition, if you suspect a fracture or have a condition that causes brittle bones, stay away from a neck massager until you get a professional opinion.” When in doubt, consulting with a professional is always your best bet.
“Many massagers are handheld, but some work more passively,” Jamison says. “They can rest on your shoulders or be laid upon a chair or bed. You have more options with the handheld, but when you are on your own, the more passive option is best.”
As for how often you should use it, “more is not always better,” Jamison advises. That said, “Neck massagers can be used as part of a daily movement and recovery program.” They are best used “regularly, before you are in ‘crisis mode’.” If you’ve recently purchased a neck massager and aren’t sure how or how often to use it, speak with a chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, or physician to determine the best routine for you.
Jamison says that one of the biggest benefits of a neck massager is “you can use it at home, either by yourself or with assistance.” She goes on to explain that “it is an act of self-care which can be positive to overall well being. Neck massagers can work quite effectively on problem areas.”
However, overuse can result in “inappropriate pounding, which can be detrimental.” Jamison advises, “If you are a ‘more is better’ person, stay away from the tools when you are in pain.” With this in mind, it’s important to remember that while tools like neck massagers can offer great relief when used appropriately, they are not a magic fix for any underlying conditions or injuries.
We used our expert’s insight when evaluating the most effective and well-made massagers on the market.
Since everyone has different needs, we chose devices with a multitude of features that fit different lifestyles, needs, and body parts.
There is no one-size-fits-all massage, so we found top products that deliver different types through various designs. Whether you prefer manual, handheld, or electric, we have an option for you.
If a massager becomes part of your regular routine, it’s important to find a quality product that will last. We selected neck massagers that can withstand regular use.
A rechargeable handheld device, this cordless massager is a favorite for its convenience and power. The motor emits 3600 revolutions per minute of percussion therapy. It runs on a built-in, rechargeable battery—just note, you can’t use it while charging. Users have five interchangeable heads to choose from, depending on which body part they are massaging and the desired intensity. Both the tips and the device are made from heavy Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic.
When fully charged, this massager runs for 140 minutes and automatically shuts off after 20 minutes to avoid overuse. It weighs 1.8 pounds, which some older users do find heavy and difficult to manage.
Despite being a bit heavy, it has amassed over 40,000 perfect 5-star reviews. One happy customer who has used it for four years calls it “one of the best massagers on the market,” and that “it stays charged for months at a time.”
This massage gun offers athletes a convenient way to help their muscles recover. It’s cordless and rechargeable, with a 3300 mAh lithium battery and a touch screen display. The 24-volt motor lasts from 8 to 15 hours on a single charge and automatically shuts off after 10 minutes to save the battery and prevent muscle damage.
The device has seven speeds of percussion therapy and comes with 12 interchangeable massage heads for multiple body parts. An RU8 chip processes the data of each impact and automatically adjusts for optimal relief. By hitting 14 millimeter-deep muscles, it is designed to alleviate lactic acid through deep-tissue massage.
What’s more, the 40 decibel noise level makes this device quiet enough to use in public. The handle has a comfortable silicone grip, so users can easily apply the desired level of pressure.
With over 10,000 5-star reviews, many people rave about this massage gun’s effectiveness on the whole body, even their feet. Most say it is “great for pain relief,” and many focus on the great range of motion the device provides. Some users feel the massager wasn’t quite powerful enough, saying they have to press harder to effectively hit their muscles, but those reviews are few and far between.
Multitaskers who want to enjoy a massage while working or on the go will appreciate this handy, cordless massager. It’s covered in PU leather and gives a firm Shiatsu massage at two intensity levels. The massaging portion contains eight nodes that rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise. Instead of plugging into the wall during use, this massager runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 80 minutes on a single charge.
The passive device is designed to rest on the back of the neck with two long, wide straps hanging down on either side. Each strap has a built-in loop, which you can pull down on for a deeper massage. On the left-hand strap, four buttons enable you to easily control the functions—one of which is infrared heat. When activated, the massager emits moderate heat for increased circulation and muscle relaxation.
Although most reviewers note significant relief, some petite users felt this device was too big for their body, with the nodes not being placed in the optimal position on their necks and shoulders.
The Theragun, made by Therabody, is used by professional athletes and wellness enthusiasts alike, known as one of the best percussive therapy tools on the market. The Theragun Mini stands out for its portability, ease of use, and effectiveness. Sporting a slim and sleek design, this massager is a smaller, lighter version of its predecessor. Its flat, triangular shape fits easily into a purse, luggage, or backpack, although some users say it feels a bit slippery during use.
Three intensity settings and three massager tips make this device versatile enough for multiple areas of the body, but reviewers find it especially effective on their neck and shoulders. For added convenience, it runs on a rechargeable battery and comes with a traveling pouch and charging cable. There’s also a Bluetooth feature, so you can use app-guided routines on your phone.
The respected brand name comes at a higher price, but many people consider it a worthwhile investment, including our commerce editor, Carleigh Ferrante, who says, “This massage gun is one of my most-used products. I’ve noticed a significant reduction in muscle soreness over the past two years when implementing regular use of my Theragun Mini after long runs or intense weight training. While it’s not as powerful as the Theragun Prime and is a bit more difficult to grip and position, it is significantly less expensive and does still provide that hurts-so-good relief for muscle knots and neck stiffness.”
Another passive neck massager, this device drapes over the neck and shoulders, for easy use throughout the day. It has a smooth PU leather exterior covering eight, bi-directional nodes that give users a deep Shiatsu massage. The massager easily adjusts to different positions on the neck, and it can be shifted to different body parts. With its corded design, there is no need to charge it. When in use, the nodes rotate in opposite directions every 60 seconds for a 3D, deep tissue massage. Like many others, the device automatically shuts down after 15 minutes to prevent overuse.
For additional comfort, you can activate the built-in heat function. Many people appreciate this feature and find it enhances their overall experience, although some feel it isn’t hot enough. Four simple buttons allow users to control and customize the functions as needed. A sleek carrying bag is an added bonus that adds portability to the massager’s list of benefits.
Stellar customer service and an effective product are a huge factor in over 50,000 ratings on Amazon. While the massager can be used all over the body, users find it especially helpful for their neck and shoulders. One user who struggled with neck and shoulder tension that led to headaches felt their knots release “within minutes of using this.”
Full-size massage chairs, while great, can be expensive and require a larger space. This back and neck massager offers an affordable alternative that still provides plenty of surface area. Larger than most neck massagers, it measures 15 inches by 13 inches, with a curvature that fits snugly into the neck while also covering the upper back. To treat the lower back, slide it down or turn it around. Just keep in mind, the power cord makes shifting the device a bit more awkward than we’d hope. The power cord is on the short side, so you’ll need to be close to an outlet while using it.
This device uses four nodes to deliver a Shiatsu massage at low, medium, or high intensity. For the user’s safety, it shuts off automatically after 15 minutes. However, it’s easy to restart with the included remote. For those who enjoy a warm massage, this pillow has two heat zones (each with two heat settings) for optimal comfort. Compared to other options, users say the heat on this massager is quite strong.
One reviewer who suffered from chronic back and neck issues laid on this massager for “five minutes” and felt like their “chakras realigned.” Others say this device helps with chronic tension headaches.
For full control over your massage, try this handy little cane to hit each knot with the exact amount of pressure you desire. The ergonomically-curved cane allows you to use it in multiple positions. A firm drop tip at one end precisely hits deep-tissue knots, while two massage balls at the other end are designed to gently release spinal muscle tension.
The simple design is easy to use for people of all ages. Its plastic construction is lightweight and manageable, but definitely less durable than other options. Some users say theirs broke after six months to a year of use. However, the same reviews tend to praise the brand for its “first-rate customer service” and quick product replacements.
This massage cane has amassed thousands of 5-star reviews and seems to be an effective tool for people suffering from muscle pain. One person describes how no one could hit his knots right, but with this cane, he can “control the pressure and work that knot out rather quickly.”
This warming, wraparound device provides a 3D Shiatsu massage using four large and four small, bi-directional massage nodes that automatically rotate in the opposite direction during use. An automatic shutoff feature turns the device off after 15 minutes. Using the four buttons located on the left side of the massager, you can choose between three intensity levels and activate the optional heat function. A massager purchase includes a wall adapter, a car charger, and a carrying bag, for easy portability. It also comes in a variety of colors.
This is another design that may not be the best fit size-wise for petite people, but nearly 50,000 Amazon ratings speak to this product’s efficacy. Those looking for a deep, intense experience especially enjoy it. One such person who tried “pretty much every style massager on the market” says that this is the only one with the “pressure and strength to quell the headaches and undo the mass of knots known as my muscles.”
With, albeit, a bit of an awkward cord position, this wraparound neck massager delivers a deep massage with eight bi-directional nodes. Breathable mesh fabric encases the nodes, and smooth PU leather covers the rest of the device in your choice of three colors. Each side has a loop to place your hands for a more powerful massage.
On the left side, four control buttons allow you to pick from three intensity modes and set the infrared heat function. As expected, some users felt the heat didn’t get hot enough. To prevent muscle injury, the device automatically turns off after 15 minutes. Although the corded design limits portability, the massager comes with a car adapter for more versatility.
Over 30,000 people have given this massager a 5-star rating on Amazon. According to one reviewer who suffered from chronic migraines, “this has helped ease a lot of the tension on my neck.” Many people also praise the company for standing by its warranty and providing great customer service.
For those who want to work with both hot and cold therapy for muscle recovery, this all-in-one device is an excellent choice. The manual massager consists of a food-grade, stainless steel roller ball set in a sturdy base made of ABS plastic. An additional rubber strip wraps around the ball for better grip. At just 2.36 inches, it fits easily in the palm of your hand—although some users wish it were a bit larger.
The roller ball is designed to combine the benefits of cryotherapy and myofascial release. After freezing for two hours, it stays cold for up to six hours, providing soothing relief to sore muscles after a workout. If you want heat, simply place the roller ball in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes before using.
Many reviewers appreciate the simplicity, effectiveness, and portability of this massager, granting it a 4.5 out of 5-star rating overall on Amazon, with over 2,000 total ratings.
When determining which neck massager might be best for you, consider the below criteria from our expert.
Number of Users: If you plan to use the device on yourself, Jamison recommends “a tool you can handle. Big tools can be difficult to hold in one hand, and one would rarely have both hands free to work.”
Size: As Jamison points out, “These tools are designed for the average person. If you have a larger, more narrow, or shorter neck than what manufacturers consider ‘normal’, the massager may not fit you. This is particularly true of the passive machines that you rest upon.”
Lifestyle: A portable massager is a great option for someone who is constantly on the go. Alternatively, if you spend a lot of time sitting in an office chair, you may benefit most from a chair cushion or draping device. Athletes often prefer massage guns, such as the Theragun Mini, for their intensity. Jamison says, “More expensive does not mean better. Some products are designed for commercial use, not home use.”
Per Jamison, avoid massaging the front of the neck and bony prominences (i.e. right over the spine). “Handheld massagers tend to bounce off the bone, and more passive tools will simply be uncomfortable as they pass over a bone,” she says.
A neck massager can be used daily to “keep the muscles of the neck loose, active, and flexible.” A 2014 study found that a 60-minute massage two to three times a week is most effective on neck pain.
Yes, when used properly. They tend to be more powerful than pillow and manual massagers and should only be applied to muscled areas for deep-tissue therapy (i.e. the meaty areas of the upper traps).
A professional massage may not always fit into your schedule or budget. A well-made neck massager, when used correctly, can help relieve pain, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Of course, these devices are not a magic wand—so you’ll want to pay attention to other factors that could be impacting your neck pain, such as your mattress or pillow. Consulting a professional if your pain is persistent and/or debilitating is advised.
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