The 7 Best Neck Massagers for Relieving Pain
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If you're dealing with pesky neck pain, these expert-approved neck massagers may help ease your discomfort and provide relief.
What is a neck massager?
Neck pain can be debilitating to the point where you have trouble enjoying simple, day-to-day activities, like reading a book or going for a walk.
While there is no shortage of remedies for neck pain, an easy, tried-and-true treatment is a neck massager.
A neck massager is an electronic device that applies pressure to different muscles in the neck through various modalities, pressures, and frequencies, explains Rahul Shah, MD, a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon and fellowship-trained spine surgery at Premier Orthopaedic Spine Associates in Vineland, New Jersey.
“The implied goal for a neck massager is to stimulate the muscles in order to improve circulation, which then helps to loosen stiff muscles in order to improve neck pain and stiffness,” he says.
By increasing mechanical stimulation to the deep muscles of the neck, massagers help enhance blood flow to the neck and stimulate the muscles in ways different from how you typically use and position your neck throughout the day, says Dr. Shah.
Plus, neck massagers’ bells and whistles—think heating and varying pulse frequencies—work to stimulate and rejuvenate the neck muscles, he says.
The benefits of a neck massager
Even physical therapists, who specialize in hands-on techniques to address joint and soft tissue injuries, recommend the use of neck massagers.
“My patients only see me every so often, so for my particularly active patients and athletes, having a device at home to assist them in their rehab process on a daily basis, if needed, is beneficial,” says Mark Blank, a physical therapist with USA Sports Therapy.
Here’s a look at some of the ways people can benefit from using a neck massager, whether you’ve woken up with a stiff neck, are recovering from an injury, or are dealing with other neck pain causes.
May reduce pain
Research supports the notion that most people carry a great amount of stress in their neck, shoulders, and back.
Dustin Martinez, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor, attests to the fact that this is where he sees the most tension in the patients at his practice daily. Using a neck massager, he notes, may help ease this pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulders.
(Here’s how to find muscle pain relief.)
May decrease inflammation
Neck massagers, according to Blank, can help decrease inflammation as well as decrease tension to improve joint and soft tissue mobility.
“Neck massagers also improve circulation, which will facilitate an improved healing response by bringing healing nutrients and regenerative factors to an injured area,” he says.
(Massaging and foam rolling are great ways to ease one-sided neck pain– here’s how.)
Limits risk for injury
Using a neck massager can lower your risk for injury during athletic activities, whether those are professional sports or exercise classes, Blank says.
But, he says, using the tool doesn’t give you a free pass to shirk your warm-up. You’ll still need to warm up your muscles before exercise to reduce injury risk, even when using a device like a neck massager.
(Got a herniated disc in your neck? Here’s what to know.)
Are neck massagers safe?
When used properly, neck massagers are relatively safe, according to Blank.
However, he recommends consulting with your doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist before using any device if you have any pain or spine issues. That’ll ensure there is nothing more serious going on and that you’re not in danger of hurting yourself further.
“I always suggest to avoid going over bones when using these devices and to stay on muscles,” he says.
Qualities to look for in a neck massager
Here are the features that experts recommend seeking out in a neck massager.
Ease of use
Massagers that are cumbersome or difficult to handle may be more challenging to use properly, which could lead to unnecessary discomfort or even injury, says Dr. Shah.
“There are going to be significantly more beneficial effects when you use a massager in a reproducible manner,” he says.
With multiple settings comes the ability to vary programs and thus stimulate the neck muscles in different ways, explains Dr. Shah.
“With the goal of a massager to stimulate neck muscle function, I would recommend a massager with multiple settings to increase the chance of optimal muscle stimulation,” he says.
Don’t stop there. Be sure to test out those settings before buying.
“Once you have assessed that there are a multitude of settings available, I would recommend trialing the massager to see if the intensity of the programs are consistent with the intensity you need to feel as though you are getting an appropriate massage,” Dr. Shah says.
Look for a massager that has at least two frequencies, says Michael Wah, a physical therapist from the Greater Baltimore Medical Center health care system.
“Some may find the higher frequencies more comfortable, while others may find the lower frequencies more comfortable, but it is ideal if the massager has at least two different frequencies to choose from,” he says.
Long battery life
Before you purchase a neck massager, Martinez recommends making sure it has good battery life.
“Some massagers only have a battery life of one hour, even some of the high-end brands,” he says.
He recommends looking for a neck massager that holds a three- to four-hour battery life to make your purchase well worth it.
If you travel a lot, make sure the neck massager you choose is compatible. Ideally, it’ll have a case or a housing unit to protect it from damage during travel.
It can come in handy even if you don’t do a lot of traveling.
“This will also make it convenient to bring from room to room, to and from the gym,” Martinez says.
(Check out these travel neck pillows for when you’re on the go.)
Massagers with heads that move can be beneficial, according to Blank, as they offer you the ability to zero in on an angle that other machines can’t get to.
“I look for devices that come with different heads and that can be used for different body parts or at different pressures,” he says. “That way you have the option of a hard or soft massage.”
The best neck massagers to relieve neck pain
Here are the best neck massagers on the market to ease that pain and discomfort you are feeling.
InstaShiatsu by TruMedic
Dr. Martinez is a fan of this neck massager because it doubles as a neck wrap, which you can conveniently wear whether you’re sitting at your desk or walking around your house.
“You can wrap it around your neck like a shawl and control the amount of pressure you apply by the arm straps,” he says. “The massage heads are placed conveniently to get to those hard-to-reach areas.”
The heating function is also beneficial for soothing aches and pains.
Out of all of the electronic massage devices on the market today, the Theragun Pro is the one Blank recommends to his clients.
“It is a well-designed device that is comfortable to hold,” he says. “It’s also more comfortable than most to receive treatment from, due to the multiple soft and easy-to-clean attachments.”
This massager is especially useful for athletes, as it provides a deep-tissue-style massage.
(These signs indicate you might have pulled a muscle in your neck.)
Thera Cane Massager
This massager is as simple as it is effective—hence the more than 5,600 reviews and 4.7-star rating.
“It has the advantage of being very affordable, is small and easy to use, and is designed so that you can reach and relieve trigger points, such as the upper shoulder and upper back regions, that are hard to reach on your own,” says Blank.
The Original Neck Hammock
Although this is technically not a massager—it’s considered a gentle traction device—it works just as well at relieving tension and stress as other neck massagers on the market, according to Blank.
“It is very affordable, simple to use, and promotes gentle traction on the neck that can help alleviate neck pain and headaches,” he says.
The Myo Eaze
Although it’s on the pricey side, Martinez swears by this massage gun, which can be used as a massager for the neck as well as other areas of the body.
“This one is great for the neck, shoulders, and you can use it full body,” he says. “It has a soft start setting that makes it nice for sensitive areas and also has a battery life of 4.5 hours.”
Other perks include its easy-to-grip handle, its light weight, and the travel case that makes it convenient for trips.
Yomisoy Neck Massager
With 15 varying levels of intensity, a built-in thermostat, and a heating function, this neck massager works overtime to deliver pain relief and ease tension in your muscles.
A remote control makes managing settings easy, and because it attaches to the massager, you’re not likely to lose it.
It has a rechargeable battery that lasts an impressive 20 days after a two-hour charge and an auto-off function that is activated after 15 minutes to prevent overuse.
(Experiencing pain while you sleep? Here are the best pillows for neck pain.
Mirakel Neck Massager
If you’re looking for an at-home neck massager that gives you the true feeling of a deep-tissue massage, this is a great choice.
It wraps easily around your neck to deliver tension-relieving pressure to your neck, shoulders, and upper back.
It has an automatic shut-off button that is activated after 15 minutes and eight different massage modes to choose from.
Next, check out these neck heating pads that will relax you.
- Rahul Shah, MD, board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon at Premier Orthopaedic Spine Associates in Vineland, New Jersey
- Mark Blank, PT, DPT, ATC, physical therapist with USA Sports Therapy
- European Spine Journal: "Stress biomarkers' associations to pain in the neck, shoulder and back in healthy media workers: 12-month prospective follow-up"
- Michael Wah, DPT, OCS, physical therapist with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center health care system
- Dustin Martinez, DC, Los Angeles-based chiropractor with Whole Health Chiropractic