If you’re like a lot of people, you carry stress in your neck. Sometimes it’s caused by everyday pressures of work and family, but it can also be related to the fact that many of us spend hours a day staring at computer screens, forgetting to get up, walk around and stretch. That especially affects our neck muscles, as we’re often leaning in, and not being very ergonomic in our work activities.
Neck pain and stiffness, when not actively addressed, can lead to a host of other problems, from shoulder stiffness, to numbness in the hands and fingers. It can make it difficult for you to get a good grasp on everything from your mouse to your coffee cup. It can even impede your balance and coordination, which can be a serious issue.
Many doctors, experienced in dealing with pain management will tell you that pain builds on pain. Interrupting that pain through massage therapy can help reduce the amount of pain medications you take, both prescription and non-prescription drugs, and there’s widespread agreement about the benefits of that.
Since it’s almost impossible to find the time, and especially the extra cash, to have regular massage and chiropractic appointments, a neck massager can be your at home treatment for pain and stress relief, as long as you’re not dealing with physical injury issues. Even then, massagers increase blood flow to speed healing, decrease pain, and they just feel darned good.
We wanted to find massage options that didn’t require your significant other to do the work – individual devices that were simple, straightforward, and flexible in terms of how, and where, they could be used – including your home, office and car. The best neck massagers vary widely, using different techniques for relaxation, stress management and pain relief. We’ve broken them down by category, so you can find the choice that works best, feels good and meets your needs.
Shiatsu Neck Massagers
Shiatsu massage is an ancient Japanese practice, and it literally means finger pressure, although palms and even feet are used in actual practice. Now home shiatsu massagers are widely available. They incorporate rollers and balls that move in different directions to mimic the actual use of hands.
Many offer heat, in addition to the massaging nodules, and they are a great way to get quick relief and relaxation. You’ll find shiatsu massagers in full chair cushions that massage from your bum to your neck, all at once, as well as shiatsu pillows, and wrap around models that are built like slings.
With the latter, you actually have hand-holds that enable you to control the pressure of the massaging balls, so you can get as robust or gentle a massage as you’d like. These massagers also work great for pain and stiffness in other areas of the body. We love them because they’re so reasonably priced, and super easy to use.
Percussion Neck Massagers
Not to be confused with a standard vibrating massager, percussion massagers have internal hammers that send vibrations deeply into the tissues. These massagers feel terrific, and some we’ve included here offer such robust impact that they may be too much for people in pain to tolerate.
The good news is that most of them have variable settings, which allows you to set the level of impact that feels best on your body. Since we’re targeting neck pain relief here, again, we’ve tried to avoid those units that require two people to use. On the downside, these massagers can be quite heavy, especially if you’re trying to reach over your shoulders to target the neck and upper back area.
We’ve included only hand held units for the purposes of this post, but if you’re looking for a percussion massager you can use over large areas of your body, one with a large flat bed is an amazing choice. Although these units definitely require a willing partner to handle, because of weight and speed, they are worth the extra money.
Electronic Pulse Massagers
Small, lightweight and easy to afford, electronic pulse massagers, or TENS units, (which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation,) work on a completely different principal than the rest. They’ve been used for decades in therapeutic situations, for rehab and recovery from pain, but while they were often unaffordable for the general consumer market, all of that has changed with the easy availability of electronics.
These massagers use tiny electrical impulses both to stimulate muscle contractions, and to block pain signals from the brain. On the upside, they can offer almost immediate pain relief – and in the case of tension related muscle spasms, can relax muscles for more long term pain management.
They feature a control unit that’s roughly the size of a credit card, along with wires that attach to electrodes you place on your body in the painful area. Most are programmable, and some actually allow you to target different pain trigger points at the same time. While they don’t feel much like a traditional massage, their pulsing action will give you a bit of that sensation. We’ve featured two models, one of which is under $50.
Self care is a worthy investment, both in terms of time and money. But if regular massage therapy isn’t approachable for you, it’s good to know you can manage ongoing neck stiffness with any one of these 10 Best Neck Massagers for Pain & Stress Relief. Not only are they a great gift to give yourself, they are especially worthy gifts for the seniors on your list, who deal with more aches and pains as the years pass.
Best Shiatsu Neck Massagers
1. Amazon’s Choice: Naipo Shiatsu Back & Neck Massager
1. Amazon’s Choice: Naipo Shiatsu Back & Neck Massager
Relaxing and therapeutic, this Naipo shiatsu neck massager can be the perfect way to de-stress after a long day at the office. This massager’s efficient U-shape, featuring eight separate node to mimic the work of a masseuse, can help to relieve fatigue and improve circulation.
With the unique, flexible straps, you can easily adjust the pressure on tender areas to give you maximum results. This massager also delivers soothing heat, right to where it hurts most, but a built in sensor prevents it from ever overheating. Covered in breathable fabric, it promotes heat penetration and for the maximum massaging action from the nodules.
This comforting device automatically runs for twenty minutes, which means you can get relief fast, without spending a huge amount of time or money. Better yet, it’s a good-for-you therapy you can do for yourself, anytime and anywhere.
This nifty neck massager can also be used on the shoulders, low back, legs and elsewhere on the body. User rave about it, and it’s also Amazon’s Choice for best neck massager.
- Eight massaging nodules to relax and relieve pain
- Comforting heat function soothes and increases circulation
- Easy to use whenever and wherever you need relief
- Ergonomic design makes it easy to target pain points
- Massage is too robust for some
- Works best when you’re in a sitting, versus laying position
- Heat function could be warmer
- Power cord means you’re stuck in one place til done
2. Zyllion ZMA13BRV Shiatsu Pillow Massager
Convenient and portable, this clever shiatsu pillow delivers a robust massage on nearly any part of your body. With four deep kneading, rotating nodes, and an easy to turn on heat function, you can use this neck massager at home, or with the convenient strap attach it to the neck rest of your car, for convenient stress relief on long drives.
It features a power cord with an adaptor that lets you or your passengers enjoy its soothing effects because you can simply plug it into the cigarette lighter. The massage nodes are set up to automatically reverse directions during each individual massage session, so you won’t get sore from too much repetitive motion in the same area.
This neck massager is designed with a mesh inset to allow heat to efficiently flow to your most painful areas, relaxing sore muscles with warming comfort. It has a 20 minute run time, with an automatic shutoff feature, so you don’t have to worry about leaving it on too long.
At just 3.5 inches deep, this portable neck massager isn’t bulky, making it especially comfortable under the small of your back, or under your legs, as well. It comes with a one year warranty, and a 90 day money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.
For just ten bucks more, you can get a similar neck massager with eight rotating balls, for a deeper massage sensation.
- Amazon’s choice
- Good massage along with heat
- Attaches to your car seat, and has a cigarette lighter adaptor
- Ergonomic design fits perfectly on your neck or in the small of your back
- Unit doesn’t bend, so it’s not suitable for curved areas of the body
- Massage nodules don’t fit everyone’s neck equally well
- Pretty rigid and not very pillowy feeling
- Massages too hard for some
3. NURSAL Shiatsu Neck Shoulder Massager
Not everyone wants the same massage experience every time. This neck massager from NURSAL is super easy to adjust your massage to what ails you. This shiatsu neck massager is super versatile, with three different speeds, plus the choice of heat or heat-free massage.
Eight rotating massaging balls, four large and four smaller ones, relax your neck and upper shoulders, while you simply relax into a chair, couch or the seat of your car. Their bi-directional movement mimics the feel of getting a real massage.
With a 15 minute run time, and automatic shutoff, no worries if you happen to zonk out during your massage treatment. The wrap around handle straps make it easy to apply perfect pressure, as well as to adjust this neck massager to do an great job of treating tight muscles elsewhere on the body, from your low back and legs, to your abdomen.
The design of the arm rests leaves your hands free, if you’re driving or working in your office, which is a bonus, but weren’t you supposed to be relaxing? This neck massager includes a standard AC plug as well as a car adaptor.
- Ergonomic design, and three speeds give you a customized massage experience
- 15 minute auto shut-off
- Bi-directional movement of massage balls mimics the real thing
- 24 month warranty
- Heat function is iffy
- Ball placement doesn’t fit comfortably for every neck
- Seems like you have to pull on it continuously to get the correct pressure
- Some reports of overheating issues
4. Medcursor Shiatsu Kneading Corded Massager
Similar to a few other shiatsu massagers we’ve looked at, this particular model gets our nod because it’s the most affordable of the group. With three speeds, and two directional movement, you can operate this neck massager on high, medium or low, as well as use the heat setting to alleviate muscle tension and discomfort.
At less than $40, it has many of the features of others. With eight massage rollers that give an impressive massage experience, it works on your acupressure points to loosen tightness, lessen headaches and ease pain. Despite the lower price, and the lack of any warranty information, it gets impressive reviews that are nearly as high as the top rated model.
- Super affordable
- Eight bi-directional massage rollers target acupressure points
- Features heat and massage
- Lightweight design
- No apparent warranty
- No mention of auto shut-off feature
- Massage rollers are hard and can be uncomfortable to some
- Handles are too short for some
5. Best Buy: Gideon™ Neck and Shoulder Therapeutic Dual Trigger Point Self-Massage Tool
If you’re willing to do all the the work, which is frankly pretty darned simple, you can give yourself the benefits of a shiatsu style neck massage with this simple and super popular Gideon manual massager. As you’ll see in the video below, in just a few minutes you can enjoy all the relaxation of a great neck massage that targets your trouble spots with some simple techniques.
The two silicone balls on this shiatsu neck massager can address tension, fatigue, and neck pain, by gently working the muscles and tendons like a real masseuse. At less than $14, it’s a bargain that’s hard to beat. You can take this portable neck massager anywhere, because you power the device, so it never needs batteries or an outlet.
Plus, the waterproof construction means no worries if you want to take it camping or outdoors. The longer you work your muscles, the more you’ll combat knots and tightness that can cause headaches, dizziness and more.
- Downright cheap
- Shiatsu massage that you can do yourself
- Portable because you’re not tethered to a power source
- Ergonomic handles let you customize the pressure
- You have to do the work
- Doesn’t have heat in addition to massage
- Takes some practice to get the technique down
- Included instructions are lacking
Find more Gideon™ Neck and Shoulder Therapeutic Dual Trigger Point Self-Massage Tool information and reviews here.
Best Percussion Neck Massagers
6. Most Affordable: VIKTOR JURGEN Deep Tissue Handheld Neck Massager
6. Most Affordable: VIKTOR JURGEN Deep Tissue Handheld Neck Massager
The Viktor Jergen handheld massager takes a completely different twist on neck and shoulder massagers. This percussion massager has super intense action, with upto 3,350 pulses per minute to loosen your tight muscles, and ease neck pain. The long, anti-slip handle means it’s easy to maneuver over your shoulders and up and down your neck.
With the advanced deep tissue massage, and infrared physiotherapy, this unit improves blood circulation as it helps to relieve pain and knots in every part of your body. It features three interchangeable massage nodes that target tough to reach pressure points, massage your scalp and do deep muscle massage on other areas of the body that hold stress and tension.
With a variable intensity, this massager allows you to have as robust an experience as you’d like. The conveniently long 9+ foot power cord makes this easy to use in any room of the house.
Price: $23.95 (76 percent off MSRP)
- Very affordable
- Intense percussive action
- Three different massage nodules to target different issues
- Variable speed control
- Too heavy to hold for a long time, especially when working on your neck and back
- No heat option
- Massage action too robust for some
7. Top Rated: Pure-Wave CM7 Extreme Cordless Percussion Massager
This Pure-Wave massager gets major points for being lightweight, and better yet, cordless. With a powerful 7.2 volt Lithium-ion battery, this handheld massager will run continuously for up to three hours, and recharge in just one hour. This percussion massager is super robust, with a high speed motor that runs up to 3,700 RPM. It’s even more versatile, because you can use both ends.
The small end operates to deliver micro-vibration therapy, and this system comes with three specific heads – one for facial massage, another for body oil application, and a third head for scalp massage and headache relief. The large percussion end has three more useful tools – an air cushioned stick for all over deep, softer massage, a pointy stick to massage even the toughest pain points with power, and a six head stick for serious deep tissue massage.
Built to be used in professional settings, it’s really quite affordable for home use as well. This powerful massage tool is build to relieve muscle tension and pain, increase circulation, and speed recovery after injury. A variable speed control allows you to effortlessly switch between micro-vibration therapy and percussion massage therapy.
This top rated model gets kudos for pain relief, and our vote, as well as Amazon’s for best neck massager in this category.
- Cordless and lightweight
- Features both robust percussion massage and gentler micro-vibration therapy
- Fast charging, long lasting lithium ion battery
- Six different massage heads to target different issues
- Percussion action can be too powerful for some
- Not the best for boney areas
- Need to pay close attention to instruction manual
- More expensive than many
8. Best Buy: Ohuhu Electric Double Head Deep Tissue Percussion Massager
This percussion massager is a popular choice for home use because of its price point. At less than twenty bucks, the double headed device comes with three sets of interchangeable heads to accomplish different tasks. This is a great first choice for those who might be new to massage therapy.
With a variable speed control, users can easily switch the intensity from gentle vibration to robust percussion. This handheld massager helps to promote increased blood circulation, which is essential for healing, and also gives a decent deep tissue massage, helping to ease knots, cramps and tense muscles for overall relaxation.
Overall, this massager is well built, with a sturdy case. And for basic therapeutic massage it will do the trick. The big catch with this one is that it’s pretty darned heavy, which makes it difficult to use for extended times on your own back, neck and shoulders. If you’ve got a helper in the house though, it’s a great buy as well as Amazon’s choice in the lower priced category.
- Very affordable
- Variable intensity from vibration to percussion
- Comes with multiple heads for different needs
- Built sturdy
- Quite heavy and a bit awkward
- Very loud
- Not as robust percussion as some others reviewed
- Handle end is difficult to hold
Best Electronic Pulse Massagers – TENS Units
9. Easy@Home Professional Grade TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager
9. Easy@Home Professional Grade TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager
This is a total switch up to ease muscle tension and pain – an electronic pulse massager. These massagers send tiny electrical currents into your muscles, disrupting the pain signals from your brain, and sending signals which cause gentle muscle contraction to help ease away tightness and tension.
You may be wondering what TENS stands for, so let’s clear it up. It means Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, which might sound like quackery to you, but believe us, this therapy been used by doctors for decades, to improve physical and muscular health.
With this massager, you surround your tender areas like the neck and shoulders, with tiny electrodes that conduct the electrical signals to your muscles. With three different settings – massage, beat and knead – you can customize the perfect massage experience for your needs.
With 20 power levels for intensity, from very mild to extremely powerful, five automated massage programs and three traditional massage modes, you can customize your treatment to give you exactly the relief you need. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery can give you up to 120 minutes per session, multiple times a day.
This is our top pick for best neck massager in the TENS category, and it’s Amazon’s Choice as well. It comes with four electrode pads, and an elegant leather bag to store your massager and accoutrements.
- Very easy to use on your own
- Frees you to do other things while tackling muscle tension
- Almost immediately relieves pain
- Recommended by chiropractors
- Not the same relaxing feeling of a regular massager
- Less effective on large areas
- A bit on the pricey side
- Instructions are difficult to understand
Find more Easy@Home Professional Grade TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager information and reviews here.
10. iReliev TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager
This electronic pulse massager is a bigger system, only in that it has twice as many electrodes to target and help to relieve your neck pain or any other pain, super fast. In reality, the electronic controller is merely the size of a credit card, but it controls the electrodes to stimulate muscle contraction, and nerve fibers to block the pain signals to your brain.
These TENS units used to be hugely expensive, but have come down so far in price that you can easily afford this one to tackle your tough pain issues. This top rated model from iReliev has dual channels, so you can use up to four electrodes on one preset therapy program, and the others on a different program and problem area.
With 25 intensity levels you can effectively target and tackle your pain, as well as increase endorphin levels – a real added bonus. This unit operates on three AAA batteries that are included with the package, which also comes with a carrying pouch and belt clip, meaning you can use it almost anywhere. Recommended by doctors and rehabilitation facilities, this electronic pulse massager is highly rated as one of the best TENS units for the price.
- Relieves pain fast
- Easy to use
- Dual channels allow you to target different areas with separate therapies at the same time
- 25 speeds, and eight electrodes, for total customization
- More expensive than some in the category
- Electrode pads need frequent replacement and they’re expensive
- Lead wires aren’t long enough
- Instructions can be confusing