According to Vikki Petersen, DC, certified clinical nutritionist, chiropractor, and functional medicine practitioner, treating your neck to a tech-y massage offers benefits beyond just helping you relax (though, FWIW, it definitely does that, too). She says that using a neck massager can improve circulation, alleviate mild-to-moderate neck and shoulder pain, help with headaches and migraines, reduce muscle tension and soreness, improve neck mobility, and decrease stress.
The best neck massagers
Ready to invest in one of your own? Shop her (and our) picks below.
Best chiropractor-approved neck massagers
Dr. Petersen is a fan of this massager, thanks to the fact that it offers a number of different options within a single device. You can control the heat, pressure, speed, and direction of the kneading for a truly personalized experience on aches and pains all over.
Another Dr. Peterson-approved fave, this heated kneader is great for deep tissue massages. Inside the sleeve there are eight massage rollers, which move bi-directionally to ease tension, and the heat also helps to relax your muscles. You can adjust the intensity between light, medium, and heavy depending on what your body needs on a given day.
The final device to get Dr. Petersen’s stamp of approval is this over-the-neck massager, which allows you to control the heat, speed, and direction of your massage. Its ergonomic design makes it just as friendly to your back and calves as it works at your neck, which means you can use it to melt away muscle knots anywhere.
Best heated, splurge neck massager
This device was designed to mimic the experience of being massaged by human hands, which is exactly what it does. It offers a heated, deep tissue massage by way of four nodes, which are meant to feel like thumbs (which is creepy, but effective) in order to really knead down into your muscle knots. Think of this as your own, personal massage therapist
Best heated, budget neck massager
This device checks all of Dr. Petersen’s boxes—it’s heated and offers adjustable kneading pressure—but will only run you $33. You can choose between light and heavy pressure and two different directions, and thanks to the device’s lightweight, easily-packable design, you can take it with you anywhere for a hands-free massage on the go.
Best deep tissue neck massager
Real talk: Is there anything the Theragun can’t do? The mini version of the device comes with two different heads and offers three speeds. Plus, it’s ergonomically correct and easy to maneuver, which makes it perfect for getting to all those hard-to-reach spots on the back of your body. Pros say your best bet is to use it on any tight spots and move your neck up and down, letting its vibrational powers do the rest.
Best customizable neck massager
With this device, you can reap all the benefits of a percussive therapy massage for only $56. It offers 30 adjustable speeds and 10 different heads, which you can mix and match depending on what type of relief you’re looking for. Plus, it’s ultra-quiet, so you can use it at your desk without disturbing your coworkers (or, erm, your dog).
Best low-tech neck massager
It may seem weird to see tennis balls on this list, but according to pros, they’re one of the best ways to get an at-home neck massage without having to spend any big bucks. Simply lay down on a hard floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, and place a tennis ball under your neck in the exact spot you’re feeling any tension. Let the weight of your head and neck relax into the ball, then gently rock back and forth. This will stimulate circulation and blood flow, helping to release tension and rid your neck of knots.
Best pillow neck massager
This pillow mimics the kneading effects of a shiatsu massage, and is meant to be used anywhere you’re feeling tension—including your neck, back, calves, and stomach. It heats to 113℉, and shuts off automatically after 15 minutes. At just $30, it’s earned an impressive 4.9-star rating on Amazon.
Best neck massager wand
This heated wand allows you to get into the nooks and crannies of your neck, making for an ultra-targeted massage that hits all the right spots. The dual-pivoting heads pulse up to 31,000 times per minute, and the device allows you to choose from four speeds.
Best electrical neck massager
There’s no kneading or pulsing here. Instead, this device uses electrical stimulation to send pulses deep into your muscle tissues, helping to release any tight spots. It has five different heated massage modes, and folds up into itself for easy portability.
Best for trigger-point neck massage
This massager is designed to hit the trigger points in the back of your neck, giving you instant relief. Simply hold the handles, and roll back and forth with as much pressure as your body needs. The silicone balls will hit the magic spots where tension tends to multiply, and you’ll feel a release right away.
Best chair pad neck massager
Avoid back and neck pain before it starts by turning your desk chair into a full-blown massage chair. This tech-y pad fits over your standard seat, and is equipped with four nodes and heating capabilities to deliver multi-faceted relief. It integrates finger pressure Shiatsu, rolling, compression, and vibration techniques, and all you have to do after you plug it in is literally sit back and relax.
How to use a neck massager
Before you go all-in on a DIY desk massage, it's important to be aware of the best practices when using this type of device. "You mostly want to concentrate your efforts on the back of your neck—avoid the front, which contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels," says Dr. Peterson. "The real key, though, is to start gently and assess how you feel." If you don't feel any relief after a few repeated uses, check in with your GP or a chiropractor to see what's going on.
How to choose a neck massager
Neck massagers may all have the same general goal (which is, obviously, to massage your neck), but they're not all created equally. "The best massagers have a variety of pressure options so you can find what is best for you—the right amount of pressure will provide relief without stressing your muscles," says Dr. Petersen. "Look for a massager that kneads and rolls your muscles in a fashion similar to that of a masseuse."
Can everyone benefit from a neck massager?
Though neck massagers are great, they have some limitations, and shouldn't be used as a cure-all for more serious ailments. "If you have badly strained or sprained a muscle in your neck, a neck massager might be irritating, and a moderate-to-severely pinched nerve could also be worsened by a massager," says Dr. Petersen. "Another problem would be a swollen disc in your neck, which would not be remediated by a neck massager" For any pain that goes beyond mild discomfort, it's best to consult a pro before trying to treat it yourself.
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