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The average office worker spends almost six hours, cumulatively, sitting in front of a desk and computer every single weekday. That’s longer than the sleep that a lot of us get! And it doesn’t even take into account overtime, missed deadlines, and even the time you spend sitting at home on your own personal PC.
We’ve spent millions of years hunting and foraging for food or working the fields, standing upright all day, and only about a hundred years sitting down in this unnatural position. Evolution hasn’t had time to catch up with our newly sedentary society, and as a result, many of us experience neck and shoulder pains due to all that time spent sitting up.
Over time, these pains can lead to chronically high blood pressure, stress, depression, anxiety, and many more negative lifestyle effects.
Luckily, technology advances thousands of times faster than evolution does, and the great minds of our time have come together and created electronic neck and shoulder massagers! These marvelous magic wands of pain relief can help loosen up those wound-up muscles and reduce your daily pains.
Today, we’re going to look at what makes the best neck and shoulder massager, and provide some of our top picks.
How Does a Neck and Shoulder Massager Work?
The kind of muscle pain that massages can help with is caused by muscles remaining in a tensed state, which can be due to stress, or in the case of an office environment, staying in one position for a prolonged period of time. This state can lead to painful contractions or spasms.
Massages alleviate this pain by stimulating muscle fibers and producing a relaxation response in the nerve endings, causing the muscles to un-tense. Circulation is improved, and it’s speculated that there may even be increased levels of serotonin associated directly with massages. All in all, this results in decreased pain and stress levels, as well as all the other ailments that come with stress.
When you place an electronic neck and shoulder massager in the right position, its multiple massage heads stimulate the exact muscles that are tensed when you’re experiencing neck and shoulder pains. If the massager comes with a heating function, these areas will be warmed as well on top of the massaging action. This heat results in improved blood circulation and reduced stiffness.
What Makes a Good Choice?
Every neck and shoulder massager, obviously, should be fit for their primary purpose of relieving muscle pain in the neck and shoulder. That said, not all of these are made equal! The top neck massagers will have the following characteristics that you should take into account before you even add them to your shortlist for your purchase.
Stiff necks and shoulders don’t go away when you leave your office. They’ll be around when you travel for work, and they might even stick around for an encore at home. The best neck massagers will be lightweight and portable, allowing you to take them around wherever you go, and use them whenever you need them.
You can’t just stick a spinning massage head onto a pillow and call it a day. The ergonomic design of a neck massager will determine how effective it is at alleviating your pain. In fact, the wrong design might actually worsen your pain by attacking the entirely wrong pain points!
Like with many consumer products, neck and shoulder massagers appear at different price tiers. More expensive devices come with more massage points, intelligent features, heating functions, and even automatic programs that can provide a truly unique massage experience whenever you need it.
You shouldn’t turn your nose up at cheaper products, though! If they’re made by a reputable manufacturer, they’ll still definitely get the job done, even without the fancier features. In fact, if you don’t feel like you’ll use the additional features, then you can safely get a cheaper model from a good brand, even if you can afford a higher model.
All in all, the barrier to entry to neck and shoulder pain relief isn’t exorbitant, and the health benefits you’ll get from reducing chronic pain and stress are definitely worth any expense.
Neck and shoulder massagers have heating elements, several moving parts, and are designed to be taken around. These all mean that there are several points of failure, which a low-quality model might not be able to survive. A good massager should be well-made and ready to accept wear and tear without breaking down.
No matter how good your quality control is, you can never have a perfect manufacturing process, especially with mechanical devices. A good massager will have at least a one-year warranty, during which any device that breaks down without user error can be returned and repaired or replaced for free.
The Six Best Neck & Shoulder Massagers
Based on the above criteria, and the kind of features that they carry, we’ve compiled a list of the best neck and shoulder massagers that should be your starting point for any purchase. Any of these will be a solid pick for most of your needs, so just explore their features and style and determine which one suits your preferences.
#1. Nekteck Neck and Shoulder Massager: Suitable for Deep Tissue Massage
Nekteck’s excellent massager sets itself apart from the rest by including the ability to be raised or lowered along the back to suit any body type or need, especially for muscle groups that other massagers would have difficulty reaching.
It also features a selective heating function that can turn on front heating elements to alleviate chest muscle pain. That gives it triple duty aside from the usual neck and shoulder relief!
Aside from these unique features, the general quality of the Nekteck neck and back massager is good, using a Shiatsu-based design that employs deep tissue 3D pressure nodes which knead deeply into the musculature. It allows you to select from 8 deep-kneading shiatsu massage heads that relax and relieve tense muscles.
It can also be used hands-free and worn as a vest, allowing you to perform other tasks while using it, or even using it while at work. For safety, the massager features an auto-shutoff function that prevents overheating.
#2. Five Star FS8801 Shiatsu Kneading Massager – Amazon’s Choice
The FS8801 Shiatsu Kneading Massager is all about effective simplicity. Its 8 rolling massage nodes are designed to massage your neck, shoulder, leg and foot in the Shiatsu style, and the three buttons (besides the power button) can select clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, choose from three speeds, and turn the heating on and off. These simple controls and selection of options are designed to give you a one-size-fits-all massage experience that you won’t need to fiddle with.
It’s also pretty flexible, as the massager advertises its multipurpose nature right there in the name, by including “body” along with “neck and shoulder!” The FS8801 explicitly notes that it can be used on the back, waist, body, arms, legs and feet. Its massagers and heating can work together to relieve stress and restore circulation on any of these parts.
Another great feature of Five Star’s massager is the exceptionally long ten-foot cable. This allows you to maneuver around more freely while using it, without having to limit yourself to a short distance away from the wall as with other massagers, or having to buy and use a bulky extension cable. In the box, it also comes with both the AC adapter and a car adapter, allowing you to get a massage even while you’re driving to and from work. These features make it a perfect travel companion.
Finally, an auto-shutoff function kicks in after 15 minutes to prevent overheating, but pushing the power button allows you to keep the massage going for another 15 minutes. The manufacturer advises that you shouldn’t use it for more than 45 minutes.
#3. Iliving ILG-916 Tapping Massager with Heat
Iliving’s shoulder massager uses a tapping-style mechanism for that rhythmic massage feel, setting it apart from others with rolling massage nodes. The ILG-916 sets itself apart by offering a huge variety of massage styles, as you can not only select 20 different massage programs, but you can also choose from 3 types of massage, including drum massage, powerful deep massage, and symmetrical massage, leading to a total of 60 different massage experiences.
Because of the tapping style, each of the 10 intensity levels offered by the ILG-916 feel quite unique. The weakest intensity might feel like the tender touch of a gentle masseuse, stroking your pains away. Meanwhile, the strongest intensity would be a powerful kneading, designed to flush out even the hardiest, most annoying of aches.
The ILG-916’s snug fit design also wraps more closely around your body, which enhances the stress-relieving feeling of being massaged on the neck and shoulders. It can also be worn around the waist, buttocks, and even wrapped around legs and arms to provide the same luxurious massage experience on any part of your body that needs relief.
The Iliving ILG-916 includes a heating function to help further relieve the pain wherever needed, as well as an automatic shutoff function that triggers if the device gets too hot, protecting you from overheat and the device from damage.
#4. Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager
This massager sets itself apart from the rest by reaching deep into the areas of the shoulders, neck, and back that aren’t normally accessible to other devices. It’s adjustable, allowing you to raise and lower it as needed so that it can massage any part that you need it to. It also has a handle that contains the controls, which can set both the intensity of the massage and its location as well.
As its name suggests, its massage style is based on Shiatsu massages, with 8 massage nodes that are designed to target the most important muscle groups that cause neck and shoulder pain. It features three massage programs, including single direction and auto-reversing, referring to the clockwise or counterclockwise rotation of the massage nodes. This is important because the direction of the node rotation changes the muscles that are targeted during the massage. There’s also a timed interval mode.
Aside from the Shiatsu-style massaging, it also features a heating function that helps improve blood circulation, soothing muscle pain and fatigue and improving the rate at which the relaxation response kicks in.
Like the Five Star massager, it includes a very long ten-foot cable to give you the flexibility and maneuverability to do other things without having to tether yourself close to the wall. It also comes with an auto-shutdown timer that kicks in after 20 minutes, to protect the device from overheating.
#5. Kendal Neck Shoulder Back Tapping Massager Heated Therapy Plus Hand Massage
With Kendal’s neck and shoulder massager, you get a drum-style tapping massage powered by two powerful motors. The tapping style is inspired by point acupuncture and provides a more targeted massage therapy than other comparable massager devices.
The massage can be varied with 22 automatic massage programs, which can be switched to and from manually, or automatically varied using an automatic mode. It also provides the option to only massage either the left shoulder or the right shoulder, in case you only have one zone of shoulder pain. This is common for people who carry heavy messenger or sling bags on a single shoulder regularly. It also includes a thermo-therapy heating function that further improves muscle tension and circulation.
The Kendal massager can be used for neck and shoulder pain relief, or anywhere else with sore muscles such as back, buttocks, and thighs. It also comes with two passive hand grip massagers that you can hold while using the massager to stimulate acupuncture points.
This massager is very easy to use thanks to a large LED display that indicates the selected function, as well as buttons for starting or changing modes, increasing and decreasing intensity, and toggling the heating function.
#6. Zyllion ZMA-08 Massager with Heat
Zyllion’s entry in the neck and shoulder massager race is all about style.
Unlike the vast majority of neck and shoulder massagers, which look like glorified neck donut travel pillows, the ZMA08 is elegant, streamlined, and highly ergonomic, with plush pockets in which you can rest your hands, and a streamlined design that almost looks like a fashion statement, with stitched leather texture linings and a lovely color scheme. At only six pounds, it’s also very lightweight and comfortable to use for a long time.
Of course, it’s not just about looks, and the ZMA-08 packs a wide variety of features that can tailor each massage to your preferences. It features 20 massage modes that can suit your needs at any time, as well as 10 different intensity settings that run the gamut from a light touch to a heavy-handed approach. It also comes with an Infrared Heating Function to help promote blood circulation at the same time as manually massaging your muscles.
The ZMA-08’s massaging modes can help relieve neck and shoulder pains that are caused by bad sleeping posture, fatigue from exercise, and blood circulation problems, as well as help relax muscles that are tensed due to stress. It’s perfect for people who spend a lot of time in front of computers, athletes, and even elderly people with circulation issues.
To prevent overheat damage, the device has a thermostat that automatically shuts it off when the internal temperature exceeds safety limits.
There are so many neck and shoulder massagers out there that all claim to offer the same thing. Heating, variable modes and intensity, adjustable heights…And in truth, many of them do have the same variety of functions.
That said, it’s not just about getting the product with the most features. It’s about choosing a product that works well with the features that it offers. That means that a product with, say, only three modes, can still be better than a product with twenty modes, as long as it provides an exceptional massage for each of its three modes. That’s why it’s a good idea to pick tried-and-tested models and brands, so you always know that you’re getting what you pay for.
Heating functions are pretty common among massagers, and people generally agree that it helps them relax and soothes their muscles. It’s an important feature to look out for!
Each of the 6 that we’ve outlined here has been reviewed and determined to be among the best choices to help you relax. Any one of them will be a safe and reliable option for your needs.
Of course, we can’t understate the importance of finding ways to fix what causes your pain in the first place. Helping neck and shoulder pain simply alleviates symptoms of a larger problem of stress and overwork. Consider fixing the ergonomics of your workplace—try a standing desk or a better chair (like these massage chairs), for example. Or look for other sources of pain, such as bad sleeping posture.
And ultimately, it’s important in the long run to reduce your chronic anxiety and stress levels. That won’t just lead to less pain, but a longer, happier life as well.