In this Guide
No matter which career path you’ve taken, you’ve probably got one key thing in common with everyone else in the workforce: you’re stressed.
Nearly all of us hold our stress in our shoulders and neck, and all that tension can lead to all sorts of side effects, from migraines to spasms. A neck massager can help you work out all those kinks and cramps, helping you clear your head and rest your mind.
However, as any chiropractor will tell you, the neck is also one of the most sensitive and delicate parts of the body. You need one that’s strong enough to release tension, but gentle enough to be safe on your vertebrae and nerves. Read on safety tips for neck massages.
Since shiatsu neck massagers have become so popular, there are dozens of models on the market. There’s everything from the “as seen on TV” models to professional-grade neck massagers from home medical supply companies.
We’ve put this guide together to help you navigate the tricky market of options that are out there. Our team has compared and evaluated dozens of models, to narrow the field down to a few great models. Below, you’ll find our Top Three favorite models. We’ve put together our own comprehensive reviews for all our choices, along with a handy guide to shopping for your ideal model.
Check out our Top Three!
Best on a Budget
- Our Rating: 4.6
- Popularity: Very High
- Our Rating: 4.7
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.5
- Popularity: Low
Best Neck Massager Reviews 2018
This Zyllion unit is one of the most budget-friendly models on the market today. It’s affordable, versatile and provides a lot of bang for your buck. We think it’s a great first neck massager, or a cheap solution for people who just need a bit of basic relaxation.
It has twin pairs of massage nodes at either side of your neck, which move independently. They change direction every minute, to switch things up and keep working your muscles effectively.
It has fastening straps, which allow you to attach the cushion to your car seat’s head rest, or the back of an office chair. You can get it situated just about anywhere you want to use it.
You can use it for your lower back as well as your neck. Previous buyers said they found all sorts of uses for it, using the nodes to massage their legs, lumbars, and even foot arches.
It’s low-profile. The whole thing is just 3.5” thick. The surface is contoured to line up to the sides/back of your neck, or to massage both sides of back muscles on your lumbar region. While it’s hardly the most elaborate device on the market, it has the same basic profile as most of the pricier options.
It has heat onboard. You can turn the feature on and off using the power button.
It’s safe, thanks to a 20-minute timer that shuts off the nodes automatically, making sure you don’t overwork your neck muscles by accident. There’s also protection against overheating, and the power system is UL-listed.
It’s also listed by the FDA as a certified massage device, so you can rest assured that it’s safe to use. You have to be careful with these budget-priced gadgets, since a lot of them are imported shadily and not actually up to snuff with US electrical and safety regulations. This one thankfully is!
You can use it in the car or in your house, and it comes with power adapters for both settings.
It’s made from a smart-looking blend of imitation leather and breathable mesh. The fake leather outer layer provides structure, especially around the edges. There’s a mesh section in the middle of the unit to help distribute heat to your neck muscles.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
It needs to be plugged in. Unlike the cordless options you need to have this one plugged in whether you’re in the car or at home. That’s not a huge inconvenience, but you will need to remember to bring the adapters around with you.
It’s not as ergonomic as some more expensive options. Some users said they simply couldn’t get it to fit properly on their neck. That’s a problem with any fixed model like this, since you won’t be able to mold it around your own neck shape. It’s also not very cushioned, and some people thought the nodes were aggressive.
It only has one speed setting, and there’s only one mode. If you’re looking for more variety or adjustment options, you’ll want to spend a bit more money.
It doesn’t have a great track record for reliability. A number of reviewers found that their massagers didn’t last very long at all. Those units stopped working either partially or completely.
Some buyers said they received burns from the heat feature. We’d recommend using it with clothing if you’re going to place it on your back, or adding a towel if you have sensitive skin. And, of course, you can always turn the heat off.
You can’t use it again for another 20 minutes after a session finishes. While we understand that the automatic timer is meant to keep you safe, it can be a bit annoying if you need a bit longer than 20 minutes of massage time.
Our favorite midrange neck massager comes from Nekteck. It’s a sling-style model with a lot of the same features as the Zyllion, but in a more versatile and adjustable format. We think this one’s a great choice for people who want a more complete massage without spending a premium. It has more massaging nodes, more settings, and a design that fits a wider range of bodies.
It has a lot of the same features we like about the Zyllion: the massaging nodes reverse themselves automatically throughout the cycle, there’s heat onboard, and you can plug it in at home or in the car. Plus, there are safety features like overheating prevention and an automatic shutoff.
Previous buyers were a lot happier with the heat function on this model. All buyers we heard from thought it was a relaxing addition to the experience, and nobody had problems with burns, which was an issue with the Zyllion.
It has twice the number of massaging nodes. There are 8 nodes on this model, arranged on both sides of the neck, working inward to follow the natural contours of your neck muscles.
It’s a more immersive massage. That’s because there’s twice as much coverage, for a start. Then, consider that the whole massaging head of the machine wraps around your neck and shoulders, rather than simply sitting behind your neck. You can pull down or relax your arms to either intensify or soften the massage as you prefer. Previous buyers said it did a great job from just under the skull to the top of the traps.
The Nekteck’s wraparound design also makes it easier to move around on your neck without it falling down. You can easily adjust the alignment by moving your arms, so you don’t have to crane your neck.
It’s adjustable, unlike the Zyllion. You can choose between 3 different speeds for the massaging nodes. And, like the cheaper unit, you can turn the heat on and off.
You can make all your adjustments with the easy side panel. It looks a lot like a remote, only mounted to the massager itself.
Overall, a greater percentage of buyers were happy with the Nekteck compared to the Zyllion. Based on our research, that’s because more buyers were able to make the Nekteck fit their necks, simply because it’s more adjustable. The adjustable speeds deserve some credit, too. While some buyers were turned off of the Zyllion because it was too intense, more sensitive folks loved being able to choose one of the lower speeds on the Nekteck.
The power cord is long, at over 6 feet. As with the Zyllion, you get both wall and car adapters in the box.
It’s covered by a 60-day warranty, as well as a 30-day satisfaction period. And while the warranty period is shorter than the Zyllion’s, we’re reassured by the fact that we didn’t find any complaints about durability or reliability with this one.
A few buyers still found it aggressive. They agreed that the nodes were pretty hard, and some suggested using this one with an added layer between the nodes and neck muscles. They also said that the mesh center section was rough on their skin. If you have sensitive skin, or find the nodes too aggressive, we’d consider using this one with a towel.
A couple buyers received broken or damaged units. As with the Zyllion, that’s not surprising, given how inexpensive the Nekteck is. However, the problems seem due to quality control rather than durability issues. So, while you may have to exchange a faulty unit for a working one, you won’t have to worry about your massager breaking down.
It comes unplugged fairly easily. One key design flaw on the Nekteck is that the cord is located in the back, and as you move around, it can come loose. It’s annoying but easy to resolve with some electrical tape.
We don’t think it’s a good idea to use this one while you’re driving. It’s designed to be used with your arms in a sling position, which is great for reading or watching TV, but may impede your driving. This one’s a better choice for passengers to use.
Like the Zyllion, it’s a corded neck massager. That means you won’t be able to use it as easily on the go. Thankfully, the long power cord makes it more maneuverable than other options.
This Brookstone neck massager takes our top quality slot. It’s the only one of our recommendations that’s not made by an off-brand, and the upgrade in quality is apparent in every feature of this model. It’s sturdy, reliable, and very effective.
Previous buyers said it was well worth the investment over cheaper models, and we can’t help but agree. This is our recommendation to anyone who has chronic neck pain or stiffness, or folks who simply want the best massager out there for daily use. It comes with cordless convenience, and an excellent track record.
It’s a sling-style massager like the Nekteck, and it has a lot of the same features. There’s a main band, with a central massage unit, handles at either end, and controls mounted to the strap. It comes with all the same safety features, and a similar timer for making sure you don’t over work your neck. There’s heat onboard, and alternating node patterns to mix up your massage.
It has just as many massaging nodes as the Nekteck. There are 8 nodes, arranged in a similar formation along the natural curve of your neck and upper shoulders. Unlike the Nekteck, buyers didn’t complain about the hardness of the nodes on the Brookstone. They said that while they were firm, they didn’t hurt to use. That’s a big advantage over the harder nodes in our other recommendations.
You can choose between a mode which alternates the nodes, as with our other recommendations, and a mode which turns them only in one direction. That’s one extra setting over our other recommendations, and it’s a welcome addition for folks who prefer not to have the nodes keep switching directions throughout a session.
The Brookstone’s handles make it easier to adjust than the sling arms on the Nekteck. With the sling arms, you’ll need to use your forearms to adjust, which isn’t as exact or intuitive as using your hands. On this model, you simply use your hands with a normal grip, which feels more ergonomic for us.
As with the Nekteck, it’s adjustable. You can turn the heat on and off, switch between speed settings, and shift the whole unit around on your neck to get a better position.
Overall, buyers loved the massage they received from this model. Most said it was the best they’d ever had from a neck massager, and said it was second only to a human masseuse.
It’s much better-made than the Zillion or the Nekteck. The mesh section doesn’t chafe like the cheaper options, and the faux leather strap feels less chintzy. The motor is more reliable over the long term, and so is the heat function. As buyers agreed, the Brookstone simply feels higher-end in every regard.
It’s backed up by a more reputable brand. Zyllion and Nekteck aren’t common US companies, they’re off-brand versions of popular models by Brookstone and others. They have their place, of course, and their superb value factor earned spots in our rankings. However, when you buy from an off-brand, you can’t rely on as solid a customer support system or as constant quality controls standards.
The Brookstone also has a much better reputation for reliability than our other recommendations. We didn’t find any complaints over the long term. The very few reviewers who had issues were complaining about damage or malfunction out of the box. Buyers who had used a cheaper model previously said they were glad they’d spent the extra money to get the Brookstone.
You can use it on your lumbar as well as your neck. Reviewers said the higher speed setting was especially good on thick back muscles. Since it has handles instead of sling arms, it fits more ergonomic in non-neck positions than the Nekteck.
It’s cordless. You can use the Brookstone absolutely anywhere, from the car to the couch to the bed. Reviewers said it lasts for at least any hour before starting to slow down, which means you probably won’t have to charge it more than once or twice a week.
It doesn’t come with a car adapter, so you’ll have to charge it before you start your drive if you’re planning to use it during the ride. As with the Nekteck, it’s probably not a good idea to use this sling-style massager while driving.
Even though it’s more expensive than our other recommendations, it still has some quality control issues. A couple of buyers received units that were DOA. However, they seem to have resolved the problem during the return window.
It only has two speeds, as opposed to three on the Nekteck.
It’s not the most intense massager out there. Some buyers said they wanted the nodes to have a bit more torque. However, most people said the Brookstone was as strong a neck massager as they would want.
The heat isn’t particularly strong. That’s good because you can use it on bare skin, but bad if you like a lot of heat from your neck massager.
It’s $50 more than the Nekteck, and nearly 3x as expensive as the Zyllion. This is no casual purchase, and we don’t think you should buy it if you won’t use it on a regular or daily basis. However, if you value convenience, you may want to invest in the Brookstone for its cordless function.
There’s no warranty policy advertised. We didn’t find any complaints about the Brookstone’s longevity, but we always like to see warranties on any big purchase like this.
Which is the Best Neck and Shoulder Massager for You?
The Zyllion is the clear choice for people shopping for a neck massager on a budget. It’s the cheapest model we’ve recommended by a long shot, and it offers superior performance and build quality to other budget models on the market right now.
We think it’s especially good for people who want something they can use in their car, thanks to the strap that fits around headrests. If you can afford the Nekteck or Brookstone, though, we recommend that you opt for one of the more expensive options.
The Zillion is a one-size-fits-all model, and it won’t be comfortable for everybody. It’s also unreliable, and can be a bit aggressive, since you can’t turn it down like the Nekteck or Brookstone. They’re more ergonomic, they’re more reliable, and they’re more versatile.
The Nekteck is a good choice for people who want a wraparound neck massager without paying a premium for the name-brand Brookstone. It offers 3 different speeds and adjustable height, which make it infinitely more versatile than the Zyllion. It also doubles the number of massaging nodes over the Zyllion.
It’s a great midrange choice, good for people who need a daily neck massage without breaking the bank. On the downside, it’s still pretty cheaply made, and it doesn’t have the cordless convenience we love on the Brookstone.
The Brookstone is the clear winner here in nearly every department. It’s the most ergonomic, the most versatile, and the most convenient to use, thanks to the cordless power supply.
It’s also the nicest of the three in terms of build quality. The mesh layer is smoother than our other recommendations, and the imitation leather strap feels significantly less plasticky. It also offers the superior quality control and durability that comes from a big name brand with a reputation to maintain.
We think it’s the ultimate choice for people who want the highest-quality neck massager available. It’s also the best of the three for people dealing with chronic neck pain.
No matter how much you spend, some of us just won’t find a motorized neck massager comfortable. If you haven’t had good experiences with mechanical options, we think this manual tool is worth a try.
It’s made by the Massage Blocks company, which specializes in tools that release tension through trigger point pressure and myofascial release. This tool has two nodes made from a molded, synthetic rubber material. They fit under the back of your skull as you lay back and let the tool do its work.
There aren’t any moving parts, and there’s no power required. After initial pressure, most people find that the tension is released. It’s more expensive than other manual tools, but there’s a reason this one has been given such high marks by physical therapists and massage specialists. It’s been designed with lots of care and effort, and it really can’t be beat for an old-school, natural neck release. If you have tension headaches or other chronic neck pain, try this tool!
How to Choose the Best Home Massager
Decide on your budget:
Neck massagers generally cost between $25 and $250. The price you’ll pay depends on what kind of format you choose, and how high-quality your machine is within that format.
From $25-$75, you’ll find mainly cushion-type neck massagers. They look like a rectangular cushion, with massage nodes at either side which cradle your neck. These units are effective, but they’re not great at adapting to different neck sizes. You have to fasten them to your seat, which means you’ll have to move your neck to get pressure on a different spot. That’s less ergonomic, but if your neck fits one of these models, they can suit you very well. If you want something to loosen up tension from stress, and don’t have any chronic neck issues, these will suit you very well without costing a premium.
From $75 to $250, you’ll find wraparound-style neck massagers, which add a longer strap to the rectangular cushion. They wrap around your neck and shoulders, and generally have handles or slings for your arms, so that you can self-regulate the pressure and make adjustments to the fit of the cushion as you get your massage.
These models cost more, but they usually have more massage nodes, features, and adjustments to help them work on a wider variety of neck shapes. We recommend wraparound neck massagers to anyone with specific pain symptoms in the neck, or chronic tension issues.
Within each format’s price range, you’ll find that the more you pay, the more you’ll get in terms of features and adjustments. More expensive neck massagers have more speed settings, more controls in general, and better ergonomics for suiting your neck’s individual shape. The more you pay, the better your neck massager will be in terms of reliability and durability, too.
As you decide how much to spend, think about how often you’ll use your neck massager, and how much of a difference it will make in your overall well-being. If you’ll use it regularly, you’ll want to spend toward the top end of the price range. If you’ll only use it occasionally for long drives, you can probably make do with a budget model.
Think about the long term:
Like a lot of motorized massage products, neck massagers can be fairly unreliable. Many budget models break quickly, or develop problems down the road that stop them being pleasant to use. That’s why we recommend spending as much as possible on your neck massager. The more you pay, the better you can expect your unit to perform over the long term.
You should also make sure you have a solid return window for your massager, in case you receive a damaged or dysfunctional unit. Again, on the cheaper models, you can’t expect perfect quality control. Make sure you test your neck massager thoroughly right out of the box.
We also recommend looking for massagers that come with satisfaction guarantees or warranty coverage. You don’t usually find warranty coverage on a budget neck massager, but mid and upper range models should have warranties. The more you pay, the more important it is to cover your investment.
Choose between cordless or corded models:
One key feature to look for on your neck massager is the power source. Both corded and cordless models are available, and you should choose the one that’s right for you.
The downsides of corded power supplies are pretty obvious: convenience and range. You’ll only be able to use your neck massager when an outlet is handy, and you’ll need to remember to bring your power cord along. On the other hand, corded models are more affordable, and you don’t have to worry about whether you remembered to charge yours before using it.
In general, we don’t really think there’s a downside to cordless neck massagers. As long as yours has a lithium ion battery, you can expect it to last for several days or even a week of daily use. Plus, these models work absolutely anywhere, which makes them the ultimate in convenience.
However, cordless models can cost 50%+ more than corded models with the same features. If you’re on a budget, you probably don’t need to spend money just to have a cordless power supply. Most corded models have a pretty long range, and both the corded models we’ve recommended will work on your car power supply as well as at home. So, they’re still fairly convenient.