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The Best Neck & Shoulder Massagers

Updated

After more than 40 hours of testing with our 10-person focus group and conversations with nationally recognized research doctors, we determined that the RESTECK – Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager is the best neck massager on the market. Its premium build quality, simple operation, and effective pain relief make it a strong winner. If you want a hands-free massager, the Mynt – Shiatsu Massage Pillow is small, portable, and suitable for the car, bed, or office. We also recommend the InvoSpa – Shiatsu Kneading Massager as a great alternative for relieving fatigued neck and shoulder muscles.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall


RESTECK

Neck Massager

Most Portable


Mynt

Massage Pillow

Also Great


InvoSpa

Kneading Shiatsu

After more than 40 hours of testing with our 10-person focus group and conversations with nationally recognized research doctors, we determined that the RESTECK – Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager is the best neck massager on the market. Its premium build quality, simple operation, and effective pain relief make it a strong winner. If you want a hands-free massager, the Mynt – Shiatsu Massage Pillow is small, portable, and suitable for the car, bed, or office. We also recommend the InvoSpa – Shiatsu Kneading Massager as a great alternative for relieving fatigued neck and shoulder muscles.

Table of contents

Compare the best neck & shoulder massagers

(Editor’s note: We recently learned that several products we tested and reviewed were discontinued in 2020. For this update, we tested two other neck and shoulder massagers, and our reviews follow below.)

ProductPricePain ReliefDesignUser-Friendly
1. RESTECK$$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
2. Mynt - Massage Pillow$$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
3. InvoSpa$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
4. Naipo$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
5. Nekteck$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
6. Zyllion$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
7. LiBa (Discontinued)$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
8. PurePulse (Discontinued)$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
9. Gideon - Massage Pillow (Discontinued)$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Best overall: RESTECK – Shiatsu

The RESTECK – Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager is our top pick overall. In addition to feeling like the most “premium” product among the finalists, the versatility of the massager, alongside the simplicity of its operation, made the RESTECK an approachable and effective tool.

The overall consensus from our focus group was that our winning model gives the most natural-feeling massage and feels the most like human touch. The heating component on the RESTECK also warms more quickly and is more penetrating than the other models. The combination of the node placement and heating element resulted in the most effective and relaxing massage.

One of the things we liked most about this model was the ability to directly control where the massager was working and the precise intensity on our muscles. It can be placed anywhere along the neck, shoulder or back, and allowed for much more precise and fluid control than models with similar capabilities.

That added control means we could also target very specific muscles on our neck and back. This was ideal for focusing on tough knots that would otherwise be difficult — if not impossible — to reach.

Top Pick: RESTECK - Shiatsu Neck Massager

The RESTECK offered the most effective massage, thanks to node placements that mimic human touch and more penetrating heat.

While the Nekteck earned the highest ratings in aesthetics (7.7) for its sleek black leather-like material, the RESTECK was a close second at 7.5. It also comes with a carrying case in matching material, which gives it a more premium look as well as makes it more portable.

The controls of this model were very simple. There are four buttons on the left side:

  • one to turn the massager on and off
  • one to turn the heat on and off
  • one to choose the stimulation mode
  • one to reverse the direction of the shiatsu nodes

That being said, it’s worth noting that all of our finalists were essentially as easy to operate.

While the RESTECK was hands-down the best product we tested, we would have liked the cord itself to be a little longer. We found that using a surge strip or extension cord in conjunction with massager made things much easier.

Our focus group largely matched our own analysis and testing of the RESTECK. The most notable numbers in the focus group were the “user-friendly” and “pain relief” scores, which were 8.8 and 8.6 out of 10, respectively.

On the user-friendly metric, individuals in our focus group liked that there weren’t lots of buttons or settings and no one needed to read the instruction manual that came with the massager. The three icons are self-explanatory and universal as well.

For pain relief, which is, of course, the single most important metric, users in our focus group thought the kneading shiatsu-style massage did a particularly great job of loosening and relaxing the shoulder and neck muscles.

The RESTECK also did a solid job in the mid and lower back area, however, both our focus group and our own testing indicated that the massager performed best in the neck and shoulder area.

Key takeaways:

  • The RESTECK is the most effective massager we tested, with a massage that feels closest to human touch.
  • The build quality of the RESTECK exceeded most of the other massagers with similar models.
  • This model is not wireless, but it does come with a car adapter for road travel.
  • For those who are elderly or have a medical condition, the RESTECK massager requires moderate arm mobility and strength (as did similarly styled models).

Most portable: Mynt – Massage Pillow

At first glance, the Mynt – Shiatsu Massage Pillow might appear to be exactly the same as other massage pillows. It has the same lozenge shape and four revolving nodes with heat control. But that’s where the similarities end. The Mynt’s award-winning design includes flattened nodules that don’t poke painfully in your neck, shoulder, and back.

Its main competitor, Zyllion (see our review below), is encased in hard plastic, while the Mynt’s casing is instead made of memory foam, which makes it pliant on the spine and shoulder blades. The honeycomb-patterned fabric cover that stretches over the nodules is a polyester-Spandex blend, and the material feels soft and soothing against bare skin.

But what truly makes the Mynt unique is that it’s cordless. It charges in about an hour and gives you two hours of vigorous massage. Once you’ve charged the Mynt, you can literally enjoy a massage anywhere without having to search for an electrical outlet to plug it in.

Most Portable: Mynt - Shiatsu Massage Pillow

This unique pillow massager is cordless so it can be used anywhere. Its fantastic design with flattened nodules and soft Spandex material soothes and invigorates sore neck and shoulder muscles.

Another unusual feature that no other pillow massager has is a pocket on the back of the massager. It’s designed for your hand so you can hold the Mynt against any muscle on your body. Our testers found the Mynt to be especially effective not only for neck and shoulder muscles, but also for massaging tired feet. It’s also one of the few massagers we tested that actually felt like a masseur/masseuse’s hands rather than a mechanized simulation.

The Mynt is only slightly more expensive than the Zyllion, but it is by far a much better product and one of the best neck and back massagers on the market today.

Key takeaways:

  • The Mynt is a cordless massage pillow, and can be used anywhere for massaging sore neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Its casing is made of memory foam, so it’s pliable, and its stretchy polyester/Spandex fabric blend is soft on bare skin.
  • For such a well-made, well-designed massage pillow, the Mynt is surprisingly affordable.

Also Great: InvoSpa – Shiatsu Kneading Massager

Invospa - neck massager

The InvoSpa – Shiatsu Kneading Massager has the most attractive design of this type of massager that we tested, and its performance is quite similar to the RESTEK. The InvoSpa has eight massage nodes — four large and four small — that closely simulate a Shiatsu massage given by a masseur. It works especially well on neck muscles because the massager’s design allows the nodes to work the muscles on either side of the top of your spine and just beneath the base of your skull. By tugging down on the massager’s handles you can increase or reduce the intensity of the massage.

Our testers found the InvoSpa to be best for massaging the neck. To access shoulder and mid- to lower-back muscles, it took some trial and error to find the right spot. Because of the size of the larger nodes, we found it best to use the massager on back muscles by standing up. Our testers held on to the straps and lowered the massager bit by bit to precisely find and hit sore muscles. After testing, our team agreed that the InvoSpa was good for relieving fatigued muscles and slightly less effective on pulled or strained muscles.

Also Great: InvoSpa - Shiatsu Kneading Massager

An excellent alternative to our top pick, the InvoSpa delivers a vibrant massage to neck and shoulder muscles. Also included are two power cords and an attractive, matching carrying bag.

The InvoSpa’s charger has a generous seven-foot cord, and a charger for your car’s 12-volt outlet (with a five-foot power cord) is included as well. We did test the InvoSpa in the car, and it was great for neck muscles, but it was a bit bulky for a back massage while we were in the driver’s seat. If you’re a passenger, it won’t be a problem.

The massager folds up compactly to fit in its matching teal-and-black carrying case — about the size of a small gym bag — although we had a little trouble fitting the chargers in the bag when the massager is packed inside.

The only issue that our team had was the placement of the InvoSpa’s control buttons. They’re aligned in a row high up on the strap where it sits on the shoulder, which makes the buttons awkward to reach. RESTEK’s buttons are in a curve on the strap and easier to access. But this is a minor complaint because the InvoSpa – Shiatsu Kneading Massager is a great alternative to the slightly more expensive RESTEK.

Key takeaways:

  • The InvoSpa – Shiatsu Kneading Massager has a smart design that allows you to work all of your neck muscles on either side of the spine.
  • Unlike other electric massagers, the power cords for both chargers are long so you can use the massager without worrying they will disconnect.
  • The InvoSpa’s control buttons are a little awkwardly placed and tricky to access.

Other finalists we tested

Naipo


The Naipo ranked the second highest in pain relief by our focus group, which is most likely the main consideration when choosing a massager. Its four-button operation is laid out nearly identical to our top pick, the RESTECK; the only difference is the order of the buttons. It also marks the heat button with red, which makes it very clear to turn the heat on and off.

While this model closely resembles our top choice, it doesn’t sit as well on the shoulders as the RESTECK due to the placement of the nodes. This means you have to spend a few minutes adjusting the massager after turning it on to get the right position.

The Naipo earned good marks in all the categories, but when it came down to the question of using it again, it only received a 7.3. Once you get the Naipo into a comfortable position, it delivers an effective massage, but it left our users feeling lukewarm about purchasing one themselves.

Nekteck

The Nekteck massager is built similarly to the RESTECK, but its shiatsu nodes are larger. The end result of the larger nodes was a less effective massage and even discomfort for some of the users.

Our focus group did find the sleek black faux leather to the most stylish, earning it the highest rating (7.7) in terms of aesthetics. The design rated much lower (5.7) due to the ineffectiveness of the larger shiatsu rollers. Like the Naipo, it feels bulky when placed on the shoulder in comparison to the RESTECK.

Zyllion

zyllion

The Zyllion is one of the most popular items on Amazon, and it’s quite similar to the Gideon massage pillow (now discontinued). The Zyllion is sturdy and well made, and its four revolving nodules hold up to a person’s full body weight. Its hard plastic case, however, can be painful on bony areas, like the shoulders and back, and should only be used on muscles.

Another drawback is that the Zyllion has a short power cord — only three feet — and during testing, it frequently broke free from its connector. Overall, for convenience and pain relief, we preferred the more portable Mynt – Shiatsu Massage Pillow.

LiBa (Discontinued)

The LiBa neck massager was a budget-priced option that had poor build quality. During testing, when our team applied pressure by pulling the arm straps, the massage rollers often got stuck and twisted the leather casing. We then had to manually realign the rollers back into position. The shiatsu nodes in the LiBa weren’t as effective as the RESTECK’s, and its shoddy quality was revealed at the end of our testing period when the LiBa looked worn, and we doubted how long it would last. As it turns out, after eight months, wires came loose, and the LiBa stopped working altogether.

Gideon – Massage Pillow (Discontinued)

The Gideon – Massage Pillow scored well but not outstanding with our focus group. Its strongest score was user-friendliness, which is particularly noteworthy for those who are less technologically-savvy or for the elderly who prefer simple electronics. The Gideon is controlled by a simple switch located about halfway down the power cord with three options for intensity and heat. While the Gideon works well, it wasn’t able to penetrate as deeply or precisely as the RESTECK.

One of the biggest downsides to our top pick, the RESTECK, is that its power cord is only about three feet long. The Gideon massager, on the other hand, has a much longer power cord (about seven feet long) and also comes with a car-charging adapter.

This, along with the Gideon’s smaller size, makes the Gideon far more portable in practice. The Gideon is best for those who want to have a neck massager outside of the home — particularly in the car and office — and its pillow shape is well-suited for lying down on a sofa or bed. The Gideon, with its “pillow” shape, is also well-suited for use while laying down.

PurePulse (Discontinued)

pure pulse

The PurePulse was the most unique product we tested. Unlike the other neck massagers we tested, the PurePulse massager used electrical pulses to stimulate the muscles, which in turn essentially “resets” the muscle, allowing them to relax. The PurePulse was FDA-approved and many massage therapists and chiropractors frequently used it on their patients.

The PurePulse was fairly inexpensive and was the most portable — the four AA batteries the massager used lasted several hours during our testing. However, there were several negatives about the PurePulse. Its adhesive pads needed to be replaced from time to time, and our focus group found the PurePulse the least user friendly. A few testers found the massage itself disconcerting, since the PurePulse’s electrical pulses  caused muscles to tense up and then loosen without conscious control from the tester.

How we selected

While researching neck massagers, we discovered that there isn’t a defining industry leader or even a group of brand names that are strongly associated with the category. On top of that, there are literally hundreds of options available on Amazon and other stores. For someone with lots of muscle aches and pains, the selection can be overwhelming.

We’ve reviewed other tools for different muscle groups, such as the best back massager, best leg massager, best foam rollerbest foot massager, best percussive massage gun and best handheld massager.

In order to narrow down the list of neck and shoulder massagers, we first eliminated any massagers that didn’t have at least a four-star rating on Amazon. We also looked for massagers that were positively reviewed by at least a few websites, including Consumer Reports and others.

We also decided whether to limit the finalists to electric massagers or include one of the many “manual” massagers available as well. After speaking to several doctors, including Dr. Rapaport of Emory University, we decided to stick with electric massagers only.

There were a few reasons that led us to this decision. Ultimately, it was the fact that high-quality electric massagers will produce the therapeutic and medical benefits of a neck massage more consistently. Manual massagers, on the other hand, require the user to have strength, flexibility and at least some knowledge of technique.

Plus, having an electric massager is just more relaxing in general.

How we tested

testing neck and shoulder massagers

Any time we test a product that has one primary purpose, the most important metric is, of course, how well it performs that task. While that was also true for neck massagers, measuring “pain relief” can be difficult to quantify. One person’s rating of a muscle ache or pain could be completely different than the next person’s.

In order to make our data more qualitative and to control for the variety of ways that people rank muscle aches and pains, we gathered a group of 10 different people, with a range of ages and other demographics, as an ad-hoc focus group.

Along with the focus group we looked at the functionality of each massager, how easy they were to set up and transport, as well as the materials used and overall build quality of each massager.

Focus group test results

We took an in-depth look into each of our five finalists. However, determining a “best” neck massager can be subjective, since everyone’s opinion on what constitutes a “good” neck massage can differ.

We used the feedback from our focus group participants alongside our own analysis and testing of the products to determine the best option available.

One of the primary benefits of using a neck massager is the fact that, unlike a professional massage therapist, it can be used any time. Daily or weekly use of a neck massager is key to maximizing the health benefits of neck massage in general, so our focus group questions were oriented around metrics that would indicate (and encourage) regular use of the product.

We wanted to know how much better (or worse) their muscles felt before and after using each massager and whether their overall pain level was reduced in a significant way.

These are the results of our focus group:

focus group results chart

Aesthetics and style

While the appearance of each neck massager is certainly not the most important measurement used when picking a product, it still makes a difference in the purchasing process.

If the product owner thinks the item looks tacky, more often than not it’ll end up in the closet or a drawer somewhere and will probably be used less often. If, on the other hand, a massager is well-designed, it’ll be more likely to stay in the bedroom or living room, where it will probably be used more often to reduce muscle aches and pains.

Several of the finalists we tested had virtually the same look and style, but the Necktek won over our focus group with its faux leather finish. It rated highest with a score of 7.7. Our top pick, the RESTECK, slightly edged out our top portable pick, the Gideon, with respective scores of 7.5 and 7.

User friendliness

When we selected our five neck & shoulder massager finalists, we made a point of selecting products that were simple and straightforward to operate to help relieve some pain without causing operation pains.

The only exception, the PurePulse, is still fairly simple to operate once you’ve read the instructions. However, it is certainly more complicated to operate than the other finalists. This was ultimately reflected in the score the PurePulse received amongst our focus group participants.

In this category, our top portable pick, the Gideon, slightly beat out the RESTECK with scores of nine and 8.8. The Naipo was another highly rated model, with a score of 8.8.

Design

We asked each of our focus group participants to rate the overall design of each massager. Unlike the “aesthetics and style” question, design is more closely linked to general usability, as well as the ergonomics and layout of the neck massager itself. In this category, the RESTECK was far ahead of the pack with a score of 8.5. The PurePulse, on the other hand, only achieved a score of 3.8.

Pain relief

Pain relief is, of course, the most important measurement when rating neck massagers. For the purposes of our focus group, we asked our participants to group anything that could be considered “pain relief” — including relaxation, muscle ache reduction, decreases in muscle tension, improved blood circulation, sense of well-being, and reduction in any pain they had before using the massager — into this category.

All of our finalists fared reasonably well in this category, but the RESTECK (our top pick) was hands-down the standout.

Would you use it again?

This question is somewhat redundant to the rest of the questions we asked, but we really wanted to drive home the point that a neck massager is only beneficial if it is actually used. Once again, the RESTECK led with a score of 8.5. In comparison, the PurePulse only earned a score of 5.6.

Important features to consider

Neck massagers can be used simply as a basic relaxation tool. If you aren’t looking for specific health benefits, you can choose any high-quality option and likely be satisfied with a pain and stress-relieving neck massage.

However, if you are interested specifically in the health benefits of neck massage or have other health issues that may limit which massagers you’re able to use effectively, it’s important to choose a product that is suitable for you.

One of the most important considerations when choosing a neck and shoulder massager is deciding how you want the pressure applied to the muscles themselves. Among our finalists, there were three different methods: arm strength, body weight and electrical power.

Several of our massagers—the RESTECK, InvoSpa, Naipo, LiBa, and Nekteck—use arm strength to generate pressure. While each of these massagers has rotating shiatsu-style nodes, the majority of the pressure is generated by pulling down on the massager using your arms.

For those who are able to properly utilize this design, it offers significant flexibility, both in the amount and the specific location that pressure is applied. However, individuals who don’t have the necessary arm strength or dexterity or who simply don’t want to have to pull while receiving a massage, should probably consider a different option.

The second method of generating pressure is body weight. Both the Mynt and the Zyllion use this method.

Another important consideration is portability. If product use will be limited to the home, then any of our finalists are viable options. If you plan on using the neck massager at work or in the car, portability becomes a more important factor.

If you work at a desk, you probably won’t be able to use a massager dependent on arm strength, since it requires your arms to be used to apply pressure on your neck. While you could certainly take a break from work to use the RESTECK, using the Mynt (our top portable massager) is easier and will allow you to continue working at the same time.

The significant health benefits of massage

There is a growing body of research on the many benefits of massages and the latest research indicates that there are substantial benefits directly associated with massages — neck massages in particular.

Of course, not everyone has the means or time, to visit a massage therapist one or more times each week. Fortunately, according to the doctors we spoke to, neck massagers (such as the ones we are reviewing here) provide many of the same benefits.

The reason for this is fairly straightforward: Within the neck, there is something known as the “neurovascular bundle.” Stimulating this bundle, for example with a shiatsu-style neck massager, leads to reduced stress levels, increased relaxation and decreases in inflammation, among other benefits.

Massage benefits for specific health conditions

We spoke with several medical experts. Most notable was our conversation with Dr. Mark Rapaport, a Chairman at the Emory University School of Medicine who has published more than 180 peer-reviewed studies for a variety of prominent publications. Our conversation with Dr. Rapaport was also instrumental in conducting our review of the best foot massagers as well.

In addition to providing health benefits to generally healthy individuals, neck massages also provide significant health benefits for a wide variety of health conditions.

Expert Consulted:

Dr. Mark Rapaport

Chairman - Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine

Our conversation with Dr. Rapaport educated us to the fact that individuals with a generalized anxiety disorder were recorded to have dramatically lower cortisol and stress levels, with increases in oxytocin levels and a general sense of well-being, after receiving a neck massage.

Another excellent example of how neck massages can provide health benefits comes from the studies which indicate that massages lead to decreased stress levels in women who have recently undergone a C-section. The corresponding decrease in cortisol levels and increased levels of oxytocin are excellent both for the mother and her newborn child.

There is also a growing body of research indicating that massages can have a significant impact on inflammatory markers. This helps reduce the time needed to heal from injuries or surgery and could potentially have dramatic benefits for individuals suffering from autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease and even allergies. Dr. Thomas Best of Ohio State University is one of the leading researchers in this field.

While the specific benefits are still being researched, one thing is clear: Neck massages offer significant benefits both for healthy individuals and those suffering from a wide range of medical conditions.

The bottom line

The benefits of a neck massager are numerous and the RESTECK – Shiatsu Shoulder & Neck Massager offers the best combination of pain relief, blood circulation, relaxed muscles, ease of use and value from the five finalists we tested. If you want a high-quality product that will complement visits to a massage therapist, the RESTECK is a strong choice.

If you’re looking for a more portable massager that is easier for those with limited arm strength and mobility to use, the cordless Mynt – Massage Pillow is an excellent choice. It’s unique among massage pillows in that it was designed for comfort and convenience.

Another good option that’s similar to the RESTECK is the InvoSpa – Kneading Massager. It’s especially effective in massaging the neck and shoulder muscle groups.

Top Pick: RESTECK - Shiatsu Neck Massager

The RESTECK is the all-around best option for those who want to maximize pain relief and the health benefits of a neck massage.

Bryan Vu, Editor

Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.

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