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.
In order to narrow the list down, the first thing we did was eliminate 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.
Be it a crick, a kink, a knot or a downright pain in the neck, massage can do wonders to help provide relief. Sure, it would be great if we could hop up on the table and let a masseuse do it for us on demand, but the fact is professional massage can be expensive and appointments aren’t always convenient. Fortunately, there are a whole host of neck massagers on the market that can help work out those kinks, relieve tension, and more whenever you need it.
While you’ll have to play your own spa music and make your own fruit-infused water, some of these massagers do a great job. They come in a variety of styles and offer various benefits, so finding the one that’s right for you is key. Of course, if you have serious neck pain you should always discuss using a neck massager with your doctor. Here are the top neck massagers to consider.
Another decision we had to make was whether to limit the finalists to electric massagers, or include one of the many “manual” massagers that are 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 the finalists
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.
15 Best Neck Massagers in 2018 Reviews
1. Nekteck Shiatsu Massage Pillow
This neck massager is capable of providing you eight deep-kneading shiatsu massage. With this product, your tense muscles would undoubtedly be relieved, especially as it has a heating function that other neck massagers out there doesn’t have. You can use it at home, in your office or even in your car. As a matter of fact, it comes with a free car adapter and an AC power adapter that is 6.6 feet tall. What makes this product different is that it allows you to customize the massage experience you would be getting from it as you can control its speed and direction.
- Cases of the product overheating is not likely to happen as it has an automatic timer (10 min.)
- It can target a specific area of the body.
- Easy to operate to the point where you can learn how to use it even without reading the entire manual.
- It shifts from clockwise to counterclockwise automatically.
- The balls are too pointy so that it can get painful at times, especially after long use.
- It should be plugged in at all times.
2. Naturalico Shiatsu Massager
This is an all-around body massager. As a matter of fact, you can use it not only in massaging your neck but also in massaging your shoulder, back, and even your foot. So, a total body relaxation can surely be achieved with its use. Through it, you can also improve flexibility and at the same time, reduce tightness. If you are currently recovering from an injury or if you are suffering from insomnia, then this product is the one for you. Not only does it promote a good sleep but also a faster recovery time.
- It is safe to use as it automatically shuts off.
- It has a handheld design that makes it easier to carry wherever you go.
- It has four massage nodes.
- It is powerful and efficient in relieving pain in the neck.
- It pinches the neck instead of kneading it.
- It is not cordless.
- It is a little bit bulky, so it may be a little uncomfortable to use it while sitting.
3. New Five Star FS8801 Shiatsu
With its heating feature, you can massage your foot, shoulder, back and of course, your neck. It has eight kneading rollers, and in just a single touch, you can turn the heat on and off as well as change the rotation direction. This product works best, especially for people with a chronic neck pain. It is also perfect to be used during long trips as it also comes with a car adapter. So, while your mother, father, husband, wife or friend is driving, you can just go to the backseat and give yourself a good massage.
- It has two massage directions.
- It automatically shuts down after 10 minutes of use.
- It is strong enough to relieve sore spots.
- The heat is just right, and you can even control it through the heating option.
- It is not battery operated, and the power cord is not that long, so you would need to use it near the power outlet unless you have an extension cord that you can use.
- The rollers can make an annoying sound at times.
- The rollers have an abrasive cover, so it would not be best to use it on bare skin.
4. Shiatsu Massager – Back, Shoulder and Neck Massager
With this product, there is no longer a need for you to go for a massage therapy and spend a lot of money for it as you can simply have it in your house and it’s for a one-time payment only. It is highly portable, so you wouldn’t have much problem if you wish to bring it with you on your travels.
- It is a multi-purpose massager. It can massage any part of your body.
- It is ideal for people of all ages.
- It is easy to position in your body.
- You can either turn the heat on and off as well as change the kneading balls’ direction.
- It shuts off after 20 minutes, so you can even take a nap as you go for a massage.
- It does not produce unnecessary noise.
- Its massage stems are quite big, so you might find using it awkward at first.
- It is quite difficult to hold in position in other spots than the shoulder and the neck.
5. Bruntmor Shiatsu Massager (Neck & Back)
Finally, we have a cordless neck massager on the List. This product of Bruntmor offers a 3-D deep kneading and fully rechargeable at the same time. It was created to provide relief from sore muscles and lumbar pain that most people are suffering from. Also, apart from it being portable, it also comes with a carrying bag.
- The heated options can be turned on with just one button.
- There is no longer a need for you to untangle the wire nor do you need to stay close to a power source for it is cordless.
- It has multidirectional nodes, making it possible for you to have a relaxing full body massage experience.
- You need to apply pressure on the back of the massager for it to be more effective I relieving pain.
- It is not suitable for tall or big people as it has quite short arm straps.
6. Gideon Shiatsu Massager (Portable)
This massager makes use of therapeutic heat that would surely relieve and relax your neck, especially as it offers a multi-directional massage. With the heat penetrating deep within your muscles, your stress would surely be melted away. You can even change the massage’s direction with just a press of a button. Some even say that its functionality is on par with other known brands, but it is a much more affordable choice.
- It makes you feel as if you have received a massage from a real therapist.
- You get to control the intensity of the massage you would be getting.
- It offers a firm massaging action.
- This is not suitable for people who have broad shoulders.
- The rotation changes constantly and you might find that annoying at times.
7. truMedic Instashiatsu Massager
Even upon just a single charge, you would be able to use this product for hours for it has a lithium-ion battery. What makes this product different is that it offers versatility. In other words, after you have fully massaged your neck, you can massage other areas of your body using it as well. For people who wanted to achieve full relaxation, they can even choose to add heat.
- It offers a comfortable support for the wrist.
- Its control panel is simple, and so, it is easy to operate.
- It has a LED indicator light.
- You can control the pressure.
- It can be a bit noisy.
- The battery is not replaceable.
- With the short arm strap, it can create tension in your shoulders.
8. Brookstone Sport Massager (Neck & Shoulder)
This sport massager has great features that cannot be found in other neck massagers out there. As a matter of fact, it is possible to adjust it along the back and select the heating at the same time. So, if you have been engaged in sports or any activity that can build tension on your neck, then this product is the one you need. With this, you can improve blood circulation and speed up muscle recovery.
- You can use it without even using your hands. You just need to close the front handle snap.
- It has three different massage program namely: Pulse, Sooth and Energizes.
- It has ten percussion massage levels.
- You can adjust the width between the massage nodes.
- It overheats fast, so you would not be able to use it for too long.
- The controls are placed weirdly and so; you may press them unintentionally.
9. Naipo Cordless Massager
Like the other listed ones, this one is also cordless and is capable of functioning for 2 hours. It has four massage nodes, and its massage rollers utilize a 3D rotation. So, you can expect that the tightness of your muscles in the neck would be gone after its use.
- It has three-speed modes where you get to personalize your massage experience.
- It’s not too hot, so it will not irritate your skin. It only offers enough warmth to the body.
- You can hold the device in place, so you no longer need to hold it during the entire duration of the massage.
- It may delay sleep, so you shouldn’t use it before going to bed.
- It is not completely cordless.
10. SIMBR Massager
With its eight rollers, you would surely love the way it massages your neck, waist, back and other parts of your body. It automatically shuts off after 15 minutes, and with the fact that it has a reverse button, you can target specific spots in your body. You can also choose to speed up or slow down the massage. The massager also covered in smooth leather.
- It has gentle heat, so you would not find it uncomfortable.
- It has loops that would help you get the amount of pressure you are looking for in a massage experience.
- You will not sweat as you use this for the mesh is used to cover the kneading balls.
- The power cord’s length is only 5.9 feet, a little bit shorter than other neck massagers.
So, have you finally decide what neck massager you should buy? Hopefully, the reviews we have provided you in this article would help you make smart decisions and of course, would take your neck pain away. So, start using any of the listed massagers above!
11. Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager Pillow
A portable massager that can be used in the car or in the office, the Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager Pillow is ergonomically designed to fit the contours of the body, especially the neck and back. Here are some of its features:
- Ergonomic shape to fit the contour of the neck, as well as other parts of the body such as the lower and upper back, calf, thighs and legs
- Advanced heating function that can be turned on and off with ease
- Accompanying wall and car charger
- Adjustable strap, allowing the massager to be strapped onto car seats or office chairs
- Overheat protection with its programmed 20-minute auto shutoff feature
What’s to Like
While small in size, the Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager Pillow packs on a lot of power. Designed to be portable, this product is ideal for those who are always on the go – especially if you tend to spend plenty of time in your car.
Users love its strong and powerful rollers, which, in combination with its advanced heating function works well to massage the neck and melt tension right away. Aside from that, the product is pretty versatile, molding very well with the contour of the neck, as well as other parts of the body.
Its automatic one-minute timer allows the rollers to switch directions after each minute of use, giving you a feeling of balance while being massaged. It also comes with an automatic-off feature, which turns the massager off after twenty minutes of continuous use.
What’s Not To Like
Numerous positive comments have been said about this product. But, if there is one thing quite disappointing about it – it is the fact that you need to plug it into an outlet in order to use it. Luckily, it comes with a car charger, so you can still use it while inside the car.
Overall, this massager is of high quality and at its current price its features exceed expectations. It packs a punch when it comes to what it can deliver, and is a great option if you are looking for a product you can use at home or on the go.
12.Zyllion Shiatsu Massage Pillow with Heat
Small and compact, the Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Massage Pillow is designed not only for the neck but also on various parts of the body, massaging specific muscles to relieve tensions, knots, and aches and relieves stress. Some of the product’s features include the following:
- Ergonomic shape, fitting the contour of various body parts including the neck
- Heating function that can be turned on and off with ease
- Four deep kneading nodes that rotate and kneed muscles and reverse rotate during massage sessions
- Adjustable strap, allowing the massager to be strapped onto car seats or office chairs
- Overheat protection with its programmed 20-minute auto shutoff feature
What’s to Like about the Zyllion Massage Pillow
This product garners positive reviews from users mostly because of its versatility, owing to the fact that it is ergonomically designed for use on various body parts. Users report using the massager on the legs, back and arms without any difficulty or feeling of awkwardness.
Its four rollers kneed the tight muscles with just the right amount of power, which is said to be comparable to actual physical therapy or massage. Its heating mechanism improves the massage experience, and is made safe with its overheat protection feature.
What’s Not To Like
The massager does not come with heat adjustment options. However, many users report that the heat is just the right amount, enough to give a soothing sensation that melts away tension and stress.
Also at a reasonable price – just like the first product, the Zyllion ZMA-13-BK Shiatsu Massage Pillow with Heat provides a wide range of benefits and features for its price. It is also a great choice if you want a small device that you can use at home, in your car or inside your office.
If there is one thing to consider before buying the product, it is the lack of heating adjustment feature. Considering the fact that sensitivity to heat is relative to each individual, it might be worth the effort to try out the product first to see if the heat is bearable and comfortable enough for you.
13. Brookstone Shiatsu Neck Massager
The Shiatsu Neck Back Massager With Heat is a product designed to let users massage that spot right between the shoulders and in the middle of the neck, without the need to visit a massage therapist or a partner to man the device. Some key features on the product include:
- Eight deep kneading shiatsu massage nodes
- Heating mechanism that relaxes muscles of the body
- Hand straps which allow users to raise or lower the massage hard-to-reach muscles in the back
- Two massage modes: single and auto reversion direction
- Overheat protection with its programmed 20-minute auto shutoff feature
What’s to like
The Brookstone Shiatsu Neck Back Massager With Heat features a powerful percussion mechanism that hammers the muscles – giving users a deep tissue massage experience.
The hand straps allow you to hold it up or down, so you can use it on hard-to-reach areas such as in between the shoulder blades, or at the back of the neck, without the need to raise your arms or strap the product on to a chair. Users also love its heating feature that melts away knots and tension from the muscles.
What’s not to like
If there is one thing that users would want more from this product, it is for it to at least have adjustable strength or power. Users report that the power applied by the massage nodes tend to be too strong.
With its 8 deep-kneading nodes, this massager digs deep and works out kinks and tension from the muscles. At $129, it is a bit steep in comparison to neck massagers with similar features, but what makes it stand out is its long handles that allow you to use the device comfortably without having to reach back or strain your arm massage hard to reach areas.
The handles also allow you to pull the massager closer or let it sit lax against the muscles, varying the percussion intensity, which makes up for its lack of power adjustment options.
Because the product is bigger in comparison to portable massagers, it makes a nice investment if you’re looking at doing your self-massages at home.
14. Prospera Kneading Massage Cushion
The Prospera Kneading Massage Cushion is a beautifully designed product that is rather lightweight and thin. Created by a brand that specializes in massage products, this kneading massage cushion is designed with a wide range of features that many Prospera products are known for, such as:
- Two pairs of shiatsu kneading heads
- Thin and lightweight
- Portable design, for home, car or office use
- Ergonomic design for various parts of the body, including the neck
- Built-in stripe that makes it easy to mount on car seats
What’s to like about the Prospera Cushion
This massager is very lightweight and portable, allowing you to easily move it and hold it against the parts of the body, which you want to massage. Because it is lightweight, it is also easy to bring around and inside the vehicle or bring to the office. Aesthetics wise, it is very attractive, and looks great inside the car.
What’s not to like
While its pressure is firm enough, the product does not have any pressure or strength settings, which means that it may either feel too strong or too weak depending on the user. Because there are no pressure settings, you will have to adjust your body and how much you want to press the affected area on to the massager to get the pressure that you want. It does not also have a heating feature, which is common to many massagers that sit on the same price range.
For its price, the Prospera Kneading Massage Cushion is a good buy, especially if you’re looking for a product to use on small areas like the back of the neck. One thing to take note of is also the absence of a heating feature. If you’re looking for a combination of heat and pressure, you might want to consider other products that sit in the same price range. If you are not so particular about heat, then this is something that is worth a try.
15. Kendal Neck Shoulder Back Tapping Massager
The innovative Kendal massager is a product designed for massage on the neck, back, shoulder and waist – but you don’t just stop there. It can also be used to provide muscle relief on various parts of the body with its wide range of features:
- Drum tapping massage mechanism that kneads muscles and burns fat in the process
- 22 automatic massage programs, with both auto and manual mode
- 11 different pressure and intensity levels
- Thermotherapy heating function that promotes blood circulation
- Hand grips that allow ease of use when massaging areas such as the neck, shoulders, buttocks, backs and thighs
What’s to like about the Kendal Tapping Massager
The product is know to be intense – that said, it provides a very powerful tapping motion on to the muscles. The good thing is, unlike many massagers in the market, it comes with eleven different pressures and intensity levels, starting from soft (at 1) to intense (at 11). Its 22 automatic massage programs give you a variety of massage sensations, so you can use the device every day without getting used to the same sensation.
The product is rather powerful and pretty much delivers everything it promises to do at a very affordable price. At its current price, this Kendal neck massager carries features that you would find from neck massagers priced at $100 and onwards. Lastly of course, its handgrips are a plus since they allow you to massage areas on the back that would otherwise be hard to reach.
What’s not to like
Unlike other products that shut off after 20 minutes of use, the Kendal neck massager has a shorter time span. It automatically turns off after 10 minutes of continuous use, which can be disappointing especially if you’re already enjoying the session.
This device provides you with great value for money. The fact that you can adjust its intensity means that you can share it with other people in the family – even if everyone has different preferences when it comes to pressure.
Other than the fact that it is not as portable as other products (which may not be a bad thing at all), the only issue is that it automatically shuts off after ten minutes of use. This means you have to wait for a few minutes turn it on to use it again. But, if you’re fine with ten minutes of massage at a time, then you might want to consider this product.
Choosing the Best Neck Massager
Neck massagers are a great investment, because they actually just aren’t limited for use on the neck, but various parts of the body as well. Given the lifestyle that many of us have nowadays, it helps to have a device at home that helps you relax and relieve tension and accumulated discomfort on various parts of the body.
With so many choices, it already helps to have the best narrowed down for you. While these seven neck massagers have their own pros and cons, and are great products in their own right, it really boils down to what you need and what you are looking for.
If you’re looking for a powerful neck massager, the Kendal Neck Massager is the most promising option. Loaded with features, it gives you the best value for money and is definitely worth the investment, even with its short 10-minute automatic shutoff time.
If you’re in the market for a small and portable device that you can use at home and in the car – the Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager Pillow and the GESS129 Shiatsu Massage Pillow With Heat are your best bets. They’re almost identical, have the same price and garner very similar reviews from users, so you can’t go wrong by choosing either of the three best massagers for the neck.
Using a focus group to gain insight
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:
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.
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 Brookstone with scores of nine and 8.9.
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 our top overall pick, the Brookstone, 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 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 our top pick, the Brookstone, 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 Brookstone led with a score of 8.5. In comparison, the PurePulse only earned a score of 5.6.
What to know before making a purchase decision
Neck massagers can be used simply as a basic relaxation tool. If you are in good health and aren’t particularly interested in the specific health benefits, you can choose any high-quality option and likely be satisfied with the pain and stress-relieving benefits.
However, if you are interested specifically in the health benefits of neck massage, or have other health issues that might limit which massagers you’re able to use effectively, it’s important to choose a product that is most 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.
Both our top pick, the Brookstone, and the LiBa 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.
Another important consideration is portability. Put another way: where do you plan on using the massager?
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 the Brookstone, 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 Brookstone, using the Gideon (which is 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, and 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.
Our conversation with Dr. Rapaport educated us to the fact that individuals with 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 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 best neck massager overall
The Brookstone – Shiatsu Neck Massager was our top pick overall for a variety of reasons. In addition to feeling like the most “premium” product among the finalists, the versatility of the massager alongside the simplicity of operating it made the Brookstone an approachable and effective tool.
One of the things we liked most about the Brookstone was the ability to directly control where the massager was working, and the precise intensity at any given moment on your muscles. While massagers like the Gideon and the Zyllion can technically be placed anywhere along the neck, shoulder or back, the Brookstone allowed for much more precise and fluid control.
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.
This was also the case with the LiBa neck massager. However, there were other issues with the LiBa that took it out of contention for the best choice overall. Most notable and significant was the fact that the material on the Liba started to wear down after just a few weeks of testing. Compared to the Brookstone, we predict that the Liba would last far less time with regular use.
Another thing we particularly liked about the Brookstone was the visual and physical aesthetics. In addition to looking and feeling like a high-quality product, the material itself was sturdy and stable, while also having just enough “give” to make the product flexible and easy to use.
The Brookstone provides the best pain relief and the best build quality of all the massagers tested.
The controls of the Brookstone were very simple as well. After putting your arms through their respective openings, there are three buttons on the left side: one to turn the massager on and off, one to turn the heat on and off, and one to reverse (or lock) the direction of the shiatsu nodes. That being said, it’s worth noting that all of our finalists were essentially as easy to operate.
Things we didn’t like
While the Brookstone was hands-down the best product we tested, there were a couple of things we didn’t like.
First, and most significant for those who are elderly or have a medical condition, the Brookstone massager requires moderate arm mobility and strength. While a healthy 30-year-old will have no problem in this regard, it could potentially be an issue for others.
If you’re concerned about the strength and mobility needed to use the Brookstone, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you can easily put on a heavy sweater, you should have no problem using the Brookstone.
The other issue we had with the Brookstone was the lack of portability. In addition to requiring a wall outlet to operate, 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.
If portability is a major concern for you, Brookstone does offer a wireless version of their massager, which can usually be purchased for about $30 more on Amazon.
Findings from the focus group
Our focus group largely matched our own analysis and testing of the Brookstone. The most notable numbers in the focus group were the “user friendly” and “pain relief” scores, which were 8.9 and 8.7 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 Brookstone 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.
- The Brookstone is the most effective massager we tested.
- The build quality of the Brookstone exceeded the other massagers, particularly the LiBa, which looks very similar.
- This model requires a wall outlet. If you want a portable model, try the Brookstone Cordless.
The best portable neck massager
The Gideon neck massager is another strong choice, and in fact might even be better for those who have medical conditions or are otherwise unable to exert the arm strength and mobility that the Brookstone massager requires.
The Gideon is controlled with a simple switch located about halfway down the power cord. Controlling the Gideon is easy as well, with only three options to choose from.
One of the biggest downsides to our top pick, the Brookstone, is the fact that it needs to be plugged into the wall (or any AC outlet), and that the included 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.
The Gideon has simple controls and can be easily used on the couch, in the car, and in an office chair.
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. The Gideon, with its “pillow” shape, is also well-suited for use while laying down.
Things we didn’t like about the Gideon
The Gideon neck massager is a strong product, and is probably the best option for some people. However, there were a few things we didn’t like about the Gideon that prevented it from being our top pick overall.
First and foremost, the Gideon simply isn’t as effective at relieving pain. While the Gideon certainly works well, particularly in office chairs and while laying down, it wasn’t able to penetrate as deeply or precisely as the Brookstone. If you’re looking for the most accurate and powerful neck massage, the Brookstone is the way to go.
We also found that, while that Gideon certainly does work for the neck, it stands out the most on lower parts of the back. In other words, the Gideon is better suited for those who want to use it in their car, bed, or office chair.
Findings from the focus group
The Gideon’s focus group scores were strong but not outstanding across the board, with all scores but one somewhere in the seven to eight — the one exception being user friendliness. This is particularly noteworthy for those who are less technologically-savvy, and also makes the Gideon a great gift for a grandfather or grandmother who prefer simple electronics.
- The Gideon massager works in both the home, car, and office.
- The Gideon is less precise, but easier to use for those with reduced arm strength and mobility.
- The Gideon has the highest user friendliness score among our finalists, with a score of nine out of 10.
The other products we tested
The PurePulse was the most unique product we tested, and most people probably won’t be comfortable using a product like this in the home.
Unlike the other neck massagers we tested, the PurePulse massager uses electrical pulses to stimulate the muscles, which in turn essentially “resets” the muscle, allowing them to relax. The PurePulse is FDA approved, and in fact many massage therapists and chiropractors frequently use them on their patients.
The Pure Pulse is fairly inexpensive when compared to the other massagers on our list, and is also the most portable – the four AA batteries the massager uses lasted several hours during our testing.
There are three major downsides that prevented the PurePulse from being one of our recommended products.
First, the adhesive pads will need to be replaced from time to time, and most people will want to have their own pads for sanitary reasons. Second, our focus group indicated that this was the least user friendly massager, with multiple settings available. Finally, the massage itself is also somewhat disconcerting for some people, since electrical pulses causes muscles to tense and loosen without conscious control from the person using the massager.
Nevertheless, the PurePulse does work well, and is utilized by healthcare professionals all over the world. It’s worth giving a try if you’re willing to experiment.
The Zyllion was similar in many ways to the Gideon massager. However, both in our own testing as well as the feedback from our focus groups, we found that the Zyllion didn’t perform as well as the Gideon across the board.
If you’re trying to decide between the Zyllion and the Gideon, we think you’re better off with the Gideon (it’s usually a few dollars cheaper on Amazon as well).
Those looking for a budget option might appreciate the value offered by the LiBa neck massager. The LiBa looks similar in many ways to our top pick, the Brookstone. However, the LiBa costs anywhere from one-third to one-half the cost of the Brookstone.
When pressure was applied using the arm straps, the massage rollers would often get stuck. This was definitely not meant to do while sitting at a chair or couch. When sitting and using the massager on your back, the rollers sometimes moved the actual leather casing, causing the rollers to get stuck and twist the the leather. You would have to manually move realign the rollers back to the mesh portion that they belonged in.
For those who want the benefits of massages without breaking the bank, the LiBa is an inexpensive option that partially replicates our top pick, the Brookstone.
While the LiBa is worth considering at that price point, it’s important to remember that there are significant differences between the two. Most important is the diminished build quality we found when testing the LiBa massager. By the end of our testing period, the LiBa was already starting to look somewhat worn, and we doubted it would last more than a year or two with regular use.
After about eight months of testing this item, a wire came loose and it hung within the right roller portion. The rollers broke the wire causing the red lights to go out. Shortly after the Liba stopped working altogether.
The shiatsu nodes in the LiBa also aren’t as effective as they are on the Brookstone. As a result, putting significant amounts of pressure on the LiBa causes the nodes to slow down significantly, particularly when compared to the Brookstone.
The bottom line
The benefits of a neck massager are numerous, and the Brookstone 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 last for years to come, the Brookstone 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 Gideon is a strong option as well. Ultimately, the key is to find a product that you’ll actually use so that you can maximize the numerous health benefits associated with regular massages.