A complicated array of bones, muscles, nerves and organs lie just under the surface of your neck and back. Perhaps the most important structure that’s in your back is your spinal cord. It connects your brain to the rest of your body. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to move or stand up straight. The human neck is just as vital as the back– and it’s equally as vulnerable to injury. The muscles in your neck not only support the head and rotate it when needed, but also assist with breathing.
Since the neck and back are so complicated, it’s no wonder that back and neck pain is common throughout the world. Minor neck and back issues are just an annoyance, but severe pain can be debilitating. According to the European Spine Journal, half of all individuals experience a clinically important neck pain episode during the course of their lifetimes.
One easy way to relieve minor back and neck aches and pains is with a massage device. There are many types of back, neck and shoulder massagers you can buy, ranging from simple, inexpensive massage sticks to large, complex massagers that are equipped with built-in heaters and other useful features.
Here are the best neck and back massagers you can buy:
- Zyllion’s Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager is a small, compact and easy-to-use Shiatsu massager with a built-in heater that you can take with you when you drive or use at home.
- For people with shoulder soreness, there’s Naipo’s Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager. It long and flexible enough to massage both shoulders at the same time.
- Snailax’s Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager fits over most types of office chairs and is equipped with dynamic massage nodes that travel up and down your spine.
- If you don’t want to spend much money on a massage device, RENPHO’s Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager might be your best option. It’s inexpensive, but not cheaply made.
- LifePro’s Sonic Handheld Percussion Massage Gun is ideal for athletes because it’s quiet, compact, portable and capable of delivering very intense massages.
The most user-friendly back and neck massager
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager
This small-sized yet effective back and neck massage device is equipped with kneading knobs that simulate the way Shiatsu massage practitioners use their hands. There’s also a built-in heater, which improves blood flow and also keeps you warm when it’s cold in your house, car or wherever you decide to use it. Since the Zillion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager doesn’t run on batteries, you’ll need to be somewhere where you have access to electricity.
- Versatile, portable and easy to use. You can use it while watching TV or use the included car adapter to take it with you on long drives.
- Shiatsu-style kneading knobs. The knobs simulate the way Japanese Shiatsu masseuses use their knuckles, thumbs and fingers to apply pressure in key areas.
- Inexpensive compared to other massage devices. This is one of the least expensive massagers you can buy that comes with a no-questions-asked satisfaction guarantee.
- Built-in heater. The heater soothes muscles and helps you relax.
- Safety features. A temperature sensor will shut the device down if it overheats.
- Straps add convenience. You can loop the strap around your pillow or use it to hold the massager in place while you drive.
- Generous return policy. You can send it back if you don’t like it within 90 days and if anything goes wrong with it within a year, Zyllion will send you a free replacement.
- You can only massage one shoulder at a time. It’s not long or flexible enough to massage both shoulders simultaneously.
- Needs to be plugged in to work. There’s no way to use this massager if you don’t have access to an electrical outlet.
In a nutshell
The best thing about this handy little Shiatsu massager is that it’s super easy to use. Once you turn it on, all you have to do is select the mode you want and then you can relax and enjoy your massage.
The best shoulder massager
Naipo Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager
If you have chronic shoulder soreness, Naipo’s Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager could be your best option. It is one of the few massagers that is long enough and flexible enough to surround the shoulders. The device is equipped with two sleeves, which you can use to pull the massage nodes close when you need extra pressure. Another convenient thing about the sleeves is that they let you massage areas of your body that are normally hard to reach.
- Innovative design lets you massage large surface areas. This massager is long and flexible enough to wrap around your shoulders.
- Simple operation. All you have to do is power it on and select the mode you want.
- Built-in heater. Like most Shiatsu style massagers, this one comes with a built-in heater.
- Choose from three different massage speeds. You can turn up the speed for a more intense massage.
- Comes with a car adapter. The adapter lets you use the massager while you drive.
- Generous return policy. You can return this massager to Naipo for any reason within 30 days if it doesn’t meet your needs and Naipo’s two-year warranty covers manufacturing defects.
- You’ll need two free hands to get the most use out of it. The flexible straps are convenient, but you can’t take advantage of this feature when your hands are busy.
- Batteries are not an option. You have to either use the A/C cord or the car adapter to power this massager.
In a nutshell
Since you need both hands to get the most use out of it, this massager is ideal for use at home. You can also use it in the car if you plan on sitting in the front passenger seat, since that will put you close enough to the auxiliary power outlet.
The best neck and back massager for office workers
Snailax Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager
Sitting still may not seem like it’s hard work, but holding your body in the same position for hours can sometimes cause muscular aches and pains. That’s where Snailax’s Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager comes in. It fits neatly over nearly any type of office chair and it’s equipped with Shiatsu-style knobs that knead your back and neck while you work.
- Ideal for people who work in office environments. Since this massager fits over most types of desk chairs, it’s ideal for computer programmers, secretaries, executives and other business professionals.
- Discrete design. If the chair you use for work is black, most people will assume that it’s just part of your chair at first glance.
- The nodes roll up and down your back as you work. There are four massage nodes, several of which change position in full back Shiatsu mode.
- Target key areas. You can either massage your entire back or opt to focus on particular back regions.
- Included remote control adds convenience. The remote lets you change modes with ease.
- Built-in heater. If everyone in your office likes the temperature low, you can turn on the heater and stay warm.
- Flexible return policy. You can get a refund for any reason within 30 days and a two-year warranty covers any manufacturing issues.
- The large, bulky design adds inconvenience when traveling. Other massagers are smaller and easier to travel with and store.
- Requires access to electricity. You have to either plug it into a wall outlet or use the included car adapter.
In a nutshell
If you’re looking for a massager that you can use at work, this feature-rich Shiatsu massager is an excellent choice. It has a built-in heater, massage nodes that move, multiple massage modes and a handy remote control.
The best low-cost neck and back massager
RENPHO Rechargeable Hand Held Deep Tissue Massager
RENPHO’s Handheld Massager offers excellent value. Even though it is inexpensive, it comes with all the basic features that you’d expect to find in a handheld massage device plus it’s backed up with a one-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. It comes with a docking station, which you can use to keep the massage stick powered up when you’re not using it. In the box, you’ll find five different massage head attachments.
- Excellent quality for the price. If you don’t want to spend much money on a massage device, this massager from RENPHO could be your best option.
- No cords needed. You can dock the massager in its charging station when you’re not using it to keep it powered up and ready to use.
- Safe to use in bed. Massagers that plug into wall outlets are somewhat dangerous to use in bed, but this one is safer because it runs on batteries and shuts off automatically after 20 minutes.
- Comes with accessories. You get five different massage heads, a charging station, and a wall adapter.
- Massage any part of your body. The long handle will let you massage your own back.
- Accommodating return policy. If you don’t like it, you can send it back to RENPHO within 30 days for a full refund. A one-year warranty covers manufacturing defects.
- No built-in heater. This battery-powered massager is portable, but its power supply is probably not robust enough to support a heater.
- You can’t replace its power supply yourself. You’ll have to send this massager back to RENPHO if you want to replace the rechargeable batteries.
In a nutshell
If you don’t want to spend much money on a personal massage device, this massage stick from RENPHO makes a lot of sense. It’s a basic but good quality massage device that’s portable and easy to use.
The best advanced neck and back massager for athletes
Sonic Handheld Percussion Massage Gun
LifePro’s Sonic Handheld Massage Gun is ideal for athletes because it delivers strong, intense massages and comes with several different attachments that are custom made for massaging specific areas of the body. Trainers like it because it’s quieter than most other massage guns. It won’t draw much attention to you if you use it at the gym.
- Enhances exercise recovery. If you often get sore or cramp up after you work out, this handy portable massager may help you get rid of those aches and pains.
- Comes with five different interchangeable heads. The included massage heads are custom made to target specific regions of the body, like joints and back tissue.
- Delivers intense massages. You can dial the intensity down to 20Hz or crank it all the way up to 45Hz, depending on your specific needs.
- Discreet design. This massager is just as powerful as it is quiet.
- Dedicated customer support team. If LifePro’s many video explainers don’t answer your question, you can contact one of the company’s “Guardian Angels” and get personalized assistance.
- Lifetime warranty. You have 14 days to send this massager back for a refund and if anything goes wrong with it, you can send it back for a replacement.
- Expensive compared to other massagers. This massager is more than twice as expensive as most other portable stick style massagers.
- No built-in heater. Heaters use a lot of energy, which is why most battery-powered massagers like this one lack a heating feature.
In a nutshell
As long as you’re fully prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on a sports massage gun, this massager from LifePro may very well be the best available choice. It’s portable, discreet, powerful and it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Buying guide for neck and back massagers
Massage intensity and speed
The portable neck and back massagers that athletes are much more powerful compared to ordinary massage sticks. However, more power often equates to higher prices. Intensity and speed is also something to consider when shopping for Shiatsu style massagers. Some only operate at one speed, but others let you adjust how fast the nodes rotate.
If your massager has a heating feature, it will not only soothe and relax your muscles, but also keep you warm in the winter. Most massagers that do have heaters will shut off automatically after a certain period of time to preserve electricity and stop accidents from happening.
Battery power vs. A/C adapter
Battery powered massagers are more portable, but massagers that draw power directly from a power outlet tend to have more features. Very few battery powered massagers have a built-in heater, for example.
A noisy massager may distract you when you watch TV, wake up your partner if you use it in bed or draw attention to yourself if you turn it on in public. Check the manufacturer’s website to find out what its decibel rating is before you buy if noise is a concern.
Some massagers– like massage sticks and massage guns, for example– are designed to target specific areas of the body. Other massagers are large enough to fit over a seat. Larger massage devices cover a greater surface area, but they’re also more conspicuous and less portable.
If you plan on using your neck and back massager while driving, look for one that comes with a car adapter. This will let you power your massager when you’re on the go. A storage bag may come in handy, as well.
Static vs. dynamic massage nodes
Static massage nodes stay in one place, while dynamic massage nodes move around as they massage you. Massage machines with dynamic nodes tend to be a bit more expensive than ones that have static nodes.
Most massagers turn off automatically after a certain period of time to save battery power and prevent accidental injuries. Often, there’s no way to override the shut-off or stop it from happening unless you power the device off and turn it back on again.
Some brands offer more flexible return policies than others. Companies that manufacture high quality neck and back massagers typically provide some type of warranty and a satisfaction guarantee.
You can find good quality massage sticks for around $40. Massage sticks are the least expensive types of neck and back massagers that you’ll find.
Most Shiatsu-style massagers cost about $50. These massage devices use rotating massage nodes to mimic the Japanese Shiatsu massage technique. Most come with built-in heaters, which provide warmth and help release muscular tension.
Sports massage guns tend to be expensive compared to stick and Shiatsu massage devices. However, they’re also far more powerful and capable of delivering intense massages. Expect to pay $200 or more for a high quality sports massage device.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can a massage machine replicate a professional massage?
A: A trained masseuse is able to use his or her intuition to find sore areas and relieve tension in just the right spot. However, professional massages are often prohibitively expensive. In addition, massage machines never get tired. If you use a massage stick or a massage gun with a partner, you can enjoy the benefits of both massage techniques.
Q: Is it dangerous to use a neck and back massager for an extended period of time?
A: There are no known health risks, but common sense rules apply. If you start to feel numb, it could be time to stop the massage.
Q: Will security let me take my massage device with me when I travel by airplane?
A: In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration does permit the use of personal massage devices. However, you’ll have to carry your batteries in your carry-on bag. Because different countries have different rules, be sure to learn what’s permitted before you pack your bags.
- If your stomach often feels uncomfortable after a meal, try using your massage device on your abdomen. This can sometimes help with digestion.
- It’s a good idea to massage yourself both before and after a workout. The pre-workout massage will help warm up your muscles and the post-workout massage will help them recover.
- When using a high powered massage gun, don’t turn the intensity up all the way immediately. Start out with the lowest setting and then work your way up from there.
- Search for trigger points when you massage yourself. Myofascial trigger points feel like little knots that are embedded in your muscles. If you massage a trigger point effectively, you can smooth it out and bring relief to surrounding muscle tissues.