Reviewed by Dr. kotb and his team
Can massaging your neck and shoulders Really save your life?
Having your neck, shoulders, and head massaged can be very helpful. Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits these massages offer.
- Upper Back Tension Relief – The upper back is one of the tensest parts of your body. Whether you spend a lot of time exercising, doing physical labor, or sitting in front of a computer or in a car, your upper back will suffer.
Most people suffer from upper back pain because of their bad posture.
Instead of keeping your shoulders straight at all times, you most likely slump when you’re tired. This can lead to increased tension in your upper back muscles, and it can even lead to knots forming in your muscles. If you’re also looking for a back massager and need help sorting them all out, our back massager reviews should help.
A neck and shoulder massage can be very helpful for relieving your muscles of tension and knots. As your muscles are massaged, they will relax and stretch. This will relieve the tension and make all the knots go away.
- Better Sleep – Neck and shoulder massages are not only good for your neck, and shoulders. They’re also good for your brain. These massages will make your muscles relax, so you will feel better.
Thanks to the fact that you’re feeling better, the stress your brain is exposed to decreases. Due to the lower stress levels, you will be able to sleep better.
- Increased Blood Circulation – The neck and shoulder massagers stimulate your muscles. When your muscles are stimulated, your local blood circulation is increased.
The increased blood flow brings more oxygen, nutrients, and white blood cells to your muscles and nearby joints. The increased supply of oxygen will have a vitalizing effect on your muscles. Thanks to the fact that they’re receiving more nutrients, your muscles will start to regenerate themselves. The white blood cells play an active role in reducing any inflammation process they encounter.
People suffering from muscle aches and painful joints will benefit the most from the increased blood flow. This can lead to improvements in your mobility, pain relief, and an increase in your muscles’ vitality.
- Lowers Your Neck Pain – Neck pain can have multiple causes. Some people suffer from neck pain because of whiplash or inflammation, while others suffer from neck pain because they slept in the wrong position or they moved suddenly without warming up their muscles. Neck pain can be a real nuisance, even if it’s merely a dull ache.
Neck and shoulder massagers are specially designed to wrap around your neck and massage it from different angles. The massage nodes will work on different muscles on their clockwise rotation than the counterclockwise rotation. This is a good thing, as the massage session will stimulate most if not all the muscles in your neck.
Thanks to the muscle stimulation and the increased blood flow, the pain in your neck will gradually disappear.
- Reduces Headaches – Muscle contractions in your head and neck areas can lead to headaches. These headaches are called “tension headaches” and they’re very dangerous for your well-being because they are recurring. Some people get them once or twice every month, while others get them for more than 15 days each month.
Sure, you can take pills to numb the pain, but you might suffer from another headache the following day. The best way to get rid of tension headaches is to get rid of their cause. This means you’ll have to treat the muscle contractions that cause these headaches. This is where the neck and shoulder massagers become helpful.
By massaging your neck and shoulder muscles, the massager will make them relax and relieve the tension. Once they’re relaxed, the muscles won’t cause the headaches, so you will be cured without taking a single pill.
- Increases Shoulder Mobility – Some people suffer from frozen shoulders. This is a serious condition, and a frozen shoulder can last for up to 24 months if it’s not treated correctly.
Neck and shoulder massagers can improve your frozen shoulder condition and they can lead to pain relief and an increase in your shoulder’s mobility.
One of the things doctors recommend when you suffer from a stiff shoulder is to stretch the muscles daily and to massage them. Not only will the massagers stretch your muscles during the massage session, but you can also use the heated massage feature that will stimulate your blood flow, bringing more white cells in the area to reduce the inflammation.
If you’re suffering from a medical condition, you should always check with your current physician before using a neck and shoulder massager.
How we selected finalists to test
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.
Another decision we had to make was 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
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.
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.
Our top pick, the Brookstone, slightly edged out our top portable pick, the Gideon, with respective scores of 7.1 and seven.
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, 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 may 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 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.
The second method of generating pressure is body weight. Both the Gideon and the Zyllion use this method.
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 — 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 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.
Our trained experts have spent days researching the best Neck & shoulder Massager today in 2019.
Our #1 Pick: Shiatsu Neck and Shoulder
Our mission at InvoSpa is to provide you with innovative pleasure and comfort comfort that you can take with you anywhere.
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We use 3-D kneading massage roller balls to provide massages that can benefit your neck, shoulders, upper/lower back, waist, tights, calves, legs, feet and arms.
This Shiatsu Kneading massager is the perfect gift for your loved ones!
The InvoSpa Shiatsu Kneading massager is NOT cordless.
While using the InvoSpa Shiatsu Kneading Massager with Heat, we highly recommend that you place any kind of cloth or fabric in between the massager and your body to prevent any potential damage.
January 27, 2018
November 13, 2018
1) It does deep massage. Although be careful. He’s gotten carried away, gone for the super deep, let it go for a long time, and felt a bit beaten up by it. But he generally loves it and has learned not to give in to excess.
2) It has variable speed and heat.
3) It gives him almost instant relief. It’s not 100% relief, but any relief is good.
4) After almost 6 months of frequent use, it’s still going strong.
(If you have found my review helpful, I’d really appreciate if you’d click the “Helpful” button. Thanks so much for reading! Liz)
February 21, 2018
January 22, 2018
I should have ordered this…10 years ago.
After two minutes, my eyes rolled back into my head and I groaned with that “Oh my word, this is fantastic” type groan.
I don’t feel a big difference with the heat, but I really like the control I have with the arm flaps. I can adjust it up and down my neck and on my shoulders.
The rotating balls (some are bigger and some smaller) reverse every so often, and you can reverse them yourself.
I like the 3 speeds.
It comes with its own bag and power cord, plus a car charger!
Over time it’s loosening years of tight muscles. Heavenly.
April 10, 2018
I forgot to mention that it has two speeds and you use the weight of your body “control it” but common sense it’s important do not put to much pressure to the point where the machine will almost or totally stop. Just a friendly tip.
May 20, 2018
April 15, 2018
August 31, 2018
Just received this product today. Since I was injured in an accident during which a large truck rear ended me while I was stopped at a red light several years ago, I cannot turn my head 90 degrees right or left for more than 60 seconds without paying the price in the form of neck pain. (Sitting next to someone at dinner is a thing of the past. Across the table is the only way for me now. Looking straight ahead.)
Anyway, this device comes with a travel bag. AC cord. And cord with cigarette lighter end to use in a vehicle.
As shown in the picture, you must put your hands through the openings to pull down to apply the pressure against your neck while the device is on. The kneading “balls” are then able to do their job. Mine worked out of the box. Buttons: On/Off. Kneading direction, i.e., clockwise or counterclockwise. 3 Speeds. Heat. I would call the heat barely lukewarm. Hardly noticeable … at least on mine.
It is not possible, at least in my opinion, to work while using this device. Unless you put one of your arms through both ends. And your work can be performed with just 1 hand. Your hands are keeping the device in place. This device will not sit on your neck and operate properly and effectively without falling off. Ditto with using while driving. I would consider it a dangerous distraction. Now … it would be a wonderful addition to a road trip if you used it while a passenger.
I visit a massage therapist twice a week for my neck issues. While I have only used this device on my neck … it’s definitely a welcome part of my arsenal (inversion table, microwaved/heated bean pads, air bed and Biofreeze) in my on-going quest to keep my neck, back and body healthy.
May 6, 2018
Recommended by Dr. kotb and his team
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