If you’ve ever woken up on the wrong side of the pillow and been unable to turn your neck for the next three days, you’ll know how important a regular massage can be. From bad posture to pinched nerves, many of us hold excess tension in our neck muscles – and spending much of our time at a desk only exacerbates the issue.
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate this: by mimicking the movements of a masseuse from the comfort of your sofa. Used a few times each week, at-home neck massagers will do more than just soothe tight muscles: they can also help to improve blood circulation, reduce stress, alleviate headaches and promote a good night’s sleep. Best of all, you’re investing in regular at-home treatment for the price of a single professional massage.
How to choose the best neck massager for you?
What kind of neck massager should I get?
There are plenty of different neck massager designs, and we’ve touched on the most popular styles here. Increasing in popularity are wraparound massagers with long looped straps (which can be used on other parts of the body), but you’ll also find some that resemble a neck pillow or in a C-shape that fit neatly around the neck and are typically more hands-free.
Neck massagers generally fall into two camps: electric or battery-powered devices, and manual ones. The former use a combination of rotating balls or nodes and various intensities or heat settings to loosen muscles, while the latter require a bit more effort on your part – either by moving your body or the tool itself to find the best pressure and intensity for your massage. Manual massagers are designed to imitate a masseuse’s thumbs, though, both in terms of the nodes’ shape and placement, so it isn’t difficult to achieve a thoroughly satisfying massage.
Are there other features I should be looking for?
Cheaper and simpler massagers will only have one mode of operation. For higher priced and more intensive massagers, look out for the following:
Heat: Using a heat setting will help to further relax tight muscles by increasing blood flow to the target area.
Multiple speeds and/or intensities: Being able to play with speed, intensity and rotation direction means every massage will feel different – and you can more specifically target the muscles that need attention.
Style of massage offered: This can range from light and gentle to deep, shiatsu-style kneading. If you love a deep massage, you’ll probably be inclined to lean into the machine – but that can leave red marks and isn’t the best idea. Excess pressure can also slow the mechanism down, making it less effective.
Rechargeable or mains-powered: Do you want to use the device while travelling, or are you happy to only ever use it at home?
Hands-free or handheld: A hands-free massager makes it easier to totally relax, but it doesn’t give you the same level of control.
Noise: Using an at-home massager is somewhat less relaxing if the device’s motors are too loud. Reading our reviews can be particularly helpful here.
Weight and size: This can vary significantly. Obviously, a large, heavy massager is going to be unwieldly and unsuitable for certain users, so check before you buy.
Is it safe to use a neck massager?
When used correctly, neck massagers are safe to use. It’s important to read their instructions as each device will have different guidelines, but most suggest using for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes in a single session, and only once per day. The majority of electronic massagers have an auto-off setting to ensure you don’t use them for too long.
Breo iNeck3 Pro: Best hands-free neck massager
Our highest-priced recommendation is the C-shaped Breo iNeck3, which is designed to relax your cervical vertebrae with a combination of shiatsu kneading and pressing techniques. This hands-free massager is superbly comfortable and feels high end from the get-go: made from firm foam with a nylon lining, it’s sturdy yet lightweight, and houses a pair of three node massage heads that cycle between three different patterns and intensities. We found the resulting massage particularly impressive, but be warned that even the lowest setting is quite rigorous.
You can also control the iNeck3 using a smartphone app, which is a good option as the unit’s buttons aren’t visible while in use, and the variety of massage patterns feels a bit haphazard unless you see the settings on a screen.
Like the majority of other massagers, the iNeck3 has a heat function and turns off automatically after ten minutes. It’s beautifully packaged and designed, much like an Apple product, charges via micro-USB (cable included) to provide two-and-a-half hours of cord-free use, and comes with a storage pouch.
We did consider the suitability of the iNeck3 as a travel massager, but as it’s rather loud during use it might not be the best for a red eye flight. That said, the unit itself is pretty comfortable when resting snugly around the neck, and could sub for a firm pillow at a pinch.
Key specs – Device type: Wraparound; Massage type: Shiatsu; Power: Battery-powered; Heat option: Yes; Intensity/speed settings: Three speeds & multiple settings