Neck massager purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • Neck massagers can help to relieve pain, relax and reduce stress.
  • There are three types of massage used in neck massagers: Shiatsu massage, tapping massage and vibration.
  • A heat function enhances the effect of the massage.
  • The intensity of the massage can be adjusted on most models.
  • The neck massager must not be too loud to ensure pleasant use.

From the East to the West to the Present

Visiting a masseur or physiotherapist, unless prescribed by a doctor and covered by health insurance, is not affordable for everyone, especially on a regular basis. For the neck and shoulder area, where tension often arises, a neck massager is an affordable alternative. Of course, such a device cannot replace a trained professional. However, it is certainly suitable for relaxation, pain relief and a general feeling of wellness. After all, the massage heads simulate the movements of a masseur and can be directed by you precisely to the tense areas. However, a neck massager can in no way replace professional treatment. It only serves your personal well-being. If you are dependent on a massage for health reasons, you should consult a doctor and have a professional massage prescribed for you.

Massage has been developed and practised as a healing art for thousands of years. In 2,700 BC, the stretching, kneading and pressure technique first appeared in Chinese medicine and a thousand years later in the context of Ayurvedic healing in India. Greek doctors such as Hippocrates and Galenos up to Paracelsus and the French surgeon Anbroise Paré also recognised the added value of massage – not only for the body but also for the mind.

Man being massaged on the back

The advantages and disadvantages of a neck massager

Neck massagers are mostly used on the neck and shoulders. However, they can also be used to massage other parts of the body, such as the torso or thighs. Rotation, tapping movements or vibrations relax the muscles and promote blood circulation. Pain is relieved if necessary. A short session with the massager can even help reduce stress. You only have to spend money on this once, when you buy it. Compared to a masseur, even expensive versions are a much cheaper option. In addition, the devices can be used flexibly thanks to their compact size.

Although you save money compared to a therapeutic massage, good massagers are not cheap. Some inexpensive devices are available for as little as about 30 euros, but if you want to get close to a real massage and use your device for a long time, you should expect to pay between 100 and 200 euros.

Pro points

  • Relaxation, stress relief and pain relief
  • Can also be used on other parts of the body
  • Cheaper than regular professional massages
  • Can be used flexibly


  • Not a medical treatment
  • Not as effective as a real massage
  • High-quality equipment may be expensive

Structure of a neck massager

Neck massagers are U-shaped and are worn like waistcoats so that the massage heads rest against the neck.

In the middle of the vest-shaped devices is the motor, which usually drives two massage heads. There are rollers or nubs on each massage head. How the rollers move depends largely on which massage technique the device uses.

One of the sides is usually equipped with a small control panel. With usually four buttons, you can switch the neck massagers on and off, change the direction of rotation of the massage heads, regulate the heat and determine the intensity of the massage.

Either there is a strap at the ends of the “U” that ties around the torso to use the devices hands-free, or there are two loops attached. On devices with loops, you can use your arms to control the pressure with which the massage heads sit on your neck. For example, if you want more pressure, all you have to do is pull down with your arms.

Woman uses neck massager and smiles

The cover of neck massagers is usually made of plastic, leather or imitation leather and is therefore easy to clean. The material should be skin-friendly and not cause irritation even with long-term use.

Mains-powered models also have a power supply unit to ensure the power supply.

How neck massagers massage

The most important feature of a neck massager is the type of massage. Each type of massage has a different effect. There are three different techniques: shiatsu massage, tapping massage and vibration. Some devices can do more than one technique.

Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu is a widely used massage technique from Japan and means finger pressure. It involves pressing with the hands but also with the elbows or even the knees. Neck massagers work by rotating four or eight rollers on two massage heads. These massage heads rotate mirror-inverted and thus imitate the western kneading massage technique rather than the actual Shiatsu massage. Nevertheless, this massage type of neck massager ensures an area-wide relaxation of the musculature and nerve tracts. The direction of rotation is changed either manually at the touch of a button or automatically.

The traditional art of healing

The Japanese massage technique “Shiatsu” has its origins in traditional Chinese medicine. It is based on the assumption that life energy flows through pathways – also known as the meridian system. If the energy flow of the pathways is blocked, this leads to various symptoms such as tension. Through massage, pressure is applied specifically to the acupressure points to dissolve the blockages and heal the symptoms.

Tapping massage

Professional massage often involves tapping. This allows masseurs to treat specific points and loosen up the muscles. Neck massagers are also often equipped with a tapping function. The tapping speed and intensity are usually adjustable. This type of massage works on deeper tissue layers than a simple shiatsu massage. However, the effect is more localised. To treat different parts of the body, you may have to move the device. Massagers with tapping massage are usually louder than the other types.


Some neck massagers produce vibration as well as light current pulses. This mainly relaxes the tissues and muscles. You can often regulate the strength of the vibration yourself. With this type of massage, you can treat the neck and shoulders all over.

Other purchase criteria

In addition to the type of massage, other aspects also play an important role, such as the adjustability of the motor power so that users can set the device to what feels most comfortable. The type of power supply and the presence of a heat function also play an important role.

Massage heads

The most important components of a neck massager are the motor and the massage heads it cranks. The latter should simulate a real massage as realistically as possible. It is also important that they are aligned with the spine. The massage heads should by no means be directly applied to your vertebrae or bump them, but should only massage your muscles. If they are too close together, the heads may eventually compress your vertebrae, which can lead to pain. It is particularly important to be able to adjust the massage strength or speed so that you can adapt the device to your personal needs.

Heat function

Most devices have a heat function. Heat creates a soothing feeling and enhances the effect of the massage. If there is a heat function, it should be adjustable so that every user can find the right temperature. Some devices use infrared light to generate heat. Infrared light can benefit blood circulation and muscle relaxation.

Energy supply

The type of energy supply has a considerable influence on the possible uses of a neck massager. Battery-operated models can be used anywhere without any problems. Some devices, however, rely on mains power. To use these, you need to be near a power outlet. The length of the power cord also plays a role. Mains-powered models often come with a 12-volt adapter for the car. This allows you to enjoy a short massage during a break on a long drive.

Size and weight

A massager is no use if it is bulky and uncomfortable to use. After all, a soothing effect is the purpose of the purchase. It is not possible to make a blanket statement regarding the ideal size, as this depends on the size of the user. What is important is that the massage heads rest comfortably on your neck and shoulder muscles. The more compact the device is, the easier it is to take it with you when travelling.

Woman lying on the couch with neck massager

The weight can vary greatly. Some devices weigh less than 0.5 kilograms. However, most of the more bulky models weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 kilograms. A device that is too heavy could be exhausting in the long run. In this case, you will not be able to relax properly, which makes a massage pointless.


Neck massagers are very close to the ears during use. Accordingly, they must not be too loud. With a loud device, the user cannot really relax, no matter how pleasant the massage effect is. A tapping massage is usually louder than a shiatsu massage or vibrations.


Since the cover of the neck massager may come into contact with your skin over a long period of time, the fabric must be compatible for you. Plastic, leather or imitation leather as well as different textiles are often used. If the cover is made of leather or imitation leather, it is sufficient to wipe it with a damp cloth for cleaning. Removable covers, such as those made of textiles, can be washed by hand or in the washing machine, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. Ideally, a replacement cover is included in the scope of delivery so that you can use the unit even if one of the covers is in the laundry basket.


Neck massagers are usually equipped with a control panel. It is usually located next to the user’s head at about shoulder height. The number of buttons depends on the setting options of the device. Usually the following buttons are available:

  • an on/off button,
  • a button for temperature regulation,
  • a button for changing the direction of rotation of the massage heads, and
  • a button for adjusting the massage intensity.

The buttons should be easy to reach by hand without having to move the neck and interrupt the massage.

Automatic switch-off function

Some neck massagers are equipped with an automatic switch-off function. It switches the device off by itself after a certain time, for example after 15 or 20 minutes. This function is useful for two reasons: Firstly, if you fall asleep during the massage, the device is automatically switched off. Secondly, the function protects against overheating.

Seal and guarantee

Some manufacturers have their devices certified by TÜV. For example, the renowned manufacturer Donnerberg offers models with TÜV-SÜD certification and a seven-year manufacturer’s warranty.


The quality of workmanship of the neck massager is high at best. Especially the cover should not have any scratchy seams or edges. High-quality workmanship also plays an important role in the controls so that they do not wear out even with frequent use. It is true that the quality of workmanship does not depend one-to-one on the price. However, if you intend to save money on the purchase, you should inspect the device for possible defects before using it.