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Should You Buy a Massage Pillow?

Read Time: 11 Minutes

More and more consumers are looking for the best massage pillow to use as a source of pain relief, stress, and anxiety reduction. It is reported that the demand for pillows with "therapy features," or features that go above and beyond what a standard sleep pillow has to offer, are growing at a faster rate compared to their traditional counterparts.

Consumers purchase massage pillows for a wide range of uses. Some use them to soothe and prevent muscle tension, back, neck, and shoulder pain. Others use them to unwind at the end of a long day or after a vigorous workout or athletic event. Some report that they help avoid and stop panic attacks.

With all of these claims and consumer demand continuing to grow, many are wondering, "What is the best massage pillow to buy, and should I buy one?" These are great questions. The first and most important thing to note is that massage pillows are not a substitute for medical or chiropractic care. They are designed as an ancillary treatment alternative that may be recommended or used in conjunction with medical treatment.

How Do Massage Pillows Work?

There are many different types of massage pillows, but they all have the same goal and function in similar ways. Most massage pillows use three kinds of pressure to stimulate muscle movement and blood circulation. First, massage pillows use ball-shaped nodes, or rollers, that move in a pre-determined direction to stimulate your muscles.

Sometimes these nodes are heated, sometimes the heat method is optional, and sometimes models come without heat. Which version you purchase is a personal preference, though a doctor or chiropractor may recommend a heated model based on your unique needs. Each person has a different opinion on which is the best massage pillow for themselves.

Second, massage pillows or cushions may use air pressure to tighten and expand around specific areas of your body. If you are using a massage cushion, it may be programmed to inflate and deflate around your legs or upper shoulders. The process promotes circulation, which can relax tense muscles. Third, some massage pillows may use gentle vibration features.

Why Might a Chiropractor Recommend a Massage Pillow?

A doctor or chiropractor may recommend a massage pillow for several reasons. The first is that they help people to destress and relax. However, there are medical reasons to use them as well. Part of chiropractic treatment can include massage therapy. It is a holistic and non-invasive treatment method that many patients find beneficial and enjoyable. Not only does it have physical benefits, but it can help improve a patient's mental state.

Massage has many health benefits, and individuals often find that using a massage pillow in the comfort of their own home helps alleviate symptoms.

Again, a massage pillow is not an adequate replacement for professional massage therapy, but rather an additional way to seek relief at home. If you are currently undergoing treatment with a licensed masseuse for a medical condition, it is best to discuss whether or not you should use a massage pillow. If you have suffered an injury or endured trauma to an area of soft tissue, your doctor or massage therapist may recommend against purchasing one.

Are Massage Pillows Effective?

While massage pillows alone will not solve a medical condition or heal an injury, many individuals report positive effects after using them. People say that the best massage pillow they have ever purchased not only helps to relieve muscle tension, but also promotes relaxation. Massage pillows may help to improve mood, as consumers often feel rejuvenated after just a short session.

Massage pillows may also be an effective way to maintain circulation in soft tissue in between professional massage therapy sessions. They may prevent your muscles from tensing back up and may help keep inflammation at bay. Your massage therapist may find it easier to work with your muscles if you use a massage pillow in between appointments to keep them pliable and relaxed. Again, it is best to consult with them before you purchase one, as it may be counterproductive to your treatment plan.

Other Benefits of Using a Massage Pillow

In addition to the muscle relief that massage pillows offer, there are multiple other benefits that many individuals report after using them. These benefits include a reduction in the occurrence of headaches, improved sleep, improved range of motion, decreased inflammation, alleviation of pregnancy discomfort, and improved mood.

Massage pillows may help those who struggle with anxiety and depression, and they can improve immunity. The Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine published a study stating that massage helps boost patients' white blood cell count, helping the body fend off disease and illness. It has also been shown that massage can help increase energy levels.

With so many benefits and little proven risk, it seems that it may very well be worth it to hunt down the best massage pillow.

The Do's and Don'ts of Buying and Using a Massage Pillow

When shopping for and using a massage pillow, there are several factors to keep in mind, and they can make all the difference in your experience with the product. We've broken them down for you to make the decision process easier, and also to ensure that you get the most out of the massage pillow you ultimately purchase.

Massage Pillow Do's

Here are a few of the best things to do when shopping for and using a massage pillow:

  • Do talk to your doctor, chiropractor, or massage therapist before purchasing.
  • Do read reviews online to see what others are saying about the massage pillow.
  • Do learn how to use a shiatsu massage pillow or any other type you buy.
  • Do decide on key features that you would like your massage pillow to have.
  • Do decide on what kind of massage pillow you would like to buy (we'll explain more below).

Massage Pillow Don'ts

  • Don't sacrifice quality because of price.
  • Don't use a massage pillow if your doctor advises against it.
  • Don't use a massage pillow if it causes you pain.
  • Don't use a massage pillow more than 3x a week.
  • Don't use a massage pillow before reading all instructions and warnings (some may not be suitable for pregnant women, for example).

Once you have all of these considerations hammered out, you can begin shopping. If you still aren't sure where to start, keep reading. We have compiled a list of the highest-rated massage pillows, including the best shiatsu massage pillow with heat. We will also provide you with instructions on how to use a shiatsu massage pillow below.

The Different Types of Massage Pillows

Just as with any other product on the market, there are many different types of massage pillows. Different types target different areas and can help people who struggle with different conditions find relief. It's important to know what you are looking for to find the best massage pillow to meet your individual needs. A massage pillow that works great for someone else may not work as well for you.

Massage Cushions

Massage cushions are a popular choice, and many people use them while they are sitting at their desks or working from home. Some models are designed to be used while driving in the car. Massage cushions are a kind of full-body massage pillow that targets your entire neck, back, buttocks, and upper thighs.

They come in the shape of a seat, and you lay them on top of where you will be sitting. A remote control allows you to control the speed, pressure, and direction of massage, as well as heat if you have selected a model with that option. Massage cushions are helpful for those who sit for long periods and experience back pain as a result.

If you aren't looking for a bulky, full-sized model, there are smaller portable cushions that you can take with you when you're on-the-go.

If you are looking for a massage cushion, check out these highly-rated options:

  1. The Snailax Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager: This model comes complete with seat vibration, heated nodes, an adjustable neck massage, and is a full-sized seated model. It receives a 4.5-star rating out of nearly 1,500 Amazon reviews. The Snailax model is considered to be the best shiatsu massage pillow with heat.
  2. The NURSAL Back and Neck Massager: Another full-sized massage cushion, also considered to be one of the best shiatsu massage pillows with heat, this model also receives 4.5 stars out of more than 400 reviews on Amazon. It features a neck kneading feature, a back rolling massage, and an option to use hip vibration.
  3. The Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager: With a 4-star rating out of nearly 1,300 reviews on Amazon, the Zyllion massage cushion is another winner. It offers customizable massage options, allowing you to target either one specific area or receive a full back massage with seat vibrations. It comes with the choice of a heated massage as well.

Shiatsu Massage Pillows

If you are looking for something more compact, that you can use while you are relaxing on the couch or propped up in bed, a neck and shoulder massage pillow may be the best option for you. Most neck and shoulder massage pillows on the market today are shiatsu massage pillows.

These pillows target your neck and the top of your shoulders. Most people carry their tension in this area, which makes them an excellent option for anyone looking to relax at the end of a long day. They can also be used to target other localized areas of the body, such as the stomach, upper or lower back, thighs, calves, and feet. There are several types of shiatsu massage pillows.

The first is a simple model that you lean back and rest on, so it needs to be propped up against a surface for support. The second is the kind that you wear, meaning that you can use it even if you are standing up. It wraps around your neck and shoulders, with arm slings that you slip your hands through. Others are designed to target your legs and feet specifically and are shaped accordingly. Shiatsu massage pillows may be recommended for those with diabetes who have problems with circulation in their lower extremities.

The ability to slip your arms through the slings on the wearable models allows you to control the pressure of the massage. If you are looking for a deeper massage, pull down with your arms, and the nodes will have greater contact with your skin. If you want to ease off a bit, don't exert as much resistance with your arms and the nodes will not feel as strong.

If you are looking for the best shiatsu massage pillow with heat, try these:

  1. The Zyllion Shiatsu Massager: Believe it or not, this model has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon out of more than 10,500 reviews. That is a lot of satisfied customers. Different than the Zyllion massage cushion listed above, this is a stationary neck and shoulder massage pillow. You do need to place it against a surface as it does not have arm slings. It needs to be plugged into a wall outlet.
  2. The Nekteck Deep Tissue Massager: Another model that makes the best shiatsu massage pillow with heat list, this sling-model has 4.5 stars out of more than 2,600 Amazon reviews. Again, a winner in consumer opinion. You can use this massager with or without heat, and it comes complete with eight nodes for the ultimate massage experience. The intensity is adjustable, and it comes complete with both a home and a car adapter so that you can experience relief no matter where you are.
  3. The Reflex4 Targeted Foot and Calf Massager: A shiatsu massage pillow designed just for your calves and feet, this model gets a 4-star rating on Amazon out of more than 800 reviews. Great for anyone on their feet all day at work or with circulation problems in their legs, this is the best shiatsu massage pillow with heat for your lower extremities. The model is designed with foot reflexology in mind and has a tilted angle to match the natural position of your body.

Now that you have an idea of the most highly-rated massage pillows on the internet, along with their capabilities, you are probably ready to start shopping. We say go for it. However, you may also want to know how to use a shiatsu massage pillow.

How to Use a Shiatsu Massage Pillow

When learning how to use a shiatsu massage pillow, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you are using one with a heated feature, be sure that the pillow never gets so hot that it is uncomfortable or burns your skin. A high-quality massage pillow should never cause this sort of pain or discomfort, and if you notice it, stop and turn it off immediately.

Most shiatsu massage pillows come with safety features that are designed to turn off automatically if they overheat from a mechanical standpoint. However, your personal comfort and safety is more important.

Shiatsu massage pillow instructions:

  • Read all packaging and instruction materials before use
  • Ensure that any plastic coverings or protective packaging have been removed
  • If you are using a compact shiatsu massage pillow, find a comfortable place to prop yourself up
  • If you are using a model that you put your arms through, find a place to set up
  • If using a leg and foot shiatsu massager, find a place to sit with room to place the massager
  • Once you turn the pillow on, experiment with the settings to see what is comfortable for you
  • Adjust the speed, temperature, direction of the nodes, and pressure
  • Follow your doctor's instructions, if they have given you any
  • Do not exceed the recommended time limit for using the pillow, noted in the instructions
  • Remember, with an arm-sling model you can adjust the pressure by pulling down or easing off your arm pressure
  • Do not use the pillow more than three times a week, or as directed by your doctor
  • Relax and enjoy

Now that you know how to use a shiatsu massage pillow, have seen the best models available, and are aware of the benefits they can provide, you're ready to decide whether purchasing one is right for you. If you are still unsure, ask your doctor or chiropractor.

If you are struggling with back, neck, or shoulder pain contact ChiroCare of Florida today to set up an appointment. We will evaluate your spine health, develop a customized treatment plan, and have you feeling better as soon as possible.

About the Author:
Dr. Steven Schwartz
Raised in Coral Springs, Florida, Dr. Steven Schwartz is a major advocate for the South Florida community. CEO of ChiroCare of Florida, Dr. Schwartz has grown the group from one facility to 11. Whether he’s treating patients or volunteering for community service, Dr. Schwartz’s long-term goal is to ensure that each and every patient can experience the ChiroCare of Florida difference.
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