Should you buy a massage pillow or a massage gun?

If you regularly suffer from sore and stiff muscles, you’ve probably been considering purchasing a massage gun or a massage pillow for relief. It’s not always practical to head to a massage therapist every time you need a rubdown, which is why so many people look to at-home therapy from devices such as these.

While both provide much-needed relief for achy muscles, the pillow covers a wider area of the body while a massage gun provides more targeted, focused relief.

Massage gun

A massage gun is a handheld device for focused relief of muscles. You can control the speed of the massage and usually choose from attachments to provide exactly the relief you need just about anywhere on your body. 

You’ll place the attachment head right on the sore area and use your own movement to work the area. Different speeds and pulsing rhythms provide various stimulation patterns to relax those muscles and promote better circulation. 

Massage gun pros

The biggest advantage massage guns have over massage pillows is their flexibility in application. In addition to offering various speeds, the attachments have different levels of pressure and an array of motions to use on different areas of the body.

Many people prefer massage guns because of the high level of control you have. People appreciate being in full control of the pressure, motion and placement. They also are easy to use and convenient to store. 

They operate on rechargeable batteries (charged via USB cord or A/C adapter) or plugged into an outlet. Most massage guns hold a charge for a few hours at a time.

Massage gun cons

Although a massage gun provides targeted relief, you have to hold the gunto get that relief, which can be annoying. It can also be a problem for those who have mobility challenges. 

If you’re looking for a lengthy massage, holding the gun (especially a larger one) can quickly become tiring. If you have sore muscles in a hard-to-reach area such as your lower back or shoulder blades, it’s going to be difficult to reach those areas by yourself.

Best massage gun

Best overall massage gun

Theragun Elite 4th Generation

Theragun Elite 4th Generation

Its unique handle helps reduce the difficulty of trying to reach tricky areas. It comes with a handful of attachments, is quiet and has multiple speeds. 

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Best massage gun for the money

TOLOCO Massage Gun

Toloco Massage Gun

This battery-powered massage gun has 20 speed levels and 10 massage heads. It’s lightweight, has an ergonomic silicone handle design and comes with a storage case. 

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Best mini-massage gun

Yobow Therapeutic Mini Massage Pistol

Yobow Therapeutic Mini Massage Pistol

This super quiet little massage “pistol” comes with five attachments and a carrying case with four speed options. You can get it in six colors. It weighs just over a pound, making its portable design easy to carry anywhere. 

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Massage pillow

Mainly for use on sore backs, necks and shoulders, massage pillows use rollers and nodules to rub out muscle stiffness. Many offer different speeds and types of movement so you can choose a more relaxing massage or one that’s more therapeutic. Some massage pillows also offer heat. 

In general, massage pillows work a wider area of the body than massage guns. Massage pillows are popular with people who are stiff at the end of the day from sitting at a desk or performing general labor for several hours.

Massage pillow pros

Massage pillows are excellent for hard-to-reach areas such as the back of the neck and shoulders and the upper, mid and lower back. Many people also use them to relieve headaches. 

One of their best features is that you don’t need your own energy to operate them, offering total relaxation during use. In addition, they leave your hands free, helpful for busy folks and those with mobility issues.

Massage pillow cons

There isn’t a lot of versatility with using massage pillows when it comes to massaging sore leg muscles or arm muscles. If you’re looking for a targeted massage for these areas, a massage gun would be preferable. Massage pillows take up more room in storage or in a travel bag than massage guns, although some models are smaller than others. 

Best massage pillow

Best overall massage pillow

HoMedics 3D Shiatsu and Vibration Massage Pillow

HoMedics 3D Shiatsu and Vibration Massage Pillow

This customer favorite adds a heat feature to its shiatsu massages to loosen and relax tight muscles. It also offers vibration to work extra-tight muscles, comes with a cord and is compact in size. 

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Best massage pillow for the money

Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager

Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager

This massage pillow offers heat and firm pressure, is fairly compact and includes a car adapter. It has built-in overheat protection, and the rollers are comfortable yet effective. 

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Best mini massage pillow

MoCuishle Shiatsu Neck Back Massager Pillow

MoCuishle Shiatsu Neck Back Massager Pillow

A massage pillow that is smaller than most, this is perfect for use at home, in the car or at the office. It’s ideal for travel, has adjustable straps and offers deep-tissue kneading for the shoulders, neck and back.  

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Should you buy a massage gun or a massage pillow?

The type of device you should buy depends on your needs and how well they match each device’s features. A massage gun is ideal if you need a targeted massage on any part of the body. On the other hand, if you need a massage over a more general area with little effort of your own, a massage pillow is what you need.

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Sarah Harris writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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