Massage gun vs. massage pillow

Massage & Relaxation

Massage guns and massage pillows both offer beneficial muscle rubs that increase circulation and ease tension. Which one you buy depends on your specific needs and preferences.

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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 like these.

While both types of devices 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 different muscles. You can control the speed of the massage and usually choose from different attachments to provide exactly the relief you need just about anywhere on your body. 

You’ll place the attachment head right on the area that is sore 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 also 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 they have. People appreciate being in full control of the pressure, the motion and the placement. In addition, they are easy to use and convenient to store. 

They operate on rechargeable batteries (charged via USB cord or A/C adapter) or must be 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 gun in order to get that relief. This can be annoying for any user. 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 tiresome. If you have sore muscles in a hard-to-reach area like 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

The unique handle on this massage gun helps to reduce the difficulty of trying to reach tricky areas. It comes with a handful of different 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 different massage heads. It’s lightweight, has an ergonomic silicone handle design and comes with its own 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 these in six different colors. It weighs just over 1 pound, making its portable design easy to carry with you 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 is 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 like the back of the neck and shoulders and the upper, mid and lower back. Many people also use them to relieve headaches. 

One of the best features of massage pillows is that you don’t need your own energy to operate them, offering total relaxation during use. In addition, they leave your hands free, which is beneficial for busy folks and those who have 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. These do take up more room in storage or in a travel bag than a massage gun, 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 still 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 in size than most, this one is perfect for use at home, in the car or at the office. It’s ideal for travel and offers deep tissue kneading for the shoulders, neck and back. The pillow has adjustable straps, as well. 

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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 will be 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’ll 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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