All you knead?
Damon Smith tests a gadget to see if it can give a real massage
PROFESSIONAL massages can cost from €50 to €60 per hour, so the oneoff cost of a home-use appliance is an attractive alternative. These gadgets are not a substitute for medical attention and can never replace the gentle touch of a professional masseur, however.
Their functionality is predetermined, and appliances don’t respond to subtle changes in muscle tension as a session progresses and then change the intensity or direction of a massage accordingly.
The HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager has four rotating, gelcoated nodes — with an option to add soothing heat — which knead and roll over tight muscles. This new technology claims to emulate the palm-like feel of a real massage in the comfort of your home. I was excited to feel the difference.
The massage unit is comfortingly sturdy, with plush grey material on the headrest and around the fringes of the back and seat areas, which is soft and velvety to the touch.
The 2.8m power cord is long enough for me to position the massager in most of the chairs in my living room without an extension lead. An elasticated strap with Velcro fastenings slips over the back of the chair without any palaver, and ensures the appliance doesn’t slip during use.
I’m stocky and have a 36-inch waist, which might be flatteringly described as “rugby-build” in a dating profile, so I’m initially concerned my right thigh might crush the handset during use in its protective pocket. However, I comfortably slip the controller in and out of the holder during each session without adjusting my posture.
The appliance has three different massage options, each lasting 15 minutes, to deliver shiatsu, rolling and targeted spot relief across the back, shoulders and neck.
Simulating the finger pressure that the Japanese believe stimulates our vital energy - ‘chi’ — and eases tension and stress, the Shiatsu gel massage is my favourite, as it delivers relief to the lower, upper or full back. By the end of each 15-minute session, I feel deliciously relaxed and blissed out.
The second setting is a shoulder massage. I’m 5ft 11in tall and using the up and down arrow keys on the remote control, I can adjust the height of the massage heads in the shoulder mechanism zone to target the very top of the my shoulders or roll down to focus on the area beneath my shoulder blades, where my tension tends to collect. The massage heads quickly find the sweet spot beneath my shoulder blades but I have to lean into the nodes for them to work their magic on top of my shoulders.
The final option is a rolling massage, and mimics two thumbs working up and down my back. There’s also an option to apply soothing heat with the touch of a separate button. I don’t notice the difference with the heat applied but the nodes change from blue to red to convince me the temperature is rising. Another button allows me to adjust the distance between the massage heads.
Verdict: Of all the home-use appliances I have tried , the HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager is my favourite so far. I won’t be giving my professional masseur the cold shoulder in favour of the HoMedics massager but, as light relief, some of the appliance’s functions hit the spot.
Homedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager, €390, available online and in select Boots stores
CHILL OUT: Shiatsu back and shoulder massager focuses on key tension spots.