All you knead?

Da­mon Smith tests a gad­get to see if it can give a real mas­sage

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - This Week -

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

Pic­ture: PA

CHILL OUT: Shi­atsu back and shoul­der mas­sager fo­cuses on key ten­sion spots.

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