6 November 18 | Lifestyle
Damon Smith tests the deep kneading gadget to see if it can deliver the natural feel of a real massage at home.
I had my first professional massage during my last year at the university. Rather embarrassing I had sneezed as I stretched out to hang some laundry during a break from the review, and a bunch of intense pain forked down on the right side of my body. The whiplash jolt resulted in a pulled muscles and a dew in my student grant.
For next week, I could not fully rotate my head. Massage, combined with a visit to a chiropractor, who identified an unusual curvature to the bones of the neck, taught me a valuable and scary lesson to protect and regularly exercise muscles that I had always taken for granted.
Since then I have had single massages to ease muscle strain and tension that accumulate in my lower back and under my shoulder blades from sitting on my computer for long periods of time. For temporary relief for worn and screaming muscles, I have also tried different massage chairs and household appliances.
Professional massage can cost from £ 40 to £ 50 per hour, so the disposable cost of a household appliance is an attractive option. These gadgets are not reimbursement for medical care and can never replace the soft hand of a professional masseur.
Their functionality is predetermined, and devices do not respond to subtle changes in muscle tension when a session progresses and then changes the intensity or direction of a massage accordingly.
HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager has four rotating gel-coated nodes – with the ability to add calming heat – kneading and rolling over tight muscles. This new technique claims to mimic the palm-like feeling of a real massage in your home. I was excited to feel the difference.
The massage unit is comfortably sturdy, with plush gray material on the headrest and around the edge of the back and seat, which is soft and fluffy at the touch. Using the small alunny key that was removed, I easily removed the screw located on the back of the device, which locks the massage heads in place during transport.
The 2.8m power cord is long enough to put the massager in most of the chairs in my living room without an extension cord. An elastic band with Velcro straps slides over the back of the chair without any pavers and ensures that the device does not slip during use.
The program remote control is permanently connected to the base via a 55 cm cord and slides into a side pocket during massage. The slim handset fits nicely in my palm and the 16 self-explanatory buttons are generously spaced to minimize the risk of malfunctioning.
I'm tired and have a 36 inch waist, which can be flattering described as "rugby-build" in a dating profile, so I'm initially concerned. My right thighs can break the handset while in use in its protective pocket. However, I conveniently release the regulator in and out of the holder during each session without adjusting my posture.
What massage feels like
The device has three different massage options, every 15 minutes, to deliver shiatsu, rolling and targeted point relief over the back, shoulders and neck.
Simulation of the rhythmic finger pressure that the Japanese think stimulates our vital energy – "chi" – and facilitates excitement and stress. The Shiatsu gel massage is my favorite because it provides relief to the lower, upper or entire back.
It is easy to stop the massage heads in a particular location and use the up or down arrows on the remote control to steer the rotary mechanism to the exact correct pressure point. At the end of every 15-minute session, I feel very relaxed and happy.
The second setting is a shoulder massage. I am 5ft 11 in the long and with the up and down arrows on the remote control, I can adjust the height of the massage heads in the axial mechanisms so that they are at the top of the shoulders or roll down to focus on the area under my axles, where my tension tends to collect . The massage heads quickly find the sweet place under my shoulder blades, but I have to lean into the nodes to work with their magic on the shoulders.
The last option is a rolling massage and mimics two thumbs that work upside down in the back. There is also an option to apply calming heat with a separate button press. I do not notice the difference with the applied heat, but the nodes change from blue to red to convince me that the temperature is rising. Another button makes it possible for me to adjust the distance between the massage heads.
Of all home-use devices I've tried, HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager is my favorite so far. The gel-coated nodes come surprisingly close to replicating the feeling of the fingers kneading the flesh, although the ever-present whirr of the massage head always breaks the illusion.
I think I'm totally relaxing in a massage when I can hear the constant pace of my breathing and it's not possible with the HoMedics device or other devices on the market.
I used the device several times over a two month period, most intensively for five weeks when I was training for half a marathon. There was no visible wear on the device during the test period and I did not experience any discomfort.
I will not give my professional massager the cold shoulder in favor of HoMedic's massages, but ease of relief hit some of the device's features in place.
HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager, £ 299.99, Available Online and In Choose Argos, Boots, Currys, Debenhams and John Lewis Stores in UK. For more information, visit homedics.co.uk.
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