Pros: Massage on a budget, portable, easy to use, Shiatsy & heat (pus vibration)
Cons: very localized, somewhat "underpowered" (stroke & heat), difficult to position vertically
I guess there is virtually nobody I am aware of who wouldn't enjoy a good massage. With the personal touch being a bit expensive on a daily basis (unless you're married to one and he/she is still willing to perform at the end of the day), there are many machines out there to step up to the task. The range goes from super expensive chairs with built-in massage zones to cheap imitations like ... right, like the Shiatsu Massage Pillow from Sharper Image.
At $49 one couldn't possibly expect a complete massage system, but localized relief is not bad either when on a budget. The MSG P110 --don't worry, it does not contain MSG-- is a single massage element that deploys the rotary pattern (Shiatsu) in a single location (circle). Unfortunately, there is no traveling along the spine and no real adjustment other than the pressure you put your back or shoulder against it. I seriously would like the Shiatsu massage to reach deeper and press relatively hard against the pad. Still, the kneading continues and I have not been able to stall it just yet.
The device provides three methods of relief which can be applied individually or in almost any combination (each is activated via the corded remote, and use of heat requires for at least one of the mechanical methods to be active too). Shiatsu is the most effective and I wonder if vibration and heat really do anything. The flap must be lifted for the heat to reach your body. Warming the massage area may have benefits which I am not too aware of, especially when it barely gets warm anyway. The vibration sure feels like a gimmick rather than a treatment. Of course, it provides a certain comfort level and that's worth something too.
The pillow is relatively thick which is understandable for a mechanic design but also may influence seating comfort depending on how large you area is to begin with (especially for lower back). I does require a chair with a tall enough back and for neck massages one will most likely have to lay down for an effective massage. All doable and a small price for the desperate seeking relief. (My back is a mess at times and every little thing helps.)
Sharper Image is more known for novelties than durable products. That's fine in this price range and I would expect it to last a while, but certainly not for an eternity (say 1 year or longer in steady use). Yet, at under $50 it's still a good choice for those occasional stiff necks or back pain ... provided it finds relief with a massage and is not something more serious.
All rational thinking aside, the Sharper Image MSG P110 does feel good at times even if it's mostly during use and the relief is short lived. I think it's worth the $50, and even more so when considering that Best Buy currently throws a $10 gift card at you with the purchase of this device. Of course if you have the money, go for a full Shiatsu massage chair with all bells and whistles ... or hire a good Massage Therapist. ;-)
© 2010, theuerkorn
Caution: The 20 min time limit is apparently there for good reasons. I basically applied it several times to my back and trust me, it was very difficult to sleep that night. So keep that in mind when enjoying the massage.