Since running a business distributing back care products in America, I have never forgotten products such as the Hitachi Magic Wand. Its versatility and elegant simplicity of design have made it the benchmark for handheld massagers for over 30 years, but is it as good as you've heard? I studied Shiatsu for a while and, having supplied a whole range of products to professional massage and sports therapists, I can confidently assure you that it really is. It's the resonance in the motor that really makes the difference, gently working the tissue layers to work out the knots or, when used for simple relaxation, such massagers are fantastic when used in conjunction with massage oils.
Massager attachments are available for both the Hitachi and other alternative makes with a similar design, one of the best (from a massage standpoint) being a soft silicone type substance which provides additional stimulation through the layers of skin and muscle whilst also protecting the head of the massager.
Unfortunately, none of the best massagers available are currently sold for use with European voltage (ie 220/240 volts) which means that to be able to use a US product you will also need a stepdown converter to drop the voltage from 240 to 120 volts. This is not a problem (it's essentially just a wall plug) but it can be irritating if your massager arrives and you cannot use it until you have a converter. It also seems to be difficult to obtain a converter in EU plug format (that's the two pin design which is common across most of Europe) so when using these items in Europe you may also need a UK to EU plug adapter.
So what are the differences between the Hitachi and the other massagers on the market? This is a question that we have been asked many times. It's really all about price (as in you get what you pay for). The build quality with the Hitachi is clearly better than any other that we have seen, but there are many look-alikes. The key differences that we have discovered are the head and the motor. Firstly, the head of the Hitachi is covered in a durable (and more importantly still cleanable) vinyl material. For massagers which will regularly be used with massage oils and lubricants, it's very important that it's easily cleaned, many look-alike products have foam heads. The biggest difference is the motor which, in the Hitachi, has a deep pulsating resonance rather than a clattering note that is common amongst alternatives. Many of the clone products will have instructions that advise against using the product for more than 20 mins at a time (due to over-heating) needless to say there is no such caution with the Hitachi.
A further irritating shortcoming for most of these massagers is the length of the power cord, and a further limitation is the reliance upon a two speed switch which simply offers a high and low setting. To overcome this a new product has now been released which not only acts as an extension lead, but which also has a variable speed control, ensuring that users can adjust the massager to exactly the right vibration level to suit massage technique and comfort levels. With the additional length of the power lead provided, it is also much easier to work the whole body (for instance moving around a massage table) which might otherwise be limited.
So, in short, once you've had a handheld massager, both for relaxation and therapeutic massage, you'll never want to be without one again.