Homedics Gel Shiatsu massage pillow: a portable pillow that could do with more punch

This heat-up, portable Gel Shiatsu pillow from Homedics promises to ease tense muscles on the go. Here's our review

Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The nicely designed Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow works wirelessly, which means you can use it easily on the go. However, it's tricky to position in such a way as to get a satisfying massage.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Portable and wireless

  • +

    Looks smart and stylish

  • +

    Easy controls

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Hard to get the pressure right

  • -

    Heat is not that noticeable

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The Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow is designed to give you a soothing massage whenever you need it, to ease tense muscles and generally help you chill right out. The USP here is that it's both portably sized (and comes with a bag) but can also be used wirelessly, on the go. Homedics suggests taking it with you on a long flight or train journey, to knead away those aches and pains while your travel companions look on in envy.

Homedics makes some of today's best massagers – so I was keen to put this one to the test and see how it holds up. Read on for my Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow review.

Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow review: design and features

This portable massage pillow uses squidgy gel massage nodes for a softer, more natural feeling pressure. The rotary action can be switched to two different directions of motion. Excitingly, this pillow also has a heat function to intensify the experience and help stretch out the muscles more effectively. All this is controlled via a couple of tactile buttons on the side of the pillow.

The side of the pillow is a soft, suede-like fabric, while the front is a stretchy mesh, and the whole thing comes in a soothing grey-and-duck egg blue colour scheme. The massage nodes glow red when you've got the heating mode activated. It's one of the nicest-looking massage pillows we've come across.

Designed to be portable, the Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow is compact enough to tote around pretty easily, and comes with a drawstring storage bag to keep it clean and protected when not in use. Unlike some alternatives, there are no straps to attach it to a chair to keep it in place. It comes with a rechargeable battery – just plug the pillow into the mains to juice it up.

Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow review

(Image credit: Future)

Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow review: use

The portability of the Homedics Gel Shiatsu pillow is undoubtedly a plus-point, and the idea of being able to use it on a train or aeroplane is appealing. I also have no complaints on the design front – the pillow is neat and easy to use, and looks a whole lot nicer than most massage cushions. 

The ability to change the rotation direction of the massage nodes at will, and add heat is a bonus. On the latter, note that the heat function is pretty gentle. While it's noticeable against bare skin, you really can't feel it through clothes of any thickness. This seems to be a standard across these types of pillows though.

The main issue is that, I found it difficult to get a satisfying massage from this pillow. Because there's no strap to attach it to a chair, you're relying on pressure from your body to keep it in place – but apply too much pressure and the mechanism starts to struggle (you're warned against this in the product instructions). Homedics says it suitable for use on legs, lumbar, shoulders and neck, but on your back it's difficult to find this right balance of pressure that'll keep the pillow in place without jamming, and on your legs you need to perform a sort of hovering action, as resting your leg fully on the pillow won't work. The optimal place to use it seems to be on your neck. This does work, but I found the motion was still a little weak. 

Another aspect of this might be the gel nodes. While the feel nice to touch, I think a firmer node is required to deliver the pressure you need for a more satisfying massage. 

It's worth pointing out that other reviewers don't seem to had the same struggles that I did. All the reviews I've found are positive, some praise the comfort of the gel nodes, and there are a number of users who say it has helped with their back pains. 

Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow: alternatives to consider

I have also tested out a Beurer MG149 Shiatzu Massage Cushion, which in my opinion doesn't look quite as nice but delivers a more powerful massage – and comes with a chair strap that helps with positioning. If portability is paramount, I think I'd be tempted to go for a hand-held massager rather than one you need to try and balance against.

For a full-back massage, I've also tried the Homedics Stretch XS mat and was very impressed. This yoga-inspired massage mat packs up for easy portability... although granted it's not one for use on public transport.

Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow: verdict

The Homedics Gel Shiatsu portable pillow is a good idea, and feels like a high quality, nicely designed product. For a gentle neck massage on the go, it'd be a good option, but I personally could have done with some more oomph (other reviewers disagree, so it could be this is a personal thing). The lack of straps to attach it to things, while in line with the 'use it anywhere' idea, means you're relying on finding and maintaining the right amount of pressure from your body to keep it in place, which is tricky... and doesn't make for the most relaxing massage experience. 

Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).