Massage & relaxation guide: Carlene Thomas-Bailey tests massage tools

If you've ever been pounced on by a salesperson wielding what looks like a dangerously deformed coat-hanger, then you'll already be familiar with at least one of the many weird and wonderful massage gadgets on the market today. While the coquettish Orgasmatron actually does induce an eye-lash-fluttering state of bliss, what about the rest of them? There's only one way to find out.

Orgasmatron
(£15.95, firebox.com)

Admittedly, it does look like an arcane torture device, but this gismo claims to be no less than "the ultimate head massager." It comes in a velour sack with a packet of lip-shaped sweeties to get you in the mood. Simply unfold the prongs so the arms are equidistant, place it over your cranium and work slowly up and down from the crown of the head to the hairline.

The verdict: Produces a heavenly, tingling sensation that instantly relaxes your whole body. Your arms will ache after a while, but I get the impression it's supposed to be used with a partner. Just be careful you don't poke each others eyes out.

Our expert says: "This doesn't look very safe. It's a bit of a gimmick."

HeeBee-GeeBee
(£9.99, gadgetshop.com)

A battery-powerered Orgasmatron! This vibrating device claims to deliver "soothing and blissful sensations". Simply hold it on top of your head, flick the switch and gently push down on your scalp.

The verdict: The vibration is noisy and distracting - not soothing. But, if you manage to block-out the din, you do get the blissful sensation of a head massage.

Our expert says: This is pleasurable, but again the spokes don't look very safe and the vibrating noise is distracting.

Bongers
(£11, massagetablestore.com)

These, er, tools claim to be "really great for using on tired, knotted muscles." They look like bendy knives speared into surprisingly hefty blue rubber balls. Grip the wooden handles in both hands and thwack the bongers against aching muscles or cellulite-prone areas.

The verdict: If you grit your teeth and hit the right parts, these feel like they really do disperse tension. At risk of sounding like a toothbrush advert, they're especially good at tackling those hard-to-reach areas (lower back, shoulders).

Our expert says: "The therapeutic benefit of this product is questionable."

Spiky balls
(£3.40, massagetablestore.com)

These Lisa Simpson-look-a-like balls "ease muscle tension and lower back pain". Lie flat or sit on a chair with these squidgy, textured balls wedged against your lower back and roll around a bit.

The verdict: So comfortable and tactile, I didn't want to give them up! They are very versatile too - I even slipped off my shoes and started rolling them under my feet to ease the tension in my tootsies.

Our expert says: "A pleasurable effect, but no real therapeutic benefit."

Omni Massage Roller
(£8.50, massagetablestore.com)

"This handy personal massager and proven therapeutic tool is small enough to pop into your bag, yet effective enough to roll away stress and tension." A lightweight plastic roller-ball that can be used on your soles, neck, shoulders, lower back, head, face and jaw. Roll the ball in a circular motion on knots and pressure points. Can be used with clothes on or off.

The verdict: This little ball really stretched out my muscles and rolled away tension. You have to apply fairly firm pressure for it to work and it doesn't cover a huge area, so if you want your back doing perhaps rope in a partner and use two at the same time.

Our expert says: "This is an excellent product - the best of the bunch. It's great for relieving tired muscles and is very safe."

The Knobble
(£7.25, massagetablestore.com)

"Small but effective" - says it all, really. Use the narrow end of this wooden, mushroom-shaped tool to create direct pressure, use the flat surface to create warmth or friction.

The verdict: The narrow end is great for creating static and circular pressure. I knobbled the knots in my lower back and on the base of my neck and definitely felt it creating deep, direct pressure where it was needed. The flat end was less effective, though.

Our expert says: "This is a nice product, but for a few pence more you should really invest in the superior Omni roller."

Theracane Massage Stick
(£8.50, massagetablestore.com)

Surely the strangest massage gadgets on the market, the Theracane Stick claims to be "just the thing for getting into those hard-to-reach places." You'll need to follow instructions for use (there is a DVD available), but it can be used in a variety of poses to work different parts of your body.

The verdict: This was definitely the trickiest gadget to master and nothing like as discreet as the dinky roller or knobble. It's good for applying static pressure, but not much else.

Our expert says: "Too tricky to use even with the DVD. This is unlikely to help everyone as we all have different shaped bodies."

Bio-Booster Reflexology Footwear
(£15, opal-london.com)

No instructions necessary for these flip-flops, which claim to "massage, exfoliate, stimulate and regenerate" your feet, which - as any reflexologist will tell you - will have a knock-on effect on the rest your body.

The verdict: Not your average Havaiana, these Bio-Boosters actually weren't very comfortable. The plastic thong rubbed against my feet and the Brillo pad inner sole had no obvious or immediate "regenerative" effect.

Our expert says: "While these may apply a massage action, it is not reflexology as this implies a precise pressure on specific foot reflexes."

Spa Petite: Hot Stone Massage by Lisa Helbig
(£4.99, Running Press)

This little package (including a step-by-step guide and bag of pebbles) enables you to "enjoy the luxury of hot stone foot massage in your own home - without paying spa prices!" Just heat the stones in hot water, slap some massage oil on your feet and apply the stones to the top and soles of your feet.

The verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by the luxurious sensation of hot pebbles on tired feet at the end of the day. The stones are small and - once your feet and hands are greased up - difficult to handle, so have a towel handy, or better still, a patient partner.

Our expert says: "The book is useful and the package makes a perfect gift, but to get the real effect of hot-stones, I'd advise booking a professional treatment."

Angel Fingers
(£9.99, gadgetshop.com)

This gadget claims to provide "a heavenly experience". Gently stroke the skin with the seven copper fingers, which will "stimulate nerve endings and create amazing sensations throughout the whole body, relaxing muscles and providing localised pain relief." Upward strokes energise, downward strokes relax.

The verdict: Not exactly hellish, but nowhere near heavenly either - no substitute for human touch.

Our expert says: "I'm not a fan of anything with dangerous prongs."

The Microsoothe Personal Body Massager
(£9.95, paramountzone.com)

Delivers "a powerful massager in a compact size" and looks like a character from Batteries Not Included. Switch on and hold the pulsing legs against the whole body.

The verdict: Strong vibrations and good for a giggle at least. It felt very invigorating on my legs and the soles of my feet, but not particularly recommended on the head (my whole face vibrated, which did not feel normal or in remotely soothing).

Our expert says: "Pleasant enough, but nothing more."

· Thanks to our expert Frances Fewell, is the CEO of the Institute of Complementary Medicine

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.