Having a device that provides an actually good and effective massage on demand is the dream. There are so many that just, kinda, lightly vibrate your spine, or woosh water around your feet. But until the Theragun, there was nothing that really came close to what you can get from a proper massage therapist.
Of course, a massage therapist is still a better option, because you don’t have to try to reach anything, they know the exact right points to hit, they play that muzak and they have that nice smelling stuff that either invokes an enchanted forest or a candy cane dipped in Santa’s cologne (depending on where you go).
But 2020 is the poster child year for realising that you don’t always have access to a professional when you need them, and aches and pains only get worse when you’re stressed.
The Theragun, which ranges in price from $349 – $899, is a percussive therapy device. That is a nice way of saying that it’s capable of effectively punching your aching muscles at 2400RPM. It’s designed to be used before working out to activate your muscles and then move out some of the lactic acid after a workout so it doesn’t hurt as much the next day.
I’ve been using the $649 Theragun Elite (on sale for $449 for Black Friday), which is the middle of the range, for a few weeks, and the results have been pretty interesting so far. The difference between the Elite and the top of the range PRO is that the PRO has a much stronger motor, punches a bit harder, is a little louder, has an adjustable arm, removable batteries, and an extra Supersoft attachment. While the rotating arm is something that would have made finding certain angles much, much easier, non-professionals would have a difficult time justifying the extra $250 on the price tag.
I have to admit, I’m not quite hardcore enough about the gym to have really noticed whether my muscles were more or less activated. But I have really noticed a difference when I use it after a big walk and on my tendons.
Usually after walking 25km, my feet and legs are a bit sore the next day, but using the Theragun on my calves and thighs reduced the pain by around 50%, and 75% of the pain in my feet.
The main thing I wanted to get it for was my tendons. I have really loose joints, and recently discovered that all this time I’ve just been hyperextending my thumbs when drumming and exercising so instead of building grip strength, I’ve just been offloading all the tension to my poor tendons, which just aren’t up to that. I had to stop drumming for a couple of months because the pain was so bad.
Using the Theragun, alongside physio, special exercises and a focus on technique, has meant that I’ve been able to start playing again with far less pain. It’s also meant that when I do get tired and let my technique slip, I can just treat my tendons quickly with the Theragun instead of having to wait for the physio, which has, quite frankly, been life changing.
The Theragun is not a magic bullet, and it can’t be relied on by itself. But as a supplementary device it’s allowed me to do the things I love with less fear and pain.
If you don’t know where to start with the Theragun, it connects to a handy app that you can search for what hurts, or what you’ve been doing, and it tells you how to treat it and which attachments you should put on the end. Doing a program like the “work from home” takes you through which muscles to do where, shows if you’re putting on too much or not enough force, and automatically adjusts the RPM to suit that muscle group. It’s a complete gamechanger for the device and doubles its usefulness.
Of course, how useful the Theragun is does depend on your body and what you need it for. There’s also very little research into whether it’s actually effective, or just a placebo. While it made a big difference to me, my mother who was more keen on using a Theragun, didn’t have such a transformative experience. Her problem is that her muscles get so tight they cause stress fractures in her spine and feet, and while the Theragun provides some temporary relief, that relief only lasts for around 30 minutes.
I also don’t know whether the other, less expensive percussive therapy devices do the same job, because I haven’t been able to try those.
A Theragun is certainly something worth considering, whether you’re a gym junkie or have rebellious tendons. But it’s definitely worth seeing if you can try it in-store a few times before dropping that much cash on a device that might not do what you hope it will.