Therabody’s percussive therapy devices help soothe achy muscles. Here’s our guide to its lineup—and some cheaper alternatives.
( Article credit: https://www.wired.com)
MASSAGE GUNS, ALSO known as percussive therapy devices, help relax and soothe sore muscles, whether you’re an athlete or just hunching over a desk all day. Theraguns (made by Therabody) tend to be the best massage guns. We’ve tested to find the best Theraguns, as well as several of the more affordable alternatives available. Our favorites are below, along with what we learned speaking to a physical therapist and athletic trainer to see what exactly these devices are doing.
What Does a Percussive Therapy Device Do?
What the Experts Have to Say
Jacklyn Plonski, an outpatient orthopedic and pediatric physical therapist, likens percussive therapy devices to using a foam roller or getting a professional physical therapy treatment. Here's what she has to say:
"As we exercise and challenge our muscles, we cause breakdown within the muscle fibers, which in turn stimulates muscle growth and regrowth, hypertrophy (increased muscle size), and strength. Mechanical stimulation of a muscle [with a device like the Theragun] causes increased blood flow and the release of histamines to the stimulated area. What this does is allow the increased blood flow to decrease the inflammatory response, decrease muscle soreness, and break up knots in athletes' musculature."
Shelby Milne, an athletic trainer at the University of Pennsylvania, says athletes there swear by massage guns and have used them for both pre- and post-training. "The oscillations can also act as a warming modality for the muscles and tissues before the activity," she says.
While Plonksi has seen anecdotal evidence supporting the use of a Theragun-like device, and no apparent negative effects, she recommends that people
always talk to a physician before trying something like this.
Best Theragun (and Quietest)
WIRED Writer Jess Grey says the Theragun Elite tenderized her muscles like nothing else. With the right foam tip, even on its lowest speed setting, it was able to relieve deep tissue pain and muscle tension with just a few minutes of use. The app integration makes it easy to create and store massage routines for recurring aches, and it’s surprisingly quiet. (It's Therabody's quietest device.)
It doesn't have a rotating arm, but it doesn't need it. The triangle design allows you to position your hand to reach back and neck muscles. It comes with one battery, as opposed to the Pro's two, but Grey got about two hours of use out of every charge. That should be long enough for many sessions—she rarely used it for more than 10 or 20 minutes at a time.
Has 40 pounds of pressure and comes with five attachment heads and a carrying case
Best for Serious Athletes
The most expensive of the bunch, the fourth-generation Theragun Pro is the kind of device used by college athletic departments and professional sports teams. It delivers 60 pounds of force at a variety of speeds. That sounds like a lot, and being a non-athlete, I was terrified to try this at first because I was sure it would be painful, but it's incredibly helpful for soothing my chronically sore back. It's not like 60 pounds of punching—more like 60 pounds of delightful massaging.
This model is the only one in Therabody's lineup with a rotating arm, which makes it effortless to use on any spot that would normally be awkward to reach yourself. It has an OLED screen so you can easily see the level of force, and it's the only Theragun to come with a foam tip for sensitive areas (called the Supersoft). The Pro has two external batteries, and each can last 2.5 hours. It's not silent, but it's not so loud that it'll wake your neighbors if you need to use it at night.
Has 60 pounds of pressure and six attachment heads, plus a carrying case