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After months of mostly hanging out in sweatpants, I started a new workout routine late last year to get my butt going. With this came the onset of muscle pain which irritated me even when I wasn’t exercising. I know using a foam roller can help relieve tension, but I often find it bothersome and painful, especially in sensitive areas. In a non-pandemic period, I would probably have consulted a massage therapist, but that has been out of the question for a year. So when I started seeing ads for Theragun appear in my Instagram feed, I was intrigued. After doing some research I decided to take advantage of a Cyber Monday deal and bought the Theragun Elite ($ 399) as a Christmas present for me. Not only has it helped me recover after training, but it also helps relieve everyday aches and pains (or, at least, for my aging body).
The Elite is just one of Theragun’s percussion therapy devices; the company also sells the Mini ($ 200), Pro ($ 599) and the First ($ 299). Also known as a massage gun (Theragun is short for therapy gun, after all), it basically works by hitting your muscles with several pounds of force to increase blood flow and reduce stiffness and fatigue. Although Theragun is the most popular brand name in this category, it has several competitors in the market including Hyperice, Achedaway and TimTam.
I ended up going with the Theragun based mostly on positive reviews and the overall good reputation of the company. I was also drawn to its unique triangular shape, which I guess meant I could use it to reach the less accessible parts of my body like my back. I chose the Elite over the other models because it seemed to be an intermediate option between the ‘base’ Prime and the more advanced Pro (I excluded the Mini as it is a small sized device. travel which is not as flexible as the full-size versions). The Elite has a dynamometer, wireless charging capabilities, and the ability to store preset routines, which the Prime lacks. The Pro, which has an adjustable arm and adds an additional 20 pounds of force, seemed a bit overkill for my purposes.
Still, the Theragun Elite looks and feels like a premium product. It’s a bit heavy at 2.2 pounds, but I found it to be remarkably well balanced thanks in part to this triangular design. There are three main handles: the standard handle (the handle is 45 degrees from the head), the base handle (the area closest to the head), and the reverse handle. The reverse grip is great for reaching hard-to-reach areas like your back, while the basic grip is great for areas where you want more control, like your feet or hands. I will say, however, that getting a partner to use the Theragun on my back is much easier than trying to maneuver it on my own.
The Elite comes with its own carrying case, as well as five mounting heads: the standard, the shock, the cone, the shim and a small “thumb” shape. The last three options are for more detailed work, which I didn’t think was necessary for the most part (the cone fixation, for example, is used to locate the smaller muscles of the hands and feet, while the wedge fixation is specially designed for the shoulder blades and IT band). I actually stuck to the shock absorber clip as it is the softest and therefore works for most parts of the body.
At the top of the device is a small OLED screen that shows the battery life as well as the selected speed (it goes from 1750 to 2400 pulses per minute). Theragun estimates the battery life of the Elite at two hours per charge. It may not sound like much, but you rarely use Theragun for more than a few minutes at a time – the company recommends a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of two minutes per muscle group. I have often let the Theragun go weeks without recharging and this was not a problem.
I was quite intimidated by the Theragun at first. I’m not an athlete and I was a little afraid to subject my muscles to so many blows. Fortunately, there is a useful companion app that walked me through the process. It allows me to choose from several routines; there are all-in-one introductory programs as well as programs targeting specific body parts like the lower back. There are also routines that help you warm up or recover from specific activities like running or swimming, with the idea of using your muscles differently in different sports.
In addition, since the app is connected to the Theragun via Bluetooth, the device automatically switches between different frequencies depending on the part of the body I am targeting. What I really like is that the app gives me real-time information on how hard I should be pushing my muscles; that way i know if i’m pushing it too hard or too soft and i can adjust my strength accordingly. It was a little weird at first, but I got used to it. In fact, after going through the app-guided routines for a while, I became confident enough to use the device without the app at all.
I’ve been using it for a few months now, and while I don’t think it’s a complete panacea, regular stretching is still important! – I think that helped me a lot. My muscle pain doesn’t last that long and I seem to have improved range of motion and flexibility during my workouts. Aside from simple workout recovery, the Theragun has also come in handy when I want quick relief from shoulder pain after being hunched over my keyboard, or when I just want to relax after a long day. . Yes, it’s expensive and it’s definitely a luxury not everyone needs, but it keeps its promise.