By Sean Zucker –
When researching training, the focus is on muscle gain or fat loss. However, little on recovery. It shouldn’t be surprising because whether it’s a professional athlete trying to bulk up or an average Joe who wants to be healthier, everyone tends to gravitate to diet and exercise—and they are crucial. But recovery is equally important.
“To see gains in fitness, for the body to keep doing what you want it to do, you have to give it enough rest to repair itself,” Dr. Karin VanBaak, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, explained to UCHealth.
The trendiest new tool for doing so is the Theragun, and there are advocates.
The stylish device has exploded in popularity thanks to its frequent appearances in professional sports locker rooms. Top-tier professional athletes from Cristiano Ronaldo to James Harden and DeAndre Hopkins have all publicly boasted about using Theraguns. Simu Liu, star of Marvel’s Shang Chi, even recently told GQ magazine it is one of his ten most essential items thanks to its ability to keep muscles loose. These ringing endorsements are impressive, but they don’t answer the questions of how a Theragun works and whether it is effective.
Therabody, the company behind Theragun, reports it is a powerful and effective deep muscle massager that eases discomfort, soothes tightness and tension and speeds recovery from injury. The company produces different versions that include smaller models for better for travel and more powerful options for more concentrated efforts. They all operate similarly. Every Theragun is a handheld device mimicking the intensity and benefits of a deep tissue massage through vibrations and increasing pressure. Given its size and mobility, Therabody claims it offers highly localized treatment without getting a professional massage.
There is certainly some support for the approach. “Vibrational therapy can help with pain, muscle soreness or tightness, and recovery,” Lauren Lobert, a Michigan physical therapist. “It can be an inexpensive alternative to massage to help maintain performance by working out trigger points and knots and preventing the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. Plus, it feels good,” she told Well+Good.
The health site noted that Theraguns improve sleep by reducing aches that often disrupt deep nighttime rest.
The concept sprang from Dr. Jason S. Wersland, the company founder who was a longtime practicing chiropractor before a motorcycle accident forced him to develop a solution to deal with the lingering effects of the crash.
He told New York Magazine that Theraguns not only decrease pain but they can also enhance mobility.
Personal massage devices, of course, aren’t new. Amazon lists hundreds of them, some going for less than $10, which is significantly below the $999. list price for the 24K Gold PRO (4th generation) Theragun. Admittedly, mini Theraguns at $199 are much less expensive.
Wersland argues that the extra cost of Theraguns is worth it as they are significantly different and better than their competitors. “Its efficiency is higher because of the frequency and amplitude,” he said.
Not everyone is sure. Massage guns, in general, can be effective at reducing muscle tension, speeding recovering and focusing down on specific areas. There is limited research on whether Theraguns or any massage gun is as effective as traditional massage, according to EveryDayHealth.
Ultimately, there may be some additional benefits from the added frequencies, but Therabody’s claims have yet to be proved, according to Dr. Charles Kim, a pain-management specialist at NYU Langone Health’s Rusk Rehabilitation. “All it is just a more sophisticated massage device,” he told New York Magazine. You can get the same benefits via less expensive options, he added.
Medical News Today stressed that the vibration therapy offered by Theraguns and their competitors bring rewards, but it should not be the sole resource for treatment. Anyone experiencing chronic pain following exercise should see a doctor. It is especially true if there is pain with either swelling, warmth or discoloration of the skin.
Therabody goes as far as to warn that Theraguns should not be used on broken skin, the face, the throat or fractured bones. They should also be after recent injuries or by individuals with pacemakers.
The bottom line is that Theraguns is safe in almost all circumstances and will probably provide some relief. Is that enough? That likely depends on what ails a person and their budget.