Theragun promises to rub sore users the right way
By Jim Bray
Are you bothered by muscle pain, tired or pulled muscles, or are you just looking for a way to get a nice massage at home without hassle?
Well, folks, the people at Theragun think they have your magic bullet, in a line of personal massagers that promise "deep muscle treatment, in an ultra-quiet smart percussive therapy device with advanced sound insulation."
I would personally rather be torn apart by wild dogs than massage myself or anyone else, yet after the Theragun folks sent me a sample of their Elite model, I found myself rubbing my wife the right way – for a change! – and, even better, she'd give relief to herself with the device without me having to move a muscle.
I like that part the best!
Naturally, portable massaging devices are nothing new – heck, you've even been able to get massaging chairs for many years. So why would any self-respecting consumer want to shell out the not-unsubstantial $549 CAD for such a device?
As long as it works, of course. And in our limited experience with the Theragun so far, it does seem to do the trick. Quite nicely.
According to the Theragun people, in their press release touting the Elite "percussion massage device", percussion massage allows for a quicker recovery following sports training or intense physical activity. "Enter Therabody; formerly Theragun, rebranded," they note. "The same at-home powerful, all-natural way to melt away stress and feel revitalized daily."
Regardless of the branding, the Theragun has some pretty nifty features above and beyond its ability to rattle your brains (if you're silly enough to use it on your head – and, yes, I did try – well, I had a stiff neck, so I tried it there). For example, it's solid and substantial, easy to hold in your hand even when it's fired up to its top setting, has enough battery life to really put you through the wringer a couple of times (Therabody says two hours of total battery life between recharges), and a customizable speed range.
They also say it has smart app integration, with Bluetooth, but that's one thing I couldn't get operating – my iPad and the Theragun Elite would not acknowledge each other's presence. I didn't really care, because I'm not doing some regimen that requires such attention; I just wanted to see how it worked, for this column. But noooooo!
Naturally, your mileage may (and hopefully will!) vary. Theragun's folk say the app personalizes your routine and guides you through your wellness journey. So, I probably wouldn't have used it anyway, being the guy who hates routine.
They claim the app integrates with Apple Health and Google Fit and "learns from your behaviors to suggest guided routines that can be sent to your device via Bluetooth." So, if you've just managed to live through an "intense spin class" or survived a long flight, the app might suggest "a tailored leg and foot recovery routine."
My idea of a foot recovery routine is to get off them, raise them onto an ottoperson, and augment the relaxation with a nice beer or whisky. I'm pretty confident this isn't what they mean, however.
The heart of the Theragun is its proprietary brushless motor, with "quietforce" technology. The company says it, and the advanced sound isolation around it, has allowed them to build their quietest massager yet (not counting my screams…). The motor delivers "up to 40 lbs. of additional no-stall force" while "running quieter than a standard electric toothbrush."
I'd argue that noise point, though I never ran a sound pressure level meter on it. It's definitely louder than our electric toothbrushes – but that said, it's hardly onerous and, besides, do you want to feel better or not?
The company also says its Active Torque Control means the power gets to your body without diluting treatment speed or quality. I have no idea what that means, but I pass it along for your enlightenment.
Another nice thing is that the unit's triangular design lets you grab it in innumerable positions, to help you find the best way to get the massaging tip onto the right part of your glorious naked body. Even if you aren't naked.
You also get a variety of attachments to help ensure your self-inflicted beating is as efficient and useful as possible. There's a Dampener Attachment ("used mostly for tender or bony areas. Perfect for overall use."), and the Standard Ball Attachment we've been using mostly ("Perfect for overall use on large and small muscle groups."), as well as Wedge Attachment ("perfect for shoulder blades and IT Bands. Provides the ability to be used for "scraping" and "flushing" movements to help increase blood flow and reduce tension where you need it the most.").
And, as if that isn't enough, there's also a Thumb Attachment ("used mostly for trigger points and the lower back.") and a Cone Attachment ("used mostly for pinpoint muscle treatment, including the hands and feet.").
Something for just about every ache and pain, I daresay – from my vast medical experience.
The Theragun Elite comes with all five attachments, plus a power adapter/charger and a very nice protective carrying case.
The thing isn't just aimed at old farts like me who throw their backs out periodically, which is probably a good thing for the folks who make and sell it. The company says it's ideal for "reducing tension and lactic acid after a workout while improving circulation and range of motion ultimately accelerating your warm-up and recovery." They recommend using it after a workout, Peloton ride, or just a quick jog around the block. They say it not only allows for quicker recovery from a workout, but it also offers "comfort" massages to "the muscles that have been under great strain."
Since I'm about as athletic as Jabba the Hutt, I'm going to focus on its "comfort massage" aspects, from which there are legitimate benefits.
My wife has been the primary user of the Theragun Elite. She had a fall a few months back and did some damage to her hip – on top of her osteoarthritis, even. She had gone to some very rough massages that hurt her more than the darn injury did and I hated seeing her coming home in pain – especially pain that I hadn't inflicted.
So, she tried sports therapy, several sessions with them, doing their exercises and stuff at home after her sessions. Progress was made, but slowly and painfully – and it wasn't just a pain in her hip, it was a real pain in the butt – speaking figuratively, of course.
And then, the Theragun folks got in touch with their offer to test an Elite. Well, holy cow, not only isn't she going back to the "therapists", she's taking it into her own hands and suffering so much less than she was before that it's almost as if she'd divorced me. She likes being able to use it for short sessions when she wants, too, rather than having to make an appointment for sometime down the road.
I was very pleased to see the change, though now she's making me go for regular walks again, so maybe I should never have allowed the thing into my life. The Theragun, not the wife…
And then, I threw out my back carrying a couple of heavy boxes downstairs. Dear Heart gave me a short session with the Elite, showing me how to use it (Manuals? Who reads manuals?) and after that I've done it to myself. And it has helped. I'm not back to normal yet, but the improvement over the past couple of days has been noticeable and welcome.
Between the two of us, we're planning to see if the Theragun folks can spare the Elite for a long, long, long term review and, failing that, I guess we're going to have to purchase one of our own. I hate it when that happens.
The company's website also has plenty of resources of which you can partake to get the most out of the device, including FAQ's, "Therabody University FAQ's", a blog, and some videos showing you various techniques and protocols.
Besides the Elite, the company also markets the Pro ("Professional Grade"), Prime ("Simplified"), and the Mini ("Ultra Portable"). They also have another line of stuff including a wave roller, fitness mat and some other accessories.
I didn't think I'd find much use for the Theragun Elite when I first arranged for a trial; I'd done it basically for my wife, who obviously wears the pants in our family. And it has helped her quite a bit. What surprised me more was that it also helped my pain when I was stupid enough to lift with my back and not my legs.
I also checked out some consumer reviews online and it appears that most of the people who've used it and deigned to write a review think it's a real life saver – or at least a muscle saver. I've seen comments such as "Best In-Person Massage Alternative", "A must have device to soothe sore muscles!", and "Soooo Good."
There were also some less than flattering comments, but the positives outweighed the negative ones substantially.
I guess their mileage varies, too.
Bottom line for us is that the Theragun Elite works as advertised and is really quite good, not only at helping relieve the cares of the day, but to actually help straighten out the soreness and pain that comes from living a normal life in an era when Murphy's Law has yet to be repealed.
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray