Over the past few years the concept of personal massage has become a standard practice for athletes around the world. The widespread benefits of incorporating some form of myofascial relief to a training plan has meant a massive surge in products.
Not only does personal massage allow people to people to do it conveniently at home or at the end of a workout, but it means that people can do it without the need to fork out for an expensive professional.
Where once foam rolling was the buzz phrase for those looking for post-workout muscle relief, now there are significantly more options available to the aching fitness fan. Perhaps the most popularized of those over recent months has been the concept of percussive therapy, a movement spearheaded by Theragun that has dominated the social feed of anyone with an interest in fitness.
But what is a Theragun and why are so many athletes and trainers popping up on Instagram filming slo-mo videos whilst using it? Here we run through the history of the brand, how percussive therapy is meant to work and what it's actually like to use a Theragun.
What is percussive therapy?
According to Theragun, the aim of percussive therapy is to relieve muscle tension, improve range of motion, enhance performance, and accelerate recovery. The company states three elements that go into delivering a product that delivers that: amplitude, frequency and torque.
To the casual observer, a Theragun acts like a handheld pneumatic drill, delivering a rapid percussive motion that can be applied across the body. The specifications of that are an amplitude of 16mm that allows for a deeper muscle treatment, an operating frequency of 2,400 RPM which Theragun note as being the optimum calibration for overriding the brains response to pain, and a high level of torque meaning that the percussive movement can withstand force without stalling.
The succession of short-duration pulses deep into the tissues of the body encouraging blood flow which, according to Theragun, produces a form of treatment that offers a host of benefits.
What are the benefits of percussive therapy?
Dr. Jason Wersland, chiropractor and founder of Theragun explains: “Research and development has always been at the core of our approach and all our devices are scientifically calibrated, tested with medical professionals, physical therapists, chiropractors, and trainers to ensure efficacy."
Theragun lists countless benefits for the range of devices. Those include natural stress relief, improved sleep, accelerated recovery and muscle repair, increased blood and lymphatic flow, relief of muscle spasms and stiffness, scar tissue break up, improved lactic acid clear-up, and relief from muscle fatigue and knots
As a result of those benefits, the treatment is meant to help with things like sleep, through better body posture, can help replace stretching, act as a treatment for those suffering from jet lag and can even be used as a tool to warm up the muscles before performing exercise.
Where did Theragun come from?
After a motorcycle accident in 2007, Dr Jason Wersland experienced a disc herniation that resulted in pain and atrophy. The idea for the first-ever Theragun came about from a piece of equipment he'd seen his brother used to treat an injury. He developed the concept into a roughly designed device that resembled a power drill with the aim of relieving his own injuries.
Over time that concept grew from a personal project into an idea that could be used by anyone for a home or portable treatment that offered a cost-effective solution to injury and training. From there, Dr Wersland refined the product for the masses, currently delivering the 8th generation of that original machine.
How do you use it?
A good question and one which isn't particularly easy to answer. Ultimately it depends on how and why you intend to use the device, whether it's for gently warming up the muscles or for treating a specific pain or muscular problem. The Theragun website lists dozens of applications and each of those methods differs depending on the focus. For pain and ailments, Theragun lists the following, each with a guiding video on how to carry out the necessary movements. Click here to access the guides.
- Bicep Tendonitis
- Carpal Tunnel
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Shin Splints
- Tech Neck
- Tennis Elbow
- Tight Shoulders
How does it feel?
We've been using the Theragun G3 for the past couple of months and, although we can't advise on how beneficial it is from a medical perspective, we can say how it performs as a device.
At first glance the G3 is an imposing sight. At 2.7lbs it feels like a heavy-duty piece of kit without being too heavy to move around the body and hold for a prolonged period. We were impressed with both the sturdy build and the ergonomic design. The triangular handle structure means that you can hold at any point on the main body, depending on how and where you plan to use it.
When you apply the head of the G3 to an area of the body it's actually surprising how powerful that movement is and as you place it on different areas of the same muscle, or around the body, the sensation does change quite a bit. In some areas it can feel relaxing, in others it can feel extremely tender.
It's quite clear from the off that the Theragun isn't a toy and it's important to learn how to effectively use it before incorporating it into any sort of training system (see above).
After a couple of weeks of using the G3 once or twice a day for 5-10 minutes we did start to enjoy it as part of a habitual fitness regime. There is a hurdle to get over in learning to use it effectively, but once you know how long to hold it for on areas and how intense the pressure should be, it's a hugely addictive feeling.
How much does it cost?
There are currently three models of the Theragun available to buy, each varying in price and features.
The first of those options is the Theragun Liv, the entry-level device designed to make the idea of percussive therapy an affordable method of treatment. It has a chargeable 45-minute battery, a maximum force of 30lbs, weighs 2.5lbs, comes with one additional dampener head for softer areas and allows for percussion at 16 mm deep, 40 times a second.
The Theragun G3 is the next level up from the Liv, featuring an upgraded design that has two-speed options, two colorways, addition pro attachments for more specific massage, a maximum force of 40lbs and a 60-minute charge life.
Lastly is the G3 Pro. The crème de la crème of the Theragun armory featuring the addition of an adjustable arm that allows users to pinpoint areas in hard to reach places. It also includes swappable batteries, a maximum force of 60lbs, 75 minutes of charge life, two-speed settings and a range of six different heads.