This Genius Massage Device Is the Only Thing That Cures Both My Period Cramps and Intense Muscle Soreness

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To say I can't get enough of my megaformer would be an understatement. No, really: It’s one of my most favorite forms of exercise, since it’s slow and low-impact. But don’t let the slow movements fool you: Boy, does it burn. 

I especially find that the controlled movements really work my ab muscles much deeper than traditional workouts, which is great for when I want to tone up fast, but not so great for when I literally can’t laugh without pain. The issue was, however, that I had no idea what to do about it. After all, when other parts of your body hurt, you can foam roll or massage the tightness away. Trying to do either on my stomach, though, just had me rolling about in (even more!) pain and confusion. I wasn’t really sure what to do, since I didn’t want to stop going as often as I did.

But then, I found Therabody’s newest product, the RecoveryTherm Hot Vibration for Back and Core ($249), which promised to help hit the exact same spots that left me in pain after a good workout sesh—and I knew I just had to try it.

I was a huge fan of Therabody before I saw this new release—the Theragun Mini ($199) has saved my quad muscles multiple times, while the Wave Roller ($149) has been amazing for active recovery days. But I’d never seen something like the RecoveryTherm before. Essentially, it works as a back and core massager, using a unique combination of the brand’s signature percussion therapy with three levels of heat to loosen up the muscles. You can pick and choose which level of heat and percussion therapy you want, and then secure the belt around your waist while the machine gets to work.

And let me tell you: This is one of the most unique sensations I have ever experienced. The percussion therapy felt like someone was giving me a deep tissue massage, while the heat felt like I was sitting in front of a campfire (aka warming, but not overly so). And it really did work: In a couple of minutes, I found that my muscles ached significantly less, and I could laugh without holding my stomach in pain (a total win in my book).

According to physical therapist Dr. Andrew Ward at Balanced, that’s due to the unique combination of heat and vibrational therapy used in the RecoveryTherm, both of which have been proven to ease the body’s reaction to pain. “Heat is usually applied superficially on achy muscles in rehab,” he says. “This is done because the addition of heat increases blood flow to the region, which can help to reduce muscle tension, increase the rate of metabolism, and improve the elasticity of connective tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.” In fact, studies have shown that the application of heat on sore or painful muscles causes immediate relief, and even helps cramps and menstrual pain.

In addition, the RecoveryTherm also includes vibration therapy, consisting of three levels of soft, percussive motion. I found that this basically felt like getting a massage, and I could easily switch between levels as and when I wanted. “Vibration therapy can help to reduce the sensation of muscle tension, promote relaxation, and may have applications in reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS),” adds Ward. Studies indicate that vibrational therapy both reduces pain and increases range of motion after muscle soreness: In fact, Therabody also claims that their percussion therapy is far superior to others, because it uses 16 mm of amplitude to work 60 percent deeper into muscles than the competition.

While I can’t really compare that claim, what I can be sure of is that the combination of heat and vibrational therapy pretty much is a miracle worker on my sore muscles. The next day after first using it, I could feel a substantial difference in the amount of pain I felt, and a couple of days later, the machine even helped reduce my period muscle cramps that would have otherwise had me grabbing a whole bunch of painkillers.

“I’m a proponent of basically any tool that helps people move their bodies,” adds Ward, who notes, however, that you should never use any type of therapy on inflamed muscles, because that could potentially aggravate those muscles and cause more damage. To use the RecoveryTherm, all you really have to do is wrap the soft mesh band around your waist, fastening it to the tightness level of your choice, and then select your heat and vibrational level. I usually keep the machine on for 10 to 15 minutes, which is more than enough time to start feeling some pain relief. I keep the device on the lowest settings for muscle pain, but bump up the heat for menstrual cramps, since I find it way more soothing.

While there isn’t a max amount of time the company recommends keeping the device on, I find that using it once or twice a day for at least 10 minutes works best for me, since the relief I get allows me to still feel slightly sore, but not in a way that gets debilitating and prevents me from working out again. “Recovery is a huge part of any workout regimen, and combining heat and vibrational therapy works by adding in mechanisms of increased blood flow and involuntary muscle contraction/relaxation,” explains Ward.

While there hasn’t been any research done comparing the two types of therapy together versus one or the other in isolation, it’s definitely been working for me—and I have to say that the fact that I don’t have to awkwardly roll over my foam roller anymore definitely helps!

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