Pro Athletes Swear By the Theragun for Relieving Muscle Tension—Here’s What Makes it So Great

Photo: Getty Images/Ivan-balvan
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There are plenty of ways to loosen up your muscles, but most traditional practices are far from perfect. Stretching takes time, foam rolling can be downright painful, and pro-grade massages often require spending half a month's rent for a single 75-minute session. It was with these issues in mind that the fitness world's buzziest (both literally and figuratively) recovery tool—the Theragun—was born.

Developed more than a decade ago by chiropractic doctor Jason Wersland, DC, now the brand's founder and chief wellness officer, the Theragun has become a go-to for professional athletes and weekend workout warriors alike... and it's for good reason. The device offers near-immediate relief for muscle pain and soreness, giving you the type of results that stretching, foam rolling, and massages could only dream of. To find out what makes it so great, keep reading our pro-approved Theragun review below.

How the Theragun works

The Theragun is a percussive therapy device and uses vibrational therapy to keep muscles loose and limber."Vibrational therapy can help with pain, muscle soreness or tightness, and recovery," says Michigan-based physical therapist Lauren Lobert, DPT, OMPT, CSCS and the owner of APEX Physical Therapy. "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."

According to pros, you can reap those feel-good benefits all over. "You can use it over any muscular area," says Lobert. And there's plenty of science to help back this up: "A study revealed that vibration devices helped prevent delayed onset muscle soreness and pain, and also decreased levels of lactic acid for 48 hours after working out, while another demonstrated that vibration therapy used before eccentric exercise reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness," she says.

Benefits of Theragun

"I think one common misconception with Theragun is that it is just a recovery tool—it is so much more than that," says Dr. Werseland. "For someone who is using it to train, they should be incorporating Theragun to warm up and during a workout for maximum results while also using it to recover and decrease soreness. Theragun is also amazing for anyone experiencing general aches and pains on a daily basis, maybe from sitting at your desk for too long or standing on your feet all day at work. I always say Theragun is for everybody, and that is regardless of age, gender, or activity level."

1. Reduces muscle knots

This one is probably pretty obvious, but the main purpose of a Theragun is to help reduce muscle knots. As explained above, it uses its percussive therapy to melt away tension all over. In addition to using it as a post-workout recovery tool on your arms, legs, glutes, and so forth, the device can also be used on your feet to reduce pain from walking (or, in my case, from wearing high heels), on the palms of your hands to stave off carpal tunnel, and on your back, neck, and shoulders to ease the tension that comes along with sitting in a desk chair all day.

2. Helps with sleep

According to a small 2020 study conducted by the brand, 87 percent of the 73 participants found that they fell asleep faster when they used their Theragun before bed—and nearly a third were more able to stay asleep throughout the night better when they used it versus when they didn't. "Using Theragun on the areas of your body that are tense will flip on your 'relax' switch in your brain—aka the rest-and-digest, parasympathetic part of your nervous system—and allow you to settle into a great, restful sleep," says Dr. Wersland. The takeaway? If you're dealing with disruptions to your REM cycle, this may just be the fix you need.

How to use a Theragun

What makes the Theragun so great is that in using it, you don't have to dedicate hours on end to your recovery routine. Dr. Werseland likens it to "an espresso shot of recovery," which means that you'll start to feel a difference in minutes.

For best results, turn on the device to your desired intensity level (most of the brand's tools offer a range of settings from light massage to all-out pounding), then simply rest the device on the area you're looking to relieve. "You don't have to apply a lot of pressure—you can apply pressure as you feel comfortable," says Dr. Werseland. "The slower you move it, the better it feels... and when you find a spot or somewhere sore, you don't jam it in there, you just kind of work it."

He recommends using the device twice a day for two minutes for best results. "We do something called a sweep, and we separate the body into different parts—the upper body, middle body, and lower body," says Dr. Werseland. "I call it a sweep because it doesn't take long, it's just a quick sort of movement. If it's early in the day, I'd make it quicker, if it's toward the end of the day, I'd want to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system so I'd go a little slower and more methodically."

Theragun review

I've been a proud Theragun owner for nearly three years, and it's become something I truly couldn't live without. I treat my body to the "sweep" that Dr. Werselad recommends most nights during the week, and rest the device on any areas that need a bit more attention. On a regular day, that means my neck, lower back, and shoulders are getting a little extra TLC (hello, #desklife), but after a particularly intense workout I'll often focus on spots that are experiencing second-day soreness.

Admittedly, the massage feels intense—even when the device is on its lowest setting—and it took some time for my muscles to get used to it. That said, the intensity is worth it, and Dr. Werseland's "espresso shot" comparison holds true. After only a few seconds, I can feel the knots in my muscles being ironed out, giving me instant relief that hours of stretching have never delivered.

I've also found that using the Theragun regularly has improved my mobility in workouts, likely because it keeps my muscles from getting tight. In helping me stay limber, it means that I'm not constantly fighting through tension when I'm moving, which helps to stave off any soreness from setting in in the first place.

Aside from using the device to treat the usual wear and tear on my muscles, I also swear by it for relieving foot pain. I've started bringing it with me to weddings so that I can give myself a foot massage the morning after a long night of dancing in high heels.

At a $200+ price point, a Theragun isn't exactly a cheap investment. But thanks to the instant relief it offers (and the time it saves on my recovery routine), I'd definitely say it's a worthy one.

Shop Theragun devices

theragun massage
Theragun Pro — $599.00

At $599, the priciest Theragun delivers the most intense (and most customizable) percussive therapy massage. It comes with six different attachments that deliver targeted treatment to specific spots on your body—for example, there’s a “thumb” attachment meant to be used on your lower back, and a “cone” attachment that works wonders on your hands and feet—and has an adjustable grip that shifts into four positions so that you can hit even the hardest-to-reach muscles.

Therabody Theragun Elite
Theragun Elite — $399.00

The original Theragun had a reputation for being loud (think: concrete drilling levels of sound), so the brand developed this device as a quieter alternative. It’s got two different speed settings—a fast one for deep-tissue massage and a lighter-pressure option for super-sore or sensitive areas—and three ergonomic grips that make it extra easy to use anywhere you need it.

Theragun Prime — $299.00

Perhaps the best bang for your buck, this mid-range Theragun is ultra-quiet and offers five built-in speeds so you can customize your massage as you see fit. It comes with four attachments meant to be used on different parts of the body. It offers three ergonomic handle settings, too.

Theragun Mini — $199.00

For those looking to dip their toe into the Theragun pool without spending major bucks, this no-frills device is the perfect point of entry. Despite its small size (which, it’s worth noting, makes for easy portability) it still delivers an intense massage—even on the lowest of its three speed settings.

Press play on the video below to watch the Theragun in action. 

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