Working from home has a lot of complications and unique challenges, as does exercising at home: try whatever home workouts you want, and make weights out of bean cans all you like, but what happens when the aches and pains get a bit much and your usual methods of fixing them aren’t to hand?
Sure, you could whip out your foam roller, but what about that sports massage you’d usually call upon when your body is feeling particularly exhausted? Sometimes a plastic torture device won’t do the trick, and in that situation we could all do with a little at-home physiotherapy.
Enter: the Theragun, a percussive-therapy device, beloved by athletes, that could solve all your woes. While it's far from the only brand available – Wahl, TimTam and Hypervolt have all joined a growing market – it’s the Theragun that has swaggered onto the scene as the most powerful (and pricey) option for your domestic DOMS.
The Theragun was originally designed by Dr Jason S Wersland, a chiropractor who conceived of the device for his own use. “He was in a serious motorcycle accident,” explained the 30-year-old UK lead for the brand, Benjamin McNamara. Following the incident, “Dr Jason”, as McNamara calls him, lost all feeling in his right side. “All of a sudden he wasn’t able to treat his patients.” But the Theragun helped, which led to him using it on his clientele. Eventually, he began to wonder: could this work outside of the doctor’s office?
Now, many years of research and development later, I'm getting pounded with two strange black devices by a burly Australian. McNamara first shows me how the Theragun feels against the hand. With 40 percussions a second, it feels odd to sense a sort of comforting drill pound against your flesh. Then he turns me round and plants them against the wings of my back, and it’s truly amazing. They make noise, but they’re not that loud – “We worked really hard with scientists from MIT to reduce the overall noise levels so that we can have a conversation” – and the initial intimidation of something so powerful being placed against your skin quickly gives way to a sense that this really is doing wonders.
To see a Theragun, it would be reasonable to conclude that there can’t be any need for your average Joe to need one of these. This is deep, clinical massage equipment designed for going in hard: Cristiano Ronaldo is apparently a fan, as is NBA player Kyrie Irving. But McNamara assures me that there is nobody who wouldn’t benefit from one of the three types of machine Theragun offers.
McNamara shows me the triptych: Liv ($221), the smallest device, is perfect for stress relief but lacks the punch for real changes to the body; the G3 ($371) is the perfect device for working out knots and warming up and cooling down; the G3PRO ($679) can apply more pressure and has slightly more advanced features. McNamara and I spent most of our time with the G3, which I also tried out at home. It looks something like a 2D dalek (or a futuristic dildo): a triangular handle with a protuberant piston at the apex. The handle, McNamara explains, allows you to hold it as loosely or as tightly as you want at any number of angles.
Although Theragun has sold itself as something between medical equipment and an athlete’s best friend, now it’s interested in pointing out its qualities as a wellness device for all and sundry. There’s an app which shows great ways of using the device to solve any number of common ailments and afflictions. This isn’t just for back problems or feet or muscle pain: it can relieve the tension that builds up in your body from jet lag, and it can help you get to sleep if you do it gently on the soles of your feet before bed (I, personally, have tried neither).
While Theragun is often pitted against foam rolling as its nearest alternative, McNamara points out that comparing the two is “like comparing a fork with a knife”. At one point he compared Theragun to Swedish massage, but he says that they don’t even see other equipment as their competition. “When Dr Jason had his accident, one of the only options to him was opioids, and if you look at the misuse of opioids in the US alone, it’s astounding,” said McNamara. “We don’t see our competition as any other product in physical form. It’s more like, perhaps like Panadol.”
Dr Charles Kim, an assistant professor at NYU Langone Health, is a firm believer in the power of massage in all its forms to relieve pain. But, he said, “My advice would be don’t necessarily go full throttle on something that might benefit from a rolling pin.” You can try using a pin at home, or a massage, and if there’s an ache or pain that you’re experiencing for longer than normal it’s worth checking with a physician before reaching for a high-intensity device like Theragun. There are a number of health issues – osteoporosis, for example, or bleeding conditions – which might not sit well with a device like Theragun: it could cause stress fractures in the former or bleeding into muscles in the latter.
Dr Jason Wersland, perhaps unsurprisingly, is entirely convinced of the health benefits of his own device. “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,” he said, arguing that their combo of high amplitude and low frequency relieves muscle tension and enhances performance.
While Dr Kim has seen athletes swear by the device, that doesn’t mean he’s fully bought in. “I don’t think your average person, who isn’t a professional athlete, who is having an achey back from time to time, should go out and get this,” concluded Dr Kim. “It’s like trying to get out a mosquito with a tank.”
Although a Theragun is a pricey addition to your exercise regimen, there’s a logic to having something like it in your life: this kind of work is vital, but it can feel like a lengthy and complicated chore. When you’ve finished working out, having to go out of your way to work out your kinks can feel like a step too far, but having a Theragun at home – or in your gym bag – means it’s a lot easier to do, even if it’s only for 30 seconds every day. Plus, with the majority of us now conducting a nine-to-five from the “comfort” of our own homes, the Theragun can provide particularly good relief for any aches and pains you might have noticed arising from a lack of desk ergonomics in your regular workplace.
I didn’t expect myself to enjoy it quite so much, and even after taking it home and trying it out a bit I thought it would do little more than gather dust. Dr Kim is probably right: this level of power is probably unnecessary for people like me who are more sedentary than sporty. But, increasingly, when my legs cramp up or I find myself aching the day after a workout, my first thought is “let’s get the Theragun”.
Theragun’s range is available at theragun.uk , starting at $221 and currently with $167 off its top model. Right now, a portion of the proceeds from every sale goes to FareShare, a charity delivering vital food supplies to those most in need. Shop here.