Whether you’re tight because you’ve been caning the gym since it reopened, or are simply still suffering from ongoing WFH aches and pains - a massage gun is a game-changing investment that will serve a purpose way beyond post-pandemic life.
Massage vibration devices deliver percussive therapy by way of short pulses of pressure to the soft tissue. While they initially launched as a saviour to your DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) after a hefty HIIT sesh, many now use one daily as part of their self-care regime.
What are the benefits of percussive therapy?
“The overarching use is often focused on recovery, but applications can also be seen in preparing the body for movement, sport or exercise, and for daily self-care,” says Steve Powell, director of education at Power Plate UK. “Benefits include pain relief, both chronic and acute (inflammation, DOMS, swelling), reduced stiffness and muscle soreness, increased blood flow, circulation and tissue hydration, and, potentially, lymphatic flow. It can also enhance range of motion, or flexibility and mobility, and activate the nervous system at a local (point of contact) level.”
How often should you use a massage gun?
You can use a massage gun daily, so long as you opt for light and superficial pressure, Powell says. “For example, spend 15-45 seconds per area, say before or after going for a run or doing a workout to release tight muscles and stiffness after extended sitting.
“If you’re using the gun for a deeper tissue massage, then you may need to wait for tissue to recover (at least 72 hours), as you would a sports massage. Deep tissue or sports massages are typically recommended every three to four weeks. And don’t apply so much pressure that it causes soreness or bruising. Staying superficial and ‘light’ for general everyday use is best.”
Where best to use a massage gun?
“Areas that are typically tight like the calves, hamstrings and front of the hips if sitting a lot or from activities like running. The lower back, working either side of the spine can also bring much welcomed relief again being cognizant of the amount of pressure applied. Relieving tension in the shoulders and upper back region can be extremely beneficial as well as the feet, front of the shoulders and chest.”
Any areas to avoid?
“Avoid using these kinds of massage guns on the face as the amplitude is too large, as well as he spine directly and any bony areas. Also any painful varicose veins or areas of swelling/bruising. While there may be use around the ribs with specific techniques we generally recommend avoiding the abdomen.”
Therabody Theragun Elite (RED)
Theragun is arguably the best known massage gun brand on the market and the Elite is its quietest device with extra built-in sound insulation for discrete pummelling either from home or the gym - though as this is a relatively large device you may want to look for something more compact if portability is a priority (the brand’s Mini may work if this is the case but more on that below). With an amplitude of 16mm, this offers the deepest tissue massage of all the devices tested, it also comes with five head attachments and five speeds, which are customisable either in the Bluetooth-enabled app or on the device’s screen, and a triangular ergonomic multi-grip handle that offers less strain when targeting hard-to-reach areas this is no doubt a powerful tool, yet feels gentle on the skin. The Therabody app hooks up to Apple Health and Google Fit to suggest recovery routines post-workout, which is a nice extra touch.
MuscleGun’s Carbon gun is also ultra-quiet, delivering an amplitude of 10mm, with five speed settings of up to 3200 strokes per minute to deeply relieve tight, tired muscles. The curved design feels sleek, light and agile and the gun offers a battery life of up to five hours after just one charge. The Deep app, meanwhile, offers users voice-led tutorials for targeted tension relief of the neck, shoulders and arms to ensure you get the most out of the device. This is good value for a what feels like a premium and effective machine.
Power Plate Mini+
Power Plate’s Mini+ is my kind of vibration gun, compact enough to slip into my gym bag but powerful enough to feel the difference on my battered lockdown limbs. With an amplitude of 8mm it offers less of a deep tissue massage than others on this list but I found its lightweight design (just 435g) and handle style very user friendly. It also comes with four speed settings, two attachment heads, a carry pouch and five hour battery life. I found the smaller handle easier to navigate than some of the larger devices I tested and loved the fact that I could charge it using a USB cable meaning I wouldn’t need to carry around a clunky cable with me.
If it’s versatility you’re after, MyoMaster’s MyoPro comes with a whopping eight heads - the most I’ve seen on the market - plus an amplitude of 14mm, five speed settings ranging up to 3200 vibrations per minute, four hours of battery life and a charging stand. Created by professional rugby player Joe Gray and avid hockey player Lottie Whyte, the device has been carefully designed to cater to an athlete’s needs. If you’re serious about your sport, you’ll enjoy working your way through the different attachments, which include an extra wide scraper specifically for treating larger muscle groups and thumb tip to mimic the effect of a sports massage.
Similar to the Power Plate Mini + or MuscleGun Carbon reviewed earlier in this list, I found this style of handle easiest to manoeuvre to iron out knots and hunches. Weighing 700g and offering an amplitude of 12mm and up to 2800 percussions per minute, with five speed settings, four different head attachments, a soft carry case and mat, this is the cheapest model on this list (at it’s current discounted price) and offers fantastic value. Being able to customise your purchase by choosing from the black, red, rose gold or silver colourways is a nice extra touch.
If you like your power tools, you’re going to love the Recovapro SE which feels like a serious machine, sits on its own charging dock and aces on the sturdiness and durability front. Delivering an amplitude of 12 mm, five attachments, five speeds (ranging from 1500-3300 vibrations per minute) and offering four hours of charge runtime, it delivers a smooth full-body deep tissue massage treatment with ease.
Another one for those who prefer something ultra-portable, weighing 650g, the Theragun Mini - not quite pocket-sized, but almost - is a good option for anyone looking for a massage gun that can be carried around easily. With an amplitude of 12 mm and three speed settings (ranging up to 2400), this is still packs a punch, making it a good entry-level massage gun. It comes with a triangular grip handle, a battery life of 150 minutes and soft travel case.