My Review Of The Theragun Mini For Muscle Pain And Recovery
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GOOD GEAR RATING — 8/10 STARS
Summary: After 7 days of testing, we highly recommend the Theragun Mini for exercise recovery, stress relief, and mobility. You can find lower cost options, but you won’t find a product this complete.
- Simple to setup and use
- Supports mobility, stress relief, and recovery
- The full line of Theragun products can meet various needs and budgets (we tried the Mini, their most low-cost and portable option)
- There are cheaper massage guns on the market
- Battery life could be better
- Stall force is low with Mini but gets better with larger models
I’ve spent a lot of time with sore muscles over the last ten years but after three marathons, a few years of CrossFit, and a handful of triathlons, I’m taking a break from big fitness events.
“As a new dad, I’m focused on overall wellness and fitness goals like mobility, well-being, and consistency.”
As a new dad, I’m focused on overall wellness and fitness goals like mobility, well-being, and consistency.
So, if you are looking for a Theragun review all about #gains you should keep scrolling. I’m trying Theragun with a slightly different purpose. I want to know if this device can support my gym sessions, reduce stress, or increase mobility.
I’m also a nerd, so I want to learn more about the company, its philosophy, and tech. I’m giving myself a week to write this review, and I’ll take you along for the ride.
If that’s your cup of tea (or…uh protein shake), then let’s get started.
The history of Theragun
“Theragun’s founder Dr. Jason Wersland started the company in 2008 in his garage.”
Theragun’s founder Dr. Jason Wersland started the company in 2008 in his garage, after a motorcycle accident left him with chronic neck and shoulder pain. As a chiropractor, he knew that percussive therapy (repetitive pressure and vibration) could help the pain, but there was no market for percussive therapy devices.
The first prototype was an adapted Makita jigsaw and a foam ball, and Dr. Wersland describes feeling instant relief. From that moment, Dr. Wersland was hooked. He created numerous prototypes for what would eventually become the iconic accessory of high-end hotels and CrossFit gyms: the Theragun.
What’s the Science?
Percussive therapy has been around for centuries and draws from the same basic science behind traditional massages. Rapid vibration on your muscles relieves muscle tension, breaks up knots and stimulates blood flow, promoting muscle recovery. Percussive therapy also offers massage-like relaxation benefits. A five week study of 73 healthy 18-40 year olds done at Therabody’s labs shows that percussive therapy helped, on average, 87% fall asleep faster with 56% reporting improved overall sleep.
The specific application of percussive therapy made popular by Dr. Wersland was the subject of a study published by the National Library of Medicine in 2020. The results showed conclusive improvements in range of motion. This is further legitimized by a study done by Dr. Kevin Valenzuela at the University of California State Long Beach, showing that Theragun’s percussive therapy can decrease the risk of injury in athletes, without adverse impacts on performance.
Theragun offers five models of their massage guns, available online or at major retailers like Best Buy and Target. Pricing ranges from $199-$599+ depending on the power and features of each model. I opted for the Mini because of the price and portability.
That choice came with some tradeoffs in amplitude, stall force, and advanced features. The chart below breaks down the key features of each model.
Terms to know
- Amplitude measures how deep a massage gun can penetrate into your muscles (typically, the deeper, the better)
- Stall force measures how much pressure you’d need to put on the device to stall the motor
- Speed is all about percussions per minute (i.e., 1750 PPMs means the head moves at a rate of 1750 percussions per minute)
- Attachments describe the number of different shapes and sizes you can add to the end of your Theragun
- Weight is another thing to think about if you plan to travel with your Theragun (or take it to the office or gym)
|Mini (2nd gen)||Prime (4th gen)||Elite (4th gen)||PRO (5th gen)|
|Stall Force||20 lbs||30 lbs||40 lbs||60 lbs|
|Speeds||1750, 2100, 2400 PPMs||1750-2400 PPMs||1750-2400 PPMs||1750-2400 PPMs|
|Battery Life||120 min||120 min||120 min||150 min|
Control via Therabody app
Personalized routines via Bluetooth®
3 Built-In Presets
|4 visually-guided built-in routines|
Control via Therabody app
Personalized routines via Bluetooth®
Unboxing the Theragun
The Theragun box is everything you’d expect from a billion-dollar consumer brand: nice finishes, simple packaging, and clear instructions. Really though, there’s not a lot to figure out. My Theragun Mini came with the following:
- USB-C charge cord
- Two attachments
- A soft carry-case
- The device (with a little bit of charge)
Therabody App Setup
The Therabody app lets you pair your Theragun using Bluetooth for battery reports, PPM (percussions per minute) controls, and guided routines. While the app is fairly intuitive, I didn’t find it critical to the overall experience. I read online reviews from other percussive therapy nerds that used the app to fine-tune PPMs and change the speeds available through the onboard button. If you are dealing with a specific issue like back or shoulder pain, the guided routines offer time, speed, and location guidance.
Using Theragun Mini
At the Gym and Post-Run
We’ll start with the easy one — workouts. I took my Theragun to the gym for a couple of light lifting sessions. I used the Mini between sets to keep my shoulder (my problem child) loose. I also used the device during my warmup and cooldown. No surprise here; it felt great and helped me stay engaged through several sets.
I also used the Mini after a run to loosen my IT bands (to do this, I massaged the side of my legs and the bottom of my feet). This was one of the moments during this review that I wished I had splurged on the Pro. While my post-run massage felt relaxing, I could have used more amplitude (massage depth) to release my IT bands.
At My Desk
Percussive therapy gets talked about less as a stress relief mechanism but in my product research, a few users mentioned using Theragun at their desks to relieve work tension. So, I wanted to try it out.
This part of my review was a game-changer. I used the Mini before and after stressful meetings to reconnect with my body to great success. I also used my Theragun during my mid-afternoon lull as an alternative to another cup of coffee.
It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need a massage gun to get these benefits. A foam roller or even a self-administered shoulder massage can boost blood flow and get your mind right for the rest of the day.
Inspired by Juliet Starrett and Kelly Starrett’s book, Built to Move, I’ve been working to improve my mobility. One benchmark skill they suggest is called the Sitting Rising Test. At present, I’m close to sitting and getting back up without my hands but not quite there. I wanted to see if the Theragun Mini could help.
Research from the National Institute For Health suggests that percussive therapy is most effective as a warmup so I used my Mini to loosen my back and legs before attempting the test. The results? Theragun helped me get into the exercise with less “creakiness” and seemed to help my overall mobility.
I could feel a clear improvement in my mobility, but, no, I’m not popping up like a teenager (yet).
In general, I plan to use Mini as an ongoing companion to build my mobility. The research definitely backs it up.
Features and drawbacks
Theragun feels like everything you would expect from a mature piece of technology. The buttons, ports, and settings worked as expected. The one thing I did notice is that when the battery gets lower, the stall force (max pressure before the motor stops) becomes lower as well.
“A well-charged battery is critical to performance.”
In general, I’d suggest finding a regular spot to charge your device to prevent downtime. A well-charged battery is critical to performance, and the battery needed multiple charges throughout my test week.
Who shouldn’t use Theragun?
Like any health or fitness tool, Theragun has a time, purpose, and place. Our advice? Use common sense. Consumer Reports gathered a group of doctors to give some helpful tips related to massage gun safety. A few noteworthy tips:
- Start low and slow
- Stop if you feel pain
- Avoid joints and bones
- People with chronic pain also need to be extra careful with percussive massage
- Folks with low bone density should proceed with caution
- Massage guns should never be used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, stress fractures, or acute inflammation
- Most doctors also advise against massage gun use during pregnancy
I didn’t personally have any issues with bruising but it’s worth noting that over-use of Theragun or another massage gun can cause bruising in some users.
When it comes to percussive therapy, Theragun is at the top of the charts — and so are the prices, with massage guns costing as high as $599. The Mini clocks in at just below $200.
There were moments that I wished I had upgraded to Theragun Pro, but the (true to the name) Mini is easy to carry with me during a busy week. After seven days of testing, I’m not having any second thoughts about the $199 value I’ll get back over the long term.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a percussive therapy session to get to.
Blake Cadwell is a triathlete, girl dad, and the Founder of Soundly.com.
This review is not sponsored and contains the author’s personal experience. Good Gear purchased this product. Read more about our review process here.