Rapid massage guns — selling by brand names including Theragun, Hypervolt and more — are everywhere these days. But what do they actually do? Here’s everything you need to know about these percussive tools, and just where to find them in the UAE.
What is a rapid massage gun?
This pulsing device looks like a drill on steroids, with a hefty handle and rounded end that is to be applied to various points on the body. When used correctly, it causes skin to ripple under the repeated pulses.
Before a workout, it’s meant to help activate muscles. After a workout, the rapid massage gun is said to help reduce downtime and ease soreness. But with a hefty price — depending on the model, a rapid massage gun costs from Dh1,200 to Dh2,400 — does this trendy, slick therapy device actually work?
Why rapid massage guns are a thing
The foundations for Theragun stretch back to 2007, when a motorcycle accident left a Norwegian chiropractor named Jason Wersland badly injured. Searching for a non-pharmaceutical treatment for his pain, he ended up creating Theragun. With 40 percussions per second, it helped — and thanks to social media, a movement started.
“Theragun is the most powerful tool for deep muscle recovery, pain relief, and accelerated muscle warm up,” says Gary Barnett, marketing director of MeFitPro.
The company’s new sports website, Qooah, retails Theragun in the region.
“The percussive therapy overrides pain signals to the brain, increases heat in the tissue and releases tension,” he continues. In short, it’s perfect for everything from knots and cramps, “all without stress on your hands”.
The ease of use is something Theragun fans often mention. Unlike a foam roller, you don’t have to slide around awkwardly on the floor trying to hit that one spot. Unlike a massage ball, you’re not desperately trying to target the right muscle. Theraguns can be used anywhere, and their small size means hitting exact muscles is easy.
It has also been proven to echo results similar to a massage when it comes to easing sore post-workout muscles. A 2014 study at Central University in New Delhi compared the effects of vibration therapy and massage in preventing muscle soreness. Both significantly eased muscle soreness when compared to the control group. However researchers found vibration therapy was better at pain and lactic acid reduction, while massage was handier for the restoration of strength.
Theragun in the UAE
I’ve tried Theraguns several times: at a fitness summit, after a workout class at a trendy studio and at a recent event. They’re incredible: leaving my muscles relaxed and me feeling a bit like putty. I want one — and I’m not alone. When word got out I was interviewing for this piece, one trainer messaged me asking if I had any local Theragun contacts.
“I’m in neeeed of one of those,” he explained.
The devices are popping up everywhere these days, because they are cool and because they work. The Dubai-based doctor and founder of Diversified Integrated Sports Clinic, Tamara Ghazi, incorporates Theraguns into her therapy’s practice.
“It helps improve vascular circulation through vibration,” she says. “This in turn can assist a muscle that’s in spasm to release, which can help with pain management.”
She says fact clients can then use it at home is another bonus.
Boutique fitness studios, like Crank in Alserkal Avenue where I teach, are even offering the devices as an added-value perk.
“We chose it based on reviews from people we know, but also from good ratings online,” says Nuno Fernandes, one of Crank’s co-founders.
Fernandes also personally uses the rapid massage gun on his hips and glutes, to help relieve tightness.
“Since I have been using the Theragun, it’s improved a lot,” says Fernandes. “The Theragun doesn’t disappoint.”
Expect to see more Theraguns, too. While the company keeps local sales figures locally confidential, analysts have predicted the global massage equipment market to grow by six percent between 2017 and 2021, hitting US$24.4 billion (Dh89.5bn).
Do you need a Theragun?
That’s complicated. I personally love the Theragun, but I sometimes wonder if the results are really all that different from my much cheaper foam roller or massage ball.
According to Charles Kim, pain management specialist and assistant professor at NYU Langone Health’s Rusk Rehabilitation, not really: “All it is is a more sophisticated massage device.”
And despite Theragun’s repeated assertion that it operates its 16mm head at a 40-percussions-per-minute, there’s nothing to indicate that one frequency level or head tip is more beneficial than another.
“Studies have shown when you use different frequencies or stimulation, it can impart different types of effects,” says Kim. “But once again, this device and these claims have not been tested.”
That’s not to say Theragun, and similar percussive devices, don’t work. It’s just that with their considerable price tags, they may not be an option for everyone. Experts note that for some people, a simple foam roller or rolling pin might work just as well.
“I don’t want to upset the makers, but it’s like, is it a Rolex or a Timex? Both tell time, but the cost is the difference,” adds Kim.
Theragun, Hypervolt or a car buffer
Currently two models of Theragun are available in the UAE: the G3PRO, which includes two rechargeable batteries, operates at two speeds and has a moveable head with six attachments (Dh2,400).
“This is aimed at the fitness professional and enthusiast who needs treatment at home and on the go,” explains Barnett.
Meanwhile, the more affordable Theragun Liv has a built-in rechargeable battery, one speed and two attachments (Dh1,200).
While Theragun was arguably the first and is definitely the largest percussive device out there at the moment, it’s not alone. Other competitors have emerged, often appearing at more affordable price points.
These less expensive models can give you exactly what you need. They just might require a little extra research. When shopping for one, think about the noise levels, the number of different tips available for different uses, the weight, and the speed.
Theragun’s biggest competitor, Hypervolt, is available via Vibration.ae for Dh1,599 (on sale). Fans note this massage gun is incredibly quiet, a departure from the rather drill-esque sounds of other brands. Here you’ll also find Hypersphere, a vibrating massage ball (Dh659).
TimTam Power Massager offers a walloping similar to a Theragun, but comes at a fraction of the price (Dh1,038). Thumper Sports Massager includes an extra-long 16-inch design for those hard-to-reach spots (like between your shoulders) for a low price point (Dh706). There are even cheaper, made-in-China versions if you know where to find them. Search the internet and you’ll even find people who are turning to car waxers and polishers — the Black & Decker WP900 Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher, for example — for their massage fix.
How to use your percussion massager
Before a workout, use your massage device for max three minutes. Sweep it across the body, hitting major muscles. After a workout, slow down. Take a good 20 or so minutes looking for sore muscles and let your Theragun linger longer.
It’s important that you avoid bones as you go, says Dr Ghazi. “Also, go with how you feel,” she adds. “If it hurts, move away.” An itchy, prickly feeling is completely normal, Dr Ghazi notes: “That’s usually blood flow to the area.”
If you really want Theragun expertise, MeFitPro is hosting a Theragun Dubai Tour later this year. They also have an online community of trained Theragun experts that you can reach out to.
For those who like to stay at home, there are plenty of YouTube videos offering percussion massager advice.
Featured photo MeFitPro/Qooah.ae
Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist. In addition to working as editor-in-chief of Women's Health Middle East and Men's Health Middle East, Danae has written for The Sunday Times, CNN Travel, Dubai Tourism, The Guardian, Afar, Bloomberg and many more. She's based in Dubai and is a trainer at Crank. instagram.com/danaemercer