“You’re so tight and full of knots. You should get massages more regularly.”
This is what I’ve heard from nearly every massage therapist I’ve been to. I’m someone whose body absorbs and holds onto all kinds of stress, tension, and pains. Like anyone else, I’d love a daily or even weekly massage. However, logistically and financially, that just isn’t feasible.
With so many of us wanting to work out those knots but unable to book regular massages, it’s little surprise that a more DIY replacement has cropped up. Since Theragun was first released in 2016, handheld percussive therapies have only increased in popularity, with the market valued at $115 million in 2022 and expected to grow to $178.3 million in 2032.
While I’ve had a Theragun for a few years, like many, I’ve just hit the same few tight spots and hoped for the best. But recently I was introduced to new techniques during a wellness weekend at Rancho Valencia in San Diego. The plan for the weekend was to relax, but me doing what I do best, I decided to jam-pack my schedule with back-to-back activities. From yoga and Pilates in the morning to jewelry making, tennis sessions, and ice baths in the evening, I anticipated a sore and stiff body come Monday morning. However, this didn’t turn out to be the case, thanks to a 60-minute Theragun recovery class that I ended my stay with.
How massage guns like Theragun work
A Theragun is a percussive therapy device designed by chiropractor Jason Wersland, DC. Injuries from a bad motorcycle accident had inspired him to create a tool that could relieve pain and tension and assist in recovery.
“Theragun percussive therapy aids in preventing aches and pains, reduces muscle tension, increases mobility and range of motion, increases blood flow, [relieves] tightness, and pain, and can assist in accelerating the repair and growth of muscles,” he says. And it doesn’t take long to reap the benefits. A recent review of research on the topic found percussive therapy could significantly improve strength and flexibility while decreasing muscle pain—with one 2022 study finding an increased range of motion and decreased injury risk after just two minutes.
What a Theragun recovery class is like
Our 60-minute session began and ended with massaging our hands, something which I’ve never really put much focus on. But when you think about it, our hands and feet are doing so much work each day—after all, they account for 106 bones, 160 joints, 126 muscles, and hundreds of ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves.
“I like to start at the edge of your pinky finger before working the gun down the edge of the forearm to the armpit and gently around the chest/pec area,” says instructor Brittanee Greenshaw. “If that’s the only thing you did at the end of the day, it would give you optimal lymphatic circulation benefits, very similar to dry brushing—but deeper.”
One thing I hadn’t expected were the after-effects of a lymphatic drainage massage—i.e. I felt less swollen, was thirsty, and had to pee. “Many students experience a thirsty sensation due to the excess/stagnant fluids being released from tissues,” says Greenshaw.
I don’t know if this had something to do with the results, but most of our session was done laying down on our backs. The process was slow and steady and we were encouraged to take breaks and stretch out sore areas where necessary. Greenshaw also came around with her Theragun to help stretch us and get into the tight points.
How to give yourself a full-body Theragun recovery session
While everyone’s body and recovery needs are very different, a general approach is to use the following sequence—while also remembering to massage the hand that’s holding the Theragun before moving onto the next area.
“Starting with the feet, move to the upper thighs, going back and forth before transitioning to the traps, hips, and forearms, before ending with the inner thighs in a butterfly position,” suggests Greenshaw. “From there, conclude with the chest, lower belly, and the hands once more.” Spend more time with the muscles that need the most love, and allow your body to stretch whenever you feel the need to.
But remember that it’s not necessarily essential to always have a full-body session—sometimes we just need to release tension in a certain area. Theragun’s app has been my friend for many years, providing a timed demonstration on how to target specific areas.
My new weekly commitment
The slow, steady, gentle, yet effective nature of DIY Theragun recovery is something I don’t typically experience during massages. Being so tight, I typically get a soft-tissue massage to loosen up the knots, which is generally more painful than relaxing.
Ever since the Theragun recovery class, I’ve continued to incorporate a weekly 60-minute session into my schedule. While having an instructor assist and demonstrate each step makes things more helpful, I’ve still noticed improvements like increased flexibility and reduced muscle tightness—particularly around my hamstrings—while doing it at home consistently.
“The 60-minute class is like getting a massage, so it is not necessarily every day,” says Greenshaw. “If you can spare even 10 minutes for the Theragun it’ll be beneficial for your recovery.” It’s hard to overdo it, though Dr. Wersland notes to keep the device always moving and not stagnant.
Will I still opt for massages when possible? Of course. However, in the interim, I will continue incorporating longer Theragun recovery sessions. Because so far, it’s been a game changer.
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