Too many things can leave a person feeling sore and achy – training, exercise, even simple housework. Whether you’re an athlete or not, you can get tight muscle knots. One of the best ways to get rid of tightness is through massage.
Massage therapy has been proven to be effective in managing a myriad of conditions, including:
· Chronic back pain
· Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
· Soft tissue injuries
It’s even said to be effective in anxiety and stress management. The physical benefits of massage include improved circulation, reduced muscle tension, increased joint mobility and increased flexibility. It’s no wonder then that the massage industry is a billion-dollar enterprise.
Over the last few years, there’s been a proliferation of massage tools in the market. For a while, the “in” thing is a foam roller. But in the last couple of years, the foam roller has been slowly losing its stronghold to a new device – the massage gun. What is a massage gun? Is it worth it? How does a massage gun compare to the foam roller?
Massage Gun – What is it?
A massage gun is a percussive therapy device. That is, it uses percussion to deliver soft blows to muscle tissue that in effect, will help the tissues relax. This same motion is also meant to stimulate blood flow to the area, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to help boost recovery.
Traditionally, massage therapists use their hands or wrists to deliver soft strikes to the muscles. A massage gun mimics the same effect. Most of the massage guns in the market today resemble power tools, with attachment heads replacing drill bits. But what advantage does it have over other massage tools?
Massage Gun vs Foam Roller
Much like massage guns, foam rollers are myofascial release tools. They are meant to help release muscle tightness and sensitivity. A foam roller looks like an oversized rolling pin made of hard foam. Some come with grooves, some are smooth. Some also have a vibrate function. But the way they’re used are the same. You hold it in place in a flat, sturdy surface and sort of lean into it. The pressure works the knots out.
The issue here is research shows foam rolling may not be helpful with myofascial release at all because it takes a great amount of force to break fascia down. It does help with stimulating nerve endings though, so it can help with relaxation. In addition to the limited benefits, foam rolling can be uncomfortable. Because the surface area covered by the roller is big, it can hit nerve receptors even on areas you’re not even targeting.
This is where massage guns have the advantage. The smaller, much handier massage gun allows you to hyper-target the area that needs attention. It’s a more streamlined solution.
It must still be noted, however, that using one or the other won’t totally eliminate muscle soreness. Instead, they help reduce inflammation and break up the knots formed after working out.
For this review, we didn’t really want to spend time balancing on a foam roller. So we’re focusing on massage guns. The self-proclaimed leader of the pack in the massage gun niche is Therabody’s Theragun PRO. We matched it against a relative newcomer to the Australian market, the Hydragun. Will these devices really deliver a deep tissue massage? Can they help with muscle recovery? Which brand of the massage gun is the best? We find out.
The Theragun PRO is the latest in the line of massage guns launched by Therabody. Every purchase of the Theragun PRO comes with the massage gun itself, 6 different attachment heads, a carrying case for the massage gun, a travel pouch for the heads, 2 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and a charger.
Here are the quick specs:
up to 5 hours
matte-finish hard plastic
With Carry Case
We tested the massage heads on sore spots and problem areas after working out. It should be noted though that according to the Theragun website, it can also be used for activating the muscles before working out.
How did the Theragun PRO fare?
First off, the device is not exactly light. At almost a kilo and a half, it has some heft. If your arm muscles are very tired and sore, you’d either want the massage done in two minutes or just ask someone else to do it for you. Because the longer you do it yourself, the more you feel the weight.
Having said that though, Theragun PRO’s ergonomic design is fantastic. The triangular base lets you find the most optimal grip and the rotating heads make even hard to reach areas in the back a bit more accessible.
It’s relatively easy to use. Just a touch of a button lets you move through the 5 preset speeds. Be wary though. The 16mm amplitude means the Theragun PRO hits deep. It’s great for deep tissue massages for sure. But if your muscles are intensely painful already, this can get uncomfortable real quick, even at the lowest setting.
There’s also the noise. The website says this is one of the quietest models. It’s not loud, but it’s not quiet either. Placed near the shoulder area, you can definitely feel a rattling in your head.
At a cost of almost a thousand dollars, the Theragun PRO is an investment. But is it the best one? Before we answer that, let’s look at the competition.
Hydragun is both the name of the company and the flagship device. There’s currently only one model available. What does each purchase include?
· Hydragun massage gun
· 6 attachment heads
· UK-Type 3-pin charger
· Universal Adapter (for countries that use a different type of plug)
What are the specifications?
up to 6 hours
Aerospace Grade Aluminium
With Carry Case
Comparing apples to apples, Hydragun is a little bit lighter than the PRO. On that note, let’s just quickly go over the fact that on top of this being light, we think it comes with a better carry case overall. The Hydragun carrying case is slim and has little depressions to fit the massage gun and all the little attachments plus the charger. The Theragun case, bulky as it is, only fits the device itself. The attachments go into a regular pouch where they’re free to bump each other and make finding the one you need more tedious.
Design-wise, the Hydragun looks like most massage guns out there. But the material feels premium. Their website says it’s made with an aerospace-grade aluminium finish. It certainly feels very sturdy. The handle is angled at 99-degrees so the grip is a bit more natural. We missed the rotating abilities of the Theragun though. Hydragun is just fixed in one position.
Performance-wise, we liked that it has more speed settings. The lower settings were fantastic for light massages. The higher ones were great when we needed a deeper stimulation. All in all, this is a more customizable machine versus the Theragun PRO.
Finally, it bears mentioning that the Hydragun is quiet. After the Theragun PRO, we pretty much expected all massage guns to sound roughly the same. We were wrong. The Hydragun just gives off this quiet hum at the lowest setting. It does sound louder on higher settings but even at the highest, it still is not loud. You can comfortably use it and hold a conversation without the noise disrupting.
So what’s our verdict?
Both the Hydragun and the Theragun PRO delivered well on the promise to relieve soreness and let us recover faster. The Theragun PRO’s higher price tag does align well with its performance. However, for that price tag, we also expected more. The design is nice but at the same time, it could have been made of more durable material to match its power. The bag is nice, but it would have been more convenient if everything fits inside. The massage gun could be quieter.
The Hydragun for its part is not entirely inexpensive. But it does leave Theragun in the dust in terms of noise level. The design may be leaning on the generic side, but it gives a premium feel. It certainly looks sturdy. It has enough power and is easily customizable. Carrying it is a breeze.
Over-all, we feel the Theragun PRO price does not match the features. This one goes to Hydragun.