Like a lot of folks, sometimes I work out and sometimes I don't. But regardless of whether I just ran a mile on a treadmill or not, my muscles still get sore on a fairly regular basis, especially along my lower back and on my right forearm. Because I work from home and spend most of my time sitting at a desk, those dull pangs tend to feel significantly worse as the week goes on, too.
When I first heard about Therabody's top-rated massage guns, my initial thought was that they probably weren’t built with someone like me in mind. Celebrated for their app-friendly functionality and ability to pound away at tight tissue for rapid muscle recovery, these elite-level devices seemed specifically designed for high-performance athletes.
Would a person like me, who exercises casually but also deals with recurring body aches and pain, get any real benefit from this, or was it just another overhyped gadget with a high price tag? I wasn't sure—that is, until I tried out one of Therabody’s most popular models, the Theragun Prime, for myself.
What Is the Theragun Prime?
The Theragun Prime ($299) is a smart device that’s designed to deliver percussive massages, a type of stimulation that involves rapidly striking tender muscle tissue to increase blood flow to the targeted area. Experts claim this can be good for pre-exercise warm-ups, as the vibrations help to loosen up stiff limbs before physical activity; it can also be useful for accelerating the post-workout recovery process.
Think of it as a souped-up version of a foam roller, only this handheld device gives tired limbs a double whammy of soothing relief and hard-hitting force, all at once. The Theragun Prime has five built-in speed ranges that can offer up to 2400 percussions per minute (PPM), making it a solid mid-level option as PPMs go (they usually range from 1200 to 3400, and the higher they are, the more powerful the device is).
Additionally, this unit is Bluetooth-enabled, so you can pair it with Therabody’s free app and gain access to special tips, guided routines, and more. It even comes with four attachments (a standard ball, a dampener, a thumb, and a cone) and has a 16-millimeter amplitude, which according to the brand, means it can reverberate 60 percent deeper into muscle tissue than most average massage guns on the market.
Theragun Prime: The Pros
Along with the Theragun Prime, I received a couple of accessories from the brand, including the Supersoft attachment ($30), and a Prime charging stand ($59). Right off the bat, I was impressed with the clean, minimalist look of the packaging, which reminded me of Apple products. Once unboxed, the massage gun stood out for its triangular-shaped handle, which made the device easy to grip and hold onto, especially as I rubbed it along hard-to-reach areas on my lower back and shoulders. Most massage guns have long vertical handles, so immediately, this feature helped separate the Theragun Prime from the competition.
The model already had some battery power right out of the box, but as I used it regularly over the course of two weeks, I found that the 120-minute run time—one of the Theragun Prime’s major selling points online—turned out to be more or less accurate. Using the charging stand, it took about an hour or so to fully recharge the device, and I liked that it could also function as a display holder for the Prime when I wasn’t using it. The drawstring carrying bag that came with the unit seemed a bit thin (and not as heavy-duty as some zip-top protectors that other massage guns come with), but it was useful for quick storage when I wasn’t at home, especially when I lugged the gadget to the gym and later, to a few outdoor disc golf courses.
Therabody’s companion app for iOS and Android devices proved to be as intuitive to use as it was simple to download. After signing up and syncing it to the Theragun Prime, I was able to browse through a variety of featured routines (some hosted by celebrities like Julianne Hough and athletes like Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman and MMA fighter Dustin Poirier), as well as specialized ones for first-time users and those who work from home like me and have more pronounced aches and pains along their forearms and lower backs.
For those with more specific ailments like tech neck or carpal tunnel syndrome, the app has guided routines too, but you should consult with a trusted healthcare provider before using the Theragun Prime to help treat or manage these conditions.
Theragun Prime: The Cons
I was excited to see what kind of impact the Theragun Prime would have on the more sensitive parts of my body, specifically my right forearm. Based on the guided routine I chose via the app, I knew the dampener—an all-purpose attachment the brand claims is ideal for bony areas—would be the best option. Changing out the attachment heads was a bit tricky at first, though, and I had to really tug at it the first time to get it to pop off on and on. With time, this got easier, but it seemed like the changeable heads weren’t fully secured into the massage gun’s base unless I pushed them in hard.
Using the massager along my right forearm for the first time, I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer might of it. Even on its lowest setting, I felt like I was on the receiving end of a meat tenderizer, with the gadget hellbent on flattening out the pulpy parts of my flesh. Although the Theragun Prime retracts from skin about 40 times per second, it can deliver up to 30 pounds worth of force with each wallop, so it’s essentially punching your most delicate areas into submission.
I’d never experienced anything quite like it before, and while initially I disliked it, after running the massage gun along my right forearm for about seven minutes (the recommended time, based on the app), I noticed a difference almost immediately. The dull aches I felt went away and didn’t bother me again for the rest of the day; the same was true when I used it on my lower back and shoulders.
One thing that did continue to bother me, however, was how loud it sounded. Therabody claims this device is quieter than an electric toothbrush, but that wasn’t the case for me when I tried it; rather, it was like someone started using a jackhammer in my living room. Outdoors, the sound carried across the open disc golf field, and even my partner—who was several feet away from me when I started using it to warm up before throwing discs—could hear it.
Is the Theragun Prime Worth It?
Overall, the Theragun Prime does what it claims it will: It provides targeted relief to sore spots all around the body and can be effective before and after a workout, so whether you're warming up or winding down, it's a useful gadget to have in your arsenal. If you're shopping for a well-designed massage gun with ample battery life that can deliver a lot of power, it completely fits the bill.
The Therabody app is another edge-maker. It helped offset the learning curve I feared would be a big part of using such a high-tech gadget. As it gathered more data about my usage, the app even provided personalized recommendations. While it's no substitute for working directly with a physical therapist, I personally enjoyed it.
That said, there were a couple of noticeable downsides: It's loud, despite what the brand suggests, so if you're looking for a whisper-quiet unit, this probably isn't the best one for you. Although it's portable and comes with a drawstring pouch, you might want to think about investing in a zip-top carrying case, too, just for better protection. Also, while some accessories, like the Prime charging stand, were great, others (like the Supersoft attachment, which I used but didn't like as much as the dampener) seemed unnecessary.
Whether or not the Therabody Prime would work better for you than a foam roller or a budget-friendly alternative recommended by experts is really a personal call. I probably wouldn't spend nearly $300 on a massage gun given what I used it for, but it certainly was nice to have and I could absolutely see how someone who leads a very active lifestyle, or who plays a lot of sports and is concerned about muscle recovery, could get a lot of this device.