Massage Guns and Physical Therapy
The Best Massage Guns on the Market by Kevin Gray
If you’ve been inside a gym or physical therapist’s office over the past couple years—or scrolled through your Instagram feed—you’ve likely come face-to-face with a percussive massage gun. These popular tools look like power drills and are designed to aid recovery, decrease soreness and increase range of motion by pleasantly beating your muscles into submission.
When the Theragun and the TimTam Power Massager launched in 2016, they were in a class of their own above other personal massagers on the market. Rather than kneading your muscles with simple vibrations, they featured powerful percussive massage therapy, a form of deep soft tissue manipulation. Basically, they punched you. Rapidly.
After finding favor among gym-goers, CrossFitters, and NBA athletes like Kyrie Irving, the category began to expand, with several more products hitting the market. Now, options include the Hypervolt and KraftGun, plus more upstarts that seem to pop up each week. It’s enough to make your head spin—which would likely cause some neck pain that a massage gun could address.
With three years on the market, the companies behind the devices are now releasing next-gen versions, like the Theragun G3 Pro, and the use of massage guns for recovery looks less like a trend and more like a practice with real staying power. Here's what you need to know about the tools so you can to incorporate them into your own routine.
To learn more about what to look for in a massage gun, we spoke with Josh Orendorf, a physical therapist, certified personal trainer and the owner of Paceline Physical Therapy in Franklin, Tennessee.
“The three most important things for me are reliability, noise, and battery life,” says Orendorf. “I need something that I know is well-made and won’t malfunction during operation, especially because I’m using it on injured athletes. Noise is the next most important factor. I need to be able to talk to my athletes over the noise of the gun without yelling at them.”
Next up is battery life, as Orendorf also can’t have guns dying in the middle of treatment. He says that he expects a gun to last several full days without requiring a charge. “You’ll also want to be able to throw the gun in your bag or take it on a weekend trip without worrying about finding an outlet,” he says.
That list of priorities remains mostly the same for at-home use. Orendorf notes that reliability is still key, and that it’s worth investing in a legitimate brand with high quality standards rather than a knockoff. “Be prepared to spend at least $250 to $350 for a quality product,” he says. “I would be very suspect of guns in the $100 range.”
Of course, even the best guns leave room for improvement. Some options come with convenient travel cases and charging stands—something Orendorf would like to see more products offer. He also mentions that dishwasher-safe attachment heads would make for easier cleaning. And, as the market continues to progress, he hopes for smaller (yet still powerful) designs and Bluetooth app-integration.