This Travel-Friendly Massage Gun Is A Godsend For My Sore Neck

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I’ve had a sore neck basically since high school. With few moments of reprieve, I’ve lived every day of my adult life with some level of strain or stiffness, thanks to hunching over a keyboard every day for work (and over my phone after hours). 
But unfortunately for me and my decrepit neck, I also hate booking in for a massage. Once I’m there, it’s a delight, but the admin of booking, then actually turning up (and paying for the pleasure) is generally enough of a hurdle to prevent me from ever doing it. It’s in this spirit that I decided to try the Theragun Mini, $349. Compact and cute, this percussive massage gun promises to pummel muscles into submission without much hassle. I tried it for two months — here are my thoughts.  

First, what is a percussive massage gun?

A percussive massage gun is a physical massager that makes the old, vibrating massage guns of years past look like fossils. In layperson’s terms, percussive massage guns use vibrations (they’re more like boom-boom-boom vibrations, rather than a traditional buzzing) to relieve muscle strain, and claim to aid in speeding up recovery post-workout. Most come with a number of attachments that can provide different levels of pressure and intensity. 
Studies into the long-term benefits of using a percussive massager are limited, and while some brands may claim to increase sports performance long-term, the data just isn’t there yet. Anecdotally speaking, they do provide relief for my sore neck and back when I need a good pummelling but don’t feel like booking in for a massage. They’re also helpful in targeting those tricky-to-reach spots, like your shoulder blades.

How does the Theragun Mini compare to the Theragun Pro?

The main things that drew me to the Theragun Mini were its small size and fuss-free setup. While many percussive massagers have endless attachments in several odd shapes and sizes, the three massage heads for the Mini are simple (for reference, the Theragun Pro, $899, comes with six). Compared to the Theragun Pro, which is widely accepted to be one of the best massagers on the market and beloved by athletes the world over, it’s also 20% smaller and 30% lighter.
The lighter weight is important to me, because I have zero upper body strength, so holding a big, whopping massager over my shoulder is not easy. To my mind, the Theragun Pro is for people who need regular, deep, intense massaging. But for me, the Mini is perfect. 
Under the hood, the biggest differences are the amount of force the device can apply to the body, the depth at which it can massage, and its battery life. To those points, the Mini of course isn’t as powerful, applying 10kg versus the Pro’s 27kg, penetrating 10mm into the muscle compared to 16mm and lasting 120 minutes on one charge compared to the Pro’s 150 minutes. But for me, an average user who is not an athlete, it's plenty.  

What comes in the box?

When I opened the box, I was pleased to learn that the device is as compact as Theragun promises and that while the Theragun Pro comes in a large carry case, the mini has a small zipper pouch for easy storage.
The box includes:
- Theragun Mini device
- Three attachments: standard ball, dampener, thumb
- USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- Soft case

How do you use the Theragun Mini?

There’s not a lot to say about how to use the Theragun Mini, because it’s super simple. Pull it out of the box, push on the massage head you want that day and hit start. To replace the massage head, you can just pull one off and press on the next. Then, apply the bobbing massage head to the muscle that’s feeling stiff, and move it around until you hit the sweet spot. That’s it. 
If you prefer a more guided approach, there's also a Therabody app, which allows you to select a massaging routine based on your desires that day. For example, there’s a six-minute bedtime massage that guides you through 12, 30-second movements ranging from massaging your feet and traps, to your lower back and shins. It also has an in-built timer, so you don’t lose track of time. Of course, there are also dedicated post-workout routines, or you can just go at your own pace and apply the device wherever you feel like you need it. 

The verdict

After using the Theragun Mini for the last two months, I’ve come to the conclusion that I love it. At $349, it’s definitely not a necessity, but if you find that your muscles need a bit of TLC after a long day at the office, or after a particularly hard workout, then I say give it a go. I’m almost certain that I’m not using it in a way that’s optimised for recovery, but it provides a sense of active meditation and the little self-care moment is just nice. 
You can regularly find me perched at my dining room table that doubles as my workspace, massaging my neck between meetings or when I need a minute to think. But what really sold me on the device was how delicious it feels after a long-haul flight. Compact and travel-friendly, it now comes along with me on any trips I take, to help me cure the unavoidable stiff neck that comes with being perched in economy class for hours on end. 
I’ve also tried other massage guns in the past, which I liked but made my skin almost feel a bit itchy, I assume because the massaging itself was a bit rougher, so the smoothness of motion with the Theragun Mini is noticeable. It feels like it’s working the muscle without irritating my skin, which is something that’s hard to describe unless you’ve experienced the sensation. 
I also particularly love using the “thumb” attachment on my upper neck where my skull meets my spine, because I hold a lot of tension there. This small attachment makes the massaging feel quite targeted, and I love that. 
Like all things that relate to health and your body, consult your health provider before starting to use a massage gun if you have any underlying conditions or injuries. But if you’re like me and just need a little bit of muscle relief after a hard day, this device might be a nice addition to your self-care routine.
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