Have you ever wanted to relieve severe pain in your back or neck with a power tool? One American was not afraid to do just that, and then he came to success. We tell how drills are reforged to “massage guns” - percussion massagers.
As a chiropractor came up with a "massage gun"
In 2007, an American doctor, Jason Wersland, had a motorcycle accident. As a result, he acquired a hernia of the intervertebral disc and back pain. To get rid of the pain, he invented Theragun. This is a gadget that looks more like a drill with a ping pong ball instead of a drill. This "ball" quickly moves back and forth. If you substitute a part of the body under it, you get a massage, which is called "percussion" because of the peculiarity of the movement.
Similarity to a drill is not an accident. Dr. Wersland grew up in a family of builders, so there was a tool in his house. After the accident, he tried all the methods he knew to get rid of the pain. Nothing helped. The vibrating massager, which his brother advised him, only "teased" the injury. Then the suffering American took out the tools and on his knee he assembled from them a primitive device that stimulated the sore spot exactly as the doctor wanted.
The piquancy of the situation gives another fact of the biography of the inventor. Wersland is not a real doctor. He is a chiropractor, which translates as "American chiropractor." Chiropractic is an area of alternative medicine that originated in the United States at the end of the 19th century. Her followers believe in the omnipotence of manual therapy. Massage your spine and everything will go away: from attention deficit disorder to intestinal inflammation. In reality, studies have proven the effectiveness of the method only for the treatment of acute lower back pain. Chiropractors are actively lobbying for their interests, so now the profession has gained respectability in the United States.
Chiropractic Wersland and Theragun Second Generation
In pursuit of the legitimacy of the chiropractor, they use modern achievements of science and technology. In the chiropractor’s office you will find both x-rays and physiotherapy devices. They work no worse than the same devices in “normal” hospitals. Another thing is how to use sophisticated technique. In this sense, Wersland found the perfect audience - athletes. It turned out that they had been looking for a device for a long time to perform the massage themselves.
Massage was popularized in the sports environment in the XX century by two “Flying Finns”. This is the name of the runners Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Virena. They won medals at the Olympic Games of 1924 and 1972, and regular massage was called the reason for success. The Soviet team also drove massage therapists with them. Scientific research and books followed, and by the end of the century, ancient practice had consolidated its status as an effective method of preventing injuries, preparing for competitions and maintaining peak shape. Chiropractors also began to actively sell their services to athletes, competing with massage therapists for sore backs and sprained muscles.
However, Wersland did not immediately realize that his embarrassing invention had potential. First, the doctor began massaging the clients' bodies with the prototype Theragun, and a little after - selling Theragun to chiropractic colleagues. The first gadgets, he said, were "barbaric", noisy and worked from the outlet.
Having launched its production, the inventor did not give up chiropractic. During one group therapy session, Wersland distributed a dozen first-generation Theragun devices to young athletes from an American college who were waiting in line for massage. They quickly figured out how to use the devices. The price of $ 600 for a massager did not bother them either. Wearsland was inundated with orders.
The sudden appearance of the gadget, which convincingly imitates the strong movements of the hands of a massage therapist, has become a real revelation for athletes. With Theragun, you can warm up your muscles during training; with Theragun you can relieve stress right during the competition. The gadget does not sleep, does not require payment for its services and does not get tired. And with such a thing, spectacular videos for Instagram are obtained : win-win.
Theragun's first competitors appeared almost instantly. Even so: Theragun's viral fame spawned a new category of devices. Wersland's company immediately had to do improvements and improvements. And also by advertising: Theragun has the highest quality marketing, especially on social media. In the latter respect, competitors have not yet caught up with the market leader.
Three generations of percussion brand massagers have come out to date. The most popular, the second, was launched in 2017. The newest, the third - at the beginning of 2019.
In January, the company announced the G3Pro. This, as the name implies, is an expensive model for professionals, masseurs and athletes. Externally, the device departed from the "brutal" design a la drill. The new Theragun has acquired a minimalist body without protruding extra parts. Such a stylish gadget is more likely to be seen in Apple’s ads than in the “couch shop”.
Almost the most advertised improvement was the noise level. At full power, the G3Pro buzzes at 70 dB. It's about like a washing machine and quieter than a hairdryer. The original massager roared like an airplane taking off.
Noise is a painful topic for all percussion massagers, because the more powerful the motor, the louder it works. With a weak device you can’t get to the sore spot, because you press a little harder - and the hammer stops. G3Pro has no such problem; According to the developers, the “industrial” Japanese motor is located inside the compact device. The nozzle moves with a frequency of 2400 or 1700 beats per minute, depending on the mode.
In practice, this means that the massager can be pressed into the body and stimulate exactly the place that hurts. Even if you press hard, the massager does not stop working. Do you know the painful "nodules" that sometimes arise after training? Theragun “unties” them, which is what athletes say with enthusiasm. If the “knot” is too painful, then you can slow down the massager - switch it to a more gentle second mode. The beam with the hammer is rotated and fixed in four positions to reach one of the 6 nozzles to the desired point.
G3 Pro comes with two replaceable batteries. Each provides about 75 minutes of massage. No wires: glory to lithium batteries.
In April, two more Theragun models came out: the G3 and Liv. Cheaper, lighter, less powerful. The G3 model is quieter, 70 dB, Liv a little louder - 75 dB. Both are designed for use at home, or, for example, in gyms.
Left to right: Theragun G3, Theragun Liv
Both massagers operate at a maximum frequency of 2400 beats per minute, but the power is different. Theragun G3 is stronger and does not stop if you push it into the body. Liv, by contrast, can be stopped. In addition, the device’s batteries are not removable and are designed for 60 and 45 minutes of operation, respectively. Four nozzles are supplied with the G3; the device has two operating modes; together with Liv the user receives 2 nozzles and one mode.
All three models do exactly what the target audience expects from them: they reduce soreness in the muscles and increase their mobility, as well as reduce recovery time after a hard workout. Theragun also recommends using a massager for pain in the neck, with tunnel syndrome, arthritis and other diseases and unpleasant conditions.
75 min x 2
As stated above, competitors were inspired by Theragun's success. Including those who have already dealt with devices for athletes. For example, a startup Hyperice: in 2010, he developed a special ice pack to reduce pain during training and injuries. A compress differs from an ice towel in that you can walk and do your own thing with it. Compress was sold only to professional athletes for a couple of years. The next device, the Vyper vibrating massage roller, was launched in 2014 on Kickstarter. The gadget raised 250 thousand dollars, but did not earn much fame.
In 2015, the company introduced a massager called Raptor. This hefty gadget resembles a jackhammer. It was assumed that an assistant or a massage therapist would literally “hollow out” pain from the athlete’s body, relaxing entire muscle groups with “percussion massage”.
Raptor is a heavy massager, weighs 1.58 kg. The masseur holds it with both hands at once and directs the vibrations from himself. Wired power, operating frequency is 3600 beats per minute. According to the assurances of Hyperice, the device is quite powerful and does not stop when it is pressed into the muscles. Only a few can test this promise in practice, as the Raptor is not intended for the general public. It is a certified medical device that requires an understanding of human anatomy for proper handling.
In 2018, Hyperice, in the wake of popularity, Theragun launched the Hypervolt Handheld Wireless Massager. Hypervolt is reminiscent of a hair dryer. The hammer does not turn, which may be for the better: there is less chance of breakage. The capacious battery in the handle is removed, although with difficulty, and provides up to three hours of operation of the device, depending on the intensity. Three modes, maximum gives 3200 beats per minute.
Hypervolt volume is 65 dB, approximately like a vacuum cleaner or a quiet hair dryer. At the time of release, it was one of the quietest percussion massagers on the market. New Theragun consumer models regain Wersland's palm. Hyperice and many other manufacturers of percussion massagers practically do not disclose accurate information about their devices. Therefore, it is difficult to objectively compare them.
In 2016, Canadian fighter Georges Saint-Pierre, along with his trainer Firas Zahabi and physiotherapist Kelly Starrett, founded the TimTam startup to produce percussion massagers. In the market of massagers, the novelty was received with interest. A decent alternative was needed for those who would like to buy Theragun or a vibrating massager, but are not ready to shell out hundreds of dollars for one device.
The first TimTam has quite obvious Chinese roots. As Starrett told WSJ, the tool was made on the basis of a jigsaw. It turned out a powerful, frighteningly loud device, which is good for relaxing large muscle groups - quadriceps, calf, femoral and gluteal muscles.
The most popular TimTam v1.5 model works with a frequency of 2500 beats per minute with a volume of 90 dB. Its removable battery lasts for half an hour, but it's hard to imagine that anyone could endure a noisy massager for more than 5 minutes in a row. Is that a Russian, accustomed to the eternal rumble of neighboring repairs.
The highlight of the device is in interchangeable nozzles, which are sold separately. In addition to the standard malleus, like competitors, there are steel tips for deep massage, as well as plastic balls for heating and cooling. The “hot” ball is placed in the microwave for a minute, the “cold” ball is cooled in the refrigerator. Then they are screwed to the massager and make hot or cold massage.
In April 2019, the company announced the next version of the massager, TimTam Pro. The name changed several times, in July the device finally came out under the name All New Power Massager. This gadget, unlike the noisy predecessor, works almost silently, with a volume of 25 dB. The motor produces 2800 beats per minute, the beam with the nozzle leans back 90 degrees. The plans for the massager were Napoleonic: they wanted to add built-in nozzle heating and a body temperature sensor to see which areas should be kneaded. This was not implemented, as a result, the company began selling the next iteration of the V15 model - but quiet.
TimTam Pro / V2
Chinese manufacturers have long and dearly loved all kinds of torture massage apparatuses. They physically could not miss a new niche. There are too many of them, they are all about the same, so let's focus on the Red Skill brand. Why? Because it can be purchased at Madrobots.
There is only one model in the Red Skill line. It works almost silently: the volume does not exceed 30 dB. The gadget operates in five modes and produces from 1300 to 4600 beats per minute. The batteries should last for 3-5 hours of massage, depending on speed. Complete with a massager there are 4 nozzles.
The most significant advantage of Red Skill, in addition to accessibility, is the handle that fits well in the hand and the LEDs clearly indicate charge level and speed. The disadvantage is that it is not as powerful as Theragun. As stated above, this is a common situation for percussion massagers.
Similar models of percussion massagers are found under different names. Design, flaws and advantages are copied almost completely. Fortunately, the concept itself is simple enough so that it can be reproduced with minimal loss to the end user.
What is your evidence?
How effective is a percussion massager in reality?
Percussion massagers, as a phenomenon and as a specific device, appeared only a few years ago. Therefore, randomized controlled trials of these entertaining gadgets do not yet exist. But there are hundreds of athletes and influencers on Instagram that promote devices to the masses.
Experts very carefully comment on the benefits of massagers. New York physiotherapist Dan Giordano told Self that most likely percussion massagers work in accordance with the “gate control” theory. Rhythmic tapping and vibration block the flow of pain impulses. This is a temporary solution to the problem, which helps to cope with pain after training.
Dr. William Oswald of NYU Langone Health Medical Research Center noted that Theragun improves blood circulation. This is good for relieving muscle pain, but does not have a particular long-term effect. The design of the device allows you to get to deep-lying muscles, inaccessible to the massage roller.
Athletes who use Theragun or TimTam know this in practice. The massager relieves pain and buys time for a workout or performance. In addition, by dispersing blood in the muscles, the athlete gets the opportunity to continue to work effectively on them. This is important for bodybuilders, crossfit enthusiasts and lovers of weight lifting.
People who are far from sports are also actively using percussion massagers. Having ordered a cheap Chinese massager, a person relieves them of tension in the neck, shoulders and back, or relieves pain in the elbow, aching from long work at the computer. This is better than taking pain medication or enduring.
An interesting fact: for reasons of economy, massage parlors, trainers and HLS fans collect their own massagers from drills and jigsaws. The DIY trend peaked at the Electric Forest electronic music festival in Michigan, where masseuses in the shape of Rosie the riveter treat visitors with electric car polishers.
Manufacturers of power tools are worried about such a free attitude to their product, not wanting to be responsible for possible injuries. Of course, it is better to use gadgets for their intended purpose: drill a wall with a drill, and use an electric massager to stretch aching muscles.