The Best Theragun to Buy (and the Best Alternatives)

In May 2020, Theragun rebranded as Therabody and launched four new percussive therapy devices—tools that use rapid bursts of pressure that stimulate blood flow to soothe sore muscles—featuring quieter motors than their predecessors. (These devices are still called Theraguns.)

We tested three from the new lineup for several weeks and spoke to a physical therapist and athletic trainer to see what exactly these devices are doing. Spoiler alert: They make us feel great but at a hefty price. We’ve outlined each of the new models below and what’s WIRED and TIRED about them. We’ve also included some more affordable options from other brands.

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Updated December 2020: We’ve tested and added a section on Theragun alternatives, like the Sharper Image Powerboost.

Jess Grey and Julian Chokkattu contributed to this guide.

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  • Photograph: Therabody

    What Does a Percussive Therapy Device Do?

    What the Experts Have to Say

    Jacklyn Plonski, an outpatient orthopedic and pediatric physical therapist, likened percussive therapy devices to using a foam roller or getting a professional physical therapy treatment. Here’s what she had to say:

    “As we exercise and challenge our muscles, we cause breakdown within the muscle fibers, which in turn stimulates muscle growth/regrowth, hypertrophy (increase muscle size), and strength. Mechanical stimulation of a muscle [with a device like the Theragun] causes increased blood flow and the release of histamines to the stimulated area. What this does is allow the increased blood flow to decrease the inflammatory response, decrease muscle soreness, and break up knots in athletes’ musculature.”

    Shelby Milne, an athletic trainer at the University of Pennsylvania, says athletes there swear by Theraguns and have used them for both pre- and post-training. (They currently use a different brand of percussive therapy devices.) “The oscillations can also act as a warming modality for the muscles and tissues before the activity,” she says.

    While Plonksi has seen anecdotal evidence supporting the use of a Theragun, and no apparent negative effects, she recommends always talking to your physician before trying something new like this.

  • Photograph: Therabody

    Best (and Quietest) Theragun Overall

    Theragun Elite

    The Theragun Elite tenderized my muscles like nothing else. With the right foam tip, even on its lowest speed setting, it was able to relieve deep tissue pain and muscle tension with just a few minutes of use. The app integration makes it easy to create and store massage routines for recurring aches, and it’s surprisingly quiet. (It’s Therabody’s quietest device.)

    It doesn’t have a rotating arm, but it doesn’t need it. The triangle design allows you to position your hand however you need to for reaching back and neck muscles. It comes with one battery, as opposed to the Pro’s two, but I got about two hours of use out of every charge, which was long enough for many sessions, since I rarely used it for more than 10 or 20 minutes at a time. — Jess Grey

    40 pounds of pressure and comes with five attachment heads

  • Photograph: Therabody

    Best for Serious Athletes

    Theragun Pro

    The most expensive of the bunch, the fourth-generation Pro is the kind of device used in a college’s athletic department or by a professional sports team. It uses 60 pounds of force at a variety of speeds. That might sound like a lot, and I, being a non-athlete, was terrified to try this at first because I was sure it would be painful, but it’s incredibly helpful for soothing my constantly sore back. It’s less 60 pounds of punching, more 60 pounds of delightful massages.

    It’s the only one in Therabody’s lineup with a rotating arm, which makes it effortless to use on any spot that would normally be awkward to reach yourself. It has an OLED screen so you can easily see the level of force, and it’s the only device that comes with a foam tip for sensitive areas. The Pro has two external batteries, and each can last 2.5 hours. It’s not silent, but it’s not so loud that it’ll wake your neighbors if you need to use it at night.

    60 pounds of pressure and comes with six attachment heads

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