Putting the Brakes on Pain: TheraGun Review
Few cyclists I know ride completely pain-free. I’ve struggled with various pain issues for years, including recurrent IT band and knee pain (related to weakness after hip surgery), shoulder pain after a crit crash, and sciatic nerve pain that ran down the back of my leg. I’ve tried nearly every therapy: joint supplements, prescription anti-inflammatories, dietary changes, pain relievers, physical therapy, arnica, massage, acupuncture, and the dreaded rest. I’m always curious to learn more about anything that can help me recover fast and get back on the bike.
This February, I planned to take a 12-hour overnight bus ride to Canada and race at Mattamy outside Toronto the next day. But after making the same long drive to race there in January and experiencing lasting soreness just from the car ride, I felt apprehensive about actually being able to perform once I got there.
The opportunity to try the TheraGun – a neuro-muscular device aimed at relieving pain without ongoing medication or expensive treatment – sounded promising, so I interviewed Dr. Jason S. Wersland, the inventor and a chiropractor, to find out more about how it worked.
He developed the technology after experienced chronic pain and soft tissue inflammation from disc herniation after a motorcycle accident injury. The existing strategies he used with his patients and athletes didn’t provide a sustained decrease in pain for himself, so he took a different approach – precisely-dialed "percussive therapy."
Why percussive therapy? Compared to techniques like foam rolling and massage, it works the brain-body connection to change the relationship with pain. “When you introduce something to the body that’s higher frequency or stimulus, it has to pay attention,” he said.
This wasn’t a foreign idea to me. After dealing with years of knee and IT band pain and months of physical therapy, I’d visited a pain management specialist. As one potential strategy, she recommended a class of antidepressants to rewire the relationship and signals my mind had established with pain.
Besides being physically uncomfortable, pain had led me to establish poor movement patterns in an attempt to limit or avoid the sensation – which is something Dr. Jason discovered as well. “People’s walking patterns change when sore - they’re trying to protect themselves,” he said. While rest is typically recommended when suffering from injuries, I always balanced that against losing fitness, training time, and missing out on social rides with my friends.
The night before my race in Canada, I turned on the TheraGun. As a note, it’s not as quietest– I may have scared the poor cat in my host’s home. But compared to lugging a foam roller and contorting on the floor to reach difficult areas, I far preferred using the TheraGun while sitting comfortably on the couch watching Olympic figure skating.
It’s that immediate, enjoyable aspect that sets the percussive therapy apart. No matter how beneficial physical therapy exercises and foam rolling are, they require daily adherence to a routine and a greater amount of time to see benefits. When you’re looking to go on your next ride or compete in your next race today, you need to feel the immediate difference. That’s some Dr. Jason has seen with professional athletes who used the therapy. “You get up and move better, which puts your mind in a better state,” he said.
Between each race, despite the funny looks for applying what looked like a power drill to my leg, I dutifully used the TheraGun while fellow racers foam rolled. Despite racing with too heavy a gear, my legs felt fresher after each race, and after returning home on another overnight bus ride, I didn’t feel that cramped, aching feeling in my legs. For me, that psychological aspect makes all the difference.
Learn more about the TheraGun here.