I kid you not: The day I turned 29, my back almost immediately started to hurt. By my 30th birthday, I had discovered that I have chronic sciatica, with pain that radiates down my lower back, then wraps under my glute and down the back of my thigh to my calf. It’s not pleasant, to say the least.
Sciatica is extremely common, with nearly 40 percent of all people experiencing the pain at some point in their lives. It can be triggered by something as innocent as a pinched nerve or as severe as a slipped disk. In my case, it’s a pinched nerve from carrying a giant tote bag on my mile-and-a-half commute and then running multiple days a week without stretching (tsk, tsk).
The only thing that’s helped so far? Stretching for hours and using a foam roller to loosen things up. Sometimes I carry a heating pad to work (how old am I, again?), and I've been going to physical therapy on and off for over a year, none of which kicked the pain for good. And then, I heard about a new gadget that sounded too good to be true. Meet: Theragun Liv. You’ve probably seen it on Instagram and in your late-night Amazon scrolling—it’s a deep tissue massager designed to relieve muscle tension, soreness and pain, and accelerate muscle activation and repair. Aka every athlete’s dream.
Now, I’m definitely not a hard-core athlete, but I could literally feel my muscle tension melting when I first learned about this device. So I had to try it. Made with an industrial-grade motor, it penetrates muscles 16 millimeters deep, 40 times per second to help loosen tightness and help speed muscle recovery along. It’s also the lightest (and cheapest) of all the Theragun models, so it’s easy to bring on the go. Two caveats: It’s pretty loud and it's definitely still an investment at $299 a pop. However, given the fact that physical therapy was running me about $100 per week, I could have paid for the Theragun ten times over by now.
At first test, the Liv felt amazing. Picture a deep tissue massage, targeted exactly where you need it. It's ergonomically designed for multiple grips, so you can easily use it on yourself without the help of another person. I held the triangular handle and targeted it toward my lower back and glute, letting the pulsating knob release the tension after a few minutes of use. However, I had to eventually put it away, because my dog started freaking out about the sound (thanks, Lou). The day following use, my muscle felt slightly bruised (in a good way?), but definitely less tight. And after a week of use, I really started to notice that my muscles felt looser and more relaxed. If my dog didn’t hate it so much, I’d probably use it multiple times per day to prevent any sciatic flare-ups.
The moral of the story: Theragun Liv is really effective in relieving my muscle tension, but I don’t recommend using it when the kids are sleeping or the dog is around.