This Massage Gun Is Easing My Knee Pain Just in Time For the NYC Marathon

Fitness

Woman training for a marathon

I’m 14 weeks into training for my first marathon. Over the past three and a half months, I’ve spent 55 hours pounding the pavement and clocked more than 300 miles.

There’s been a moment in each and every one of these runs when my endorphins have kicked in and made me feel like I’m soaring. But that elation only lasts a few minutes before a throbbing pain in my left knee kicks in to remind that I am not, in fact, flying. Rather, I’m basically forcing my body to the point of exhaustion, then asking it to go a little further.

Since giving up isn’t an option — if I quit now, all of the sober nights and early morning runs would have been for nothing — proper recovery has become essential for keeping myself going. And while all the usual methods like foam rolling, stretching, and percussive therapy have been endlessly helpful, nothing has made a bigger difference in staving off mid-run discomfort than the new Hydragun Heat Pulse Knee Massager ($169).

How the massager helps with running-induced knee pain

As I — and anyone else who’s ever logged upwards of 30 miles a week — can tell you from firsthand experience, “runner’s knee” is a very real thing. According to Nirav Pandya, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at UC San Francisco, this umbrella term can be used to describe “any kind of irritation of the knee, particularly around the kneecap area or the tendons that support the knee” and is typically caused by overuse and a lack of flexibility and strength.

While being thoughtful about how quickly you increase your mileage (no more than 10 percent a week) and regular stretching and strength training (particularly in your core in your glutes) can help stave off this discomfort, the Hydragun Heat Pulse Knee Massager will take things to the next level — especially if the pain has already started to set in.

“The massager helps to manage knee pain by improving blood flow and circulation to the area, decreasing areas of muscular tension, and decreasing joint stiffness and pain — all in order to improve soft tissue flexibility and joint mobility to ultimately improve performance,” Zachary R. Colls, DPT, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells POPSUGAR.

The knee massager combines heat and gentle vibrations (which feels just as amazing as it sounds) in a way that’s specifically designed to relieve pain from overuse.

“Many running-related knee injuries can lead to stiffness and pain, both of which can often be reduced by heat and massage,” says Will Harlow, founder and lead physiotherapist at HT Physio. “Heat is a fantastic modality for improving joint mobility and muscle flexibility, which can improve running technique and reduce the risk of injury in runners . . . and the gentle vibrating massage is designed to improve blood flow to the knee and help to increase flexibility in the soft tissues around the joint, reducing knee pain.”

How to use the Hydragun Heat Pulse Knee Massager

Owning this device is essentially like having a live-in physical therapist who is ready (and willing!) to give you a hot stone massage at any hour of the day or night

It’s meant to fit snugly around your knee (it comes with adjustable velcro straps so you can adjust to the right size for you), and the experience of using it is totally customizable. It has seven heat settings that range from 104-158°F (those top temps get very hot) and three levels of massage to choose from, and once you’ve picked your ideal options you can basically set it and forget it.

The pros recommend using the Hydragun massager both before and after your workouts for 10-30 minutes (the device shuts off on its own right at the half-hour mark).

“Prior to exercise, the warmth will help improve blood flow and circulation, as well as decrease any tension, tightness, stiffness, and areas of pain,” says Dr. Colis. Because the heat will enhance your joint mobility and tissue pliability, he recommends using it before a dynamic warmup so that your body will be prepped and ready to go once it’s time to start sweating.

“Following [a workout], the HeatPulse can be a beneficial tool to help keep the joints and musculature warm prior to stretching to enhance tissue flexibility and joint mobility and achieve greatest ranges of motion,” Dr. Colis says.

Why I love the Heat Pulse Knee Massager

The massager came into my life last month, and within minutes of trying it for the first time, all I could think was, “Damn, I wish I had this sooner.”

In the weeks since, I’ve been using it before and after every run, and have noticed that the pinch in my knee has started to come later and later in my runs — it used to pop up at mile six, now I can make it up to 16 without feeling a thing.

I’m admittedly not great at carving time out of my schedule for recovery (but I swear I’ve gotten better as my training’s progressed), so I love how low-lift it’s been to add this into my routine. All I have to do is put it on and sit in one place for 10-20 minutes — which means I can use it while I answer emails, watch TV, or complain to my boyfriend about how hard it is to train for a marathon. It’s a multi-tasker’s dream!

To be clear: this isn’t a “quick fix” for any underlying knee problems. If you’re in constant pain, talk to a doctor before trying to treat the problem on your own. And though the device has made a difference for me, I’ve also been cognizant of supplementing its effects with stretching and strength training to make sure my knees can handle what I’m asking them to do. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for pain, but when you’re pushing your body to work, every little thing can help.

If I’m being totally honest, there have been a lot of moments throughout the training process where I’ve had serious doubts about being able to run 26.2 straight miles. But with this tool in my arsenal, I know I’ll be crossing that finish line, pain-free.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • “Set it and forget it” functionality
  • Treats knee pain with heat and gentle vibration
  • 7 heat settings, 3 massage settings
  • Can be used on shoulders and elbows, too

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Takes a bit of trial and error to get the massage nodes on the right part of the knee

Image Source: Getty / KARRASTOCK

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