by: Dr. Patrick O’Brien
We see trends come and go throughout the running and triathlon world, and more recently we have seen an influx of vibration therapy tools that are targeted to the everyday athlete at price points from $200-$600. Hypervolt, Theragun, Kraft, just to name a few of the more popular brands. This is not meant to be a review of each brand. I have only used the Hypervolt, I like it….there’s my review.
Recovery has been brought more into the forefront of endurance sports. We listen to professional athletes talk about the importance of rest and recovery, and we see them utilizing gadgets to get that extra step on their competition. We know that competitive age group athletes are significantly influenced by what the professionals are using and are more willing to buy the tools (Marketing 101), but are we nailing the basics? In case you didn’t know, aside from being able to out swim/ride/run you, these professional athletes beat you at recovery too. Yep. I’m talking about recovery practice.
Continue reading for my recovery soapbox rant!
So you need (said in my best whiny kid voice) this vibration therapy tool? Tell me more about your current recovery model that you are just nailing perfectly.
Remember the basics of recovery?
Sleep well. Are you getting 8+ hours per night?
Hydration. That’s water, nothing else counts…are you truly consistently hydrated?
Nutrition. Do you have a well-balanced healthy diet, and do you make sure to eat the appropriate foods post workout in the appropriate time frame?
Low intensity exercise. Do you actually complete your easy runs/rides/swims at a truly easy effort?
Strength training. Do you focus on your strength training enough? There is research that shows that strength training aids in recovery, amongst the other performance benefits, for endurance athletes.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that I personally fall short in almost all of these categories. I’m working on it and I am better than I was last year, but I certainly have a long way to go. Do you honestly feel you are giving all these areas (that come at no additional charge) the attention they need to justify a recovery toy? Yeah?!? Awesome. Keep reading!
The science behind these tools is supportive when it comes to alleviating muscle soreness. If you feel like getting nerdy about it, you can start with THIS meta-analysis of multiple studies on the topic.
Unfortunately there is no good data regarding the frequencies and intensities that should be used for muscle soreness treatment. Each tool comes with a myriad of attachments, can be set at various vibration frequencies (speeds) and at multiple intensities as well. So there are a lot of variables in each tool. The research is ongoing, but I cannot with certainty give you a set of parameters to follow for optimal use as of yet.
As a Physical Therapist, I use it occasionally with my patients. We have found them effective in assisting with proprioceptive training, increasing flexibility, and increasing blood flow to injured tissue. It has never been and will never be a stand-alone treatment for any of those situations, but we find them a helpful piece of the puzzle for some of our patients. In that same vain, I don’t think you should consider this your best or only means of true recovery. At the end of the day, yes, these devices are helpful. However, I would warn you not to think you can buy your way into better recovery. Make sure you have a healthy balance of gadgets and basics to make for a more well-rounded recovery.
I’m gonna go take a nap now…for the sake of recovery, of course!