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Theragun Mini helped take my pain away. It's the size of my palm and costs under $200

A professional massage is nice, but it's not always warranted -- and that's where the Theragun Mini comes in to play.

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The Theragun Mini is currently $179 at Walmart
David Carnoy/CNET

A spasm in your lower back or soreness in your neck, and suddenly you're reaching for the phone to make an appointment with a professional massage therapist -- but that's not always the best option, especially when the pain is manageable. You might just need a massage gun.

Percussive therapy massage guns like Theragun and Hyperice have exploded in popularity in recent years. And for good reason. They offer muscle manipulation similar to a deep tissue massage, helping to relieve post-workout muscle soreness and general aches and pains.

Unlike a professional massage session though, massage guns for home use are available at a moment's notice, which is why I decided to invest in the powerful, yet portable Theragun Mini ($199), from tech wellness company Therabody.

Despite its "entry-level" designation, the Theragun Mini packs a wallop for its size, and can provide what you'd expect from a professional massage gun: relief.

Read more: Best massage guns of 2021

How I use the Theragun Mini to help relieve neck, leg and lower back pain

Now, I wouldn't say I'm the most active person, but I do periodically work out, hike and take long walks, which means there are moments when my muscles are sore or stiff afterwards. Yet, most of my neck, leg and back pain doesn't come from being active -- it's a result of being hunched over my laptop or phone. 

So for the last year I've treated my body with the Theragun Mini to help prevent unpleasant leg aches after sitting down too long, relax my tight neck muscles from constant strain, relieve my dull lower back pain from bad sleep and even reduce stress, simply by providing a little bit of relaxation each day.

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There's no one path to using a massage gun, as each body is different, but I'll tell you a little about how I've used the Theragun Mini to help with soreness and pain.

I started off by using the slowest speed setting (there are three) on every sore part of my body, for about five minutes each day, right before sleep. Even the slowest setting pummels your muscles into relief (in a good way), and though you'll eventually get accustomed to it, it's still the perfect setting for a more comfortable and relaxing massage. The lowest percussive intensity is also usually better for more sensitive body parts, like your neck or foot.

The Mini's ergonomic, triangle design -- which is a departure from the typical gun-like structure for massage guns -- makes it easy to grip the device and slide it up and down and across your body. You still may need someone to help you hit the furthest reaches of your back, especially if you're trying to get in and around your shoulder blades.

Soon enough, I began increasing the Mini's speed and pressing the standard ball attachment straight on and into my muscles, harder than before. For areas that are marginally sore (and therefore not super sensitive), I place the attachment at a slight angle when giving myself a massage, or I decrease the speed. You can press down on the power button to cycle between speeds, so it's all about experimenting with what works for your body.

Although I haven't bought any additional attachment heads just yet, there are six more you can choose from -- including the wedge ($20) and thumb ($20), which are designed to treat specific body parts, like your lower back and shoulder blades, respectively. If you have more pain and soreness in certain body parts, some attachments with softer tops are something to seriously consider.

The Theragun Mini is quiet, compact and great on the go

The thing I love about the Theragun Mini the most is how I can take it everywhere I go. It's compact (about the size of my hand) and lightweight (weighs 1.4 pounds, about as heavy as a bunch of bananas), which means it's easy to pack for road trips, outdoor excursions, gym sessions and everything in between.

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The Theragun Mini has three speed settings, and a variety of attachments you can buy.

Rick Broida/CNET

I'm an avid traveler and the Mini comes in clutch for both short and long flights. Walking through the airport with my bags and even just sitting in a plane for hours creates soreness in my legs and back, and so I'll slip the Mini into my carry-on and use it as I wait for my connecting flight, or even on the plane.

I assumed massage guns would be noisy, which would be terrible for using one on a plane, but as it turns out, the Mini is much quieter than you would expect. If you had to compare the noise to anything else, it's sort of like a louder electric toothbrush, which means it's fine to use in quieter environments like your work office or at home when others are sleeping.

My favorite thing about the Theragun Mini, in terms of portability, is its battery life. A single charge gives my Theragun Mini about 150 minutes of run time, which means I can use it for 5 minutes each day -- for an entire month, without charging it once.

Is the Theragun Mini worth buying?

Yeah, the Theragun Mini isn't cheap, but it's definitely an investment worth considering if you suffer from soreness, stiffness, aches, and other pains and are looking for a DIY option that doesn't involve all the extra work of rolling out. And although the Theragun Mini isn't a replacement for a professional massage therapist, the tiny, yet powerful massage gun that fits in your hand can help provide the relief you want -- just as it did for me.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.