Ever used a hot compress to ease a headache or soaked in a hot bath to soothe sore muscles? Heat is an easy, accessible way to self-treat a variety of issues. This is why companies are now directly building these benefits into recovery products like the Gravity Relax handheld deep tissue massager.
Because heated massage guns are so new to the market, it’s almost impossible to find trusted research on them. But according to a 2021 study published in the journal Life, we do know that continuous, low-level heat therapy provides pain relief, improves muscular strength and increases flexibility. And localized heat therapy has also been shown to increase blood flow — supplying tissues with fresh blood and oxygen while flushing out waste to aid recovery.
Combine the benefits of heat with percussion therapy — which can be as effective as massage therapy and foam rolling in reducing muscle soreness, according to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health — and you’ve got a one-two punch of feel-good recovery.
I tested the Gravity Relax during the week after I ran the New York City marathon and took it with me on my first ski trip of the season the following week. Here’s what I thought.
With a fantastic combination of heat and massage, this portable heated massage gun is the perfect companion after long runs or the gym, days on the slope or even for deep relaxation after hours in your office chair.
What we liked about it
A wide range of intensity
One of the standard measures of a massage gun is revolutions per minute, or how many times the head can hit your muscle in one minute. The higher the speed, the higher the intensity of the percussion. The Gravity relax has a range of 1400 to 3200 RPM, and 30 individual levels of intensity (you can increase or decrease the intensity via the touchscreen on the device).
Honestly, I did not see a need for this many levels — but I liked how easy it was to change the intensity (with a single hand!) when moving from the large muscles of my quads, which I really enjoy pummeling at the highest intensities, to my more sensitive calves. In the end, I didn’t find much of a difference between, say, levels 15 and 16 or 29 and 30; I would increase/decrease by about 5 at a time for a noticeable effect.
The heated attachment
The Gravity Relax comes with six attachments: a ball head, flat head, D-shaped head, U-shaped head, air-cushion head and hot massage head. Most of those are standard for modern massage guns, but the one that isn’t standard — the heated head — was the one I was most interested in (and used the most). It’s made from metal and comes with three temperature levels: 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit to 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit, 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, and 116 degrees Fahrenheit to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Without the percussion engaged, I could feel the heat almost immediately, but it took a few minutes to reach the highest temperatures; the more intense the percussion, the less intense the heat felt. Though it would be hard to know if the heat had anything more than a placebo effect while working out the kinks during post-marathon recovery, boy, did it feel good on my tired, cold muscles after a full day of skiing.
What we didn’t like about it
With so many powerful “mini” massagers on the market — see: the Roll Recovery R1, Hyperice Hypervolt Go 2 and Theragun Mini — I found the Gravity Relax to be a little bulky. It’s about the size of a hair dryer, which isn’t a big deal for at-home use, but I did have to rearrange things in my carry-on to fit it. it also comes in an attractive storage case that houses all the attachments and chargers, but that was way too much to travel with, so I opted to bring only the gun and heated attachment.
The heated attachment charges separately
I have an entire drawer full of chargers for all kinds of tech, from massage guns to fitness trackers to vibrating foam rollers, and I wish companies would agree on one universal charger. It doesn’t help that the Gravity Relax requires two chargers: a 17V power adapter for the gun itself, and a Type-C charger for the heated attachment. Fortunately, I almost always travel with a Type-C charger and the gun has enough juice for five hours of use, but it’s still frustrating to have to keep multiple chargers on hand for a single device.
How it compares
The most well-known percussion gun brands, Theragun and Hyperice, don’t offer heated attachments. Plus, the Gravity Relax offers a wider range of RPM than both (the Theragun Pro, $599, has a range of 1750 to 2400 RPM, while the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro, $399, has a range of 1700 to 2700 RPM), and does so at a more affordable price. However, with an amplitude — aka how deep a gun can penetrate into your muscles — of 8mm, the Gravity Relax is significantly less powerful than those other guns, which have amplitudes of 16mm and around 14mm, respectively.
There are a few other heated massage guns available: The $169.99 Urikar Pro 2 heats up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and has a range of 1200 to 3600 RPM and a 15mm amplitude, while the $229.99 Lifepro Fusion FX heats up to 131 degrees Fahrenheit and has a range of 1600 to 3200 RPM and a 10mm amplitude. Both are more powerful (and more expensive) but don’t get as hot as the Gravity Relax.
What I liked most about the Gravity Relax was the soothing effect of the heat. And overall, it is more of a relaxing experience than the standard jackhammering you might expect from a massage gun. You’re not going to get the same level of penetration as with stronger devices, but if you’re not totally beating up your body in the gym (or on the slopes) and looking for a tiny performance edge, this device is similar enough to others on the market — with a more accessible price along with the added benefit of heat therapy.