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The Wave Tool Review: This Low-Tech Massager Relieves Stubborn Knots

With the increasingly grey month of January upon us, I’ve got rest and recovery on the brain—so it only feels right that tell you about the Wave Tool, my favorite little massage tool for taking a beat, addressing pesky knots, and giving my tired muscles some relief. 

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How the Wave Tool Works

Courtesy of author

Designed by physical therapists at the aptly-named, Colorado-based brand Wave Tools Therapy, the Wave Tool has nine different massage surfaces on its handheld body that create a variety of sensations, in the name of athletic recovery. It was made with both professional athletes and everyday exercisers in mind, and you can use it for instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM). This is a practice in physical therapy that small studies suggest can help improve range of motion, relieve muscle tension, and provide myofascial release (which, as SELF has previously reported, occurs when the layers of fascia in your muscles relax and become more pliant due to applied pressure, like when you self-massage or foam roll). Disclaimer: More research needs to be done on IASTM itself, but, generally speaking, massaging sore muscles is a great way to encourage blood flow to the area, which helps with recovery.

Now, to get to the specifics: There are edges that act as muscle scrapers to work through tight scar tissue. There’s a trigger point knob and gua sha-style scoop to knead out knots with precision. And, as a totally manual massager, the Wave Tool leaves the intensity of the massage up to you—which is one of my favorite things about it. The brand calls it “the ultimate soft tissue release tool,” which, self-aggrandizement aside, nevertheless feels appropriate because this thing is just so darn versatile.  

Why I Love the Wave Tool

As a climber, yoga-doer, and generally active person, I get sore—a lot! My forearms, fingers, neck, and shoulders are particularly prone to tightness, pain, and fatigue, and I’ve always had a hard time getting these areas to relax with a massage gun or foam roller. So, when my boyfriend (a fellow climber and achy person) decided to buy the Wave Tool for the household, I was immediately intrigued. It looks more like a cool paperweight than any kind of complicated massager, which made it far less intimidating to test out. I could gently pull the edges across my sensitive forearms, press the knob into the tendons in my fingers, or slowly work out the kinks in my traps—all at my own speed and my preferred level of pressure. 

And the longer I’ve had the Wave Tool, the more uses I’ve found for it: Not only does it work great on my aforementioned problem areas, but it’s also an excellent scraping tool for my IT bands and, if I’m feeling brave, my eternally tight calves. It’s truly multi-purpose, which makes it all the more impressive that I can bring it with me anywhere. It takes up barely any space in my backpack, and doesn’t come with a bunch of attachments and chargers that I need to lug along.

In a world of high-tech massagers that thrum, pulse, pound, and generally treat you like an overworked pile of dough (which, hey, I guess there’s a time and place for that), the Wave Tool is a pleasantly approachable—yet precise—change of pace. If your recovery routine could use a little analog charm, I highly recommend this clever all-in-one scraper, kneader, and massager. 

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