How Do Massage Guns Work
I'm what you'd call a "late adopter".
People around me have been on this Massage Gun hype for years.
Using it after a long long BJJ session in the changing rooms, before a workout, even at family gatherings at someone's house.
I always thought it was basically just a fancy massage device fad. Like one of those massage chair accessories from 2010, that turned out to do more harm than good.
Whenever I saw someone shooting their leg with a massage gun, I always thought, "oh just get on with it. Don't be so precious."
...I'm happy to admit I was wrong about this one.
Although there's still not enough science backed evidence, studies and whatnot, to substantiate the below claims in absolution, I've gathered more than enough anecdotal, & now personal, "data", to say with confidence, I approve. Using a massage gun does make a difference to both performance and recovery.
Don't get me wrong, it's not groundbreaking in the difference it makes but if you regularly train, and follow a rigorous workout plan, every bit of difference helps.
Massage guns deliver what's called percussion therapy or a percussive massage.
It's a form of physical therapy that uses rapid, repetitive light impacts, to create pulses or vibrations, which spread into a muscle.
This is used to treat muscle soreness, stiffness, and tension. Beneficial for both recovery after exercise, as well as muscle preparation pre exersion.
The Massage Gun is perhaps the simplest and most readily available form of application for this therapy. Something that everyone can do in the comfort of their own home.
If you're in the market, here's the one I use and recommend:
It's also currently the highest rated on Amazon, which is totally unsurprising, as it's built and works just as well as the more expensive variants, without the ridiculous price tags.
Set up and use is very easy. Battery life is decent. Gets the job done.
On with the article...
How percussive therapy works:
The rapid and concentrated pulses a massage gun delivers to the targeted muscle groups provides mechanical stimuli penetrating deep into the muscle tissue.
The rapid percussion causes involuntary contraction and relaxation of targeted muscles. Similar to a deep tissue massage, but revved way up.
Increased Blood Flow
The stimulation also helps increase blood flow to the treated area. This is excellent for recovery. Improved circulation can help in various ways, such as reducing muscle fatigue and aiding in the removal of waste products from the muscles. Very handy for little niggling injuries.
Percussive therapy can help release myofascial trigger points. Tight knots in the muscle tissue that can cause pain and limited range of motion. The rapid pulses can break up these adhesions and promote tissue relaxation.
Many people use percussive therapy to relieve muscle soreness, reduce pain, and improve flexibility. Particularly helpful for athletes, as well as the average person with muscle tension due to stress or poor posture, and those recovering from injuries.
Improved Range of Motion
By relaxing and lengthening muscle fibers, percussive therapy can lead to improved joint flexibility and a greater range of motion.
Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Conveniently, the rhythmic vibrations from a massage gun feel nice, and tend to have a relaxing effect on the nervous system as a result, reducing stress and promoting a sense of well-being.
How to use a massage gun
It's important to use percussive therapy devices correctly to avoid injury. Here are some guidelines:
- Start with a low intensity and gradually increase it as needed.
- Avoid using the device on bony areas or directly on joints.
- Keep the device moving and avoid applying too much pressure in one spot for an extended period.
- Consult with a healthcare professional if you have underlying medical conditions or are unsure about using percussive therapy.
Also worth noting
It's easy to get to a point where you're reaching for the massage gun out of pure habit, or self diagnosis. Percussive therapy can certainly be an effective way to complement other forms of physical therapy and self-care practices.
However, it's important you understand what sort of injury you have, as in some cases using a massage gun can just make things worse.
For the majority of muscle soreness/fatigue, a massage gun is brilliant, but it's essential to use it responsibly and consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific health concerns or injuries that require attention.