There are many potential benefits of using a massage gun, such as increasing circulation, improving flexibility, and decreasing muscle soreness and stiffness. For these reasons, massage guns have become an increasingly popular workout recovery modality for recreational to competitive and elite athletes alike.
If you are an avid runner, cyclist, weightlifter, or another type of athlete, consider jumping on the bandwagon to enjoy the muscle-ache-relieving benefits of massage guns.
But do massage guns work?
Particularly if you have chronically tight muscles that never seem to loosen up no matter how much stretching or foam rolling you force yourself to do, you may be pleasantly surprised at how effective such a seemingly simple massage gun can be.
We will cover:
- What Is a Massage Gun?
- What Do Massage Guns Do?
- Are Massage Guns Good for You?
- Do Massage Guns Work? 5 Benefits of Massage Guns
Let’s jump in!
What Is a Massage Gun?
A massage gun is also called a percussive therapy device or percussive therapy massager.
It is a small handheld device that is somewhat resemblant to an electric drill that can provide powerful, targeted pressure to different muscles and tissues to help replicate some of the benefits of a professional massage in an affordable at-home manner.
Usually, you can adjust speed, and you might even be able to swap in different attachment heads to provide various forms of targeted percussive massage, depending on the tissue that you want to work.
Massage guns were primarily designed for athletes as a way to help promote recovery, improve flexibility and circulation, and potentially boost athletic performance.
They are now used widely by everyday people for acute and chronic aches and pains, whether you have hit the weights hard at the gym, gone for a long run, or simply have sore traps from sitting at your desk all day with poor posture.
One of the benefits of massage guns is that they are extremely portable. Most of the best massage guns offer a rechargeable battery, so you can take it on the road with you when you travel or throw it in your gym bag and use the massage gun during the warm-up or right after your workout to aid recovery.
What Do Massage Guns Do?
Massage guns provide percussive therapy to your tissue.
Percussive therapy is a physical therapy modality that involves applying repeated bursts of pressure in order to massage tissues like muscles, tendons, and fascia.
Like percussive musical instruments such as the drums and cymbals, a percussive therapy device provides repeated and rhythmic impacts or pulses to your tissue to help massage the area.
Massage guns help loosen soft tissue such as muscle, fascia, and tendons while simultaneously increasing circulation to the area.
Tight muscle or fascia can not only cause pain but can also limit mobility or your usable range of motion.
Additionally, when one muscle group is stiff or is surrounded by fascia that has become tight and inflamed, the resulting lack of mobility can cause other areas of your body to overcompensate, either taking over too much of the workload or extending beyond their healthy range of motion to permit enough movement for your body.
This can increase the risk of injury.
Using a massage gun can help loosen stiff soft tissues to restore the range of motion and decrease pain.
One major benefit of using a massage gun vs. foam rolling is that high-quality massage guns, which permit a greater amplitude, will penetrate deeper into your soft tissue than a foam roller.
The pulses of a massage gun can potentially affect tissue up to one inch or more below the surface of your skin.
Embedded in your muscle fibers are special sensory organs, such as muscle spindles, which communicate with the nervous system about the tension and stretch in a muscle. A massage gun can help stimulate these sensory organs and trigger the nervous system to actually relax the muscle from the brain control side of things.
This can lead to a much better release of muscle tension than just increasing circulation.
The different “heads” or attachments can target your tissues in different ways:
- Round balls tend to be helpful for any area. If they are made from a soft foam, you can use them along the shins and neck where tissue is more sensitive.
- Fork attachments are ideal for massaging the tissue around your spine.
- The broader, flat head attachment can apply a widespread massage to a larger area like the thigh.
- A tapered bullet head applies a very concentrated or targeted massage to tight areas, such as calf muscle knots.
- A wedge attachment is designed for scraping movements, such as mobilizing your plantar fascia on the feet or IT band along your thigh.
Are Massage Guns Good for You?
Most physical therapists say that percussive therapy (such as that from massage guns) provides benefits over self-myofascial release techniques like foam rolling in that you can be very specific and precise with the area that you want to work.
Depending on the quality and capabilities of the massage gun that you are using, you can also tailor the speed, amplitude (depth of the pulses), surface area, and direction of force applied by the massage gun.
This precision and specificity help you have control over your therapy and recovery and can help maximize the effectiveness of your treatments and better reduce muscle tension.
Do Massage Guns Work? 5 Benefits of Massage Guns
So, let’s get to it, do massage guns work? What does the science say?
In addition to anecdotal accounts and testimonials from athletes of all levels and sports who rave about the benefits of massage guns and the effectiveness of this recovery tool in their workout routines, there is also a fair amount of scientific evidence supporting the use and benefits of massage guns.
Potential benefits of massage guns include the following:
#1: Massage Guns Can Decrease Muscle Pain and Soreness
Perhaps the most appealing reason to use a massage gun is that evidence suggests that these devices can help temporarily reduce muscle soreness, muscle tension, and stiffness.
For example, studies have found that massage guns can reduce the severity of delayed-onset muscle soreness, DOMS.
In general, the recommendation for reducing the DOMS is to use a massage gun immediately after your workout in your post-workout recovery routine.
#2: Massage Guns Can Increase Circulation
One of the benefits of massage guns is that the percussive therapy stimulates blood flow to the area.
Because blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps flush away waste products, using a massage gun can aid recovery from exercise and can help warm up your muscles and connective tissues prior to your workout.
#3: Massage Guns Can Increase Your Range of Motion
Using a massage gun can increase your flexibility, range of motion, and mobility. This can increase the efficiency and economy of your movements and reduce the risk of injury.
For example, if you are a runner with tight hamstrings, you can use a massage gun before your workouts to help loosen up. This will help you achieve a longer, more natural stride and may reduce the risk of pulling your hamstring because the otherwise stiff tissue can get overstretched when you extend your leg as you run.
If you like to lift weights but have difficulty achieving depth in your squat without your ankles popping up, you can use a massage gun before your strength training workouts to loosen up your calf muscles and Achilles tendon to improve ankle mobility for better squat mechanics.
#4: Massage Guns Can Aid Deep Tissue Recovery
Because the percussive pulses of a massage gun are able to penetrate deeper into your tissue, using a massage gun can help facilitate deep tissue recovery.
The repetitive and forceful pulses help increase circulation to these deeper areas and will push metabolic waste products that might otherwise cause inflammation out of the tissue and into the circulatory and lymphatic systems for removal.
#5: Massage Guns Can Reduce Muscle Fatigue
Although the mechanisms of action aren’t well understood, and it might be a placebo effect, studies have found that using a massage gun before a workout can reduce the perception of muscular fatigue during exercise.
Whether or not it’s something that the massage gun is actually doing that helps facilitate this improvement, or it is the placebo effect is less important than the outcome: if you feel like your muscles aren’t as tired and sore during a workout, you can continue to exercise or push harder for better gains.
Do you use massage guns? Let us know!
What about other types of therapy? For information on alternative therapy, such as acupuncture or red light therapy, check out our article: