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Do Massage Guns Work or Are They a Waste of Money?

January 26, 2021 4 min read

woman happily balancing on foam roller

Do Massage Guns Work or Are They a Waste of Money?

The early models were little more than “dressed up power drills” but today they’re being used by top athletes, trainers and celebrities the world over. The question is, do massage guns work? The answer is yes, and no. 

In this article, we’ll look at how massage guns work, what they do, when to use them, when you shouldn’t use them,  and ultimately, whether a massage gun will work for you, and if they’re worth your time and money. 

What do massage guns do?

Massage guns are designed to relieve muscle soreness and pain through vibration or percussive therapy, which is more intense and effective compared to a massage, since they reach deeper muscle tissue.

Understanding vibration and percussion therapy

Vibration therapy happens when the massage gun head moves back and forth, softly hitting your muscles. This produces a pleasant massage feeling that relieves tension and soreness. Percussion therapy involves going deeper into your muscle tissues providing more relief.

Thanks to their portable and compact design, you can use massage guns from the comfort of your own home without paying exorbitant fees for a massage or physio sessions. What’s more, they offer more targeted results compared to other forms of massage such as myofascial massaging.

That’s because the massage gun head is suited for different muscle groups, making it ideal for targeting regional muscle pain and soreness, increasing blood flow to a particular area or muscle.

How do massage guns work?

There’s no conclusive answer to this question since no one – not even experts – know exactly how or why they work. Here’s what we do know; massage guns can cause the Golgi tendon reflex to stimulate the Golgi tendon organ that inhibits muscle contraction. This helps eliminate pain and soreness after a workout or a long walk giving you relief for the short term.

Also, it is believed that massage guns break the communication cycle between your brain and the muscle hence overriding the pain sensation that you feel after a workout, according to Dr. John Rusin a physical therapist and performance coach.

Precautions

Dr. Raymond Teoch, a senior exercise physiologist at Changi General Hospital, warns that if you have inflammatory injuries such as tendonitis, you should stay away from these massage guns.

Likewise, people with acute injuries should avoid using guns in injured areas. He also warns against use on bony areas such as the knee and the elbow. Stay clear of your neck since using the gun on it can put you at a higher risk of getting carotid dissection. This condition causes impairment of blood flow to the brain resulting in a stroke.

And if you’re using prescribed blood thinners, massage guns are definitely not advised either, since they inhibit clotting of the blood, repetitive hitting of a single area can cause bruises and as a result, you can bleed uncontrollably.

Fredericson also says you should not use a massage gun right after an intense workout such as a marathon since it can facilitate inflammation, increasing the risk of injury.

How to use massage guns correctly and safely

Just like any other tool, you have to go through a learning curve. For example, you wouldn’t start learning to drive at 220Km/h. Equally, massage guns need to start at a lower speed so that your tissues can adjust to the pressure. Starting at high speeds can even cause more tension and soreness causing injury to your muscles. So, as the body adjusts, you can gradually increase the speed to your liking.

Remember the massage gun is intended for muscles, therefore, you should only use it on such areas. And it matters how you place it on your skin. To get started, place the head slightly away from the skin or at the surface. With time, you can slightly press against the skin.

Elizabeth Boey, a physiotherapist says that when doing it right, you should initially feel a slight discomfort devoid of pain. And as you increase pressure and speed, you’ll experience an intense deep ache.

She warns that, should you experience more discomfort, pain, and soreness, chances are you are doing it wrong. She recommends consulting with your doctor or physiotherapist to use massage guns most effectively. 

How long you use the gun also matters. According to Art Son, a massage therapist based in Los Angeles, you should spend 1-2 minutes working on large muscle groups such as calves, glutes and quads.

Too much stimulation can cause accumulation of fluids and inhibit their way out, he adds. Massage guns are not recommended for daily use. Alternate with other massagers such as foam rolls for optimal results.

Massage guns: are they worth the money?

If you do a simple search online, you’ll be presented with a wide array of guns ranging from $100 to more than $600. For example, some massage guns are almost 5x the price of others. 

The varying cost is generally due to integrated features. Expensive massage guns will afford you more control and hence better results. However, don’t let the cheap price of low-end guns fool you since some of them can offer similar or in rare cases, even better results.

When buying a massage gun, you should consider aspects such as ergonomics, noise levels, pressure and speeds. Ideally, opt for a quiet gun that’s easy to carry around and easy to use from the comfort of your bed or couch.

So, should you buy a massage gun? Yes, if you’re looking for a low-cost alternative to massage or physio that’s also a highly convenient way to aid quick muscle recovery after a workout, improve blood circulation and mobility. 

Conclusion

Do massage guns work? Yes, providing you use them correctly, they can help mitigate muscle soreness, tension, and pain through vibration and percussive therapy. Further, they improve blood circulation, nutrient uptake, and moving capabilities. As you can see, the guns can be used anywhere and anytime; from the gym to the bedroom, pre and post workout.

Would you buy a massage gun? What could you consider before buying one? Let us know in the comment section. And if you found this article useful, don’t forget to share it with your friends.


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