The massage gun is a tool commonly used today to ease muscle soreness and promote mobility, as well as aid in muscle recovery. Massage guns have quickly become a growing fad in the health and fitness industry. So, what exactly do these machines do? The solution may be as simple as a small device you can hold in your hand!
What are massage guns and how do they work?
Massage guns are small, handheld devices that look and sound like drills. The majority of massage guns come with a variety of parts and speeds that can be used to relieve muscle pain. There are a wide range of brands with prices ranging from $40 to $500.1
Vibration (percussion) is used in massage guns. You can use a foam roller, lacrosse ball, trigger point ball or massage to achieve the same results as a massage gun, although a massage gun can target a very specific area if necessary. Massage guns promote blood flow to the specific area, which can help reduce inflammation and muscle tension.2 They can be utilized before or after a workout, depending on the individual’s needs. Although massage guns are designed to be used by anyone, endurance athletes find them to be the most effective way to relax tight muscles after a workout. Various attachments will be included with each massage gun so that specific parts of the body can be targeted.
How effective are massage guns?
Massage guns have been demonstrated to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improve short-term muscle length. By using the massage gun on the muscles used in the workout, you can reduce the amount of muscle soreness, therefore aiding in muscle recovery.2DOMS can cause muscle soreness for 24 to 72 hours following an intense workout.
A study conducted by Konrad et al assessed the effectiveness of vibration therapy (or percussive therapy) on the plantar flexor muscles, otherwise known as the calf muscles. A five-minute percussive therapy treatment on these muscles led to a significant improvement in ankle dorsiflexion, or the ability to pull the toes up toward the shins. The study also showed no significant improvement in the torque or power of the calf muscles. This study demonstrates the ability of a treatment with percussive therapy and how it can extend a short-term muscle.
Research has shown little to no improvement in speed or endurance, or in torque. Therefore, the use of percussive therapy cannot be said to improve athletic performance directly.4 Depending on the purpose of the use of a massage gun, it can be very effective. For improving muscle length and reducing muscle soreness, massage guns are ideal.
When to See a Physical Therapist for Pain
When using a new tool for muscle recovery, always listen to your body. Consult a physical therapist if you are not sure whether your pain can be treated with a massage gun.
Although a massage gun can improve muscle soreness, it is not always the best solution for injuries or pain. Seek the advice of a medical professional as soon as you experience abnormal aches and pains. Athletico’s team will assess your pain and provide recommendations for treatment. In most states, you do not need a prescription for a Free Assessment. Our Telehealth platform enables us to provide free assessments both in-clinic and remotely.
There are several ways in which massage guns work. They can release tight and tense myofascia, the connective tissue enclosing muscles and bones. Félix explains that the device interrupts nearby muscles’ contractions by stimulating sensory cells on the skin. The cells can also be stimulated to counteract pain, just as if you were to rub your toe after smacking it against a table leg. “It can lessen pain signals going to the area,” she adds. The blood flow to a tight, sore muscle slows down. This oxygen-rich blood flow can be aided by a massage device, helping the muscle to heal.