10 Things to Know Before Buying a Massage Gun

Massage guns are the new craze in the fitness industry.

If you scroll through Instagram, you’ve probably seen athletes using what looks like a power drill as part of their recovery.

In this article, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding massage guns. 

Let’s start from the beginning.

What Are Massage Guns? 

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Massage guns are portable handheld devices that use percussive therapy to reduce muscle soreness. Both professional and amateur athletes use them.

Massage guns look a bit like a power tool.

But, instead of a drill, there’s a smooth attachment used to press against your muscles. Percussive therapy, also known as percussion and vibration therapy, manipulates soft tissue to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery time.

Massage guns aim to replicate a message without actually having to see a masseur.

Massage guns lightly hammer the muscles and create vibrations to break down the soft tissue. Some massage guns work in a circular motion and provide varying levels of pressure and speed.

Due to their power, massage guns can reach deeper layers of tissue compared to foam rollers and human masseurs.

How Do Massage Guns Work?

Massage guns use a smooth attachment to press against the soft muscle tissue to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery time.

Massage guns use vibrations to increase the temperature of the muscle tissue and increase blood flow to that area. This method is known as percussive therapy, also known as percussion and vibration therapy.

The vibrations omitted help reduce muscle tightness and soften adhesions within the muscle tissue. This helps to lengthen the muscle fibers and thus promote recovery. 

What Are the Benefits of Using a Massage Gun?

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The primary benefit of massage guns is their ability to promote recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

Massage guns promote recovery and reduce muscle soreness by providing the following benefits: 

  1. Increases blood flow, allowing for increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the area, thus aiding recovery. 
  2. Increases lymphatic flow allowing for increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the area, thus aiding recovery. 
  3. Releases tension and fluid build-up within the muscle tissue to increase tissue metabolism and thus reduce stress. 
  4. Aids lactic acid removal from the body after intense exercise. 
  5. Promotes recovery of muscle tissue by stimulating the muscle tissue. 
  6. Promotes vasodilation of blood vessels via nerve receptor stimulation to promote increased blood flow to the target area. 
  7. Increases the joint’s range of motion, thus aids improved mobility and flexibility. 
  8. Massages collagen fibers to help break down scar tissue within the muscle, thus helping to reduce muscle soreness and tightness. 
  9. Reduces muscle tension within the body which can help reduce stress and anxiety while improving your sleep and immune system. 

How To Use a Massage Gun?

Most massage guns have a range of speeds and attachment settings.

Therefore, there is no one set way of using a massage gun. But, there are a couple of general guidelines for using a massage gun:

  1. As a general rule of thumb, you should spend 1 to 2 minutes massaging larger muscle groups such as the quadriceps and hamstrings. Smaller muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps should be massaged for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Don’t press the massage gun into the muscle. Switch it on and move it around the muscle in a circular motion. The vibrations from the massage guns will press into the muscle. You don’t have to assist manually.
  3. Don’t use your massage gun as a substitute for other recovery protocols.

Other recovery protocols such as stretching, nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness, etc., are equally important. Massage guns are just one piece of the recovery puzzle. 

How Often Should You Use a Massage Gun?

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In short, the number of times you use your massage gun has no limit. But, there are some factors to consider when reaching for your massage gun.

Most of these factors very much depend on the individual and their experience with using massage guns.

If you’re new to percussion therapy, it’s recommended you start on the lowest setting. You should spend 1 to 2 minutes massaging larger muscle groups such as the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Smaller muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps should be massaged for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remember, more is not always better.

Too much pressure in one area can lead to bruising or injury, especially if the body isn’t used to it. Some massage guns will tell you the intensity at which you are massaging, which is a great way to monitor how frequently you’re using the massage gun.

Additionally, intensity monitoring is particularly useful when working on deeper muscle tissues within the smaller muscles. 

Do Massage Guns Break Down Fat?

No. Massage guns cannot break down fat cells.

But, massage guns may aid the breakdown of fat cells.

Fat is broken down when your body wants to use it as fuel. Fat is primarily used as fuel when the body is performing low-moderate intensity exercise.

Fat is also used when we’re in a calorie deficit or when we’ve used a large number of our carbohydrate stores.

Massage guns will not break down fat on their own.

But, what massage guns can do is increase blood flow to the target area. Increased circulation and blood flow to a specific area can promote growth and eliminate older, dead cells.

Thus, massage guns may help promote fat removal in areas of loose, old skin. However, more research is needed within this area.

Can Massage Guns Replace Stretching?

Massage guns aren’t necessarily a replacement for stretching.

Instead, they should be used alongside your stretching routine. Stretching helps increase blood flow to the muscles while keeping your joints and muscles properly aligned.

Stretching also helps improve your flexibility, range of motion, and nerve health. Therefore, stretching has its own benefits. Combining percussion therapy and stretching would maximize recovery.

Massage guns will help reach the deeper, harder-to-reach areas. Stretching will help keep our limbs in optimal alignment. Together they provide synergistic benefits. 

Are Massage Guns Good For Back Pain?

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Back pain is often caused by pain in the joints, bones, or soft tissue around the spine. Percussive therapy can help reduce back pain by increasing blood flow, reducing tension in the muscles, increasing endorphin levels, increasing your range of motion, and breaking down scar tissue.

When targeting the lower back, apply pressure to the sides of the spine rather than the center. Never apply pressure to the spine, as this could cause more damage. Only target muscles around the spine.

Back pain may also be caused by severe conditions such as sciatica, spondylolisthesis, or a slipped disk, etc. Therefore, it’s important to see a specialist if the pain continues to worsen. 

Is a Massage Gun Better Than a Foam Roller?

In short, it depends.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether a massage gun or foam roller is more suitable for you.

The main factors include price and precision. Foam rollers help relieve tight knots from larger muscle groups to promote recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

Foam rollers are inexpensive and provide a cheaper alternative to massage guns. But, due to the foam rollers’ simplicity, they don’t provide as much force as massage guns can.

Additionally, foam rollers can’t reach the smaller areas of the body. Massage guns come with a range of attachments that allow you to reach pretty much anywhere on the body.

Arguably, massage guns are better than foam rollers if the price was ruled out of the decision. But, when we factor in price, it depends on how much you’re willing to spend on at-home massage options. 

What Muscles or Areas Should You Not Use a Massage Gun On?

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Massage guns help promote recovery and reduce muscle soreness using percussion therapy. But, massage guns can also cause damage if they’re not used properly.

Massage guns should not be used on any major nerves, arteries, lymphatic vessels, internal organs, or the spine. It’s also important you don’t overstimulate a particular area.

If you use the massage gun incorrectly, you can risk rupturing a blood vessel leading to bruising and internal bleeding.

Overstimulation may also stretch collagen and elastin fibers, damage muscle fibers, increase nerve sensitivity, and increase muscle contractions.

Caution should also be used when using massage guns on strains, sprains, inflammation injuries, and broken bones. To ensure you’re using your massage gun correctly, make sure you’re aware of using your massage gun and know the warnings and contradictions. 

Conclusion 

Massage guns are portable handheld devices that use percussive therapy to reduce muscle soreness in professional and amateur athletes.

The vibrations omitted help reduce muscle tightness and soften adhesions within the muscle tissue to help lengthen the muscle fibers and promote recovery.

If you’re new to percussion therapy, ensure you don’t exceed the recommended use and are aware of when not to use a massage gun in place of a specialist. 

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