A massage gun, also known as a handheld massager, delivers high-frequency vibrations at a low amplitude of movement to speed up muscle recovery. Vibration therapy, as it is sometimes called, can be effective in relieving the post-workout pain that we all know so well. Good quality massage guns come with a range of attachment heads, which are used to target specific parts of the body. This makes the device a versatile way to treat pain and speed up muscle recovery. In this post, we are going to discuss 7 such uses.
Pain relief and sore muscles
When you use a massage gun, you are performing percussion therapy on yourself. The vibrations disrupt the usual pain signals that tell your brain that your muscles are hurting and can be particularly useful if your muscles are acutely sore, preventing you from stretching or moving as normal. In some ways, it is like taking paracetamol, but in other ways, it is different – mainly because massage guns do more than merely mask pain.
Massage guns stimulate blood flow to the targeted area, thus speeding up the recovery process and relieving inflammation. There is, however, a tipping point to these recovery benefits. Using a massage gun on too high a setting, for more than a few minutes at a time, or using it too frequently can cause fluid build-up. Remember, less is more!
Massage guns are used to treat fibromyalgia (a medical condition that causes aches and pains). They are used to target knots that build up in the muscles. If you have ever had a massage, then your masseuse may have drawn your attention to a knot and worked it out by applying direct pressure. Massage guns work in a similar way. By reducing the prevalence of muscular knots, you can restore mobility to the area and also reduce pain.
Massage guns can be an effective treatment for neck pain, although it is extra important to use an appropriate head attachment on this sensitive area. The neck and shoulders can be problem zones because they tend to hold a lot of tension and be where mental stress manifests as physical pain. This is because we contract and hunch up our shoulders when we are stressed.
It is extremely important to never put your massage gun on the front of your neck because there are arteries that you do not want to disturb in this area. You should also avoid running it over the bumps of your spine, as this will be uncomfortable for you and bad for your spine.
Some runners like to use massage guns to warm up their muscles prior to running. While there is little evidence that this improves their performance or endurance, it is thought to reduce the ‘damage’ (all exercise is ‘damage’) that the muscles sustain in the session, thereby shortening the recovery period. In saying this, some people swear that it helps them to perform better in-session too. Our stance is that, if someone believes that it helps, then more power to them.
If you have neck pain then there is a good chance that you will have shoulder pain too. Again, massage guns can be really useful for getting deep into the muscles and relieving tension and pain. If you have someone handy, having someone else apply the gun can allow it to reach problem areas and also allow you to enjoy the vibrations! Given the sensitivity of the neck and the shoulder, it is important to remember that the massage gun does the work for you, there is no need to press it into the targeted area. Simply hold it to the skin.
We caution against using a massage gun for back pain, not because the device is unsuitable for treating back pain but because (i) it is only suitable for specific types of back pain; and (ii) you need to know what you are doing. In this instance, you are better off asking a physiotherapist or chiropractor, who can assess your back and show you (or, more likely your partner as you will not be able to reach your own back) how to appropriately use your massage gun to relieve your back pain.
These 7 uses for a massage gun are far from the only ways to manage your pain with this device, but we will end this post will a point of caution: massage guns are not intended to be a long-term solution to pain management. If you have an ongoing condition, then you ought to see your doctor to discuss the problem.