A massage gun is a handheld device that is designed to stimulate blood flow and loosen muscular tension. It does this by vibrating at a high frequency, while also maintaining a low amplitude of movement (in other words, it does not pummel into you). For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as vibration therapy.
Massage guns are marketed as bringing the benefits of a sports recovery massage to an easy-to-use handheld device, one which works out as being significantly cheaper than seeing a masseuse – some models cost as little as one massage! They have been around for a while now and technological advancements mean that they are getting ever better at delivering high percussion to the affected muscle while also being comfortable to use. In this post, we are going to dig into the benefits of using massage guns to aid muscle recovery and answer the most commonly asked safety questions.
Are massage guns good for you?
In short, yes. A massage gun can be beneficial to muscle recovery because they encourage healing, tension dispersal, and inflammation reduction. While most people use them as a recovery tool, some also use them pre-workout to loosen up their muscles. Studies have shown massage guns to be effective in shortening the muscle recovery period and reducing tension-related pain. When used pre-workout, they may reduce the level of damage the muscles sustain during a set. You only need to use them for a few minutes on the affected area, making them a more time-efficient option than a sports massage.
The best time to use your massage gun is straight after your workout, once you have showered of course, as the vibrations will help to clear lactic acid and toxins from your muscles. They are safe for use all over the body but remember that they are for muscular pain and muscle recovery. So, if you have joint pain, percussion therapy is not a suitable treatment.
Massage guns are reasonably priced too. Of course, you can find models that run into the hundreds of pounds, but there is little difference between these and the cheaper models in terms of beneficial effect. As we will discuss below, you should be using a massage gun on its lowest setting, so fancier models with higher intensities are actually unnecessary. Where it can be worth spending a bit more is on the attachment heads, as these adapt to the area being targeted. This can be particularly important for more sensitive areas or to make the device more comfortable for people with low body fat.
Are massage guns safe?
Again, the short answer here is ‘yes’; however, as with anything, there are rules for safe usage. The number one cause of massage gun problems is overuse. People sometimes assume that the benefits of the device are limitless, and that the higher the setting the more you can expect to reap from your massage. Actually, there is a sweet spot for massage guns.
In relation to the setting you use it on, you should stick to the lower end of the spectrum. Higher settings do not deliver better results, they are for vibrating through thicker layers of fat. The only time a medium build person should consider moving up from the lower setting is if they are targeting cushioned areas, such as the bum or thighs. Persons of more robust build may find that they need to use a level or two up from the lowest setting because the vibrations have further to travel to reach the muscle.
As to the length of time and frequency of use, shorter sessions spaced a few days apart are your best bet. Overuse can cause fluid to collect in the area, hampering your recovery. Finally, while the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ may apply to your workout when you are using a massage gun, it is simply ‘no pain’. If you experience discomfort when applying the gun to a specific area, then you should stop using it. Powering through can cause bruising, swelling, and even nerve damage. Massage guns should not be used on injured areas either. If you have sustained an injury, for example, a strain or torn muscle, then step away from the gun!
Are massage guns worth it?
Massage guns are a handy piece of kit that can aid muscle recovery, although they should always be used in accordance with the safety guidelines. They are enjoyable to use post-workout and can relieve general muscle tightness. We would recommend adding a massage gun to your muscle recovery repertoire – along with hot baths, foam rollers, stretching, and nutritious meals – instead of relying on them entirely. When used in an appropriate context, they can certainly help, thus our verdict is that they are worth it.