PERCUSSION MASSAGE GUNS: ARE THEY FOR YOU?
What is a Percussion Massage Gun?
Continually gaining popularity amongst the fitness, athletic, wellness, and therapeutic populations, percussion massage guns are handheld self-massage devices. They are manufactured to apply vibration to the body's soft tissues like muscles, tendons, and fascia.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Percussion Massage Gun?
Percussion massage guns are a relatively new therapy tool, and they have only been on the market for commercial sale for a short while. However, research points to a plethora of benefits from using a massage gun. A recent study by found that the use of massage gun treatments prior to exercise helps prevent Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) (Imtiyaz et al 2014). DOMS is the result of microscopic damage to muscle tissue, resulting in pain and stiffness within the affected muscle. This most often occurs post-exercise or vigorous activity. The study found that the application of a percussion massage gun prior to exercise or activity can significantly aid in decreasing the amount of perceived pain twenty-four, forty-eight, and seventy-two hours post-exercise. Another recent case study discovered that the use of percussive therapy treatments in rehab (for a post-rotator cuff repair) decreased a seventy-seven year old female's pain perception (Kayoda, K., 2019). Although these tools still require further research, both studies showed that the use of a percussion massage gun resulted in an early reduction of perceived pain.
In addition to preventing and reducing DOMS, the use of massage guns have also been found to increase joint Range of Motion, or ROM. A variety of studies have shown dramatic increases in ROM in joints that have had percussion therapy applied via a massage gun. One such study by found increases in elbow ROM recovery forty-eight and seventy-two hours after using a massage gun on the biceps prior to exercise. A separate study discovered noteworthy increases in ankle ROM immediately after the application of a targeted five-minute percussion massage of the calf muscles (Tilp et al, 2020). This is important, because increased (yet stable) ROM in joints often correlates with decreased pain and muscle stiffness, and increased blood flow within muscles.
Furthermore, recent studies have suggested the use of a massage gun supports the reduction of certain enzymes linked to muscle cell damage, possibly contributing to early muscle repair. Several studies and first hand reports have even shown the addition of massage guns into training protocols to aid in increased strength, power development, kinesthetic awareness, decreased muscle stiffness, and overall muscle performance.
What Are the Drawbacks of Percussion Massage Guns?
Like any tool used to manipulate the body’s soft tissues, there is an inherent degree of competency and knowledge needed in order to reap the benefits of a massage gun. Since percussion massage guns are available for commercial purchase, any person can order or buy one for themselves. Without, at least, a foundational knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy and function, any given person will struggle to properly apply the percussion therapy of a massage gun. Also, without learning the proper technique for the application of percussion therapy and its contraindications for use, the potential for injury can increase dramatically. Mishandling this tool, whether on yourself or another, can lead to potential injury.
The improper use of percussion therapy has the potential to cause serious damage to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other organs of the body. One case study by Chen et al. 2020 discovered the consequences of improper application of percussion therapy. A young woman received percussion therapy via massage, post-exercise. In conjunction with an underlying health condition, the therapy resulted in rhabdomyolysis, a serious, potentially fatal, leakage of muscle cell contents into the bloodstream. Although this is the only, and most severe, negative reaction to the use of a percussion massage gun, users of this tool should educate themselves on the proper application of percussion massage guns via a reliable source.
Should I Invest In a Percussion Massage Gun?
There is no right or wrong answer while contemplating buying a percussion massage gun, and it is entirely up to each individual. Although research continues to discover the benefits of using percussion massage guns, conventional massage therapy has been proven to be equally as beneficial. The distinct advantage percussion massage guns have over conventional massage therapy is the factor of time. The amount of time it takes to be applied, along with the ease of a portable tool, makes it much quicker than a trip to a massage therapist. Overall, either choice makes a fantastic addition to daily routines, training protocols, or for anyone struggling with chronic muscle pain and tension!
As with most things in life, you truly get what you pay for. Based on our staff’s personal preference/history of use and the literature, we would steer you towards the Hypervolt or Theragun brands as high-quality and long-lasting percussive massage guns.
Chen, J., Zhang, F., Chen, H. and Pan, H., 2020. Rhabdomyolysis After the Use of Percussion Massage Gun: A Case Report. Physical Therapy, [online] 101(1). Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/101/1/pzaa199/5958507> [Accessed 1 September 2021].
Imtiyaz, S., Veqar, Z. and Shareef, M., 2014. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939523/> [Accessed 1 September 2021].
Kayoda, K., 2019. The Influence of the Hypervolt™ on Shoulder Range of Motion, Strength, and Pain following Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery - ProQuest. [online] Proquest.com. Available at: <https://www.proquest.com/openview/28922e36eda51495d4466732aa39a4bf/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=51922&diss=y> [Accessed 1 September 2021].
Tilp, M., Konrad, A., Reiner, M., Glashuttner, C. and Bernsteiner, D., 2020. The Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment with a Hypervolt Device on Plantar Flexor Muscles’ Range of Motion and Performance. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7675623/> [Accessed 1 September 2021].