In the past few years, there’s been a whole lot of buzz about one new tech device: the massage gun.
If you’ve heard about this magical new invention, you know that there’s some enigma and skepticism around it. After all, it’s a pretty novel idea. You know about vibrating massage devices, sure, but the concept of one of those as a gun? That can be hard to wrap your mind around.
And that’s not even addressing the basics of what a massage gun actually claims to do.
Many of us who haven’t come into contact with one ever before may be wondering what even is a massage gun?
If all of these details seem a little fuzzy, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. If you’re a bit skeptical, you’re also not the only one.
So let’s answer the question once and for all: do massage guns really work?
What Is a Massage Gun?
For the folks who have no idea what we’re even talking about, let’s set the record straight first.
A massage gun is a wonderful contraption that’s a handheld device made of durable plastic and a rubber or foam mallet. They are battery-operated and usually come with a rechargeable battery.
There are a few on the market, so the design can differ, but they generally feature a ball-end mallet. Handles can vary from a triangle sort of shape to an elongated back. This is necessary to counterbalance the force from the mallet so that the machine doesn’t fly out of your hands.
This mallet oscillates back and forth into the muscle tissue where it’s placed. Some of the more quality massage guns offer multiple different settings and speeds so you can customize them to your liking.
Some even come with different attachments that you can replace the mallet with for more targeted stimulation.
What Do They Claim to Do?
Now, onto the claims. Just what exactly does a massage gun do?
The biggest claim that a massage gun makes is for muscle recovery.
Massage guns are touted by celebrity athletes and even full teams. They’re used by physical therapists in sports medicine. All for one claim: to speed along muscle recovery and relieve muscle soreness.
This effect is loved by athletes and workout-lovers alike, but it’s not the only group that claims to reap the benefits of the massage gun.
Those of us who work regular 9-5 jobs supposedly can benefit from the same effects that the athletes enjoy. We experience our own sources of muscle stress and aching at the end of the day.
When you hear that a massage gun can help you too, your interest is piqued. You just need to know a bit more.
How Do They Do It?
There are a few magical things that make massage guns actually work.
The intense pulsating can get deep into the fascia of the muscles and do some pretty amazing things.
Here’s how massage guns do their work.
One of the key ways in which massage guns do what they do is by applying pressure directly to trigger points.
Trigger points are points in your muscles that are extremely sensitive. They usually manifest as tight knots in the muscle. You’ll know what they are when you press on them and feel pain shoot through the surrounding muscle area.
Trigger points often form on your shoulders or anywhere else you overuse your muscles. They can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies, too much stress, or an injury.
Massage guns work very effectively on trigger points. By applying pressure directly into the trigger points, you increase blood flow to the area and release the muscle fibers.
Since the trigger points in your muscle cause referred pain and are the tightest point of your muscles, the relief is sent through to the rest of the muscle.
Increased Blood Flow
When you remain stagnant for a long stretch of time, like many of us are if we have sedentary lifestyles, your blood eventually begins to pool in areas. This is bad because it can cause swelling, pain, and decreased muscle function.
An amazing thing that massage guns do is send fresh blood rushing into the sore muscle tissue.
Many studies show that blood flow is essential for good muscle function. A massage gun works by temporarily restricting blood flow. When it releases, that encourages fresh, new blood to run through the muscle.
This pumps oxygen into the muscle tissue which ultimately helps it heal faster.
On top of the new blood, your muscles also get all of the wonderful little nutrients that your blood carries with it. These include things like iron, proteins, and other vitamins and minerals that your muscles need to function well.
The biggest selling point for the massage gun is just how quickly it goes to work.
You only need a to hold massage gun on your muscle for a maximum of 60 seconds to experience relief.
The relief comes almost immediately. You don’t have to wait around for results. They’re immediate and lasting. This is why so many people love massage guns.
Another way that these massage guns work is that the percussion loosens and dissipates things called metabolites.
Metabolites are waste products that get created when you work out. The most common among these is something called lactic acid.
When this lactic acid builds up in your muscles during a workout (which is common) you can feel it. It’s that uncomfortable burning or stinging sensation that you feel in your muscles right after you hit the gym. It’s also believed to be a cause of some cramping.
Percussion from the massage gun physically gets into the muscle tissue and breaks these metabolites up.
This means less pain post-workout and quicker recovery for you.
With all good things, there are some instances where they aren’t the best.
People who have bad experiences with massage guns usually were using them improperly. This is why it’s important to know where you should and should not use one to keep yourself safe.
Where Not to Use It
A massage gun is meant for use on your muscles. Let us repeat that. A massage gun is made only and exclusively for use on your muscles.
Though it can be tempting to take a massage gun to your sore knee, this is a bad idea. Placing a percussive therapy gun directly on any joints can cause damage due to the intensity of the pulses.
You should also be careful around generally sensitive areas of the body. Your neck? Not a place to put your massage gun. Your thigh? Sure! Great idea.
By avoiding contact with sensitive areas of the body as well as joints, you can protect your health and keep your massage gun working as intended.
When to Stop
When it comes to massage guns, a little goes a long way.
You really only need to use it on any particular area of muscle a minute or two at a time. Any more than that will be very intense and uncomfortable, making it not a great time for you or your muscles.
So, Do They Work?
To answer the question simply: Yes, yes they do work when used properly and with care.