Everyone experiences muscle soreness from time to time. Whether you have a knot in your neck from sleeping weird last night, tense shoulders from stress, or tired legs from that triathlon you ran last weekend, you’re bound to experience some sort of muscle pain.
What has changed is how we deal with that pain. It used to be that our only option was to ice those muscles or take some over-the-counter pain relievers and wait it out.
But no more.
There have been a lot of new discoveries made in recent times to help us release and heal the pain from tight muscles in drug-free, easy ways.
Among them, two competitors have made their way to the forefront of the natural pain relief battle: the foam roller, and the new massage gun.
But which one is better?
Let’s review the benefits of each.
What They Are Both Used For
Before we compare specifics, let’s address the claims.
Both the foam roller and massage gun are made to target and relieve pain. We’re talking pain caused by exercise, pain caused by a lack of exercise, all of it.
They both are used frequently in sports medicine for their abilities to release the build-up of lactic acid that causes muscle soreness during workouts.
They also promote circulation and increased blood flow, getting oxygen and nutrients to muscles when they need them most.
But we’re here to find out which of the two does this all better.
The Foam Roller
First, let’s take a look at the classic foam roller.
Foam rollers are used primarily to relieve back pain, manage fibromyalgia symptoms, ease your muscle pain, and ultimately help you relax.
A foam roller looks like a shorter, fatter, denser foam pool noodle that you might see at your local country club. But it does much more than just help you float on a sunny pool day.
Easy to Use
One of the best things about the foam roller is that it’s just so easy to use.
It requires you, your muscles, and the floor. You can set it on the floor and lay your back on top of it, rolling it up and down your spine, shoulders, and neck.
Or, you can sit it in front of you and roll it underneath your legs to loosen tight glutes and hamstrings.
Requires No Electronics
Another wonderful thing about using a foam roller to speed up your workout recovery is that there are no batteries required.
You don’t have to worry about finding an outlet or remembering to charge it beforehand.
As we said, it’s super easy.
Can be Used on Large Muscle Groups
A foam roller is designed to be used specifically on your largest muscle groups, i.e. your shoulders, back, and legs.
It can be used on your arms, but this treatment is not as effective.
Perhaps its greatest downfall is that it offers no options for more targeted relief for smaller muscles or hard-to-reach ones.
Relies On You For Energy and Force
A foam roller relies entirely on you and your bodyweight for pressure and force. This means you control how intense you get with the massage.
This also means that you are limited to what your body weight can do.
The Massage Gun
The massage gun is the new frontrunner for muscle pain relief. It’s coming to us straight from the locker rooms of professional athletes who used it for quick and targeted muscle recovery.
But this magical new device isn’t just for the elite athletes anymore. A massage gun can use its special percussive therapy on anyone who has muscles that get sore.
The percussive therapy we’re talking about here is by way of a foam or rubber mallet that pulsates in and out of your muscle, reaching deep into the layers of muscle. The deep reach stimulates circulation, causing fresh, oxygenated blood to drench sore and healing muscles.
This speeds up the healing process a lot, helping you get back out there faster than ever.
It does work in a “hurts so good” way, though. As the “gun” part would imply, this little machine packs quite a punch. But that’s a good thing when it comes to muscle health and recovery.
A massage gun is kind of like if you could get a deep tissue massage at home alone. Pretty cool.
A massage gun is incredibly easy to operate. All it takes is the press of a button or a tap on your phone screen to turn the massage gun off, on, and select the specific speed and power you’re looking for.
It looks like it would be a lot harder to operate, but we promise, it’s not.
By using the app, all that’s left to do is hold it to your muscles and let it do its thing.
If you were envisioning some sort of massive contraption that you had to plug into the wall to use, we’re happy to relate that that isn’t the case at all.
A massage gun uses a rechargeable battery to provide power on the go.
Though some massage guns have batteries that only hold about 40 minutes worth of battery life some last upwards of 300 minutes.
Plus, you only need to use the massage gun for minutes at a time to reap the benefits. You won’t need to use the massage gun for longer than 15 minutes max.
Can Be Used All Over Your Body
A massage gun can be used to provide relief for every muscle in your body. It can reach places like your arms to small muscles in your hands and feet.
It even comes with different attachments to replace the typical ball-end mallet. These include a cone attachment to get into your feet and hands and a thumb attachment to release those tight trigger points in your back.
Trigger points are powerful, hypersensitive clumps of muscle tissue that form on a band of muscle. They are notoriously hard to get rid of and incredibly painful to touch.
When you do touch them, they send out a shockwave of pain throughout the entire surrounding muscle. Not fun, right?
Luckily, you can use these trigger points to your advantage. By using the thumb attachment to your massage gun, you can apply pressure directly on those tender trigger points. This causes a wave of relief to be sent out into the rest of the muscle.
You can’t really do that with a foam roller, can you?
Provides Power and Speed Where You Need It
A massage gun doesn’t rely on your body weight to provide the power. It packs quite a punch all on its own.
With a massage gun, you have complete control over just how much pressure you’re getting and where exactly it’s going.
The Winner is Clear
When you look at them side by side, there’s really no comparison.
Though a foam roller can be great for recovery for your legs and back, a massage gun provides superior relief all around.