How to Use a Massage Gun
Massage guns are everywhere. Sporting goods stores stock them and they’re certainly not hard to come by online. Athletes endorse them and fitness trainers back them, but they’re more than just a trend.
What Is a Massage Gun?
If you’re not familiar, a massage gun is a device that allows people to give themselves quick, powerful massages anytime and anywhere.
It’s not hard to decipher why these devices are called massage guns—they look sort of like handguns and they provide self-massage therapy.
There are oodles of these devices on the market, which can make it tough to separate the best massage guns from low-quality ones.
In short, a good massage gun provides rapid bursts of force into your muscle tissue, alleviating soreness and stiffness.
How Do Massage Guns Work?
Massage guns utilize percussive therapy or vibration therapy, sometimes both simultaneously. While both percussion and vibration therapies have benefits, they differ slightly.
They’re both types of soft tissue manipulation, which experts believe to reduce muscle soreness and post-workout fatigue.
What Is Percussive Therapy?
Percussive therapy involves the application of force to muscles and fascia (a type of connective tissue) to break up adhesions and encourage blood flow to sore or sensitive areas.Percussive therapy devices reach deep into soft tissue for maximum benefits.
What Is Vibration Therapy?
Think of vibration therapy as percussive therapy on a smaller scale. Vibration therapy still applies force to targeted areas, but the amplitude of the force is lower— this sort of soft tissue therapy is generally defined as penetrating eight to 10 millimeters into the soft tissue.
Vibration therapy is often the best choice for people who have chronic pain, very sensitive muscles or a medical condition that precludes them from using percussive therapy.
In other words, percussive therapy is to deep tissue massage as vibration therapy is to Swedish massage.
How to Properly Use a Massage Gun
To get the most out of your massage gun, it’s important to know how to use it properly. Improper use of a massage gun can lead to injury or, at best, a waste of money.
Here are some tips on using your massage gun during different scenarios.
Using a Massage Gun Before Workouts
A pre-workout massage gun session can help you warm up by increasing blood flow to the muscles you plan to engage during your workout. Using a massage gun during your warmup may also improve your range of motion before working out.
To use a massage gun before your workout, spend one to two minutes massaging each muscle group you plan to exercise directly, plus 30 seconds on supporting muscle groups.
For example, if you plan to do a leg workout, try this pre-workout massage gun routine:
- 60 seconds on each quad
- 60 seconds on each hamstring
- 30 seconds on the lower back
- 30 seconds on each calf
In less than five minutes, you’ll boost circulation and ready your muscles for exercise. Don’t neglect other important warm-up components, though, such as dynamic stretching and light cardio to get your heart rate up. However, percussive therapy isn’t a replacement for intentional mobilization and priming.
Using a Massage Gun After Workouts
After your workout, you can use your massage gun as part of your cool-down. Post-workout percussive therapy can help bring your body down from a heightened state back to a resting state. In theory, massage guns help relax your nervous system by masking pain signals sent to the brain after a tough workout, similar to a TENS unit.
Additionally, percussive therapy keeps circulation strong after a workout, which brings oxygen and much-needed nutrients to your fatigued muscles.
Finally, post-workout percussive therapy may help reduce inflammation in your muscles, which helps reduce post-workout muscle soreness (muscle soreness is thought to occur due to microscopic tears in muscle fibers and inflammation in the tissues).
Using a Massage Gun for Sore Muscles
You may notice a day or two after your workout that your muscles get really sore. This is called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and a massage gun can help to an extent. A massage gun won’t completely eliminate DOMS, but it can provide temporary relief.
To use a massage gun for sore muscles, adjust the speed and depth settings to where they don’t cause pain. Because sore muscles tend to be sensitive, you’ll probably want to stick to the lower settings on your device.
Once you find a setting that feels good, use the massage gun for one to two minutes on each sore area.
How Not to Use a Massage Gun
In general, massage guns are safe to use for muscle soreness and as a tool to improve your fitness. However, you should be aware of common improper uses of massage guns.
Don’t use a massage gun:
- On bony areas
- On musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains and strains
- On bruises or open wounds
- If you have severe or unexplained pain
- Without talking to your doctor if you have arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia or another musculoskeletal condition
How Often to Use a Massage Gun
You can safely use a massage gun every day if you use proper techniques and don’t exceed the recommended usage time provided by the company (most massage guns come with instructions that state how long to use the device in a given session).
Using a massage gun for too long on a single muscle or muscle group might lead to sensitivity or pain. Use a massage gun too little and you may not reap the benefits. If you’re not sure if you’re using your massage gun for the right amount of time, refer back to your device instructions.
A Word From Verywell
Massage guns can be a healthy and helpful part of your exercise and recovery routine. However, it’s important to use caution when applying any sort of force to your body. Take care to avoid using a massage gun on any injuries, bruises or overly sensitive areas, and talk to your doctor if you’re not sure if a massage gun is right for you.