Are massage guns worth the hype? Experts say the research isn’t yet robust, but they use a similar principle to other recovery methods.Denis Botarev/Shutterstock; Canva. Massage guns are more popular than ever. Celebrities, professional athletes and fitness influencers alike rave about their benefits. Can they help up your fitness game, too?
Here’s everything you need to know about when they help, who they might benefit, and how to use one if you decide to try it out. Massage guns (sometimes called “percussive massage treatment” or “vibration therapy,” too) are portable, handheld devices that look like a power drill and in some cases, sound like one. They’re almost always wireless — most use a rechargeable battery — and they come with interchangeable attachments.
When the gun is placed on your muscles and turned on, the attachments vibrate or “percuss” at a high frequency and low amplitude of movement, which advocates claim promote recovery from workouts and improve overall performance while reducing soreness.
“You can use a massage gun whenever you’re looking to relieve some muscle tension, but it may be especially beneficial to use after a workout to promote recovery with reduced muscle soreness,” says Leada Malek, CSCS, a sports physical therapist in San Francisco who’s board-certified through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists.
While Malek says the evidence is scant to conclusively link training benefits with massage guns, there is research to support the two modes of therapy that behind the percussive massage treatment of massage guns. Those are massage, a treatment that your muscles being kneaded and manipulated by another person, and vibration therapy, which involves placing a vibrating device on certain parts of your body.
“Massage can reduce tension in muscles and impact flexibility, reducing muscle stiffness, increasing blood flow, and decreasing muscle soreness,” Malek says. And there is some evidence that vibration therapy can have the same effect as massage therapy in terms of limiting delayed onset muscle soreness (the tightness and achiness you feel a day or two after a tough workout).
You might get similar effects by holding a massage gun to one area, but it doesn’t qualify as myofascial release because of its rapid, percussive nature, Malek says.
An advantage of the gun? It can target specific areas of the body better than a foam roller, especially those that are hard to reach, like the pectoral muscles in your chest, your biceps, and psoas muscles (which run from your low spine to the tops of the femur bones in your legs), says Brian Abarca, personal trainer certified through Passaic County Community College and owner of Abarca Fitness in Union City, New Jersey.
Static stretching, on the other hand, uses slow, sustained stretches on a muscle to promote relaxation and reduced feelings of muscle tightness, and like foam rolling, it has more research to support its benefits, Malek says.
For some people, stretching may be more relaxing because of the nonpercussive impact to the muscle, Malek says. And because you don’t need equipment, it’s more convenient.
In other news – How Strength Training Helps Your Health
Besides the well-touted (and frequently Instagrammed) benefit of adding tone and definition to your muscles, how does strength training help? Here are just a few of the many ways.
This benefit is the obvious one, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Learn more