From Naomi Osaka to Christiano Ronaldo, massage guns are the new crave of the most talented athletes. Well, they at least promote them heavily.
These weird-looking devices could easily be misplaced in a builder toolbox next to the percussion drill. Yet, they are everywhere and claim to get rid of muscle soreness and knots in the quickest and most efficient way ever seen.
Many questions remain, though, for a product that has been on the market for just a handful number of years. Do massage guns work? Are they worth it? Are they safe to use? And should you invest in one of those machines that may change the way you recover after your daily jogging or workout?
What are the differences between vibration and percussion therapies?
In a nutshell, a percussive massage gun is a massage therapist on steroids. Depending on the power applied, they will either work by vibration or percussive therapies.
Vibration and percussion are different and target different levels of don’t tissue deepness. While vibration therapy is more global and superficial, percussive therapy goes deep into the muscles, bringing additional benefits and potential drawbacks.
Used pre or post-exercise, vibration therapy can be applied to the whole body or locally to target specific muscle groups. It has been the subject of numerous scientific validations and proved to be beneficial to:
- improve blood flow,
- relax muscles,
- reduce pain,
- increase bone density,
- inhibit cramps and spasms,
- decrease post-exercise soreness.
In a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research, vibration therapy proved as effective as massages for preventing post-exercise Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
Interestingly, a team of researchers at the Medical College of Georgia and Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University published the striking results of their study in the International Journal of Molecular Science. According to their findings, Whole Body Vibration (WBV) can reduce inflammation and help the body better manage its glucose utilization.
Believed to have been invented in Los Angeles in 2008 by Jason Werseland, a chiropractor, massage guns still lack validation from the scientific community.
Percussive therapy targets its benefits on deep soft tissues to promote repair. By applying up to 3,000 percussions per minute, vibration therapy has, according to the manufacturers, the ability to:
- prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness,
- improve blood and lymphatic circulation, and
- relieve muscle soreness quickly.
By stimulating the muscle nerve input, blood vessels dilate, ultimately increasing the muscles’ blood flow to improve recovery.
Muscle knots, myofascial trigger points can be annoying and painful. These localized tensions in the muscles frequently cause pain and discomfort. Stretching and massages help release tension to the muscle fascia. Hence, massage guns also help in reducing localized tension. Most of them come with various heads that allow applying pressure on specific parts of the body.
What are the potential risks and side-effects of a percussive massager?
Somehow, despite their potential benefits, percussion therapy should not be considered lightly. Recently, a case of rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening condition leading to the destruction of the muscular fiber, was described in the Journal of Physical Therapy.
In a young Chinese woman who suffered from untreated iron deficiency, using a percussion gun led to the appearance of multiple hematomas and ultimately severe rhabdomyolysis.
Percussion massagers undeniably carry many promises, even though the scientific literature is still scarce but can also induce serious side-effects that can not be overlooked. Therefore, when considering a percussion massager, we recommend talking to your trainer and your doctor.
Who should consider a massage gun?
Massage therapy is not reserved for professional athletes anymore. It goes the same way for percussive massagers. However, deep tissue massage is not for everybody and can lead to muscle pain or worse when not applied properly or at the right intensity.
Relieving sore muscle after jogging is not the same as treating professional athletes for whom an intense percussive massage treatment can lead to better performances.
When used properly, massages guns can benefit any sportsmen or sportswomen, but they will never replace the expertise and experience of a professional physiotherapist. Instead, they should be considered an additional therapy to be used after a routine training session.
No need to be a world-class athlete to benefit from a percussive massager, though. After a long day of work, 10-15 minutes with your massage gun will increase the levels of endorphins, the hormone responsible for pleasure and good mood. Also, by reducing stress hormones such as vasopressin and cortisol, a percussion massager is an easy way to reduce anxiety.
Massage guns to consider
On Amazon only, massage guns’ prices range from $40 up to more than $500 for professional-grade models. With so many models, the choice can be pretty overwhelming.
Massage guns differences are mostly linked to the amplitude of movement of the massage gun head, and the amount of force applied. The stronger the force and amplitude, the deeper and firmer the percussive treatment.
If you are new to the world of handheld massagers, massage guns in the $200 range may be an excellent way to get used to these high-tech devices and to enjoy faster muscle recovery and relieve stress. They will be reliable enough but also easy to use and carry daily.
Bellow are three massages guns from renowned brands that can change how you take care of your body while still being convenient to use and reasonably priced.
Theragun is a dominant player in the massage gun market for a reason. The products they offer are reliable, effective, and deliver on their promises.
No need to transform your sports bag into a toolbox. The theragun mini only weighs 3 pounds and provides a more than enough amplitude of 12 mm. In addition, it comes in three colors (white, black, and red). Finally, its rechargeable battery will last up to 150 minutes.
With three speeds to choose from (1750, 2100, 2400 PPM), the theragun mini is also very quiet but is still powerful enough to release muscular tension.
We consider it the perfect device to experience the benefits of percussive therapy without breaking the bank but still with quantifiable results.
Mini by Theragun
Price when reviewed: $199.00
Addsfit Mini Gun
The Addsfit Mini should be considered as an introductory percussion massager. The amplitude of 6 mm may not be sufficient to reach deep into the muscles, but this model is highly portable and weighs just 0.8 pounds.
Perfect while traveling or for occasional use, the Addsfit Mini gun lets you select from three different speeds: 1600, 2500, or 3000 RPM.
Coming with two interchange heads (thumb for releasing localized tension and flat for larger muscle groups), the Addsfit Minigun will be a great addition to your sports bag. You will even forget that it is there but will gladly use it when need be.
Mini Gun by Addsfit
Price when reviewed: $85.00
Hyperice HyperVolt Go
HyperVolt is a company that is famous for the quality of its massage guns. In addition, they offer a wide range of products that will accommodate both professional athletes or amateurs.
The HyperVolt Go offers excellent performances while remaining highly portable. With a weight of just 1.5 pounds, it comes with two head attachments.
Especially well suited for women, the brushless motor will deliver up to 3200 percussions per minute, making it the ideal companion while on the go. It also comes with two massage heads for localized or global therapies.
For extra power, one can consider the HyperVolt Plus, which comes at a higher price point, is less portable with a weight of 3 pounds but will deliver much more powerful stimulation.
HyperVolt Go by Hyperice
Price when reviewed: $199.00
To wrap up
Vibration and percussion therapies have undoubtedly taken the fitness world by storm. Beneficial for relieving muscle tension, a percussion massage gun is not a substitute for a professional massage but is a quick and easy way to relieve tight muscles, help reduce muscular scar tissue, and prevent soreness.
By going deep into the muscle tissue, handheld massagers will trigger the release of hormones that will contribute to improving your mood and relieving you from stress.
Somehow, if vibration therapy has been quite extensively described in the scientific literature, percussive therapies still lack the unanimous recognition of the medical professionals’ community.
As described, they can also, in some rare instances, induce severe side-effects, especially in people suffering from blood coagulation disorders or currently under blood thinners treatments.
To safely make the most of this new form of muscular therapy, we strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor. He is the only one who will be able to give you clear recommendations on the potential risks of such an approach depending on your medical circumstances.