A massage gun is a tool commonly used today to help improve muscle soreness and mobility, as well as aid in muscle recovery. There are a variety of brands of massage guns that have quickly become a growing “fad” within the health and fitness industry. But what exactly do massage guns do and do they really work? Relief may be as simple as a small device that fits in the palm of your hand!
A massage gun is a small handheld device that looks and sounds like a drill. Most massage guns have a variety of pieces and speeds that can be utilized to help with muscle pain. There is a wide variety of brands with costs ranging from $40 to $500.1
Massage guns use a type of percussion (vibration) therapy. A foam roller, lacrosse ball, trigger point ball or massage could offer the same results of a massage gun, though a massage gun can target a very specific area if needed. A massage gun promotes blood flow to the specific area, which can help reduce inflammation and muscle tension.2 They can be utilized before or after a workout depending on the individual’s particular need. While massage guns are designed to be used by anyone, they are most popular among endurance athletes looking to loosen up tight and sore muscles after their workout. Each massage gun will come with different attachments to directly target specific parts of the body.
Research has shown that massage guns can be effective in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improving short term muscle length. DOMS can cause muscle soreness for 24 – 72 hours following an intense workout.2 By utilizing the massage gun on the muscles used in the workout, you can reduce the amount of muscle soreness, therefore aiding in muscle recovery.2
In a study performed by Konrad et al, utilization of vibration (or percussive) therapy on the plantar flexor muscles, or the muscles also known as the calf, was assessed. Following a five minute percussive therapy treatment on these muscles, the study showed a significant increase in ankle dorsiflexion, or the ability to pull the toes up towards the shins. This study also showed no significant improvement noted in the available torque or power of the calf muscles.3 This study demonstrates the ability for a treatment with percussive therapy and how it can improve the short-term length of a muscle.
There has been minimal to no research that has shown an improvement in speed or endurance, as well as torque. Therefore, the use of percussive therapy cannot be said to directly improve athletic performance.4 Depending on what your goal is with the use of a massage gun, it can be extremely effective. Massage guns are ideal for improving muscle length and reducing muscle soreness.
As always when beginning to use a new tool for muscle recovery, listen to your body. If you are unsure whether your pain is appropriate for the use of a massage gun, consult a physical therapist. While muscle soreness can be improved by the use of a massage gun, it is not always the solution for an injury or pain. If you notice abnormal aches and pains, seek the advice of a medical professional sooner rather than later. With no prescription needed in most, states you can schedule a Free Assessment at Athletico.* Out Athletico team will assess your pain and provide recommendations for a treatment plan. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Should you reach for a handheld massage gun? (2020, September 25). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/should-you-reach-for-a-handheld-massager/
2. Imtiyaz, S., Veqar, Z., & Shareef, M. (2014). To compare the effect of vibration therapy and massage in prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness (doms). Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. doi:10.7860/jcdr/2014/7294.3971
3. Konrad, A., Glashuttner, C., Reiner, M., Bernsteiner, D., & Tilp, M. (2020). The acute effects of a percussive massage treatment with a hyperbole device on plantar flexor muscles’ range of motion and performance. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 690-694.
4. M. (n.d.). 5 science-backed reasons why percussive therapy is good for you. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://hydragun.com.au/blog/5-science-backed-reasons-why-percussive-therapy-is-good-for-you
5. Ibrahim, B. (2020, July 22). What’s the deal with massage guns, and do they really work? Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/cnn-underscored/massage-guns/index.html