Does A Massage Gun Really Work?
Percussion massagers also known as massage guns or percussion therapy are gun-shaped machines that supply rapid vigorous stroke pulses deep into the muscle tissues with the aim to help relieve sore muscles, repair and loosen muscle knots, and ultimately to achieve body relaxation and a state of well-being. They are popularly recognized by its resemblance of a gun, a power drill and a hair drier, depending on the manufacturer’s design, size and shape.
As we see daily, the world is running fast and everyday science is doing its best to eliminate human labor and efforts as much as possible. This was exactly the ordeal when massage guns were first invented, these percussion massagers stake a claim to have solved the problem of recurrent massage therapy sessions. Massage guns cost as low as few hundred bucks or as much as a few thousand bucks, so it's worth the buzz to know if they are worth it. They use vibration therapy and vibrational healing mechanisms.
Thanks to percussion massagers, you don't need to go through the process of always booking an appointment with a massage therapist all the time as you can now get to enjoy a massage without having a massage therapist around. Percussion massagers let you enjoy the same benefits of a massage therapist at the comfort of your own homes without having to pay any fee. The main question however is do massage guns really work? Are these claims legitimate? And yes, they thump your muscles at speeds of up to 3000 times in a minute, but are they as effective as they claim to be in muscle recovery? Well, read on!
The first massage guns were made in the late '00s, and even though much has been unraveled and many tech companies making new advances regularly, so much of its mechanism of action is not yet known. A percussion massager is way more effective than the traditional techniques as it makes use of high-intensity pressure to reduce soreness in the muscles of the region it is being applied and since they utilize rapid burst of pressure, and provide in one minute what a massager may use several minutes to achieve, has a more intense and faster healing effect.
One of the major ways massage guns help recovery is by reducing muscles soreness. They do so by stimulating the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) which is a (sensory) receptor organ that senses changes in muscle tension. GTOs are stimulated and activated whenever a tendon attached to an active muscle in the body is stretched or tensioned. That is, as massage guns increases the tension in a muscle, the GTO discharge increases. They also increase the flow of blood which allows nutrients to enter into the muscles, this blood flow is not usually one way, as blood brings nutrients into the muscles, or also moves out pooled blood in the muscles. But not only pooled blood, massage guns also facilitate the removal of metabolites, after a workout, these metabolites can cause burning in muscles if not eliminated, in this way (by facilitating their removal), massage guns aid muscle recovery.
Also, another mechanism of action massage gun rely heavily upon is the Gate Control Theory of Pain that aims to deceive the nervous system as proposed by Melzack and Wall in 1965. This theory asserts that multiple non-painful input closes the nerves gates to subsequent painful inputs, thereby preventing further pain sensations from traveling to the central nervous system. This mechanism is particularly true of massage gun vibrations, more recent models go a little further into the muscles for deep tissue massage.
“Massage guns can be used as an alternative to the foam roller as a self-myofascial release tool.”
– Vinh Pham, Founder, Myodetox
These guns help to warm up the muscles before any exercise, and although they are no substitutes to warm-up exercises particularly for athletes, they can be an alternative tool to foam roller and golf balls, as they help the muscles to relax pre-workout. Relaxation of muscles and easing of muscular tightness is very important to reduce the risk of an injury to the muscle caused by imbalance or stiffness, massage guns by rapid bursts of pressure create an upturn in blood pressure and loosen the muscle tissues to allow blood flow to them. Sending of vibrations that generate high blood pulses is also effective against delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
During or after a workout session, it is common to experience exercise-related or exercise-induced hyperlactatemia, which is a high level of lactic acid in the body, this induced high levels of lactic acid can cause muscle soreness, fatigue or strain, commonly it is good to stay hydrated after workouts to combat this high levels, but massage guns also helps out in reducing lactic acid levels post-workout.
The efficacy of massage guns can also be linked to proper usage. So, while they can be effective, less may be more. Lengthy hours of use are totally unnecessary ad may lead to further damage of the muscles rather than recovery.
"There is evidence that suggests specific massage techniques may reduce muscle soreness and stiffness for well-trained athletes…massage guns are high-powered, self-administered devices, and users must be careful and mindful of potential harm when using them".
– Dr Raymond Teoh, Exercise Physiologist
Massage guns are not a messianic solution to all your ailments, but they do work for muscle recovery and general muscular health. They are not holistic and therefore cannot replace sports medicine professionals or therapists. They cannot also be used to treat injury or to totally rehabilitate an athlete, they are only performing a part of the holistic process. Massage guns do not work on bones or fragile body parts. They are rather effective as a piece in the puzzle (large piece though) of fitness and muscular health, and used appropriately on muscles could yield soothing results. If you’re still skeptical about these guns looking like power drills, then a trial would convince you.
“Massage is not just a luxury. It's a way to a healthier, happier life.”