Massage Guns: How to Use Them Properly?

Massage guns are given their name since they provide massage and are shaped like guns. Massage guns have become very popular, can be purchased from numerous sources, are economically feasible, and are a great way to give yourself a muscle massage anytime you'd like to relieve muscle pain. This article will highlight how they work when to use them, and advice on purchasing one.

Key takeaways:
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    Massage guns use percussion and vibration to increase muscle blood flow, leading to decreased pain and soreness.
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    Massage guns can be used before or after exercise in addition to any time there is muscular pain or soreness.
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    Massage guns should not be applied to bones, bruises, or infected areas.
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    The purchase of the right massage involves spending just enough to buy a quality product.

What is the theory behind massage guns?

Massage guns function by increasing blood flow in the muscles; this allows more nutrients to reach the cells, especially the needed oxygen.

Massage guns work by two basic principles: percussion and vibration. Massage gun percussion is similar to a soft hammer repeatedly hitting a muscle, which leads to relaxation. Vibration therapy is similar to percussion therapy but uses vibration waves instead of direct tapping.

In addition, percussion therapy is estimated to penetrate the muscles 60% deeper than vibration therapy.

Lastly, vibration waves can affect the entire body, while percussion only works at that one localized area. For instance, you may have seen vibration machines where people stand on a podium, and vibration spreads to the entire body.

How do massage guns relieve pain?

There are three ways that massage guns help to relieve pain.

The first way involves increasing blood flow to the muscles, improving muscle function. When we use our muscles, they require energy in the form of oxygen. The massage gun can relax the muscles, increase blood flow, and allow more oxygen to transport to the cells.

Second, if our muscles do not receive the required amount of oxygen, there is a buildup of lactic acid, which causes muscle pain and soreness. Massage guns help move the lactic acid out of the muscles to be excreted by the body, reducing pain and soreness.

Finally, our bodies sense muscular pain when nerve impulses travel from a muscle to the brain. Massage guns interfere with this impulse, leading to our brains sensing decreased pain; the same theory is used in TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machines.

When should the massage gun be used? Before or after exercise?

Before exercise can be helpful

The colloquial term "warming up the muscles" means we increase blood flow to the muscles, leading to increased available oxygen; this is done mainly by performing cardiovascular exercises.

The massage guns produce the same increased flow of blood. With 15-60 seconds of massage gun use, the same result as a cardiovascular workup is achieved. You should start with 15-30 seconds and increase the time as your muscles adapt.

After exercise

The massage guns work well to keep the blood flowing, transporting additional oxygen to the fatigued post-exercise muscles and removing lactic acid.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) differs from the soreness right after exercise; it occurs 1-3 days after muscle use or training. Microtears in the muscle fibers cause DOMS. It has been found that a massage gun can help or even prevent DOMS.

Pain or soreness

Anytime there is soreness (or pain) is a good time to use the massage gun.

Are there contraindications to using the massage gun?

Yes, there are several areas where a massage gun should not be used:

  • Applied directly to a bone.
  • An infected (with or without an open sore) area.
  • A bruised area.

In addition to the above contraindications, other systemic conditions should elucidate caution in using a massage gun, including:

  • Osteoporosis (thinning of the bone).
  • The presence of an autoimmune disorder, where the body attacks itself, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus (SLE), psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and colitis), and others.
  • Varicose veins.

Which massage gun should you purchase?

It's hard to advise which unit to purchase. If we recommend one type, a new one could emerge immediately after publishing. In addition, every person is different and could respond differently to various models. However, we can make some suggestions.

As far as price is concerned, massage guns can be like purchasing many products, described by the idiom “you get what you pay for.” Unfortunately, this can be somewhat true for massage guns.

You can get a poorly made product if you spend too little money. But do you need to spend excessive amounts of money? Probably not. Once you get past a certain quality threshold, with most medical devices, they work well. Not to say that's going to be the case with your massage gun purchase; it's just a general statement.

One good way to decide which massage gun to purchase is to see what other people are buying, which is available on some websites. In addition, certain websites will recommend specific models.


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