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Massage Guns

Tired Of Foam Rollin..

Thera, Hyper, Hydra..whatever brand – Gun, is the hot new therapy and performance trend. Whether it’s the gym, basketball courts, therapy clinics, or my sisters living room, seems like everyone is jack-hammering their legs, shoulders, buttocks and anywhere else to find relief. The next generation of heating pad, stretch routine, massage, or even foam rolling, some of the gun claims say they do it all …for a $PRICE.$$

Let’s dig in to see what all the pressure is about…(I know, I’m so corny! 😉 

Q: What is a Massage Gun?

A: They are called percussion (like striking a drum) massagers, they use a combination of vibration and deep oscillation to massage tight, knotted, sore muscles. Basically, a mini, body “jack hammer”.  As opposed to other modalities, from deep tissue massage to stretching, massage guns are meant to jolt pressure into targeted areas. Physical therapist also use this method, “tapping”, but it can’t be done with this level of frequency, intensity, and time. 

Q: What are the main benefits?

A: It’s thought to…loosening up muscle tissue (knots) by “pounding out” the muscle fibers that stuck/bundled together; reduce muscle soreness by increasing blood circulation by flushing out lactic acid and reduce pain by exerting mechanical pressure on nerve pain receptors (confusing/distracting them). The key concept is Myofasical Release (we covered Fascia in the last email), the massage gun allows you to do it yourself (to a certain degree). 

Q: How’s the research?

A: New, not a lot of data, but promising. The studies are small (16 to 40 people). There are a lot of studies set to come out and we’ll probably see it does help, but does it help significantly more than other modalities, I don’t think so.  But that’s not the point, it is simpler, easier, and more accessible than most treatments. Some claims like “using a massage gun for 2min had similar benefits as a 15min massage” is unfounded. The research I’ve read, I feel comfortable to say it reduces (short-term) the perception of pain, improves recovery, and increases range of motion before a stretch. 

Q: You mentioned Foam Rolling?

A: That’s because rolling is another form of myofascial release, similar benefits. It can be painful  for some (because they are doing it wrong) and requires more effort (using your bodyweight). Rolling is great for larger areas of the body and the induction of unpleasant input of pain can act on your nervous system in a beneficial way, some discomfort (not pain) can be good! 

Q: When is best time to use?

A: It’s best to use when your muscles are feeling tight, either before or after exercise. It’s not a preventative tool, using it every day or when your muscles aren’t tight, has not shown to be of benefit. Before a workout you can activate muscle and nerve tissue in tight areas and after a workout, when your muscles begin to feel tight after an intense activity, you can speed recovery by enhancing circulation. If you’re constantly having to use it, you have a muscle imbalance, overuse, or injury issue, massage guns are not going to fix that. The relief is often temporary. 

Q: Any dangers?

A: Massage Guns are aggressive, using them too frequently or for too long (2min or less per muscle group), can cause damage, further inflame, bruise, and worse breakdown muscle.  Remember, you’re targeting/pounding on muscle tissue and irritating nerves, so go slow and short. Do not use immediately after intense activity. Those that have issues with blood clotting, osteoporosis, varicose veins, chronic pain (can cause flare ups), should be careful. Do NOT use on front of torso/stomach, neck, or on bony sites – front of shins, tops of feet, head, and joints. 

Q: What should I look for when buying a Massage gun?

A: The cheap ones may not be durable or have enough “stroke depth”, meaning they may not go as deep (which is the whole point). Look for ones that have multiple settings so you can work on sensitive areas like your calf muscle, various adaptors and heads (helps with targeting and large/small muscles) and fits you/your hand ergonomically (being relaxed is key when using one)

Q: Do you use one?

A: I haven’t bought one, but I use one at the place I stretch (StretchLab) and workout (THP). I mostly use it during my pre-hab/workout, 5-10min before. I will target the insertion points of my tight muscles. I used the flat head because it’s more like the vibrational technologies other studies have, and I lay down (keeps me relaxed). Most importantly, I use NERVE along with it because the percussion (mechanism) is engaging the same processes as NERVE (nerve firing, relaxing of muscle tissue, circulation), but NERVE is doing it physiologically, it allows the percussion to work deeper and thoroughly.