Therapeutic Massage Guns: Should You Get One?

When used properly therapeutic massage guns like Theragun can help relieve muscle soreness after a workout.

According to Joshua J. Bruner, a physical therapist at the Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health in Platteville, Wisconsin who is board-certified in orthopedic physical therapy, therapeutic massage guns are battery-operated, handheld devices that use a combination of percussion and vibration to increase muscle flexibility and decrease pain. These devices operate in a manner similar to those of other soft tissue manipulation techniques, such as deep tissue massage. The gadget may be used with a number of attachments to target specific areas or muscle sizes.

“The massage guns work by increasing blood flow and nutrients to the tissues, stimulating receptors to decrease muscle stiffness, increasing relaxation hormone production, and decreasing pain perception in the nervous system,” explains Bruner, who is also a clinical instructor for Specialized Physical Therapy Education. Physical therapists often utilize these gadgets as an extension of their hands while treating musculoskeletal problems in the clinic, he adds. They are used by physical therapists in both sports and orthopedic settings and “may be an excellent method for people to self-massage at home to aid in the healing process after an accident or to reduce discomfort following a training session,” he adds.

According to Bruner, there is a dearth of scientific data on the benefits of therapeutic massage firearms. However, “benefits have been shown in terms of enhancing muscle flexibility, decreasing muscle pain, and increasing joint range of motion,” he adds. These gadgets do not seem to enhance sprint speed, vertical leap height, or strength. Individuals should get expert training to ensure the massage gun is utilized properly, Bruner adds. “Generally speaking, therapeutic massage firearms are very safe for the general public. The primary danger is that excessive usage will result in increased muscular pain, bruising, and potentially additional muscle damage,” he adds.

To minimize these side effects and possible damage, a massage gun should not be used for more than two to three minutes on a single muscle area before moving on to another location. “Prolonged usage of a particular muscle may do more damage than good,” he adds. Additionally, bony regions should be avoided, since they are often sensitive and may be unpleasant with a massage gun. When purchasing a gadget, he notes that costs range widely — from about $50 to $400 or more. “However, the difference in their efficacy is negligible,” he adds. Although more costly devices are often quieter, have a broader range of speeds, and have more attachments, there is little evidence to suggest that one device is superior to another. “While quality is important, the pounding and vibration generated by the gadget are same for all massage guns. It is the device’s mechanics, not its appearance or brand, that determines its effectiveness.” If cost is an issue, he suggests trying cheaper options such as foam rollers, massage balls, or massage sticks, which may offer comparable advantages. Therefore, should you get one? “I would strongly suggest utilizing one of these devices for certain groups such as athletes, runners, and other physically active individuals,” Bruner concludes. “Prior to utilizing them, individuals should get appropriate instruction from a professional. When supervised by a medical expert, a person who leads an active lifestyle may use one to aid in recovery from general training pain or to treat muscular injuries.”

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Categories: Clinical