At the gym or on social media, you might see people using drill-like gadgets on their muscles. These are called massage guns, and they are commonly used to relieve muscle soreness at the gym. Other people depend on them to reduce aches and stiffness from daily life, such as waking up in an awkward sleeping position.
The people who use massage guns swear by the relief they bring. But are they right for you? What’s the difference between massage services and massage guns?
How Do Massage Guns Work?
The difference between a professional massage service and massage guns is how they target tissue. Massage guns perform what is called percussive massage. It produces a rapid, pounding pulse that penetrates deep into the tissues of the body. The user focuses on one target area where they feel soreness rather than working tissue around it.
Right now, there’s no clear understanding of how percussive massage guns work. The hypothesis is that the body never adjusts to the gun’s combination of frequency and depth of force. They may help relieve soreness by stimulating the Golgi tendon organ, a structure within muscles that inhibits contraction. The percussive pulses may also override the sensation of pain within a sore muscle in the same way you might rub your toe after stubbing it.
Regardless of how it works, they are popular (though expensive) devices. A product of the fitness scene in Singapore, massage guns have become popular thanks to celebrities and figures on Instagram. They are now a key part of the arsenals of many personal trainers. But can these devices replace an actual hands-on massage?
Can Massage Guns Really Replace Massage?
In a word, no. There is little research on the long-term effectiveness and safety of massage guns, which is why we don’t truly understand how it works. Training athletes and gym enthusiasts use percussive massage guns for the temporary relief these devices bring to post-exercise muscle aches and pains. There’s no evidence that they provide anything other than temporary relief.
Users should avoid them in areas affected by muscle or ligament strains and sprains. The pressure could cause more damage and reverse any healing. Experts caution against using massage guns for those with inflammatory-related injuries such as osteoporosis, tendonitis or bursitis, or conditions like deep vein thrombosis or arteriosclerosis that affect blood flow.
There is actual evidence behind the specific massage techniques used to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness for athletes. Massage services are performed by people trained to understand human anatomy, and they can locate areas of tightness and target deep tissue releases where pressure is necessary. They don’t just focus on one part but will target the problems while thinking of the whole body. Massage services are also safe for most people with health conditions that make massage guns unsuitable.
Any athlete or fitness fan who uses massage guns must be careful. They are high-powered devices that, for most users, will be self-administered; as such, be mindful of the potential harm they can bring.