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Do Massage Guns Really Work?

January 10, 2024

Massage guns have become a common accessory for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who swear by their ability to ease muscle soreness and tension. But, do they really work? In the hands of an expert, or with proper guidance, massage guns can be very beneficial, says Stefanie Bourassa, DPT, sports medicine program manager at the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute. “The results of utilizing these tools at home can vary from notable benefits to potentially causing more pain, based on use and circumstances," she says. Here's what you need to know about massage guns, their benefits and risks. [insert-cta-small id=27102]

Massage guns use pressure and vibration to stimulate muscles.

Massage guns, also known as percussion massagers, deliver rapid and repetitive strikes to the muscle tissue. "These devices work on the premise that muscles respond really well to pressure and vibration. The combination of pressure and vibration from massage guns stimulates blood flow, tissue activation and the nervous system to help muscles work or recover optimally," Bourassa says.

Percussive therapy can also help with pain relief.

The percussive movement of massage guns also reduces muscle tension and promotes the release of endorphins, offering pain-sufferers a sense of relief and relaxation. “Because the pain system also respond well to pressure and vibration, this is also used as a modality to regulate pain," she says > Related: Why You Should Add Strength Training to Your Exercise Routine

Athletes can use massage guns for warm-ups and cool downs.

Athletes, in particular, benefit from the effects of massage guns. "They can be used as a warm up - what we call tissue prep - or a cool down tool - which we call recovery,” Bourassa says. Often, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants use massage guns to prepare whatever tissue they’re focusing on for work, whether a strengthening or flexibility exercise.

But use massage guns correctly to reap benefits and avoid risks.

While massage guns can be effective, it's crucial to use them correctly. "Improper use or excessive pressure can lead to tissue damage,” Bourassa notes. Follow product instructions or consult a therapist or fitness professional to ensure you're using the device safely and effectively. > Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

And if you need more help, talk to an expert.

Like all at-home treatments, massage guns can help, but aren't a cure-all for your muscular woes. A professional can offer you a more comprehensive approach to recovery, says Bourassa. "Incorporate massage gun use into a broader recovery strategy that includes proper nutrition, hydration, rest and stretching. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for muscle recovery," she says.