Constant muscle soreness can be disruptive, painful, and debilitating. With all the different training implements, and recovery modalities, it’s hard to decipher between which one’s are truly effective and which one’s aren’t. Massage guns have gained massive popularity in recent years for both therapeutic reasons and sports performance. We’re going to find out if massage guns really work.
What Is A Massage Gun
A massage gun is a small handheld device, that’s used to increase flexibility, range of motion, and accelerate recovery. Massage guns provide a type of vibration therapy, targeting specific areas of soreness, through self-application. Like other recovery modalities, such as cupping, graston, and foam rolling, a massage gun promotes blood flow to a specific area, which can reduce muscle soreness and tension.
Research indicates that vibration therapy may muscle strength, power, and kinesthetic awareness, by effectively reducing muscle tension improving flexibility and reducing muscle stiffness.
How Do Massage Guns Work
Massage guns utilize either percussive or vibration therapy, or both. Although they slightly differ, both therapies manipulate the soft tissue, which is believed to reduce muscle soreness and improve range of motion.
Percussive therapy involves the application of force to the muscle tissue to effectively breakup adhesions and encourage blood flow.
While vibration therapy also applies force, the amplitude of the force is much lower as compared to massage guns that utilize percussive therapy.
Do Massage Guns Really Work
Massage guns like the Hyperice Hypervolt, Theragun, and Fixx by Compex, have been able to provide a recovery tool, that can essentially provide you with your very own massage therapist. But is the high price tag really worth it? Research has shown that massage guns can be effective at increasing range of motion, and potentially reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to effectively improve performance.
In a study published in the Journal Of Sports Science and Medicine, the effects of massage treatment with a Hypervolt on range of motion and performance were assessed. Sixteen healthy male participants were tested on two separate days, with either 5-min of treatment to the calves, or the control (no stimulation). the study showed a significant increase in ankle dorsiflexion, or the ability to pull the toes up towards the shins, however showed no significant improvement in torque or power of the calf muscles. The study concluded that like a conventional massage by a therapist, handheld massage guns can effectively increase range of motion, without influencing muscle strength [R].
Further research comparing the effects of massage and vibration therapy have also shown similar outcomes. A study published in the Journal Of Clinical And Diagnostic Research measured the effects of massage therapy and vibration therapy on DOMS, range of motion, and lactate levels. Study results indicated that vibration therapy and massage therapy showed significant improvement in all parameters and were equally effective in the prevention of DOMs. Massage showed clear indication of restoration of strength, however vibration therapy showed an effective reduction of pain and lactate levels 48 hours post workout [R].
How To Use Massage Guns
Massage guns can provide significant benefits - if they’re used correctly that is. Good massage guns provide rapid bursts of force into your muscle tissue, alleviating muscle stiffness and soreness.
Like most things, massage guns must be consistently used and applied, for them to produce significant performance benefits. Research indicates that using a massage gun before your workout, offers just as many benefits as using one post workout, by improving blood flow, and delivering more oxygen and nutrients to your muscle tissue. Consistent vibration therapy can therefore, effectively increase range of motion and reduce post workout muscle soreness.
Do Massage Guns Work: Takeaway
Although investigative studies are rather limited, preliminary research suggests that massage guns are effective at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness and improving range of motion. There’s a reason why professional athletes like Lebron James. Maria Sherapova, and Aaron Rodgers endorse them, because they actually work and the science proves it.
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Konrad, Andreas et al. “The Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment with a Hypervolt Device on Plantar Flexor Muscles' Range of Motion and Performance.” Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 19,4 690-694. 19 Nov. 2020
Imtiyaz, Shagufta et al. “To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR vol. 8,1 (2014): 133-6. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971
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