Massage therapy is great for relieving tension and alleviating pain, but there isn’t always time to book a massage appointment. And while we love the convenience and long-term cost savings of massage chairs, sometimes you need a quick massage when you’re away from home.
That’s why personal massagers, also known as massage guns, are a great portable option for massage therapy.
What Is a Massage Gun?
Massage guns, like their name suggests, are portable personal massage devices with a shape that almost resembles a science fiction gun.
The “head” of the massage gun oscillates forward and backward, combining a high frequency vibration with a low amplitude of movement to deliver percussive massage therapy. Percussive massage is a rapid and concentrated series of pulses and jolts that helps to loosen up tight muscles, break up scar tissue and flush lymph fluids and venous blood back into the circulatory system.
This treatment is similar to both deep tissue massage and vibration therapy, which can provide several health benefits. Brands of massage guns include Theragun, Vybe, TimTam, Hyperice and Infinity. Advanced models of massage guns will include extra features like:
- Adjustable speed setting
- Interchangeable massage heads
- Heat therapy
- Bluetooth connectivity
Benefits of Massage Guns
When used appropriately, massage guns can provide many of the benefits associated with massage therapy.
Health Benefits of Massage Guns
Muscle and tissue relaxation — Chronic lower back pain can be relieved by massage that targets the lower back and lumbar area. While it’s difficult (if not impossible) to properly apply pressure to your own lower back, you can have someone else use the massage gun on that area. The application of a massage gun can also relax the muscles between the shoulders and across the upper back, which can help encourage a healthier posture, both for seated and standing positions.
Stress and tension relief — Massage can relieve stress and tension in muscles. When used around the neck and shoulders it can be an effective treatment for easing the symptoms of tension and vascular headaches. Massage therapy can also reduce levels of the hormone cortisol, which causes stress. Lower levels of cortisol means less physical and mental signs of stress, which can also lead to deeper, easier sleep.
Increase of blood flow and circulation — Massage stimulates the blood vessels within the muscles, which has been shown to help with lowering blood pressure and reducing hypertension. This also stimulates the lymphatic system to aid the body in filtering toxins out of its lymph nodes. Overall, this can help both active individuals and those who rarely exercise to improve their cardiovascular health and filter fluids and waste products from cells.
Increase in flexibility and athletic performance — Regular massage therapy has been shown to relieve muscle tightness, which can lead to an increase in range of motion to help prevent injury or muscle strain. Post-exercise massage also helps to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a workout or strenuous activity. The use of a massage gun prior to activity can help to warm up muscles, reducing the risks of strain.
Specific Benefits of Massage Guns
While massage guns cannot provide a wide variety of massage techniques, at least compared to what you can receive from a therapist or massage chair, they do have their own advantages.
Lower cost — Massage guns are very affordable and are less expensive than massage chairs, usually ranging between $150 – $300. As an investment a massage gun will also cost you less over time than individual visits to a massage therapist.
Portability — No need for appointments, as massage guns are small and light enough to travel with you. You’re free to use them in any room in the house, rather than having to set up a dedicated spot. This also means you can bring them along for long trips to relieve cramps and muscle fatigue from having to drive or fly for hours on end.
Targetability — Just like the name suggests, with a massage gun you can point and click to target a specific muscle or area of the body for relief. This can allow you to really hone in on sore muscles or work areas of the body that massage chairs or dedicated shoulder or leg massagers just can’t reach.
Ease of use — Simple to use to provide fast relief, the most complicated a massage gun can get involves the use of adjustable speed settings or interchangeable massage heads. There are recommended ways to use a massage gun for maximum relief and recovery, as detailed below.
How to Use a Massage Gun
While a massage gun can be used essentially anytime and anywhere, the best results will usually come when used within two days following a workout or exertion in order to relax the stressed muscles.
- Find the muscle area that feels tight, turn the gun on and start at a slow setting, running the massage head over the muscle area.
- Stay in that spot for 15-20 seconds or rotate around the area for up to two minutes.
- As you massage, continue to add pressure and speed depending on how deep you want the massage to be. Use higher pressure and speeds for large muscles like the biceps or thighs. Stay slow and light for joints or areas with less muscles like on the wrists.
- Stay within tolerable areas of pressure, you don’t want to feel pain. Avoid any direct pressure on bones and any injured areas that have bruises, sores or wounds. Stop in the event of any pain.
- Take a break. You don’t want to overwork the muscle, so limit the time to around two minutes, even for larger muscles. Stretching after using the massage gun will help to loosen muscles and relieve tension.
Be sure to read the owners manual for a massage gun and always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you have chronic or underlying health conditions it’s recommended that you consult with a doctor before receiving any massage therapy.
Massage Gun Vs. Massage Therapist Vs. Foam Rollers Vs. Massage Chair
When considering how you want to get your next massage, it’s helpful to compare the advantages and drawbacks of your different options.
Massage therapists provide personalized service and high quality custom massages. They may also offer “spa treatments” of aromatherapy and other relaxation techniques. However, individual appointments can be expensive and will add up over time. Availability can be an issue as you’ll need to make appointments.
Modern massage chairs are designed to deliver a wide range of techniques and will often come with additional features like Zero Gravity stretching, chromatherapy and Bluetooth connectivity for music. They’re also convenient for use, as you don’t need to make appointments (unless your family members are taking their turns first). Purchasing a massage chair carries a higher initial cost, but averages out over time as a good lifetime value. Massage chairs aren’t portable and will take up some real estate in a room, so you’ll need to find a good place for it.
Massage guns are more limited in the types of massage techniques they can deliver, though advanced models can offer interchangeable massage heads and variable settings. Massage guns are able to directly target specific areas, though you may need some assistance in reaching the lower back or between the shoulders. Compared to other massage devices, massage guns are inexpensive and very portable.
Finally, the use of foam rollers for myofascial release is also a good way to decrease muscle tension. These rollers are lightweight and very inexpensive, however they’re also very limited in the areas of the body they can affect and how they can relieve tension.
|Massage Therapist||Massage Chair||Massage Gun||Foam Roller|
|MassageTechniques||Many, depending on the therapist||Many, depending on the massage chair model||Few, based on settings and attachments||Only myofascial release|
|Cost||Moderate cost for appointments, but can add up.||Larger initial cost for long term savings||Inexpensive||Very inexpensive|
|Convenience||Low, dependant on location and availability||High, based on available space||Very High||Very High|
Ultimately, your massage choice will depend on the type of therapy you’re looking for, how often you want to receive a massage and what your budget looks like. Many of the tips in our Massage Chair 101 Buyers Guide can also apply to massage guns and other devices.
If you’re interested in purchasing a massage gun, here’s what to look for.
What to Look for in Massage Guns
- Power and speed settings — The more settings and options a massage gun has, the more you can personalize a massage based on your needs. Less expensive massage guns will have fewer settings and speeds.
- Amplitude and torque — Amplitude is the depth of a massage gun’s percussive force or stroke length, which is how far the massage head can press into the body. Torque, or stall force, is the amount of pressure that can be applied to the gun before it stalls out, so higher torque allows the gun to push deeper into a massage. In general, look for massage guns that operate in the area of 45W torque and 12mm amplitude.
- Adjustable heads, handles or features — Premium massage guns will also come with interchangeable heads to provide different types of massage, or different handles to allow for different types of grips. Some models offer features like heat therapy or connectivity to applications. You’ll need to determine which features are “must haves” and which are merely bells and whistles.
- Portability — The portability of a massage gun isn’t just about size and weight, you need to take battery life into consideration. Even though direct pressure application should only be for a couple of minutes, good quality massage guns should have a battery life that lasts at least for one hour, or even up to two hours.
- Available warranties — Flaws and defects can happen, so ensure that your purchase is covered under warranty to replace or repair parts. Money-back guarantee trial periods are offers to look for, as they can provide you with peace of mind that you’ve made the right purchase.
- Good reviews — Take the time to search online and see what others are saying about particular brands or models of massage guns. While there will always be one or two “bad” reviews for a product, you can get an idea of its quality or effectiveness based on the general consensus of reviews.
If you’d like more assistance with looking for a massage gun that’s right for you, our specialists are always available to answer your questions. Contact us and we’ll guide you to the massage device that’s right for you.