THE SCIENCE BEHIND PERCUSSIVE MASSAGE THERAPY
Are massage guns worth it? We asked experts to find out
You’ve probably heard of massage guns by now, whether it’s been through your favorite fitness influencer, mesmerizing slow-motion videos on social media or your friend who’s always trying the latest and greatest recovery tools. But if you think that they’re just the latest fitness trend that’s sure to blow by in a year or two, you’re wrong. Muscle massager guns aren’t just great for viral videos; they’re an amazingly beneficial tool that helps recovery and injury prevention.
What do massage guns do?
Massages have long been known to be beneficial for recovery, but going to a massage therapist to get your knots and soreness released on a daily basis is unrealistic for most. That’s why massage guns and the percussive therapy they utilize have become wildly popular in recent years. These handheld devices pound your muscles in rapid succession, which essentially helps you recover faster. In fact, vibration therapy has been shown to help alleviate the soreness you get after working out so you can get back to exercising faster. Plus, there are even studies that show how vibration therapy also helps prevent muscle damage if you apply it before a workout.
However, Dr. Jason Wersland points out that percussive therapy and vibration therapy aren’t the same. “It’s important for people to know there’s a difference between vibration and percussion. The body responds differently to each,”
Dr. Karena Wu, owner and clinical director at ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York, explains how this therapy works. “The rapid percussion really pumps the area and promotes fluid circulation. Massage in and of itself is an ‘irritant’ to the muscle, designed to bring blood flow to an area,” she says. “If a patient requires a lot of surface area to cover in a session or they really need a quick warmup on the tissues, the massage gun gets used first.”
Do massage guns actually work?
Donald Zerio, a physical therapist at Spear Physical Therapy in New York, explains that massage guns work just like your tried-and-true foam roller. “They do work in the same sense that foam rolling works,” he says. “It is another method of soft tissue mobilization that provides the benefit of loosening up tight muscle tissue, which provides a feeling of relief and provides a short-term improvement in flexibility.”