Massage guns, like the Theragun, Hypervolt, TimTam, and many others, have become increasingly popular over the past 2 years. I’ve seen them used in physical therapy clinics, athletic training rooms, and gyms. Sometimes a physical therapist or a personal trainer may use this tool to help a client. Sometimes a person may purchase their own massage gun for self-treatment. How much are you actually benefiting from this treatment?
Well, there’s actually not much evidence behind massage guns in particular. We do have evidence supporting the use of myofascial release tools for short-term neural adaptations leading to temporary pain relief without much of a change in performance. Those findings mean that it can help bring down your pain, but it won’t improve or impair your performance. It may not be the best bit of information, but at least self myofascial treatments don’t seem to be harmful.
Let’s look at what massage guns actually do. They provide a percussive vibration therapy treatment to the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia) which will change the way that your body communicates signals with your brain. If you are in pain or have soreness, the percussion breaks up the pathway of the message getting to your brain to let it know to cause pain/soreness. When this pain cycle is broken up, you’ll feel better in the short term. This may allow you to move with less restrictions, although we’re not sure if it will change your performance. But hey, at least you will feel a little better.
Massage guns are actually great tools for self-care. If you are constantly in pain and using a massage gun daily to try to get through your workouts, then that is an indication that something more serious might be going on and you should get it checked out.
Massage guns can be helpful for anyone looking to feel a little better. That being said, they come at a cost. They will be much more expensive than a lacrosse ball or foam roller. However, they will be cheaper than going to a massage therapist once a month. Most massage guns come in around $200-600 depending on the brand/model. If you are serious about your recovery, this type of tool is for you. It is not a necessity to get better by any means, so don’t feel the need to drop several hundred dollars on this modality unless you have the extra cash on hand and want to try it out. If you are dealing with a real injury or biomechanical limitations, then you would get much more out of a few sessions with a performance PT to determine the root cause of your issues than just treating the symptoms daily.
Before resorting to a massage gun (passive treatment), make sure that first you are taking an active role in your recovery. Make sure you are getting enough water, putting the right foods in your body, moving around often to get soreness out, and working on any imbalances you have to avoid recurring flare-ups. That being said, if you are doing all of those things, have the extra money, and are serious about feeling better, then a massage gun can be very helpful.
Any questions? Let us know.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT