Tips for safely using a massage gun
Massage guns are the latest massage tool, but are they helpful or harmful? Physical therapist Kimberly Branch explained what you need to know.
What are massage guns and how are they helpful?
Massage guns are a handheld percussive tool that have recently become widely popular. Depending on the setting and quality of the product, they use vibration and percussive forces to:
- Decrease muscle tension
- Prevent or reduce soreness
- Improve the flow of blood and lymph fluid around the area of application
“They are not only becoming more popular for in-home use but also in rehab clinics, and you may see physical or massage therapists using these tools. While most professionals are excited to see these and other tools become more widely available and affordable for the general public, there are some safety concerns associated with this change,” Branch said.
How are massage guns different from other massage tools?
“The massage gun operates on the same principles as any massage, manual or tool guided, but without the wear and tear on the practitioner’s hands or the need to make an appointment with a physical or massage therapist,” Branch said.
It works by applying deep and repetitive pressure to the affected area, thus reducing the presentation of trigger points in the muscles, increasing blood flow to the area, breaking up scar tissue and reducing recovery time after activity.
When should massage guns be used?
Massage guns are highly useful to decrease muscle-based pain, speed recovery, or reduce delayed onset muscle soreness after a work out. The tool can be used daily for short bursts of time with rest between applications and is effective for chronic pain conditions or repetitive athletes (those who repeat movements over and over again).
Branch recommended spacing application of the massage gun over the muscle in circles around a sore area and not stopped just on one spot. Avoid bony areas, pins and needles with application (indicating nerve tissue), or over areas of recent trauma, such as broken bones and screws, plates or other hardware.
Are there any risks with using a massage gun?
As with any tool there are risks and contraindications. Here are some tips for proper use:
- Do not use the massage gun over areas of broken skin, broken bones or cancer.
- If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy (numbness in your extremities) use of a percussive tool could be dangerous, as you will not feel if you are bruising, applying too much pressure or hitting a nerve.
- Only apply the gun to yourself and not others. Leave that to the professionals. Application to others, or of others to you, will increase likeliness of too much pressure or potential injury.
- Do not use the tool on your neck due to potential vascular injury. Upper trapezius and upper shoulder are okay.
- Do not use percussive tools if you are on blood thinners or have clotting dysfunction, or if you suspect a possible blood clot.
- Check with your doctor before starting the use of any new product to make sure you are a good candidate.
Find a doctor
Whether you’re looking for a primary care physician or need to see a specialist, we’re here to help with experienced, compassionate care near you.Find a Doctor