Massage Guns: Are they suitable for you?

Athletes and gym goers have long used various implements and massage devices to alleviate their muscle aches and pains. Devices range from simple foam rollers to expensive massage guns that can apply both heat or cold to the muscles. Vibration massage devices have flooded the market with various adaptations of the percussion massager. These 1st generation devices work by targeting various muscle groups using a simple vibration motion which could feel jarring or even painful.
If you are a gym rat, chances are that you would have noticed some fancy new massage guns that some may use post workout. They look like some kind of a power tool and maybe you would have been enthralled at the rippling effect it does to the targeted muscles. So what exactly are these massage guns and what are they used for?

We first noticed massage guns being sold in the market in 2014, around the time when the vibration fitness machines were really popular. These were balance-board-like machines where users stand on to jolt flabby areas and activate muscle groups.
While the fad over vibration fitness machines has faded as quickly as it gained popularity, the massage gun has seen its take up rate rise slowly and steadily. Brands like Theragun and Hypervolt have pervaded gym-talk over the years. The sustainability of its popularity somewhat lies in the fact that the active gym community does it part to promote its use and acceptability. The sleek marketing videos put out by the major brands and their celebrity endorsers further perpetuates the demand. Prices have also came down quite a bit from the new-launch highs of more than US$800 to a more down the earth US$200 to US$600 range. The massage gun remains popular and the demand seems consistent, much thanks to anecdotes and reviews shared by athletes, physiotherapists and chiropractors.

SO HOW DOES PERCUSSIVE THERAPY WORK?

Tension is the root cause of most body aches and pains. Anecdotal evidence points to quicker recovery times, reduced muscle soreness and lactic acid build-up, which could translate into less pain, improved range of motion, better blood circulation. Keep in mind that such claims have not been medically proven as research in this area has been few and far.

In theory, the percussive massage overrides the pain signals to the brain, increases heat in the tissue, and releases tension. Some brands even tout a carefully calibrated frequency in delivering the impacts to the muscle.

BUYING A MASSAGE GUN: WHATS IN THE MARKET?

Inspired by the technology and design of major brands, similar massage guns and devices have started to flood the market, with iterations looking very much like one another. These made-in-China brands are very much cheaper and some even look like the patented designs used by the major brands like Theragun or Hypervolt.
However, these brands have not had a long runway in their product development. It would be wise to give them a wide berth before deciding to use one. Indeed many of their marketing spiel tout better speed selection, more attachments, harder impacts, etc, but remember, the use of such devices have not been scientifically proven to work.

A FINAL WORD

If you have been using massage guns and they work, good for you! Share your experiences with us on Facebook.

For the uninitiated, there are some precautions one should take heed when using such devices:

  1. Always turn on the device before placing it on the body.
  2. Duration is a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of 2 minutes per muscle group.
  3. Do not use the device above your Adam’s Apple or directly on your vertebrae, on your head or genital area.
  4. If you don’t feel well, stop using it!

An interesting fact to share is that the founder of Theragun, Dr. Jason Wersland, is a chiropractor himself.

Dr Chew from Esssential Chiropractic has a percussive therapy massage gun at his clinic! He uses the VibraCussor, along with chiropractic adjustments to relax tight muscles, reduce post-exertion muscle soreness, release superficial and deep fascia tension – a more sensible way to use it under the supervision of a professional.

In conclusion, this is not a product suitable for everyone. Do your research, try it, choose carefully before purchasing. Consult a sports therapist or doctor to assess the suitability of adding this into your sports routine and always use this powerful handheld massage machine with care to avoid injury.

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