A massage gun has many benefits for runners, triathletes, gym-goers, and other athletes. Here are the five main benefits:
1. REDUCE DOMS.
DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This condition occurs after exercise, and can cause pain (most common), as well as swelling, stiffness, or tenderness. According to ACSM, you’ll usually notice symptoms of DOMS around 12-24 hours after exercise, with symptoms lasting 24-72 hours after that.
DOMS can be caused by any type of exercise, though it’s more common after exercises that have eccentric contractions (contractions where the muscle is lengthening). These include strength training (like the lowering phase of a bicep curl) or running downhill. DOMS can also occur during other exercises though, especially for those who are new to the activity.
Using a massage gun may reduce the pain associated with DOMS.
There’s not a lot of research that has been done about massage guns in particular because they’re new to the market, but there have been some studies on adjunct methods that are promising.
For example, a study in the Journal of clinical and diagnostic research concluded that vibration therapy may help reduce DOMS. Similarly, significant research has linked traditional massage therapy to reduced DOMS (source 1, source 2, source 3). In fact, one study estimated that it reduced DOMS by about 30%. In addition, a meta-analysis on foam rolling also concluded that type of post-workout recovery helped reduce muscle pain perception.
While none of these studies are on a massage gun itself, it’s certainly plausible that massage guns could promote less soreness and better recovery, as a massage gun is similar to these other methods.
2. HELPS YOU WARM UP.
Perhaps even more interesting than it’s role in recovery is the possible role of massage guns in warm ups.
One study in the Journal of sports science & medicine looked at the impact of the Hypervolt massager on calf range of motion as well as maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) torque of the plantar flexor muscles. The authors found that using the massage gun led to more flexibility in the muscles without any loss of strength, and as such, recommended possible use in a warm-up regimen.
They concluded that the changes in range of motion were likely due to decreased muscle stiffness and decreased perception of pain following use of the percussion massager.
The vibrations from the massager may also improve circulation. This stimulates blood flow which can improve pliability and oxygenation of those muscles – the first of which may help warm up the muscle and reduce injury risk, and the later may help prepare the body for the demands of the upcoming workout.
Percussive therapy can also help stimulate the nervous system and address barrier trigger points in muscles. All of these could help get your muscles primed and ready for your sweat sesh.
Of course, the research on using a massage gun as part of your pre-workout routine is still tentative at best, but it’s worth exploring personally to see if it helps you.
3. EASIER TO TARGET SPECIFIC AREAS.
While a foam roller is an excellent inexpensive tool for self-myofascial release (SMR), it can be difficult to target specific areas.
For example, if you’re struggling with tightness in a certain muscle group in your upper back, a foam roller may not be the best option. A massage gun with various attachments can target those more specific areas and provide relief where it’s needed most.
Similarly, foam rollers can be a bit awkward for new users. People new to them may not understand how to correctly roll on them to achieve optimal pressure. Also, sometimes people with larger body shapes or those who are para-athletes may have difficulty finding the right positioning for foam rolling.
On the flip side, massage guns are easy to use and you have a variety of attachments to target different areas. They may be less intimidating than foam rolling for certain people, and lead to more consistent use.
As an aside, foam rollers are also larger and less convenient to carry, which can be challenging for travel. Massage guns are easily portable and can be used anywhere – at the office, on vacation, while watching TV, etc.
4. LESS EXPENSIVE THAN REGULAR MASSAGES.
Regular massage therapy can be expensive, generally clocking in somewhere between $70-$110 per hour-long session.
Massage guns, on the other hand, generally clock in somewhere between $50 to $600. Most higher-quality models will run around $200-300.
Yes, that may be a bit pricey. But if you use it regularly, it’s certainly less expensive than paying for a full-body massage every week.
Regular massages by a trained professional are still an excellent part of a recovery and wellness routine, and we are not suggesting that a massage gun replace that completely. However, using it as an adjunct to massage therapy may help you reap benefits without wreaking havoc on your wallet.
(As an aside, a massage gun may make an excellent choice for those who do not personally like massages because they do not find relaxation in being touched by another person.)
5. FEELS GOOD.
Perhaps the best benefit of a massage gun? It feels good!
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can feel a bit uncomfortable too (that “hurts-so-good” sensation). This is particularly true if you’re using higher vibration speeds and/or head attachments that are denser.
But for the most part, a massage gun can feel like a treat to your tired, achy muscles.
You can use it as a reward to yourself after tough workouts. Are your calves tired from all that marathon training? Are your quads sore because you just started a new lower body superset workout? A few minutes with the massage gun can be soothing and relaxing.