Are Massage Guns Worth The Hype (And Your Money)?
When you hear the word ‘gun’ it sounds awfully scary, which is quite contradictory to the word ‘massage’ —which implicates a soothing, calming experience.
Massage guns resemble power tools, except they don’t have a drill placed at the top. Instead, they have a circular dampener that beats and vibrates over a target area. You can regulate how fast and how deep the massage motion can go, depending on the model you choose. Some versions come with numerous attachments that promise better targeting or relief. Brands like Therabody, TimTam, Addsfit, and Recovapro, to mention a few, are the leaders in the market at the moment.
This blog post dives deep into what a massage gun is all about and whether it’s worth the hype – and your hard-earned money!
What is a massage gun?
Massage guns were originally marketed as a kind of Gen-X fitness equipment that helps relieve tight, soared, aching muscles after a sweaty workout. They achieve this by using vibration therapy (or percussive treatment) to jackhammer your target areas. A massage gun is essentially a portable version of a foam roller that eases stiffness and pain caused by rigorous fitness training.
More recently, massage guns have been popularised as a "wellness tool" to a wider audience, a concept that has been gaining traction in the past year. Owing to the pandemic lockdown, more employees working from home, and not having access to a gym or massage treatments has resulted in a shortage of conventional pain relievers. Since deep tissue massages cannot be performed at a safe distance of two metres, the portable massage pistol has helped provide some relief during these difficult times.
How is it meant to work?
The idea behind a massage gun stems from vibration therapy and percussive treatment. The application of vibration to the entire or part of the body is known as “vibration therapy.” This treatment may help ease pain and provide a relaxing experience while also giving a massage-like effect to the user.
“Percussive treatment” is similar to massage therapy, but it goes deeper - literally. It quickly penetrates deeper into the tissues, rather than stimulating the skin's surface with vibrations. Percussive stimulation penetrates the muscle 60% deeper than consumer-grade vibration massagers, providing a massage-like experience.
This deeper penetration has a similar effect to a massage or self-myofascial release (foam rolling) since it also improves blood flow to the affected spots, warms up skin temperature, reduces muscular inflammation, relieves tension, and can help release muscle knots. It's important to note that you cannot get rid of muscular pain completely (while using a massage gun).
A few studies have shown that vibration therapy might help lessen, or even, prevent muscular pain, while others claim that regular massage and stretching can have similar outcomes too. Brands claim that their massage guns can relieve muscular tension by reaching deeper into the skin, while a device's speed (roughly, 40 percussions per second) can suppress pain signals to the brain, making the experience "more pleasant than manual muscle treatment”.
How does it actually work?
Currently, there is limited evidence to prove that vibration or percussive therapy delivered by a massage gun improves recovery in the same way as it does in clinical research. Many companies claim that their massage guns help people recover faster, but there haven't been any scientific studies that explicitly examine these devices to back up these claims. While they have their own advantages, it is uncertain if they help in recovery.
However, according to a few studies - five minutes after a conventional two-minute application, blood flow had risen by over 500% compared to its baseline, and an increase of over 10% in muscle oxygen saturation."
While it does call for further research, the advantage of using a massage gun is that it helps relieve stiffness. The massage gun, similar to a massage therapist's hands, or a roller directs your attention to the tensed muscle, enabling your brain to recognise and release the tension.
Another way to describe it is that using a massage gun distracts from one kind of muscular discomfort by providing another, thus enabling the muscle tension to relax.
Is it worth it?
If you’re someone who works out on a regular basis, then buying a massage gun may not be the right call for you. Rather, we encourage you to stick to regular massage therapy (or have a sports massage treatment). Percussive treatment is known to have advantages and, at the very least, it can help ease any discomfort.
You could argue that you get a lot for your money, but that doesn't mean you'll actually enjoy the experience. Some folks like it and some don’t.
Every invention comes with its own pros and cons. Although they’re meant to ease discomfort, there is no scientific evidence to support the investment.
While there's a lot more one needs to know about massage guns, and we think with time we’ll get our hands on further developments and reports, for now, consider massage guns as “a want” rather than “a need.” The best way to ease muscular tension is still to seek the help of trained therapists who can help you relax, relieve pain and boost your mood.
If you’re looking for a one-on-one massage treatment in Christchurch, feel free to book your massage appointment today.