Have you ever wondered if massage guns are worth it? Read on.
Massage guns are taking the online center stage recently. Unless you’ve been on a social media hiatus for years now, you’ve probably seen these sports recovery devices that look (and sound) like a power drill on your social media and YouTube feeds. They’re handy. They seem like hardworking muscle jackhammers. And most importantly, more and more people are getting their hands on it.
But setting the hype aside, the main question remains: Do massage guns actually work? Are they worth it?
Let us guide you through.
Massage guns are effective handheld sports recovery devices—and more.
There are several terms associated with massage guns—percussive therapy, vibration therapy, percussive massagers, etc. While there are no specific studies yet about the effectiveness of massage guns, preliminary research in the field shows promising benefits of massage and vibration therapy which are both applied in percussive therapy.
Basically, massage guns are handheld recovery devices that use amplitude, torque, and frequency. They release pulses that go deep into your soft tissues. Think vibration and thumping motion combined.
Massage guns have other known positive effects aside from aiding in your recovery. It prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), enhances flexibility, increases blood circulation, and improves lymphatic flow. But this article isn’t about the common inquiries about massage guns.
For now, we'll answer some of the not-so-frequently asked questions about massage guns:
What should I look for when buying a massage gun?
Percussive therapy guns offer the benefits of massage therapy at the comfort of your home… or gym or wherever you start to feel your sore muscles. But you won’t be able to enjoy its full benefits if you get a dysfunctional one.
Here are the key features that you must take note when purchasing a massage gun:
Amplitude pertains to the distance that the head of the massage gun can travel as it pushes into your body. The higher the amplitude, the deeper the gun can dig into the muscle which gives a stronger effect.
Nobody can’t relax using a noisy recovery device—that’s for sure. And honestly, some massage guns can be uncomfortably loud. Choose a brand that has low decibel level (average is 30-50 dB). A quiet gun allows you to converse with other people or watch TV even while you're using it. You can use it in the office, at the gym, or at home late at night without disturbing other people.
One of the main selling points of massage guns is being handy. And if you plan to bring it regularly at the gym or any outdoor venue, you should consider if it’s portable enough.
It is advantageous if the massage gun that you’re planning to buy comes with a case. For one, it will be easier for you to carry it around. Two, all the attachments are already packed together.
The gun’s weight may also affect its portability. Most massage guns weigh in at about 2-2.5 lbs. If it gets heavier than that, it might become difficult to carry and use.
People on-the-go prefer their gadgets to be ready anytime they need it, anywhere they need it. It would be a hassle if your gun ran out of juice just when you need it the most. The average battery life of a massage gun is two to three hours, so it’s best to find a device within that range (or higher).
Massage guns are high-value investments—no question about that. That’s why product warranty is important. It assures you that you can turn to the manufacturer in case you discover any defects. Check the warranty coverage period and the process on how to avail the warranty. Consider the ease of claim especially if you will buy the product abroad.
Pro tip: Pay attention to the gun’s body material as well. A low-grade plastic could compromise the durability of the device. You don’t want your gun to break after just a few months of usage.
Can massage guns boost my Functional Threshold Power (FTP)?
Short answer: Not by itself. But it can definitely help improve your FTP.
FTP refers to the average power a cyclist can produce within 60 minutes. It is expressed in watts per kilo. It indicates how fit you are and how long you can sustain the same amount of effort over a specific period of time.
Philipp Diegner enumerates five ways to improve your FTP. He is a performance analyst and professional cycling coach.
Be consistent. Plan a routine that perfectly suits your schedule.
Go out for a long ride. This will build your endurance and enhance your aerobic fitness.
Squeeze in high intensity intervals. Don’t fall into the trap of doing the same workout every training. Include HIT (High-Intensity Trainings) on your bike sessions.
Watch out on your nutritional intake. Toxic food, bad fats, and sugar can affect how your body performs.
Rest. Rest and recovery plays a vital role in an athlete’s overall performance. Diegner shares, “The body requires time to really recover every two or three days. In phases of hard training especially, resting ensures that you are ready for the next tough workout. It also allows you to keep a training regimen for more than just a couple of weeks."
This is where a massage gun can aid in your FTP improvement. Percussive therapy helps increase blood circulation. It reduces muscle tension and inflammation which lets your body recover faster.
A quick recovery means more opportunity to go for longer rides and do regular training sessions. Plus, the beneficial effects of massage guns accumulate over time. With regular use, your muscles become more flexible and less prone to injuries.
Can massage guns help lose weight?
Short answer: Indirectly, yes.
According to a 2015 study, many athletes and active individuals who want to lose weight belong into either of these two categories: 1) those who are obese, or 2) those who are involved in weight-sensitive, weight-class, or aesthetically judged sports. These include endurance athletes, wrestlers, boxers, gymnasts, and figure skaters among others.
Weight loss affects the performance of the athletes in the second category. No wonder why aside from the traditional ways of losing weight (eg. hitting the gym, dieting, and taking supplements), active individuals are on the lookout for other methods to shed pounds.
Truth is, the primary way that you can reduce weight is through a calorie deficit. No shortcuts. You have to make a conscious effort to drop or cut your intake of highly processed food and sugary beverages. These include fast food meals, soda, and specialty coffee drinks.
In addition, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the Department of Health and Services suggested that adults should do moderate-intensity exercise for 150-300 minutes and 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise every week.
The guidelines also proposed doing muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. These activities should involve the major muscle groups such as the shoulders, back, arms, chest, and legs.
The best exercises to burn calories include running, water polo, bicycling, casual swimming, and aerobic dance.
Where does the massage gun come in all these?
Well first, engaging in physical activities can cause muscle pain. When you target your sore area using a massage gun, you treat muscle knots and muscle tightness. This allows the lymph to move freely. An improved lymphatic system leads to better metabolism. And when you increase your metabolic rate, your muscles can burn more calories.
Second, as a recovery tool, massage guns shorten your rehabilitation period and increase your endurance. This gives you your much-needed boost to keep an active lifestyle and continue your training regimen.
Can you bring a massage gun on the plane?
Short answer: Yes, but only to a certain lithium-ion content level.
For athletes who travel a lot for training and competitions, worry no more. You can pack your massage gun in your carry-on baggage. It consumes less space than a foam roller, and you can even use it during long-haul flights to avoid leg cramps. It can revitalize your body and increase your blood flow. You can just sit down, relax, and enjoy your flight.
Make sure that the lithium-ion level of your gun’s battery is within the allowable limits of the airline, though. The Federal Aviation Administration website states, “Lithium metal (non-rechargeable) batteries are limited to 2 grams of lithium per battery. Lithium-ion (rechargeable) batteries are limited to a rating of 100-watt hours (Wh) per battery. These limits allow for nearly all types of lithium batteries used by the average person in their electronic devices.”
It further says, “With airline approval, passengers may also carry up to two spare larger lithium-ion batteries (101-160 watt-hours).” For more information, check out the FAA’s regulations on batteries.
In Singapore, portable medical devices and rechargeable batteries with watt-hours exceeding 100 but not exceeding 160/lithium content are allowed in cabin baggage. They should be exceeding 2 grams but not exceeding 8 grams. The airlines allow up to two devices only per passenger. Spare lithium batteries are not allowed in checked-in baggage.
Most massage guns come with a pouch or case. It won’t be difficult to bring it with you whenever you have distant training or sports contests. You can squeeze in a quick massage before, during, and after your flight.
Are massage guns for all active individuals?
Short answer: Yes, except certain groups.
Massage guns are for anyone who is serious about their health. It’s for CrossFitters, athletes, and for all the people who are committed to having an active lifestyle. However, those who have the following medical conditions should consult their doctor first before using a massage gun:
- Muscle strains
- Inflammation-related injuries such as bursitis, tendinitis, fascitis, and periostitis
- Bone degeneration or osteoporosis
- High blood pressure
- Muscle disorders (like muscular dystrophy)
- Severe varicose veins
- Broken bones
- Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or fibromyalgia
- Autoimmune diseases including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and scleroderma
Percussive therapy is not recommended for pregnant women—regardless of how athletic they are. Expecting moms should avoid shiatsu and acupressure, especially those who are in their first trimester. This is because of the increased risk of miscarriage during the first term of pregnancy. Try professional prenatal massages to relieve your muscle tension and back pain.
So, are massage guns worth it?
Massage guns are definitely an asset to your fitness arsenal. It’s more than just a sports recovery device. Its benefits also extend to the other areas of your overall wellness. Being a handy device is also an added bonus. It’s like having a personal therapist anywhere you go sans the fee.
But of course, nothing still beats the natural ways to recover and stay in good shape. Eat healthy. Take time to rest. Listen to your body. No tool or equipment can ever replace the small repeated actions that you do to take care of your body.
What are your thoughts about massage guns? Share them in the comments section below.