When you first hear about massage guns, you might wonder how it works and how to use them properly. Can a massage gun help you lose weight? Can anyone use them?
Massage guns have become a rage as a favorite form of therapy among fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike. This isn’t surprising since several people swear by its amazing benefits, making it their go-to tool for recovery.
But to some who haven’t used it, you would be curious to know what makes it worth it.
Want to know how it helps and why you should consider purchasing one? Continue reading to find out.
What Is A Massage Gun And How Does It Work?
A massage gun is a handheld portable device that’s similar in shape to an electric drill. They come in either wireless or with a rechargeable battery with interchangeable attachments.
It features a handle that you hold with one hand and a massage head with a firm, round attachment. When the gun is placed on your muscles and turned on, the attachments vibrate and thump rapidly against your skin, impacting your muscle beneath and delivering the percussive therapy.
The attachments vibrate or “percuss” at an adjustable frequency of high and low amplitude of movement. The vibration promotes recovery from your workouts and may improve your overall performance while reducing soreness.
What Is Percussion Therapy?
Percussive therapy is a type of massage technique that uses rapid and repetitive pressure combined with vibration therapy. Other names for this type of therapy include a deep tissue massage or a self-massage, and it can be done on areas of your body with significant muscle mass — such as your neck, back, shoulders, and legs.
Percussive therapy offers more specific control over the targeted muscle than foam rollers and other static recovery devices. Massage guns are the primary tool used to deliver this treatment.
Using a massage gun is ideal because it is a non-invasive technique and is also a good therapeutic approach for relieving your sore muscles. It helps your muscles by giving them the right amount of blood flow to loosen up and repair faster.
Additionally, it offers many of the benefits of massage without the expense or the hassle of visiting a massage therapist.
How Effective Are Massage Guns?
While there are yet to be more studies about the effectiveness of massage guns, preliminary research showed promising benefits of massage and vibration therapy which are both applied in percussive therapy.
One research has shown that massage guns can be effective in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improving short-term muscle length1. DOMS occurs when you start a new exercise program or increase the intensity of your training.
By using a massage gun on the muscles you used in your workout, you can reduce the amount of muscle soreness, therefore aiding in muscle recovery.
The Benefits Of A Massage Gun
The highlight of massage guns is that it isn’t just for athletes or fitness enthusiasts alone. Regular people can use a massage gun and receive its different benefits.
- Reduced Soreness, Pain, and Muscle Tightness
The most evident benefit of muscle percussion therapy is reduced muscle soreness. Lactic acid builds up in your muscles after exercise or other activity. The build-up often causes pain and soreness. When you use a massage gun after a workout, the percussion forces muscle fibers to release lactic acid, reducing the soreness you’ll feel2.
- Promotes Blood Flow
Massage guns stimulate muscle tissue which increases blood flow, bringing more vital nutrients into your blood to aid in recovery. A better circulation can help flush lactic acid and reduce muscle inflammation. It has also been studied that massage gun therapy can also help stimulate spinal functions and increase muscle oxygenation3.
- Increases Muscle Flexibility
Another benefit of massage guns is that it can also relieve soreness and stress in your body by releasing tension and fluid deep in the muscles to enhance tissue metabolism. In a recent study, a 5-min percussion treatment was found to increase the range of motion (ROM). The study even suggested to include a percussive massage treatment warm-up regimen to optimize the flexibility level of an athlete without losing muscle performance4.
Can A Massage Gun Help You Lose Weight?
The short answer to this is it depends. A massage gun can boost blood circulation in a specific area, but this doesn’t necessarily mean fat loss or that it would make you lose belly fat.
It can be used as an aid to losing weight when used with other effective weight loss methods. Massage therapy can help with weight loss efforts by supporting recovery from workouts and decreasing stress, including better sleep, decreased muscle soreness, increased range of motion, and lower back pain5.
Still, you can’t just rely on a massage gun alone. It must be paired with a proper diet, healthy lifestyle, and exercise.
How to Properly Use A Massage Gun?
There is no set standard as to when you can use your massage gun. Using a massage gun can be done whenever you need to, but it is most commonly used before and after workouts.
A massage gun mostly comes with multiple settings, speeds, and interchangeable attachments. The best approach in using it is to go by what’s most comfortable for you and the area you’re targeting.
The added advantage is that it’s easy. Here are starting tips to use a massage gun safely:
- Attach the correct head to the machine and set it to the speed you prefer.
- Start slow. Massage guns are safe to use, but it’s best to take caution.
- Assess how much you can tolerate and then gradually increase the speed.
- Place the head of the device gently on the area you want to use it on.
- Start on the larger muscle groups (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calf, and upper trap muscles) until you get used to the device. Steer clear of the bone.
- Let it float on your body. You don’t have to force the massage head into your muscles.
- Move it in a circular motion. Be sure to do this slowly so that each inch of the area gets the appropriate amount of pressure.
- Use the gun at an area for two to three minutes and then move on to the next area.
When Not To Use A Massage Gun?
When it comes to massage gun usage, it can be tempting to use it consistently, especially when you get used to the feeling. But more isn’t necessarily better.
There are some risks and areas to avoid that you should consider before purchasing and using a massage gun. These are:
- If used too much on the same area, there is a risk of bruising or could cause increased soreness.
- Do not use it on any areas of bruising, inflamed skin, rashes or wounds, fragile bones, tumors, or abdominal hernias.
- If you have had any medical procedures or are pregnant, please check with your doctor before use.
- Don’t focus on an area for too long. It is possible to cause or worsen an injury by misusing a massage gun.
- If a massage gun is causing bruising, sensitivity, or discomfort, you should stop using it for a few days to allow your body to recover before trying again at a lower setting.
How To Know If It’s Right For You?
You can mostly use massage guns safely at home if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions correctly. In some cases, however, it might not be right for you.
If you have any of the following conditions, be sure to consult your doctor before using a massage gun:
- Blood Clots
- Blood Thinners
- Muscle Strains
Massage guns can be an excellent tool for your exercise and recovery routine. As with any tool for your body, listen to your body. Especially if you are unsure whether your pain level or condition is appropriate for using a massage gun.
While you shouldn’t expect using a massage gun to make you lose weight, it can be a great aid to your weight loss journey. Ultimately, if you are looking for a way to reduce fat and lose weight, the best approach is still proper nutrition and regular exercise.
1 Imtiyaz S, Veqar Z, Shareef MY. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Jan;8(1):133-6. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971. Epub 2014 Jan 12. PMID: 24596744; PMCID: PMC3939523.
2 Considering a massage gun? Here’s what you need to know about percussive therapy. (February 2, 2022). UCLAHealth. Retrieved November 8, 2022 from https://connect.uclahealth.org/2022/02/02/considering-a-massage-gun-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-percussive-therapy/
3 Cerciello S, Rossi S, Visonà E, Corona K, Oliva F. Clinical applications of vibration therapy in orthopaedic practice. Muscles Ligaments Tendons J. 2016 May 19;6(1):147-56. doi: 10.11138/mltj/2016.6.1.147. PMID: 27331044; PMCID: PMC4915454.
4 Konrad A, Glashüttner C, Reiner MM, Bernsteiner D, Tilp M. The Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment with a Hypervolt Device on Plantar Flexor Muscles’ Range of Motion and Performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Nov 19;19(4):690-694. PMID: 33239942; PMCID: PMC7675623.