Percussive Massager: What Is It, How Does It Work and Benefits
For over a decade, percussive massagers (aka massage guns that use percussive therapy) have offered athletes and others in physical, performance-based industries, a variety of valuable benefits. It is only recently that some of the benefits have trickled down into the mainstream where weekend warriors, casual gym-goers, and even your typical office worker suffering from carpal tunnel stand to benefit. Percussion massagers take everything you can get from a traditional massage and give it to you in a convenient and accessible way. Here’s everything you need to know about percussive massagers.
What Is a Percussive Massager?
Percussive therapy is a machine-based type of massage where people use a massage gun on their sore, injured, or “cold" muscles to receive a variety of benefits.
Percussive therapy, and massage guns, in general, have increased in popularity as they offer a natural side-effect free alternative to other types of recovery and pain management. While the benefits of traditional massages (performed by professional masseuses) are known, the problem is they are both expensive and time-consuming. Few people other than highly paid athletes have the time and resources to pay for regular professional massage therapy from massage therapists. And, unfortunately, it is not just athletes who experience frequent or chronic bodily pain. This is where a percussive massager comes in.
The best massage devices feature an ergonomic design and are cordless. You should look for a rechargeable muscle massager that has a long battery life with a lithium-ion battery or charger for hours of use. Many great percussive massagers come with a carrying case or a travel case that includes different attachment heads and adjustable arms so that you can use the device at different speeds and power settings. All of this at an affordable price point makes a percussive massage gun a massage tool that really can change your life.
How Does Percussion Therapy Work?
Percussion therapy works by applying fast, soft kneading pressure on the body’s soft tissue. High-quality percussion massage guns come with a variety of massage head attachments from a softball to a precise cone that reaches areas and target particular muscle knots. While you may use that “ball" attachment on larger muscle groups, the “cone" attachment can work better on muscle soreness centered around bones and joints.
Percussion therapy works to reduce pain and activate muscles in the following ways:
- Improving Blood Flow: Better blood flow is an essential part of stimulating muscle recovery and healing after injury. By improving blood flow to specific areas of your body, percussion therapy can help the body reduce soreness and heal broken-down or damaged muscle fibers.
- Reducing Lactic Acid: Lactic acid builds up in the muscles after long, hard workouts. Whether you were in the gym squatting, or on the field running sprints, that painful next-day soreness, muscle pain, and muscle tension are common to all those who push their bodies, and it is mostly caused by lactic acid build-up. By manually helping the body train lactic acid, you can reduce soreness and decrease recovery time.
- Stimulating Muscle Fibers: Many injuries occur in the weight room and on the field because people make the mistake of going from doing a “cold" activity to a “warm" one like a bench or overhead press. This transition is when your muscles are at their most vulnerable. Dynamic stretching, cardio warm-up, and or the use of a percussion massager can significantly reduce your chances of these kinds of injuries. By using a massage gun for just a few seconds on each of the muscles or muscle groups you intend to work, you can activate your muscles and get them ready for what’s coming.
Benefits of Using a Percussion Massager
Percussion massagers have significant pre and post-workout benefits that are amplified with regular use. One of the great things about the best massage guns is they are portable and convenient. So, you can take them with you in your car for use before you go to the gym. Or simply pack a massage gun in your gym bag. Either way, the positive effects of percussion massage are only amplified with regular usage.
Pre-Workout Percussion Massage Benefits
Percussion massagers do more than alleviate soreness and tight muscles. They also have a variety of pre-workout benefits.
- Improved Athletic Performance: Serious athletes and others experience improved performance after using a percussion massage handheld device. There are several reasons for this. The first has to do with the benefits of being sore less often, and the second is because of better muscle activation.
- Muscle Activation: Muscles, and you, as a person, can not perform their best when they are “cold." Like many things, your muscles require time to warm up and prepare for certain types of activities. If you are stiff and feel “brittle" first thing in the morning or after sitting in your chair over the course of a long day at the office, then you know exactly where this is coming from. The mistake many people make, though, is that they do not give their muscles time to warm up prior to working out at the gym or doing athletic activities on the field. The reason for this has to do with our energy level. Typically, we condition ourselves to get a boost of energy prior to going to the gym every day. This boost of energy may effectively trick you into thinking that, just because you feel good, your muscles are actually prepared for physical effort. This is not the case. Even if you feel energized and ready-to-go, if you are coming from a cold or passive activity and starting one that involves physical effort, you need to take the time to activate your muscles. This is where percussion therapy comes in.
- Stress Relief: Percussion therapy is a great stress reliever that you can use several times throughout the day. Executives and office workers often experience “tech neck" and other physical ailments along with physical tightness that comes with dealing with the daily stresses of professional work. These problems can be solved with the use of a massage gun.
Post-Workout Percussion Massage Benefits
Deep tissue massage guns are best known for their post-workout benefits. These include:
- Better Sleep: You cannot overestimate the importance of sleep. Whether it comes to fat loss, energy, digestive health, mental health, or countless other aspects of your overall wellbeing, getting the right amount of sleep plays a central role. For many, though, excessive soreness and stress can lead to sleeping troubles, which create more physical ailments, which then, in turn, have a greater impact on your sleep. It’s a vicious, unhealthy cycle. Percussion therapy can help by reducing pain, stress, and helping you get back to sleep so you can wake up feeling fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the day.
- Faster Recovery: Athletes and others who push their bodies to the max have long believed that soreness was an inevitable part of their professions. Without soreness, they were not making progress. We now know this is not the case. With regular massage gun usage, you can keep all the positives of your hard work without the unnecessary costs of constant soreness. Not only is soreness painful, ultimately it can hurt your athletic performance. Regardless of how hard you push or how disciplined you are, you always have an advantage on days when you are less sore versus on those when you are more. Percussion massagers lead to faster recovery, faster recovery means less soreness, and less soreness means better long-term performance.
- Injury Rehab: Many of those healing from serious muscle, tissue, or joint injuries have discovered the incredible benefits of percussion massagers. Not only does percussion massage provide immediate pain relief, but it also improves blood flow to injured areas, which can speed up the time it takes your body to heal itself and increase range of motion. Acute injuries, like strained muscles, require time to heal and can be quite painful. Thankfully, percussive therapy offers a solution as a recovery tool. Whether you are suffering from a bicep strain, a sore back or neck, sore legs, or anything else, high-quality percussion massagers can help with all the above in addition to much more.
Tips for Using a Percussion Massager
While using a percussion massage is not rocket science, there are a few tips that can help optimize your results.
- You should begin by turning your percussion massager on and off away from your injured muscle. Also, it is recommended to start the device at the lowest speed setting. You can gradually increase the massager’s speed after going over the injured or sore muscles a few times
- If you use a massage gun pre-workout, you should go up and down the muscles faster and use the device for shorter amounts of time. Post-workout or early morning massage gun use should be slower and more focused.
- Avoid boney areas when possible or, if you have an injury in or near a bony area, use a precise massage gun attachment like a cone or thumb attachment that is specifically designed to target such areas.
Percussion massagers can help you reduce pain, remove cellulite, increase flexibility, and optimize your athletic performance. They are a great, convenient option for professional athletes as well as those who simply enjoy staying fit or who are experiencing chronic pain and are interested in a natural, side-effect free alternative.