Blog Science How Do Massage Guns Work? The Scientific Benefits Behind Percussive Therapy
How Do Massage Guns Work? The Scientific Benefits Behind Percussive Therapy
How Do Massage Guns Work? The Scientific Benefits Behind Percussive Therapy

Authors: Therabody Scientists: Tim Roberts, MSc; Kyle Silvey, PhD; Michelle Darian, MS, MPH, RD, LDN

Massage has long been used to promote health, from ancient practices to modern wellness. Today, massage guns represent an evolution of traditional massage, using technology to deliver targeted percussive therapy. This innovative approach provides the mind and body benefits of massage through gentle, pulsing vibrations. 

As the pioneer in wellness technology, Theragun is synonymous with the massage gun category. Massage guns like the Theragun harness the power of percussive therapy to enhance muscle recovery, manage pain, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. With science supporting their many benefits, massage guns are a tool everyone can use to improve their muscle recovery and overall well-being. This article explores how massage guns leverage percussive therapy to benefit muscles and mind alike.

What is Massage Therapy? 

The word massage is derived from the Arabic term “Massa," meaning to touch, or the Greek term “Massein," meaning “to knead." Massage is a practice that is thousands of years old — yet is still common today. Today, massages are common therapies offered by visiting a spa or using a foam roller at home or the gym. [1] Similarly, vibrations have been used for centuries by the ancient Greeks to treat wounded soldiers using methods like carriage riding to produce them. [2] And today, vibrations are offered through various wellness technologies. 

As technology has advanced and modern society is increasingly interested in their health and wellness, consumers seek innovative technology to address stiffness and soreness, pain, and more. Enter the massage gun. The invention of the massage gun can be seen as the natural innovation of these ancient practices. And you don’t have to be a wounded ancient Greek soldier to reap the benefits of massage and vibration therapy. Everyone — from athletes to those who sit at a desk for most of their day, can benefit from the muscle recovery properties that this technology provides. 

How Do Massage Guns Provide Percussive Therapy?

Massage guns use a therapy type called percussive therapy. These handheld devices deliver percussive therapy, simultaneously providing gentle, relaxing, and deep tissue massage through rapid, concentrated pulses or vibrations. Massage guns are powerful tools that have gained popularity among athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and individuals seeking relief from everyday muscle tension and soreness alike. 

Theragun, the original innovator in this field, introduced the concept of percussive therapy to the market. A Theragun device typically consists of a motorized head that connects to different attachments to deliver rapid percussive movements to targeted muscles. The unique design and technology behind the Theragun device’s percussive therapy make it a highly versatile treatment. Whether you are looking for a deep tissue massage or a gentle and relaxing massage treatment, recent science shows that percussive therapy effectively stimulates blood flow, relaxes tight muscles, and promotes overall muscle recovery. [3, 4, 5]

The Scientific Benefits of Percussive Therapy From Massage Guns

Many science-supported benefits of massage guns, like improved blood flow, myofascial treatment, and neuromuscular stimulation, are responsible for how you feel following percussive therapy. Here is an overview of the science responsible for the benefits: 

Increased Blood Flow 

The rapid and repetitive movements of the Theragun stimulate blood circulation to the treated muscles. Improved blood flow is critical for recovery — it helps to deliver essential nutrients to muscles and remove metabolic waste products, aiding in faster muscle recovery. [7]

Myofascial Treatment

“Myofascial" is a fancy way of describing the connective tissue surrounding muscle (and is a part of the muscle itself). When used around muscles and on muscles, the Theragun device’s percussive therapy effectively helps distribute fluid in the different tissues to make movement easier — this promotes flexibility and reduces muscle tightness. Imagine that you have a stiff door hinge that creaks when it opens and closes. Coating the hinge with oil typically removes creakiness and helps the door to open and close faster. This is essentially happening to your muscle tissue after using massage gun percussive therapy — where muscles have more fluid to improve the ease of their movement. [6]

Neuromuscular Stimulation

“Neuromuscular" describes the connection between the brain and muscles. Because of this connection, applying percussive therapy to a muscle can send signals to the brain. The gentle percussive massage from a massage gun stimulates sensory receptors in the muscles, triggering reflexes that encourage muscle relaxation. This can lead to both pain relief and improved range of motion. [7

Endorphin Release

Like massage, percussive therapy can stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins can provide immediate relief to achy treatment areas, reducing discomfort and promoting well-being. [8]

How Massage Guns Use Percussive Therapy To Benefit the Mind and Body

Through producing percussive therapy, massage guns elicit benefits throughout the body through rapid percussive movements — from reduced stress levels to improved muscle recovery — percussive therapy offers numerous scientifically proven health benefits that you can feel. 

Enhanced Muscle Recovery

Percussive therapy accelerates the body’s natural recovery processes when used in various settings. A massage gun is a great partner before, during, and after exercise to enhance muscle recovery by promoting blood flow and reducing muscle tension. [5, 9, 10

  • Pre-workout: Massage guns improved performance in cyclists who performed bike sprints when used before a workout. [10]
  • During a workout: When used in between sets of chest presses, those who used a massage gun performed more repetitions than those who rested in between sets. [9]
  • Post-workout: Muscle strength, flexibility, power, and pain improve when percussive therapy is used post-workout, helping the body to prepare for the next workout. [5]

PRO TIP: Gently massage the most frequently used muscles for 60-120 seconds each. 

Pain Management

The Theragun device delivers percussive therapy to reduce aches and pains. Whether you have a tight neck and back from sitting at a desk all day or your legs are sore from standing on your feet all day, a massage gun can relieve sore muscles while relieving the tension leading to the pain. Percussive therapy is a drug-free solution for managing symptoms like pain and discomfort.

PRO TIP: Start using percussive therapy on the muscles surrounding the sore muscle for 30-60 seconds. This can help increase circulation and reduce discomfort without direct pressure on sore spots. Then, gently move to the site if you are comfortable.

Improved Athletic Performance

Before a workout, athletes use massage guns to warm up muscles and prepare them for the physical activity they are about to complete. By stimulating muscles and reducing stiffness, the range of motion (think flexibility and mobility) can improve, which can also help reduce the risk of injury. [11]

Stress Reduction

The relaxing effects of percussive therapy extend beyond physical benefits. Massage guns can also help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety by promoting a sense of relaxation and well-being. Whether you’re on the go all day or struggling to wind down after a stressful day at work, percussive therapy can help to reduce stress. 

PRO TIP: Treating different areas with a massage gun, even for just 15-30 seconds each, can help relax the body and mind.
To learn more about the published scientific benefits of Theragun devices, read on here.

How to Get Started Using a Theragun Massage Gun

Theragun devices offer customizable and targeted treatments to benefit the mind and body. These massage guns offer different intensities to provide a gentler or deeper massage. Theragun devices also have multiple attachments for more personalized treatments based on your unique needs and personal preferences. 

With all changes to your wellness routine, discuss percussive therapy use with your medical professional to understand if it’s right for you. Percussive therapy devices are not intended for medical use and should never replace the care of a healthcare provider.

Key Takeaways

In summary, Theragun devices deliver a cutting-edge approach to muscle recovery and well-being — it can be considered a modern-day massage therapy. Theragun devices make the benefits of massage accessible to everyone at home, at work, or on the go. By harnessing the principles of massage and vibration therapy, Theragun devices provide a scientifically supported method for enhancing muscle performance, alleviating pain, and promoting overall relaxation.

Whether you are seeking relief from life’s aches and pains or an athlete looking to optimize your recovery, Theragun offers a versatile and effective solution. Incorporating Theragun Percussive Therapy into your wellness routine may be the key to unlocking your body’s full potential and improving your wellness one day at a time.