If you go to the gym, visit a massage therapist or see a chiropractor, you may have seen a gun-shaped device being used by the therapist or being used as a form of self-massage by an individual.
The devices are called “massage guns” and they are all the rage right now.
But before you run out and buy one, you need to do a bit of research, so you can understand what they are and how and when to use them.
Here’s everything you need to know about massage guns.
HOW DOES A MASSAGE GUN WORK?
Massage guns are a form of vibrational massage or “percussion therapy”.
This means they are designed to impact the body in an oscillating motion, usually in a straight up and down direction. Picture a mini version of a jackhammer you can hold comfortably in your hand.
Pressing a mini jackhammer against your muscles may sound a bit scary, but all of these devices have variable levels of intensity that are easily controlled.
These levels range from very low frequency settings where the moving part of the gun and attachment is actually visible to the naked eye and the high-intensity settings which pack quite a bit more punch and can barely be seen when in use.
The lower intensity settings are usually used for recovery work, while the higher intensity settings are used for muscular activation or excitation (see below).
In addition, massage guns come with different types of attachments for different needs.
Virtually all of them have rechargeable batteries you simply plug into any socket. On average, it takes about 90 minutes to two hours for the devices to completely recharge; although some can take considerably longer.
Additionally, the Sonic products from Lifepro can last a full day of usage on one charge.
You’ll find a great introductory video that will walk you through the details of what they look like and how they work by below or by clicking here.
WHAT DO MASSAGE GUNS ACTUALLY DO?
Massage guns have four primary uses:
1. Muscular Recovery
Muscular Recovery has the most thoroughly research and is the most common way massage guns are used.
After any bout of heavy exercise, either in the form of weight lifting, intense cardio work or a high-impact event like a football game, individuals can experience what’s called DOMS or delayed-onset muscular soreness.
In one study, vibration therapy was shown to be as effective as massage in the prevention of DOMS and had the added benefit of reducing pain and lowering lactate levels in the body(1).
When applied directly to the muscles, massage guns increase blood flow and make the muscle tissue more pliant, bringing nutrients to the tissue that can speed the repair and recovery of the muscles.
DOMS normally peaks 24-48 hours after the activity. However, when the massage gun is used immediately after a training session or even later when DOMS pain levels are higher, complete recovery time is significantly reduced.
You can see how this is done and get a great demonstration by watching this video of an actual muscular recovery session in action below.
2. Pain Reduction
Something called the “gate control theory of pain” says that non-painful input (like that from a massage gun) closes the nerve "gates" to painful input, which prevents pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system.
In a pilot study done in Germany on patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), deep oscillation massage was shown to be safe and well tolerated in patients with moderate to severe grades of chronic FMS and was easily tolerated"(2)
In fact, a 3-month follow up after the study revealed sustained improvements in symptoms and quality of life.
The ability to lower pain levels makes massage guns a powerful tool for individuals and health professionals.
3. Muscular Activation
When used at the higher range of intensity levels, many individuals find massage guns to be very effective in getting the muscles ready for action.
Foam rollers are often used prior to training or competition as a way of improving “tissue quality”. Massage guns can have the same effect, readying the muscles for activity and therefore reducing the likelihood of injury.
4. Stress reduction
As the name suggests, massage guns can be used in place of or as a compliment to traditional massage as a way of reducing stress and muscular tension as part of an ongoing “self-care” routine.
Since individuals can use a massage gun themselves, this tool has the added convenience of portability and ease of use which does not require the individual to schedule an appointment and travel to a massage therapists office.
One useful hint, when using the massage gun, you should be careful to avoid bones and ligaments. When the massage gun passes over these spots, it can be quite painful and the rigidity of the tissue can cause the gun to bounce across the surface of the skin.
Muscular tension, pain and stiffness can come from many sources; heavy training, chronic overuse, normal aging and disease conditions.
No matter the source, the research is showing that massage guns could be the portable, convenient answer many are looking for.
Everyone has “trouble spots” that continually cause pain and even muscle cramping, and by improving the “tissue quality” of the affected area, pain can be significantly reduced.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A MASSAGE GUN?
When deciding which gun is the best fit for you, you should consider noise level (some guns are loud enough to be a distraction), overall power (for individuals with larger muscle mass), frequency of use (will you need swappable batteries?), and even the need for more exotic options such as heated massage tips or massage oils attachments.
These devices, while popular, can be surprisingly expensive, with some models costing upwards of $600 dollars.
But as competition increases and design improves, spending this much money is not necessary.
The Sonic line of massage guns produced by Lifepro is powerful and remarkably quiet—a major problem with some models! The best part is that the Sonic can be purchased for under $200, and has as much functionality as you’ll ever need. And all the guns are lightweight - every Sonic model is 2.5 pounds or less.
Another consideration is hand size. If you have smaller hands, the Sonic mini is an ideal choice since leverage and maneuverability is a factor, and is recommended as the top massage gun for women.
WHO SHOULD USE A MASSAGE GUN?
Massage guns have become enormously popular in the fitness world. A massage gun’s effectiveness on DOMS applies to all age groups. Athletes in particular are investing in the guns and including their use as part of warmup and cooldown routines for both practice and competition.
Further testing and research needs to be done to see if expanding the use of massage guns into the treatment of painful conditions such as arthritis and muscle-based conditions is possible.
The power and convenience of the guns are ideal for anyone with mobility and muscle aches and pains. This points directly to the over 40 crowd who have to deal with these issues on a regular basis. With this group, tissue quality is key.
The first time you have one of these guns in your hand, you instinctively want to try them out on your legs, arms or any body part where you experience pain and stiffness.
You’ll immediately be impressed by the power of these tools.
What’s next for massage guns?
If their growth in popularity continues, it’s likely more and more “regular” people will treat the guns as a normal part of their routine rather than an anomaly.
Your problem may be stress and muscular tension…
Perhaps you're seeking another way to reduce your pain levels…
Maybe your training intensity is very high and you really need to speed up your recovery and fend off muscle soreness…
Or maybe you’re looking for an extra edge at the start of your workout…
Any one of these issues makes owning a massage gun right for you.
Keep the following in mind:
A Sonic massage gun can speed the removal of pain-inducing lactate from your muscles and
- Enhance the speed of muscular recovery from training
- Improve mobility and range of motion in older individuals
- Increase blood flow in the areas that need it most
- Reduce the pain associated with several muscular conditions including muscle damage from training
- Enhance the “readiness” or activation of the muscles and nervous system prior to exercise
- Lessen the severity of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Whether your goal is recovery or activation, the Sonic massage gun can help you reach your goals. Get yours now and get free shipping!
For more information on Massage Guns, check out our other article "When and How to Use a Massage Gun" here!