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Massage Guns: Worth the Hype?

by Breanna Callahan, Marketing Coordinator with contributions by Josh Bruner, Physical Therapist

I love massages! They are relaxing, and when I have a headache for a couple days because of tension in my back or soreness from a workout, the massage melts the pain away. But sometimes, I don’t have time for a massage appointment, or I can’t get an appointment as soon as I’d like. Enter the therapeutic massage guns I have been seeing all over the internet. I thought, hmmm. This is worth looking in to! I wonder if it works?

I kid you not, a few days after I began researching, Southwest Health Physical Therapist Josh Bruner reached out to me to let me know he was recently published as an expert in a US News article about, you guessed it, therapeutic massage guns. How cool, a Southwest Health Physical Therapist as the main source of information for a national wellness article. After congratulating him on this, I told him about how I had recently taken an interest in the massage guns. I immediately checked out the article. What did I learn?

What it is

Therapeutic massage guns are handheld, battery operated devices that use percussion and vibration to increase muscle flexibility and decrease pain. A variety of attachments can be used with the device in order to target different regions or muscle sizes.

How it works

Josh explained that massage guns increase the blood flow and nutrients to the muscles in order to promote healing. The massage gun also increases production of relaxation hormones, reduces pain, and stimulates muscle receptors, which receive signals and tell muscles what to do, to decrease muscle stiffness.

Why use one

Without anyone else’s help, you can give yourself a massage to help recover from an injury or to reduce soreness after working out.

Why not use one

There hasn’t been very much research completed on the effects of using massage guns, but it has been shown to decrease pain and improve flexibility. It will not magically increase your performance, though. It won’t make you run faster, jump higher, or have super human strength.

Josh also said there are some specific conditions you shouldn’t use a massage gun for unless your doctor or physical therapist says so. These include:

  • Decreased or altered sensation caused by diabetes or neuropathy
  • Active infections
  • Open wounds
  • Active deep vein thrombosis
  • Active cancer
  • Acute bone fracture

You should also be hesitant to use a massage gun if you are pregnant or have any of the following:

  • Chronic pain, including fibromyalgia
  • Varicose veins
  • Autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle dystrophy or disorders

If not used correctly

The best thing is to have a professional show you how to use one correctly. If you don’t and you try to figure it out on your own, you risk actually making your muscles more sore, creating bruising, or even causing muscle damage if you use it a lot.

How much they cost

When looking at massage guns, it’s important to know the more expensive massage guns aren’t significantly more effective at decreasing pain than the less expensive ones. Usually, the difference between the more expensive and the less expensive massage guns are a few features and slightly better quality. If you don’t want to purchase one, foam rollers, massage balls, and massage sticks also offer similar benefits.

If you have questions, are experiencing pain, or would like to make an appointment with a physical therapist to learn how to properly use a therapeutic massage gun, please call Southwest Health Rehab Services at 608.342.4748 in Platteville or 608.744.2161 in Cuba City.

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