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Woman using a massage gun to relieve muscle tension and tightness

In the Market for a Massage Gun? We've Got Pro Tips

If the typical vibrating massager just doesn’t cut it for you in terms of pressure and intensity, a massage gun can deliver the deep-tissue relief you’re craving. But few things are as counterproductive to reducing tension as browsing an endless list of massage gun models online. We're here to make things easier with some simple tips and solid recommendations from Origin PT and Clinical Director Dr. Sarah Clampett, PT, DPT.

What’s so Great About Massage Guns?

The pressure and vibration created by a massage gun help to decrease muscle tension and soreness by increasing blood flow and circulation. This brings nourishing oxygen to your tissue and can help reduce inflammation. And for fans of deep tissue work, it can be one of the only ways to achieve intense pressure when you’re giving yourself a massage.

Who Should — and Shouldn’t — Use a Massage Gun?

Traditionally, massage guns have been used on endurance athletes, as their muscles get tight after prolonged activity and can accumulate a lot of fluid and inflammation. But anyone who is active or has muscle tightness and soreness can benefit from a massage gun. As far as people who should avoid using them, those who bruise easily or are more susceptible to sprains, strains, or broken bones should consult their doctor before using one.

Is it Safe to Use a Massage Gun on Any Part of the Body?

It’s best to use massage guns on the bulkiest, meatiest park of the muscle belly. Think glutes, quads, and traps, for example. People should be more cautious when using them on smaller muscles, the face, or bony parts of the body. Keep massage sessions at or under 10 minutes to avoid overworking the muscle.

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What's the best way to hold a massage gun?

To make sure you’re not putting too much strain on your wrist, elbow, or shoulder, hold the massage gun as close to your body as possible, and aim to keep your wrist in a neutral position — meaning your hand is in line with your forearm, not moving side to side, as if you’re waving. When possible, use a pillow, yoga block, or rolled up blanket to support your arm, so you can maintain a comfortable position for up to 10 minutes at a time.

What Should I Look For When Buying a Massage Gun?

You have to decide which feature is most important to you. If you like speed and force, you’ll want a massage gun that generates more percussions-per-minute (PPM). PPM ranges from around 1200 to 3400 — the higher the PPM, the more intense the massage. I recommend looking for a massage gun with a wider PPM range, so you can experiment with different speeds. You may prefer lower speeds on certain parts of your body.

If noise is a concern, you’ll obviously want a massage gun that’s engineered to run more quietly. Unfortunately not all massage guns on the market list their speed, force, or noise level. I’ve found that Ekrin Athletics and Hypervolt make models that are quieter than others.

I’m Pregnant. Is it Safe to Use a Massage Gun?

Because massage guns are similar to deep tissue massages, they can be harmful during pregnancy. Blood volume and blood flow increases during pregnancy, so a massage gun could potentially cause blood clots, particularly in the lower legs. Using one on the neck or upper shoulders with caution during pregnancy is typically okay, but pregnant and postpartum women should always consult their doctor before using a massage gun.

Gotta ask... Can a Massage Gun Double as a vibrator?

No, you don't want to use a massage gun as vibrator. The mechanics of a vibrator and a massage gun are very different and it won’t feel the same. A vibrator, well, vibrates and a massage gun percusses. Think rubbing a pillow really quickly (vibration) vs. punching a pillow really quickly (percussion). Both promote blood flow, but massage guns are typically much more intense and should be reserved for the meatier muscles on the body.

What Are Your Favorite Brands of Massage Gun?

There are countless brands on the market and I haven’t tried them all. Depending on what someone is looking for, I typically recommend massage guns from Therabody, Hypervolt, and, most often, Ekrin Athletics.

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Dr. Sarah Clampett, PT, DPT

Sarah is Origin's Los Angeles Clinical Director. She attended the University of Southern California, where she studied Kinesiology and Psychology.

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