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Physical Wellness

Is Percussive Therapy Right for Me?

A good old massage works wonders for stress relief and muscle recovery. But there are times when you can’t visit your favorite massage therapist. Don’t let that stop you from getting better. We live in the age of technology, and alternative options exist. You might have heard of percussive therapy—or, in simpler words, massage guns. You can give yourself a quick massage anytime and anywhere. Scientific evidence in its favor is only increasing. If you learn to use it correctly, you will see a significant improvement in your muscular strength and flexibility. But first, let’s understand what it is and how to use it to avoid making blunders.

An African American woman using a massage gun for percussive therapy in her office.
You Can Give Yourself a Quick Massage Anytime and Anywhere Using Massage Guns (Image Source: Shutterstock)

What Is Percussive Therapy?

Percussive therapy is a high-pressure therapy, targeted at a specific spot and using a specific device. It has greater penetrability than human hands and foam rollers, which is why it is slowly becoming a personal favorite for many people, athletes and commoners alike. The accelerated pressure untangles knots in your muscles and helps you relax better. Muscular pain in the back and shoulders is often caused by these knots, so percussive therapy is also great for pain relief. It goes deeper than anything else and doesn’t cause the pain your therapist would when massaging the same area. It’s both comfort and relief in one.

What is Percussive Therapy? – Dick’s Sporting Goods

When you do an intense workout, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. It appears in the form of post-workout soreness and is an extremely unpleasant feeling. Studies suggest that improved blood circulation can cure this muscle soreness. And percussive therapy helps with that, too. Massaging the body not only improves blood flow but also reduces chances of inflammation and stiffness. This, in turn, reduces pain. Thus, percussive therapy is a keep-fit-fanatic’s best friend. It aids in muscle recovery and alleviates post-workout soreness so that the pain doesn’t affect your consistency. With percussive therapy, you can push yourself past your limits and not end up bedridden for an entire week. It also prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the pain you feel a day after working out.

The benefits of percussive therapy do not end here. By removing muscle knots, it eradicates obstacles from your lymphatic system’s path and allows your body to drain and remove toxins more effectively. This means percussive therapy will improve your immunity along with your flexibility. It has also been proven to strengthen bones and help with osteoporosis. However, it’s not for everybody. If you use it incorrectly, you could end up with bruises. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease, or if you’re pregnant, you should consult your doctor before trying percussive therapy. It needs to be done with extreme care.

How to Use a Percussion Massager

Like other vibratory therapy, percussive therapy also has risks. One muscle recovery tip that you need to keep in mind at all times is that you should not use the massage gun in one spot for too long. It will result in bruising. The best time to use a percussive massager is post-workout. Aim it on the sore muscle for one or two minutes. As for the other muscles, use the gun for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This way you won’t feel any of that post-workout soreness and you’ll be able to walk and move normally. Consistency matters here. If you want it to be effective, you should use percussive therapy frequently.

Woman using a massager around her shoulder.
The Best Time To Use a Percussive Massager is Post-Workout (Image Source: Shutterstock)

In addition, be careful not to apply too much pressure. Massagers like Theragun G3PRO suggest floating the device over the sore muscle at least half an inch above the surface instead of pressing it in. If you push too hard, it can damage your muscle. The gun is designed to let you enjoy a deep massage without having to apply a lot of force. Some percussive therapy guns come with attachments that allow you to vary the intensity. The smaller the attachment, the deeper the penetration. You can switch according to your needs. Your massager should come with a manual that will thoroughly explain how to use it. Follow its instructions carefully.

While percussive therapy is mostly known for being a great post-workout tension reliever, you can use it before exercising as well. You can activate your muscles through a percussive massager and also improve your range of motion by using it at the beginning and in the middle of your workout. During a workout, it helps improve blood flow and wake up sleeping muscles so that you can step up your game in the next rep. Furthermore, it also prevents muscle tension and lactic acid from building up while you’re exercising.

If you are still unsure about the method of using a percussion massager, here is a short, 7-minute Youtube video that will show you exactly how to use one to relieve shoulder and neck pain.

Foam Rollers vs. Massage Guns

Percussive therapy is performed with a massage gun and provides the combined benefits of foam rollers and the classic hand massage. Foam rollers are older than guns and work well in getting rid of muscle knots. However, they can be pretty painful and uncomfortable. Unlike massage guns, you have to apply force and roll it across the muscle to get it to work. On the plus side, this lets you cover larger areas in a shorter time. Plus, it’s gentler than massage guns, as it’s padded. However, foam rollers cannot give you the same deep-intensity relief as percussive massagers.

If you do not workout frequently or are still a beginner, foam rollers are a great option. They’re comparatively cheaper and will work effectively in releasing muscle tension in people who don’t do high-intensity workouts often. Foam rollers are a bit difficult to use, and the technique varies for each muscle group. They’re harder to use than massage guns but a lot quicker. So if you’re in a hurry, with a foam roller you just need 5 minutes to untie those knots, and then you’re up and running. Foam rollers also produce little to no noise and are akin to a quiet meditation session.

Man using a foam roller.
Foam Rollers Are a Great Option If You Do Not Workout Frequently (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Massage guns are better for those who workout often, especially athletes. They can reach areas that a foam roller can’t. And the relief comes quickly. If you are a fitness junkie or play sports, percussive therapy will improve your muscle recovery to a great extent. However, if you’re not used to deep massages, percussive therapy might feel a bit intense. Percussive massages are slower and focus on spots instead of the entire muscle. Depending on whether you need targeted or quick therapy, you can best decide what to pick.

Conclusion

Percussive therapy is a targeted therapy performed mostly by using a massage gun. The benefits of percussive therapy are endless. It helps with muscle recovery, bone strength, blood circulation, instant pain relief, and mobility. Massage guns are a perfect fit for athletes because they combine the intensity of hand massage with the effectiveness of foam rollers. However, massage guns need to be used carefully to avoid bruising and injury. If you have a medical condition, consult your doctor before starting percussive therapy. After that, get yourself a massage gun, read the instructions, dive right in, and say goodbye to sore muscles.

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