The benefits of a massage gun can be extensive, so if you’re in the market for something to relieve tension, speed up recovery and improve your fitness performance, it might be worth investing.
A massage gun is a handheld device that looks a bit like a power drill, but with a large, round tip. Lizzie Read, sports therapist at P3RFORM, explains that massage guns are a type of self-myofascial release - this is a self-massage technique for people who are experiencing muscle tightness or pain.
Fascia, she adds, is the thin tissue that surrounds all of our muscles, joints, and internal organs – similar to the coating that surrounds a sausage. Fascia is layered and can become ‘tangled’ by binding together. This is what presents as knots in our muscles. The result? You begin to lose flexibility and range of motion and can become prone to injury and pain.
“Massage guns use rapid vibration to unbind the fascia, release tension and stimulate blood flow,” explains Read. “This leads to better workouts and faster recovery.” The rapid percussion of a massage gun also warms the muscles, which improves flexibility, making you less prone to injury in the long term. This cannot be achieved by other self-myofascial release techniques like foam rolling (read our guide to foam roller vs massage gun for more).
Sounds good, right? Massage guns also have a ton of other benefits. We’ve unpacked some of them for you here.
Benefits #1: Faster recovery
“One of the main benefits of a massage gun is speeding up recovery, allowing you to get back to training more quickly and reducing injury time”, says Read.
It does this by promoting blood flow and warming up the muscles. Although this can be effective pre-and post-workout, she says to get the most out of your massage gun, it’s best to use it after a strenuous training session or when you feel particularly tight or sore.
“Using a massage gun can also improve sports performance,” she adds. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that the vibrations from a massage gun could improve muscular strength, power development and range of motion following exercise, as well as decrease DOMS.
Benefits #2: Increased mobility
“Regular use of a massage gun can stimulate nerve receptors which causes the widening of blood vessels in the skin and muscles (known as vasodilation), improving mobility,” says Read.
"This nervous system response will allow you to more easily move your body after using the massage gun because it stimulates the muscles in the area treated. Increased vasodilation can also create a warming effect on the skin, which is another lovely bonus that aids feelings of relaxation."
Benefit #3: Increased flexibility
One of the other benefits of a massage gun is that it enhances the range of motion - this is how far you can move or stretch a particular part of your body.
“This can lead to increased flexibility and less chance of sprains or strains,” says Read. “It works by causing sensors in the muscle tendons to send feedback to the brain, essentially tricking your nervous system into blocking pain signals and increasing blood flow to your muscles.”
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that this allows for a greater range of motion and flexibility.
Whilst this won’t totally reduce your risk of injury, the short term boost in flexibility could help you to access deeper positions when working out, as well as improve your form and technique. For example, by targeting the ankles with a massage gun, you can expect an increased range of motion, which might help you get into a deeper squat.
Benefit #4: Stress busting
Read says that a massage gun can reduce stress levels and promote relaxation in the body, by interacting with the skin and the nervous system. This causes something called ‘biofeedback’.
“Basically, applying the massage gun to areas on the body that are tight sends a signal to the brain via the nervous system,” she says. “This sends an ‘action signal’ back to the muscle, causing it to relax.”
Benefit #5: Improved sleep
Regular use of a massage gun can improve sleep, as well as reduce anxiety. Read explains that in the same way that it can reduce stress levels, it works by down-regulating the nervous system, in turn improving overall wellness.
“When we are calmer and more relaxed, then we often sleep more soundly and have less symptoms of anxiety.”