PERCUSSION GUNS: PAIN GODSEND OR SHORT TERM TRICKERY?
A question I am asked on nearly a weekly basis is; “I have a theragun. Will that help heal my injury?”
A question I am asked on nearly a weekly basis is; “I have a theragun. Will that help heal my injury?” With the rise of brands such as Theragun and Hyperice making such an extreme blast into the physical recovery space, it seems percussive therapy has become popular in the mainstream.
Every day I am bombarded with ads on social sites celebrating the value of such tools for recovery and pain relief. It’s no wonder that I am questioned regularly about the topic. And although there definitely are some benefits to the type of therapy it provides, I continue to question...is this massage device worth the $300+ price tag?
Studies on Percussion Massagers
More and more studies are being released about the benefits and limitations of percussive/vibration therapy. Humans have multiple pain sensors located everywhere in our bodies that detect different stimuli such as temperature, light touch, pressure, and vibration, etc.
When vibration is detected in these sensors, they send a signal to our central nervous system via the spinal cord. The nervous system will then send signals through a chemical cascade and will release ions from our cells. This is a very simplified version of what happens when a pain sensation is felt, but the following is what I would like you to know about vibration therapy.
It CAN BE an effective method in decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness following a workout. In other words, you may be less likely to feel muscle pain or tightness 24 to 72 hours after an intense workout.
The Limitations of Using Percussion Massagers for Pain
The caveat here is that solely using a massage gun IS NOT your best and most time effective method of recovery or pain relief. However, it can be used in conjunction with mobility training and rehabilitation-specific exercises if one is recovering from injury.
The human body is a collection of systems programmed to work in sync to maintain homeostasis. We have more neural connections in our central nervous system than there are stars in the universe. So, only using a sophisticated massage device in an attempt to make our sore muscles feel better just won’t cut it.
How to Effectively Use a Percussive Massager
Humans require targeted movement to lubricate and provide nutrition to joints, stimulate lymphatic drainage and flow, and energize the vascular system. Additionally, specific movement provides our nervous system with positive messages and a mental framework to reduce stress. All of these modalities in combination are the way to achieve our best recovery model.
For instance, following a tough tempo run of 6-8 miles, a combination of recovery treatments that can be useful would be the following;
- Use a percussive device on the anterolateral thigh for 5 minutes on each leg
- Hip 90/90 isoMP x5
- Couch stretch 2 minutes each side
- Quadruped Spinal CARS x10
Another example can be, if one has awoken with upper neck pain/stiffness due to poor sleep quality or overall posturing, try this combination of treatments;
- Use a percussive device on the upper trapezius/upper back for 5 minutes on each side
- Quadruped Spinal CARS x10
- Side Lying thoracic spinal twist 2 minutes on each side
- Weighted scapula CARS x10 in each direction