Have you noticed that everywhere you have turned for the past several years that someone is pushing a massage gun? If you haven’t then you must have just crawled out from under a rock. Therapeutic massage tools have been around for years. I remember going to fitness conferences well over 25 years ago and there was always a booth with some kind of massage device.
Using a massage gun can be a wonderful thing. Not only will it help with muscle recovery, but for most people it just plain feels amazing. However, it’s important to remember that by using a massage gun, you are physically introducing micro-traumas to the body. Below is a list of when not to use the massage gun.
BEWARE…Side story….When I was a kid (I’m almost 48 now) I remember my grandmother which I called Nanny having spent something like four hundred bucks on the Jeannie massager with two handles, a long cord and a large rectangle surface area and it was LOUD.
Heck, she even had one of those gadgets you stand in that put the belt behind your waist, butt, lower back, where ever you could reach it. It was really fun as a kid but I didn’t understand it’s purpose besides making me itchy and vibrating my voice box. My mom gave it to me a few years ago in Memphis and I kept it in my garage. After long bike rides it felt nice sort of, then I gave it back. Mind you, it was at least 30 years old and had been kept outside with heat and humidity and still worked. This gadget was marketed for weight loss, which never helped her as she never exercised, didn’t eat healthy, took a ton of medicines and had all kinds of aches and pains (she didn’t drink or smoke). She was overweight most of her life and died of Alzheimers several years ago. I loved her dearly and she was so kind, spunky and a big part of my life. My other grandmother on the other hand is 97 and she never had any gadgets, walked 2 miles daily, never drank or smoked and ate super healthy. She is still sassy, a worrier and remembers all her great grandkids birthdays.
Back to massage guns and their purpose
Not everyone has the ability to invest in massages weekly or bi-monthly so there must be other ways to get that “itch, pain, tightness” solved. Foam rollers, trigger point balls, the stick, your own hands and a friend or spouse not qualified in massage don’t always make the mark. Before you run out and get this high percussion tool, it’s best know when and when not to use it. That’s what this blog post aims to teach you since I am both an Exercise Physiologist & a Licensed Massage Therapist.
I believe the percussion gun can be a great tool but it shouldn’t be the first tool you reach for or the only one.
- Runners or athletes post competition 24-48 hours should NOT use this as their muscles are fatigued and would likely cause their muscles to spasm. A light full body massage to flush out lactic acid and keep fascia from sticking would be better suited.
- Think about a track sprinter athlete, would you want the track star to hold a stretch for a long time before a race or do more movement/dynamic stretches? Dynamic of course! That means some leg swings, drills, etc.
- Holding a stretch for a longer time/static stretching would lengthen the muscle(s) and he/she needs it to be shorter so they can contract faster and have better leg turnover thus preventing injury by over-striding.
- Should the track star get massage pre-event then the massage tool would wake up the muscles and get them ready for firing.
- Post competition or hard workout 48-72 hours later might be a good time to try on some muscles and not others. Our bodies have different rates of repair for different muscle groups so listening to your body is the best advice.
- Workers that have held the same stooping position, desk workers that have poor posture or glute muscles this massage would work great for the rhomboids (muscles between shoulder blades), certain neck muscles that are overstretched from looking a computer or phone from a head forward position, factory workers doing repetitive movements, and dead butt muscles from sitting your a** for hours at a time.
- The massage gun likely should not be used every day on the same muscle groups as the body needs time to recover between bouts.
- Do not use on sprains, strains, veins or individuals possible thrombosis (blot clots in the lower extremities)
- Don’t use when pregnant or have fever.
How to get the most out of a massage gun
- Knowing the muscles of the body can help you pin point the muscles to target when you are using the massage gun on yourself or asking someone to use on the backside of your body.
- Knowing where you consistently have active trigger points can help you trace muscles from that location
- What muscles are cramping most often? Calves? maybe you should massage your shin muscles or your feet or stretch out your hip flexors as your calves are doing more than one job.
- Being warmed up from activity (active) or passive (hot bath, steam, hot towels, heating pad) can help your fascia be more in a gel state being better able to be manipulated helping get rid of adhesions that can cause pain or lack or mobility.
- You can use massage gun or other self-care massage tools every other day only if you don’t feel soreness. In this case more paid is not more gain.
- Can be a great warm up pre-exercise for muscles that need to wake-up and be activated. As a runner, if I had a massage gun and the motivation to use pre-run I would target my feet, hamstrings, glutes and mid-back muscles for holding upright during the gait (notice: mostly posterior on the body)
- Can be a great warm up for deeper massage strokes with your massage therapist especially if you are limited on time and need the tissue to respond in say a 30-45 minute session. The deeper the massage technique the slower the gliding movement. One pet peeve I have as of late is the misuse of the massage guns from professionals such as chiropractors, massage therapists and other therapeutic professionals.
- Tools are great but don’t get lazy fellow professionals and make it your go to device. Let’s teach people lots of different self-care techniques as you see in my various blog posts.
Find Tonya online with live personal training/coaching or hire her to write a program for you with your own personalized 4-6 minute demo of each of your custom workouts included. Greenville, South Carolina site to be available this year in the town of Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Stay tuned for more details as we are working on securing a location. Memphis location 552 South Main, Memphis, TN 38103 is no longer onsite for training, massage and nutrition coaching.
Tonya Tittle, M.S., ACSM, LMT, TPI Level 1
Owner/Dir. of Training