Massage guns: Do They Really Help With Recovery?
We have all seen them, all of our favourite influencers endorsing the latest recovery trend that is the massage gun. But is it really a trend? Or is there any scientific merit to using one?
First, we must understand what these massage guns are actually capable of before applying it to our recovery needs.
Massage guns use percussion treatment as a form of myofascial release (the relief of tension from within myofascial tissues aka muscles) and are exceptionally efficient at doing this on a somewhat superficial level, with multiple attachments accompanying the device upon purchase it may prove useful to target specific areas of bother. These smaller more precise attachments may be effective at targeting thicker muscle bodies such as the glutes.
These devices are marketed in a way that appears to make physiotherapy and deep tissue massage treatments obsolete, when in fact this is not the case. Deep tissue work and physiotherapy are preventative measures of care but are also can provide immediate/ short term resolve to underlying issues should they develop. If an individual has any previous/ worsening injuries they may need deep tissue work/ physiotherapy in order to find resolve and a massage gun will not be an adequate replacement for a trained professional.
It is important to understand that massage guns do in fact have their place, as using one regularly post exercise will allow muscle fibres to relax and possibly increase muscular elasticity along with the reduction of DOMs. They may also be useful in regards to injury rehabilitation. So yes, over the course of consistent use they may reduce the likelihood of needing deep tissue massage or physiotherapy through improving elasticity, ROM and relieving DOMs.
The last point to address is price, these devices can be exceptionally expensive if you are buying branded versions, which are marginally (if at all) better than their unbranded counterparts available on the likes of Amazon etc. These versions of the product can cost as little as £45 in comparison to branded versions which can reach prices of over £200. A cheaper alternative would be to understand how to efficiently utilize foam rollers and massage balls in order to apply superficial pressure for myofascial release. A foam roller and massage ball will cost no more than around £15, however require more effort for the same or slightly less efficient result.
In conclusion I feel that these devices can be useful and fit for purpose, provided individuals understand fully what the purpose and its limitations are. These are devices for the prevention of injury and reduction of muscle soreness, they are not the immediate resolve for underlying injuries/ conditions and should not replace the role of a physiotherapist, massage therapist or qualified health professional when required.
By Tireoghain O’Neill