If you suffer from aches or tension in your muscles, you’ll know that one way to alleviate the pain is with a good massage. Massage therapy can help to ease tension, loosen knots in muscles, aid recovery and provide a feeling of relaxation. Unfortunately, most of us can’t afford either the time or money to have daily, weekly or even monthly massages with a therapist. So, to make sure that we get the massage therapy we need, some people are investing in a percussive massage gun such as our REBELTM PRO models. These handheld rechargeable guns can pound your muscles up to 3000 times per minute to increase blood flow to the muscles, loosen knots in the tissues, and temporarily ease any muscle soreness and pain.
There are many articles praising the benefits of using a massage gun. However, there are also some mistakes that you’ll need to avoid to get the best use of your gun, especially if you’ve never used one of these handheld devices before.
We take a look at five mistakes to avoid when you use a massage gun.
How Do Massage Guns Work?
Before we look at some of the mistakes you can make while using a massage gun, let’s take a quick look at how they work.
We know that massage guns do work but the question is why and how. It’s thought that the pounding action not only stimulates the muscle itself but also stimulates the GTO (Golgi tendon organ) - a structure that lies within the muscle to prevent contraction. The same pounding action may also override any sensations of pain in the same way as rubbing an area on your body that you’ve knocked can alleviate the pain. However, it’s believed that the main effect is probably caused by your brain concentrating on the area you are massaging, which encourages it to focus and let go of tension.
The main benefits of using a massage gun include a reduction in muscle soreness and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), faster removal of lactic acid and faster recovery combined with improved performance and reduced stress.
Things You Should Avoid When Using a Massage Gun
Massage guns are widely used, especially by athletes and sports enthusiasts, and they’re considered to be safe for the general population. There are several things you should avoid when using a massage gun to ensure that you make the most of the benefits.
Using for too long
First of all, with a massage gun, a little goes a long way, especially if you’re new to this kind of percussive massage therapy. If you use your new gun for too long when you first start, you may cause increased muscle soreness. So, don’t be too gung-ho! Until you get accustomed to the pounding action, just 1-2 minutes of use on large muscle groups such as the quads is more than enough, and a full-body session should not exceed 15 minutes. This will help you to avoid over-stimulating the muscle as it’s thought that this may encourage extra fluid to move into the muscle tissues without allowing it to flow out again.
Using on too high a setting
Always be aware that massage guns are powerful tools. Some guns such as the REBELTMPRO can vibrate up to 3000 times per minute and exert a maximum strike force of 60lbs! Therefore, in the beginning, you should always use the lowest setting. You can increase the vibrations as you become more used to the action. However, in most cases, the highest settings should be reserved for people with a lot of muscle mass.
Applying too much pressure
There’s no need to force the massage gun onto the muscle. Simply rest it against your skin and let it glide along your body without applying any pressure. You can focus the head on the areas with the most tension but don’t force it down or press it deeply into your skin.
When you first use a massage gun, you’ll immediately feel the effects of the pounding action. However, as with a lot of things, the more you use it, the more familiar you will become with the sensation, and you may even feel that it may be losing its effectiveness. For this reason, it’s sometimes suggested that instead of using a massage gun every day, you should rotate its use with other effective recovery techniques, such as foam rolling, ice baths, etc. If you do want to use a massage gun every day, it’s recommended that you stick to a maximum of 2 minutes for each muscle group and no more than 3 times in any 24 hours.
Going for the burn!
As we’ve already said, less is more with a massage gun. Don’t be tempted to think that the more it hurts, the more effective the massage is and the longer you should concentrate the gun in that area. In fact, if you’re feeling a lot of pain, it may be caused by running the head over a bony area, fascia or a neurovascular bundle (a structure where connective tissue binds nerves and veins and in some cases arteries). Concentrating the gun on extremely painful areas for long periods of time may cause numbness. And remember, the gun can’t tell the difference between bones, nerves, fascia, or muscles.
Using it on sensitive areas of the body
Massage guns have been designed to work on muscle tissue – not bones, joints, tendons or nerves. You should also avoid using a massage gun on areas of skin where you have open wounds, scabs, cancerous lesions, any bone that has suffered a recent fracture, your spine and any part of the body that already has impaired sensation. Anyone who suffers from arthritis may want to be extra careful when using a gun and you should always consult your physician prior to using this kind of device.
There’s no doubt that handheld massage guns can be a useful tool to help you recover from muscle aches and pains. However, you should always avoid any excessively painful areas, especially if they are near bony protrusions, and spend a maximum of a couple of minutes on each muscle group either just after your workout or on a rest day. And don’t forget – it’s always wise to consult a healthcare professional before you use any kind of percussive massage therapy device.