The first time you saw it you probably thought: what on earth is that? Shaped a bit like a drill with a squash ball for a head, the massage gun is a powerful bit of machinery. And it’s changing the massage game.
But how do you use it? And what are all of those attachments for? Here are the answers you need, with some help from Timalee Snow, master trainer at Theragun (the originators of the massage gun).
Check out our Instagram Q&A with Timalee here
What does a massage gun do?
Massage guns apply percussive therapy to soft tissue in the body. That means hammering muscles repeatedly – as many as 2,600 times a second – to free them up and kickstart the healing process.
Modern massage guns pack a punch thanks to new developments in technology. With the right attachment, they’re comparable to a massage therapist working out tension with their elbows and knuckles. Your deepest knots have nowhere to hide.
What can massage guns help with?
Massage guns can be used to treat:
- Muscle fatigue
- Lactic acid buildup and DOMS effects
- Back pain and sciatica
- Neck pain
- Leg pain
- Tightness and reduced range of motion
- Posture problems, including stiffness from home desking
And you might be surprised by these extra benefits, including:
- General improved mobility
Timalee says: “Most people just feel like they can move a bit better right after a percussive therapy treatment. It really helps free up stiff or stuck muscle tissue – the kind you might get from staying seated on a plane or in a car.”
- Increased body awareness
Timalee says: “Percussive therapy has a way of pointing out tight spots to people they didn’t realise they had, giving their brain a stimulus to heal that area.”
- Waking you up
Who needs a morning coffee? Massage guns have all the benefits of an energising morning massage, boosting circulation and helping get you into a more alert frame of mind.
Using a massage gun
Here are some steps to follow to keep things safe and get the best results:
Whenever you use your massage gun, Always:
- Choose the right attachment
Massage gun attachments offer different levels of precision and stiffness, helping you tailor your treatment to specific parts of your body. Duller, softer attachments are better for treating more sensitive parts of the body, like the neck and lower back. Start with those first, then work your way up to pointier ones if you need to treat deeper spots. If you’re using a Theragun, their app, Therabody, is a great source of extra advice.
- Switch it on before you let it touch your skin
Just so you can make sure it’s set to a comfortable speed. You can always test it on the palm of your hand first.
For lower back pain
- First, pick the right attachment. You’ll want to use a dampener for this technique (that’s the one with a soft, rounded end)
- Use the massage gun on your hip flexors (the big muscles at the front of your hips) first for 15 seconds on each side
- Then treat your hamstrings for 15 seconds on each leg
- Move to your TFL (the muscles on the side of your hips, just above the hip joint) for another 15 seconds on each side
- Move to your adductors on the inner thigh for 15 seconds a side
- Finally, treat your lower back directly, working on first on your lumbar area, then either side of your sacrum for 15 seconds each side.
When you’re done, do some light stretches to all of the muscles you’ve targeted. Perform this routine as many times a day as you need.
For neck tightness
- Use the softest attachment you have for treating your neck, and go as light-touch as possible.
- Use your massage gun in quick, 10-second blasts along the trapezius muscles. First treat across the muscle fibres, then down to your shoulder. Then treat back and forth across your muscle fibers, then finally following the muscle fibers from one end of the muscle to the other.
- Repeat on both sides
- Enjoy it! Your neck can hold a lot of tension, which is linked to headaches and fatigue, so take a deep breath and try your best to relax as you go.
(The above technique also works for shoulder stiffness, just experiment with attachments and grip to find the most comfortable solution)
How do the pros use massage guns?
In general, you’ll find practitioners using them alongside working with their hands. Massage guns reach deep into specific problem areas, while hands perform more complex motions.
Timalee says: “I do a sweep with a Theragun over the entire body before I start working with my hands. It helps people start to relax, get comfortable and become aware of their sore spots. Then I’ll use it to soften up areas that are especially stiff.”
How long should you use a massage gun for?
Theragun outline the different effects of using a massage gun for different time spans on their website:
15 seconds re-activates muscles
A quick, mid-workout treatment can help re-energise muscles and fight fatigue. Handy in between exercises in a HIIT session, for example.
30 seconds activates muscles
Using a massage gun before a workout can stimulate blood flow and prep your muscles for a workout. Alongside a good warmup, it can help you avoid injury.
2 minutes helps with pain relief and recovery
Post-workout, a two-minute blast with a massage gun can help with immediate pain relief and breaking down lactic acid buildup while you’ve exercised.
Are massage guns dangerous?
In the wrong hands, they certainly can be. They’re powerful things that can make soreness worse or cause painful tissue damage and bruising if held on a spot for any longer than two minutes or pressed too hard onto the skin. That’s especially true if you’re using one to treat more severe injuries like sprains.
We’d always recommend leaving it to trained pros. If you’re in London, Manchester or Birmingham, book an at-home treatment on the Urban app. A trained therapist can be with you in an hour!
How often should you use a massage gun?
You can perform the kinds of treatments we’ve spoken about in this blog up to two or three times a day. If you’re trying to improve flexibility and posture, then you’ll need to keep yourself to a three-a-day routine to see results. Happy hammering!